The Future of Copyright

The Future of Copyright

LAWRENCE B. SOLUM - University of Illinois College of Law

Texas Law Review, Vol. 83, p. 1137, 2005


"Sometimes technological change is so profound that it rocks the foundations of an entire body of law. Peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing systems - Napster, Gnutella, KaZaA, Grokster, and Freenet3 - are mere symptoms of a set of technological innovations that have set in motion an ongoing process of fundamental changes in the nature of copyright law. The video tape recorder begat the Sony substantial noninfringing use defense. The digital cassette recorder begat the Audio Home Recording Act. The internet begat the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Napster begat Napster. We see the law morph right in front of our eyes, but its ultimate form is still obscure. As a consequence, the future of copyright is up for grabs. We live in a magical, exhilarating, and frightening time: Many alternative copyfutures shimmer on the horizon, sometimes coming into sharper focus and sometimes fading away.

Facts on copyright

  • In the United States the AHRA (Audio Home Recording Act Codified in Section 10, 1992) prohibits action against consumers making noncommercial recordings of music, in return for royalties on both media and devices plus mandatory copy-control mechanisms on recorders.
  • Two major developments in the 14th and 15th centuries seem to have provoked the development of modern copyright. First, the expansion of mercantilist trade in major European cities and the appearance of the secular university helped produce an educated bourgeois class interested in the information of the day. This helped spur the emergence of a "public sphere," which was increasingly served by entrepreneurial "stationers" who would produce copies of books on demand. Second, Gutenberg's development of movable type and the development and spread of the printing press made mass reproduction of printed works quick and cheap. Before these two developments, the process of copying a work could be nearly as labor intensive and expensive as creating the original, and was largely relegated to monastic scribes.
  • A common and simple practice to obtain evidence in favour of authorship is to place the copyright material in a envelope or package together with a document signed by several people stating that they have examined the work prior to it being sealed and that in their opinion it is original. Once this is done the package is mailed to the owner by recorded delivery, which helps to establish when the work was created, who the originator of the work is and that there are signatory validators prepared to state that it is original.

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