Compulsory Licensing Discussed at CES
Eric Bangeman. Debating Copyright Reform: Time for Compulsory Licenses? ArsTechnica. Jan. 21, 2008. Ars reports on a copyright panel convened at the Consumer Electronics Show entitled Washington, Intellectual Property and Your Living Room, which was moderated by Ars editor Kenneth Fisher. The panel seemed fairly balanced, which is unusual for these panels, and everyone allegedly agreed some sort of copyright reform was necessary.
Surprisingly, though, compulsory licensing was discussed, and at least one panelist positioned compulsory licenses as a way of providing compensation in light of the fact that copyright owners no longer can control their works. There are two basic elements to the compulsory license issue. On one hand, a compulsory license would force media companies to license their works at an established, set rate. (For example, royalties for cover songs are paid according to a rate set in a compulsory license.) Additionally, it would eliminate the often licensing negotiations, many of which can be ridiculous and random. (The music industry, in particular, suffers this problem when it comes to digital sampling.)
On the other hand, U.S. Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters is on record as opposing compulsory licenses because it hurts “creators.” As we mentioned last week, though, one must be careful with the label “creators”: are we talking about individuals, or multinational corporations that own and control the copyright monopoly? We’re unsure what Peters means when she refers to “creators.”
Nevertheless, this is the first time we recall hearing someone — anyone — talk seriously about compulsory licensing as an option worth investigating. Also, it is the one of the first times we can recall any person who deals with copyright for a living bluntly proclaim that control of protected works no longer is possible or realistic.
(Editor’s Note: Copycense editors originally commented on this article in the Jan. 29, 2008, edition of Copycense Clippings, where it was an Article of the Week selection.)
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