02 August 2007

Pamela Samuelson on Copyright Reform

Here's a useful voice to have in the debate about copyright reform, Pamela Samuelson:

The Copyright Act of 1976 is far too long, complex, and largely incomprehensible to non-copyright professionals. It is also the work product of pre-computer technology era. This law also lacks normative heft. That is, it does not embody a clear vision about what its normative purposes are.

This article offers the author's preliminary thoughts about why copyright reform is needed, why it will be difficult to undertake, and why notwithstanding these difficulties, it may nonetheless be worth doing. It offers suggestions about how one might go about trimming the statute to a more managemable length, articulating more simply its core normative purposes, and spinning certain situation-specific provisions off into a rulemaking process.

Thirty years after enactment of the '76 Act, with the benefit of considerable experience with computer and other advanced technologies and the rise of amateur creators, it may finally be possible to think through in a more comprehensive way how to adapt copyright to digital networked environments as well as how to maintain its integrity as to existing industry products and services that do not exist outside of the digital realm.

Pity she's so defeatist:

The prospects of copyright reform are perhaps so dim that a reasonable person might well think it a fool’s errand to contemplate a reform project of any sort. It is, however, worth considering whether it would be a valuable project to draft a model copyright law, along the lines of model law projects that the American Law Institute as frequently promulgated, with interpretive comments and citations to relevant caselaw, or a set of copyright principles that would provide a shorter, simpler, more comprehensible, and more normatively appealing framework for copyright law.

Call me an incurable optimist, but I think we might aim a little higher....

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