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Filed Under:
copyright, innovation

Closed: 9 Sep 2009, 11:59PM PT

Earn up to $50 for Insights on this case.


How To Prevent Copyright From Interfering With Innovation

As anyone who reads Techdirt regularly knows, copyright is a big issue around here -- with particular concern in how certain industries have used copyright law not for its intended and stated purpose (to promote the progress) but for exactly the opposite reason. It's been used time and time again as a weapon against progress and innovation, by industries who saw that innovation as a threat to their business model. In the 1980s, Hollywood tried to outlaw the VCR, declaring it "the Boston Strangler" of the movie industry. The reality was exactly the opposite. The VCR helped revitalize the movie industry and provided the fuel that grew the industry throughout the last two decades. Then, a decade ago, the music industry tried to kill the first MP3 players, again insisting that a portable MP3 player would destroy the music industry. Once again, they failed -- and once again, their own failure has helped to save them. A recent Harvard study found that the success of the digital music market has grown the overall ecosystem and resulted in much greater output in music.

But, still, the industry fights such advances, often using a variety of different tactics, including lobbying and lawsuits. On this front, they've been winning a lot more than losing lately, to their own detriment. Copyright has been extended and changed over and over again, now covering significantly more than it ever did and ever was intended to cover. And certain industries are using that to their advantage. In two recent court rulings, the Hollywood movie studios were able to prevent two different innovative products from hitting the market, since both involved making backup copies of DVDs. Even though these were both designed for perfectly legitimate reasons, both were banned, due to copyright or copyright-related issues.

Imagine how different the movie industry would be if the VCR were not allowed? Imagine how different the music industry would be today if the iPod was illegal? Yet, we're unable to know how different the music industry would be today if Napster has been allowed to live, and the industry had found a way to monetize via its platform. And now we likely won't be able to find out how the movie industry would be different if people could back up their movies legally (there are, of course, unauthorized options for both, but that, too, limits their ability to advance and innovate).

The Innovation Movement is an effort by the Consumer Electronics Association to make more people aware of such issues, and to make sure that Congress actually takes these issues into account, rather than just focusing on the patriotic headline while ignoring the unpatriotic results.

In this Insight Community Conversation, we're looking for thoughtful and well-written discussions on the importance of not letting copyright stand in the way of innovation. How can politicians better understand the negative impacts of certain industries using copyright to protect old business models and take away consumer rights? The copyright system supporters can always point to the past -- noting the successes of the industry and (often incorrectly) attributing it entirely to copyright. But it's hard for innovators to point to the future of what could be if they were allowed to innovate freely. We're looking for discussions on ways to better make this point to politicians, journalists, consumers and (yes) the very industries that have been fighting so hard to protect their old business models. Present a convincing argument on why innovation is key, and holding it back with copyright is bad for everyone. The best results will be used as posts on the Innovation Movement website.

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