So, a couple of years into tracking this set of issues, and it feels like I’m just spinning my wheels. My accomplishments in this domain mostly have to do with the students that I’ve had the chance to teach about this, but that’s a really long term strategy — and, at the rate things are going, there might not be enough time to hope that strategy will come to fruition.
The notion that Congress is priming to overturn the principles in Feist is just horrifying. After all the criticism of the European legislation in this area, I can only believe that this is willful ignorance of the threat. The opportunities for abuse are going to be legion, and it’s clear that, in the current climate, those abuses will be undertaken and exploited as fully as the market and the technology will allow.
It’s actually a little perverse. Creating a database and locking it up behind a pay-wall certainly allows the creator to extract rents from his/her labors. But, putting it out on the WWW for free generates traffic only for as long as the database is well-maintained and the content updated regularly. With copyright extended to databases, it could easily be the case that publishing a database online will award the creator with a monopoly that might allow his/her to extract rents, but no longer requires the database owner to maintain the database itself. The barrier to entry that copyright awards will limit competition. I would argue that competition is, in this domain, the engine for creativity — and the monopoly that copyright awards in fact undermines the creativity that copyright is supposed to engender.
In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if the real innovation that needs to be protected is the ability to innovate new ways of making money/conducting business. This is the kind of meta-innovation that emerges out of technological advance, and increasingly it appears that our construction of copyright is limiting that creativity in favor of other kinds of creativity. And, I fear that protecting the latter at the expense of the former will just ensure the decline of the marriage of technological advance and market innovation that has produced so much progress and wealth to date.
Oh, well. It’s late, I’m tired and it’s been a long week. I’m out of touch with what my online friends have to say. I need a little optimism and I hope that, as I catch up on things this weekend, there will be some of that to find. But, for the moment, I understand why Larry has such a hard time expecting that people will see the light. He’s worked a lot harder, and with a lot more apparent success, yet we’re still having weeks like these. Maybe it’s time for a change in tactics………..