What’s Next for Copyright?

by on November 21, 2011 · 1 comment

My latest weekly Forbes column (“The Twilight of Copyright?”) considers the future of copyright law and the controversy generated by “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA). [See Ryan Radia’s mega-post for all the details on the SOPA fight.]  After co-editing a big book on copyright law with Wayne Crews nine years ago (Copy Fights: The Future of Intellectural Property in the Information Age, Cato Institute, 2002), I decided to stop covering copyright policy altogether. Any attempt to try to find balance in this debate is pretty much futile, and I also got tired of losing friends over the issue. (Nothing starts a good catfight among libertarians like copyright policy.)

I don’t plan to jump back in the fight in a big way, but I felt compelled to say something about SOPA since it represents one of the most sweeping attempts at Internet regulation ever conceived. As much as I detest the culture of free-riding that exists online today, I think extreme solutions like SOPA are never justified. And I’m not even sure it would work in practice. In my Forbes essay, I wonder aloud about what’s left to try. I lay out three options: (1) Do nothing: Leave the shell of copyright law in place and hope for best; (2) Massive vertical integration: Let conduit guys buy out content owners and let them figure out how to pay content creators; (3) Blanket online compulsory license: Force everyone to pay an embedded fee on broadband or devices to cross-subsidize content.

In the end, I argue that all three solutions have serious drawbacks but, sadly, I don’t really have any fresh ideas to offer. Anyway, read the whole thing if you’re interested in the topic. I think I’m done with it for another decade.

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