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COPYRIGHTWEB

Some ideas pertaining to digital copyright include the idea of private copyright law, fair-use licenses, and contract law vs. copyright law. Exploring these issue will be not only interesting but provide insight in some of the varied directions that copyright can go.


Private Copyright Law

The Internet is made up of code. HTML tells the computer how to read a document that has been placed on the Internet. The browser program on your computer then interprets how this information will be read. If certain codes were created in a markup language such as HTML control of how this information is used could be given to the publisher of information. A code that would limit perhaps the ability to print or copy a document might be a tag. In this way the writer of code would have some control of how easily his document was copied. Perhaps there are even more sophisticated ways to controlling information such as making readers pre-pay to have access the information. This along with a code would insure the information was relatively secure and generate revenue.

Lawerence Lessig argues that "Life on the Net is regulated; its regulation, however, is not primarily through law. Its primary regulation is the code of cyberspace itself -- the software and hardware that together set the terms, or the rules, or the law, of how behavior will be" (Lessig).

This type of a system would benefit the publisher giving them a copyright that does not expire with time. The code is the copyright and can be maintained much longer than statutory life (Lessig)

Some would argue that under such a system the laws would prevent fair-use. Publisher's would not mind this perhaps but what about academics. According to Mark Stefik, a principal scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center and head of the centers Secure Document Systems group, the introduction of fair use licenses "would be analogous to driver's licenses and could be granted by an independent third party, sponsored by the publishing industry, say, to anyone who could demonstrate a knowledge of the provisions of fair-use law" (Stefik).

This system of private control would move from a form of copyright law to contractual law. Would this type of movement be legal under federal copyright law. Charles Mann notes that "I know that in 1996, Frank Easterbrook, a conservative judge in the 7th Circut, apparently decided in ProCD vs. Zeidenberg that contracts could ban actions that would normally be permitted as fair use by copyright law" (Mann).

With increased control and quick, cheap, electronic distribution publishers are poised to make a hefty profit. Why would an a writer go through and electronic publisher instead of posting his or her own work on the net? One good reason is promotion. A publisher can or should be able to offer better promotion of an authors work. Wesley Rolley was quoted as saying, "...No author, or to use the current terminology, 'content developer,' can gain more than a nominal audience of family and friends unless their work is promoted. No electronic publisher will promote that which they do not own. Without these [copyright] protections, we would indeed return to post-revolutionary France and electronic chaff [would] drive information from the market" (Mann).

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