Debating copyright law in Giessen, Germany

The morning discussion of the second day of the conference Das Internet. Zwischen egalitärer Teilhabe und ökonomischer Vermachtung, focused on Intellectual Property legislation. A qualified panel consisting of Professor Lawrence Solum, University of Illinois,  John Henrik Weitzman, Creative Commons, Berlin, Alexander Peukert, Max Planck Institute and Giorgios Gounalakis, Universtät Marburg discussed the future of IP legislation. There was a common desire for the reduction of copyright terms, from today’s 70 + years down to 5. For the overwhelming majority of products subject to copyright, that period is more then enough to recuperate benefits. Indeed the motion-picture and publishing industries operate with models in which  99.9 per cent of revenue occurs in the first 2 years. So a copyright term of 5 years would not offer any disincentives for traditional forms of cultural production. (And it would constitute much less of an obstacle for the growing sector of non traditional, participatory, or peer based forms of cultural production.)

Asked about their visions of future of copyright legislation,Alexander Peukert suggested that copyright law will remain as it is, it is difficult to change since it is locked into larger WTO concerns. However, enforcement will probably dwindle and be restricted to more serious crimes (like publishing a feature film before it officially opens, or downright stealing someone’s ideas and publishing them under one’s own name). This is already happening in Germany, where current legislation makes things like file-sharing very difficult to prosecute.

Lawrence Solum argued that this difficulty in enforcing copyright law within the existing legal system might instead lead  to a thoroughly policed internet where content recognition architecture makes copyright circumvention technically impossible. The alternative to legal enforcement would be a radical extension of current DRM technologies. That would of course spell disaster for the future productivity of the knowledge economy…..

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