|Volume 20, Number 1||Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility||Summer 2002|
Using Technology to Control the Flow of Ideas
by Paul Hyland
CPSR has followed and contributed to the issues revolving around intellectual property, particularly since the debate around and passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998. It has always been the case that powerful interests steered the law in this policy arena, but in recent years they have become more brazen. Another recent change of significance is the impact of digital technology on the discourse of ideas and their expression - and the ways that this fact supposedly changes everything and necessitates vastly changed intellectual property rules.
CPSR has always sought to balance the interests of different parties and to look for solutions that benefit society as a whole. So it is with Andy Oram's first piece, "Society, Technology, and Law: A Balanced View of 'Intellectual Property.'" He tries to take a longer-term view than some of the entrenched interests in the debate, and show ways that the course of technological development might alleviate their concerns if they can only look at things a little more creatively.
Andy's other piece for this issue is a short discourse on capitalism, free markets, and the control or freedom of ideas and innovation entitled "Capitalism and Ideas: Creativity or Control?" The future health of our economy and capitalism itself might hinge on how well it protects the creative destruction of innovation, regardless of the interests of the currently powerful entrenched.
Included in the DMCA are requirements for various status reports to be prepared by the Library of Congress. Karen Coyle, who has previously critiqued their 2000 report on how technological developments are affecting the copyright law, updates her comments in "What the Copyright Office Got Wrong," demonstrating once again that those in position to make policy often have scant understanding of the technologies they regulate.[ao1]
One of the current hot topics in copyright law is the work of the secretive Broadcast Promotion Discussion Group on plugging the "analog hole." Rep. Billy Tauzin (D-LA) recently introduced legislation to implement their recommendations. In "Hollywood's Legislative Agenda: MPAA Wants to Plug the "Analog Hole," Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains why this is a bad idea, and will have far ranging consequences that the sponsors couldn't envision (we hope).
Patent policy has recently extended the reach of patent laws into the areas of computer software and business processes, areas far afield of their traditional realm. In "The Trouble with Software Patents," Wen-Hsin Lin, our summer legal intern from Cornell Law School, tells us why this threatens to make the innovation process much more difficult and expensive.
Finally, I review recent copyright law and regulation, along with several interesting proposals in my "Washington Report."
We think that you'll find this issue of The CPSR Journal an interesting and provocative introduction to a topic that has an impact on innovation and progress, with some insights not normally seen elsewhere. To keep up with important policy initiatives and CPSR's responses to them, be sure to check in regularly to http://www.cpsr.org/program/ip/.
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