Yesterday, Bill Patry announced that he was closing The Patry Copyright Blog. For those of us who follow copyright, this is a major loss; I feel less informed already.
You should read Bill’s post. He has two reasons for leaving, first the inability of some readers to separate the blog from Google—Bill went to work for Google long after starting the blog—and second depression over the current state of copyright law. To quote from the post:
“Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners. Like Humpty-Dumpty, the copyright law we used to know can never be put back together again: multilateral and trade agreements have ensured that, and quite deliberately.”
I don’t agree with much of that, but I do agree that copyright law faces real challenges. For most of its recent history, copyright law has regulated professionals, not amateurs. Amateurs lacked the means to create and copy at any level of real scale, but professionals could do so. Copyright controlled that, but note that that control wasn’t self-executing. That is, the control didn’t just happen. Instead, copyright created causes of action and then lawsuits for infringement. That is an expensive system to run, but one that can be tolerated when the number of violations is relatively small. Mass democratization of copying technology means that amateurs pose real risks to professionals. Not just perfectly legit we-can-author-and-distribute-too risks, but pure copying risks. An enforcement technology that isn’t self-executing doesn’t work, hence the mixed attempts with digital rights management technology.
In doing this post, I wanted to make sure that I had the lyrics right. I ran “lyrics mrs. robinson” on Google. The top result was available at an ad-supported lyrics site. (Interestingly, that site didn’t even make the first page at Cuil.) The lyrics are used without permission, I assume, but we are told that “all lyrics provided for educational purposes only,” so I guess everything is copyright-kosher. Of course the site itself bears a copyright notice in favor of the site owner.
I also assume that if they were using the lyrics with permission, they would probably get them right. So the S&G reference to Joe DiMaggio is said to be to “Jotting Joe.” Apparently he must have taken notes all the time; who knew?