Should We Privatize Copryight Registrations?
from the this-could-get-messy dept
While you have to register a trademark or a patent (and go through an approval process) with the Patent and Trademark Office, the same is not true for copyright. Thanks to changes in copyright law a while back, any new creative work automatically receives a copyright, once created. However, you can still register the work, with the main benefit of doing so is the ability to sue for infringement. Also, registering a copyright soon after the work is produced (and prior to someone infringing) opens up more possibilities in terms of the damages that you could sue for, if the content is infringed. That said, in an age of widespread content creation, very few individuals bother to register their copyright. I’d argue this is for a very good reason: that the benefits to doing so are quite small and many people aren’t that concerned about the copyright on the works they create. However, some think this is a problem, and are proposing, as a solution, that we privatize the copyright registration system in the same way that the domain name registration system has been privatized (which has worked out just great, right?).
The main reasoning is that if private entities were in charge of handling copyright registrations, they’d have incentives to convince people that it would be worth their while to register their copyrights. In practice, this would be a huge disaster, however. The expansion of copyright has already taken its toll on our culture’s ability to produce new content without liability, and if everyone is registering every random thing that they do online, expect the situation to get much, much worse. Think of the “patent troll” problem, but an order of magnitude worse. It would only serve to get more people thinking (incorrectly) about protecting content, rather than sharing content and helping to create more content. It would stifle creativity and content creation by setting up incentives for the opposite: for hoarding and limiting any use of content beyond the creator’s use.