Recent Copyright Protection Schemes: Implications for Sharing Digital Information

Recent Copyright Protection Schemes: Implications for Sharing Digital Information

Herman T. Tavani (Rivier College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-576-4.ch007
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This chapter critically examines current copyright protection schemes that apply to digital information. We begin with a brief examination of the way in which copyright law has evolved in the United States, from its Anglo-American origins to the present, and then we examine three traditional philosophical theories of property that have been used to justify the granting of copyright protection. Arguing that each property theory is inadequate, we next consider and reject the view that intellectual property should not be protected at all (and thus should be completely free). We then critically analyze the notion of information, arguing that it should not be viewed as a commodity that deserves exclusive protection but rather as something that should be communicated and shared. Building on this view, we argue for a new presumptive principle for approaching the copyright debate — namely, the principle that information wants to be shared. Finally, we argue that presuming in favor of this principle would enable us to formulate a copyright policy that can avoid the extremes found in the two main competing contemporary positions, both of which are morally unacceptable: (1) the view that access to all digitized information should be totally free; and (2) the view that overreaching, and arguably oppressive, copyright legislation, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Copyright Term Extension Act, is needed to protect digital information.

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