“The purpose of intellectual property law (such as copyright and patents) should be, now as it was in the past, to ensure both the sharing of knowledge and the rewarding of innovation. The expansion in the law’s breadth, scope and term over the last 30 years has resulted in an intellectual property regime which is radically out of line with modern technological, economic and social trends. This threatens the chain of creativity and innovation on which we and future generations depend.” - The Adelphi Charter12
The idea of intellectual property is a simple and elegant one to comprehend. It aims at conferring value on goods so as to act as a system that incentivizes innovation – a brainchild of the information economy. Copyright is but one galaxy of the IP universe. Copyright gives the creators of a wide range of material certain rights that enable them to control the use of that material. Whether through a strict licensing system or royalty, copyright owners significantly benefit from their work by controlling if and how it is used. Our discussion of copyright law in this unit will focus on the implications of the latter aspect of copyright and will present a pragmatic view of the alternatives available. As you may have gleaned from the wording of the definition, there are two aspects of copyright – first, is the conferral of, often exclusive, rights on creators and second, is the ability to not just benefit from the use of the copyrighted material but also control and restrict its use. The latter aspect enables the former but is in many ways pernicious and harmful to the free flow of information. This unit will help in a clearer understanding of the pitfalls of a restrictive copyright regime. Further, it will also introduce you to some emerging alternatives to strict copyright laws. We will gain a bird’s eye view of interesting discussions surrounding these alternatives while simultaneously gaining a pragmatic understanding of how to work with the alternatives.