Congress Must Update Copyright Law for the New World Digishpere…
…because the Courts Are Lost in the Past
Headline: Google Allowed to Scan Copyrighted Work without Permission
Headline: Apple Convicted of Price Fixing on Heresay
Headline: The NSA and Santa Clause both see you when you’re sleeping
What a world we live in. We can watch confrontations between law enforcement and the public as they happen and then over and over again. Incidents in Baltimore, Ferguson MO and Staten Island NY are disquieting and difficult to watch, but watch them we can – on mobile phones, iPods, iPads, tablets, notebooks, laptops, desktops, and TVs. Most of the population under 30 years of age carry with them devices with more capabilities than Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio. Lot’s more capabilities. They record video, stream video and music, take photos, share photos, make phone calls and find anything on any map anywhere. They instantly tie into social media of various kinds, broadcast your heart rate and blood pressure and pinpoint your location if you want them too. Lord knows they do much more than this and are becoming more capable everyday.
So we live in a new digital environment, an environment where mountains of content is being generated and shared each minute. And all this content – whether specifically created by an artist/author/photographer/musician – professional or amateur – all this content is shot out into the digisphere for all to use. Some content is broadcast with the permission of the creator, some is pirated. Either way, out it goes, broadcast to anyone and everyone.
How do the courts treat information in the digital world? Well, the videos from Baltimore, Ferguson and Staten Island are put out there by the creators and treated as news. They are picked up by every news organization and website and rebroadcast over and over. The creator of the video gives it away by posting it to social media (read the small print on Facebook, etc.).
But how can it be that Google, the company that collects every little bit of information about it’s users proclivities for its own commercial use, is allowed to scan copyright work without permission or offer of remuneration, build a searchable database and use that database to create traffic that generates income for Google? The courts see this happening and know it is so, but judges deem Google to be an omniscient yet benevolent big brother who is appropriating these works “for the good of mankind.” That searchable database, whose copyrighted contents drives ad traffic for Google, makes the authors not one thin dime,
Good Grief!! In what board meeting at Google did the court envision some exec putting forth a multimillion dollar scanning project “for the good of mankind”??? The consideration that they make a Google load of money on the user data this content creates is just an unimportant offshoot of bettering mankind?? The courts are looking at the reality and deciding it’s fiction. They have lost their grip on what is the new digital reality. Copyright in the new digital age is beyond their ken. Justices, please check your two way wrist radio – you’ve lost it and seem to be the only ones who don’t know it.
Apple, when establishing the iBookstore, wanted to be sure they would not be treated any worse than Amazon or any other ebook seller, and demanded an agreement with publishers that said so. It would level the playing field in the sale of ebooks and prevent a runaway monopoly in the ebook retail market by Amazon. The court’s interpretation of this – what was standard business practice to this point – was that Apple was price-fixing to the consumer’s detriment. Never mind that this benefitted consumers, that it would put a pin hole in a ballooning monopoly, and that it was Amazon who dropped the dime on Apple and asked the DoJ to investigate.
So we know we can’t depend on the courts to uphold individual copyright ownership or fair trade in the digital age. They don’t know how to deal with it.
So it may seem laughable in light of the last few years of appalling behavior and failures of the contentious Congress, but unfortunately it is up to Congress to bring the laws protecting our liberties and rights into the digital age, – especially the individual rights of privacy and copyright. Copyright, by the way, is an individual right actually granted to citizens in the Constitution. Yes, in the original Constitution. Letting Google take it away is almost as bad as what Eric Snowden showed us is being done to our privacy. But that’s another battle for another day. Beware Congress and their proposed Orphan Works Act.