Framing the Copyright Debate
“In June, The Wall Street Journal published an e-mail debate between Fritz Attaway and Wendy Seltzer about digital rights management (“DRM”). Attaway is a senior executive with the Motion Picture Association of America, while Seltzer is a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. I found the article interesting, not only because DRM squarely hits the intersection of business, law and technology, but also because it is a perfect example of how copyright debates get framed.
“As copyright increasingly has become a part of our daily discourse, an interesting, yet subtle phenomenon has occurred: discussion about copyright inordinately emphasizes owners’ rights over consumers’ uses. This phenomenon is important because it represents exactly the opposite principles that are codified in the Copyright Act of 1976 (also known as the “Act”). At a fundamental level, the Act gives creators six exclusive rights, all of which are codified in Section 106. (Visual artists get other rights codified in Section 106A.)
“On the other hand, the Act lists more than one dozen exceptions – listed in Sections 107 through 122 – that limit or sharply qualify those six rights. Said another way, copyright exceptions outnumber copyright rights by a ratio of two to one. Yet one would never know this from reading or listening to even the most widely respected news outlets because copyright discourse is alarmingly one-sided. ”
“Using the Journal debate as an example, this article looks at how our copyright news is delivered, how that message has been slanted in favor of content owners, and the importance of learning how to parse through the barrage of messages that, together, lead us to think more about rights than uses or exceptions.”
An Information Today exclusive.
K. Matthew Dames. “Framing the Copyright Debate.” Information Today. September 2006. p. 45.
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