Copyright wars

I attended a lecture this evening by Peter K. Yu, an expert on intellectual property, at the Michigan State University — Detroit College of Law. The lecture, entitled “The Escalating Copyright Wars,” was very well delivered and provided a good opportunity to hear some thoughts on intellectual property as it relates to media and the Internet.

Yu describes three strategies that industries (stakeholders of intellectual property) have employed. They are:

  1. Lobbying — resulting, for instance, in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act which makes it illegal to bypass copy-protection technologies (including encryption of products delivered online, I imagine)
  2. Litigation — e.g., Napster no longer threatens any record label
  3. Self-help — e.g., encryption, digital watermarking, etc. before selling

Yu goes on to discuss a number of cases that illustrate jurisdictional complexities as music copyrights in the Eurpoean Union end 45 years before they do in the U.S. What does this mean for importing music from the EU that hasn’t been cleared of copyright status in the U.S. yet?

Another interesting aspect of the lecture was Yu’s application of game theory to the copyright wars between stakeholders and non-stakeholders. Yu seems to promote a nonzero-sum approach to resolving disputes. That is, how can a win-win situation be set up. He puts forward an example of unofficial Harry Potter web sites being brought into the fold now, instead of the initial approach of suing the kids’ pants off.

I can’t do justice to Peter K. Yu’s lecture here, but suffice it to say it was an hour well spent.

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