There’s a lot to learn about the copyright issues symbolized by the war against Napster. Copyright owners are waging a concerted battle with a single-minded goal: to make your every exposure to copyrighted material into an event that costs you money. In 1998 the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was presented as a benign update to old law, but its horrible consequences are going to reshape our world. The flow of information on the Internet may be constrained in ways that would shock you. Downloaded material – maybe even CDs and DVDs – may stop working after a fixed amount of time unless you keep paying. Copyright owners are unashamed of their vision of a world focused on copyrights at the expense of everything else – regardless of your desires or expectations.

I’m looking forward to reading Digital Copyright by Jessica Litman, a copyright law professor. Professor Litman presents the history of copyright law and the current trends and debates in reasonably plain English. (You can read a sample chapter online.) Here’s an excerpt from the online description:

“Copyright is now seen as a tool for copyright owners to use to extract all the potential commercial value from works of authorship, even if that means that uses that have long been deemed legal are now brought within the copyright owner’s control. In 1998, copyright owners persuaded Congress to enhance their rights with a sheaf of new legal and technological controls. Armed with those copyright improvements, copyright lawyers began a concerted campaign to remodel cyberspace into a digital multiplex and shopping mall for copyright-protected material. The outcome of that effort is still uncertain. If current trends continue unabated, however, we are likely to experience a violent collision between our expectations of freedom of expression and the enhanced copyright law.”

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