For years, we've been saying that the real power of connected systems (the internet, mobile phones, etc.) are in their ability to let people connect to each other -- not to be yet another delivery channel for broadcast content. The broadcast content industry, of course, can't fathom how that's possible, and that's part of the reason why they've had so many problems with intellectual property law and finding business models that make sense. It looks like researchers are finally starting to tackle this idea. A professor from Wharton and another from the New Jersey School of Law have written a long, but quite interesting paper looking at how copyright law is out of date, because it assumes a centralized, broadcast model. All of the protections are designed to work in that model -- but connectivity and the ability to do many-to-many communications has really meant that content has moved to "amateur to amateur" communications. That is, it's decentralized -- and our copyright laws are not set up to handle that situation at all. There are, of course, many, many, many examples of this in action -- but we're stuck in our thinking about it by assuming that the only content that really matters is the content that comes as a final package in the "broadcast" model. Rethinking copyright law from the perspective of promoting amateur to amateur content is going to be a big first step in creating the next generation of applications and services that will be successful on these communications systems.
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