Archive for December, 2006

And the publisher artist/split becomes apparent.

Assuming the IGN article is based on correct information, the RIAA wants to lower artist royalties

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Measuring the effectiveness of copyright

How do we measure whether or not copyright is working? That’s one of the main reasons I came to doctoral school. We’re stuck in a legal and strict economic framework rut in a lot of ways, in my opinion. This makes sense in many ways; copyright is both a legal issue and is based on economic incentives. Talking with Georgia has helped me think about these things. Legal research generally uses legal analysis to advocate for or against a particular position, using statutes and case law as primary sources and other information as secondary sources. When we talk about copyright research, that’s the type of research that immediately comes to mind for many people. Economics often plays a big role in copyright-related research, and in my survey of copyright-related research this semester economics and business were the sources for a lot of the empirical data that has been gathered related to copyright. But I don’t think they’re measuring the right things much of the time, and I think they’re coming to the table with a lot of assumptions that are neither elucidated nor entirely correct. The kinds of things that tend to be measured are profit-related, sales related, or otherwise market-related. That’s useful information, but there’s more to looking at the effectiveness of copyright than those things. However, we don’t have good ways of structuring arguments that judges and policy-makers seem to find compelling about effects other than those that are strictly market-oriented. That’s a problem.

The paper I was referring to in an earlier post was based on a number of questions, including the above. I was attempting to look at research about how copyright affects education. I’m interested for a variety of reasons: my association with ALA, my knowing people in education both primary and secondary, and so on. But how are its affects on the missions and practices of educational institutions measured? There really hasn’t been a great deal of research in the area. There isn’t a lot of empirical research about copyright in education. There are some exceptions to the usual market-based information produced- and Siva’s Critical Information Studies bibliography is a perfect starting point for that kind of research. CIS in general is useful as both a lens to use when examining existing copyright research and as a framework for using other types of research. So, what are the appropriate metrics and methodologies that should be used?

How effectively is copyright doing it’s job? How effectively is it promoting the progress of science and useful arts? Is the economic incentive actually helping the dissemination of knowledge and promoting the creation and use of new works? As is often pointed out on Scrivener’s Error, publishers and authors are not the same- and a lot of copyright talk treats them the same. I found this recent post related to the Gowers Report out of the UK particularly interesting.

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Copyright, on misleading propaganda about

Fascinating. Someone asked me some questions about webcasting, and I found this gem of misleading information on an RIAA page:

The lack of a broad sound recording performance right that applies to US terrestrial broadcasts is an historical accident. In almost every other country broadcasters pay for their use of the sound recordings upon which their business is based. For decades, the US recording industry fought unsuccessfully to change this anomaly while broadcasters built very profitable businesses on the creative works of artists and record companies. The broadcasters were simply too strong on Capitol Hill.

However, with the birth of digital transmission technology, Congress understood the importance of establishing a sound recording performance right for digital transmissions, and did so in 1995 with the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act (“DPRA”). In doing so, Congress “grandfathered” the old world of terrestrial broadcasting, but required everyone (including broadcasters) operating in the new world of digital transmissions to pay their fair share for using copyrighted sound recordings in their business.


I love the terminology here. “An historical accident.” “Congress understood.” “Fair share.” Translated, this means that in the past, Congress understood the point of copyright much better than they have in the more recent past.

The RIAA is an advocacy group. We know that. But they could do a better job of considering and acknowledging other perspectives.