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Digital Copyright Paperback – April 25, 2017
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Criticisms of this book in previous reviews cite the fact that the book includes a number of journal articles cobbled together. That's fine with me - the quality of these articles are such that I don't mind the occasional restating of points made in a previous chapter - these are all issues that bear repeating! I understand that the prose is necessarily awkward at times - hey! this is copyright law, it's s'posed to be opaque!
The salient issues (for me) from this book are the following:
1. Copyright law is designed, developed and negotiated by those who have the biggest stake in making the most money.
2. The US Congress, our representative to insure that we, the public, are not shafted by unfair, restrictive copyright laws, have betrayed our trust. They are swayed by lobbyists, large campaign contributions, and rubber stamp whatever the copyright owners want. The consumer's voice (and to a great extent, the voice of emerging technologies as well!) is silent.
3. It's no longer about copying, it's about consuming.
4. The Internet (and the digital technology that accompanies it) provides copyright owners the ability to monitor, meter, enforce and control access. Fair use is (or will be) a thing of the past; "fair use" was grudgingly accepted by copyright owners mainly because preventing copying for "personal use" was deemed "unenforceable". No longer.
We as individual consumers must make our voices heard. Read this book - educate yourself.
Part polemic against the encroaching magnification of corporate over individual rights to works, part history of the development of copyright law in the US, Litman's main points as a law professor specializing in copyright law involve the historical lack of representation of individual consumers' rights in the marketplace. Congress historically has simply allowed "interested parties" to collaborate on agreements that Congress then enacted into law. Unfortunately, and as Litman shows again and again, businesses and consumers not at the bargaining table got the short shrift and nascent new industries based on revolutionary technologies (such as piano rolls, movies, etc) were hindered in their development. Those involved in the copyright law negotiations (libraries, unions, and major existing industries and trade groups) tended to get limited exceptions, deals, and special exemptions, while our representatives in Congress have traditionally simply allowed them their way.
Litman then discusses 1998's DMCA and how it, to a degree previously unseen in copyright law, exposes consumers to the will of the producers of works and the vagarities of copyright law, and creates the possibility of a world where one is virtually unable to use their own computer without the permission of the company that owns the operating system and can be forced to pay every time they open a program. Before the microchip, controlling how someone used a product once they bought it was an impossibility and once a person purchased an item they had defined usage, copying, and sharing rights. Now however software companies, movie studios, and the recording industry are examing and testing technologies that allow them to parcel out "use" rights that limit how many times you can watch a movie you've bought, play a game you've purchased, or listen to a song you've already paid your money for, and it's all now legal under the DMCA.
Her cogent explanations of the incoherencies and vagueness of the DMCA itself were able to show me in easy to understand language the problems with the law and the need for a reform of copyright that matches the public perception of their rights to use the things they buy to learn and develop themselves and yet retains the incentive for creation and development of new works by individuals and industries.