Thursday, December 13, 2007 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Academics and Copyright

On Monday, I spent part of the morning listening to various academics and legal experts at "Copyright and the University: An Academic Symposium," an event hosted by ex-PFFer Patrick Ross. The event was meant to address attitudes towards copyright on college campuses.

The first panel, which followed a keynote by the US Register of Copyrights, Marybeth Peters, focused on "defining the problem." The panelists, adeptly led by Andrew Noyes of TechDaily, discussed everything from the attitudes of students towards the music industry to licensing arrangements for works included in course material. A few highlights and observations:

- Liability Needs to Be Clarified. All panelists decried the lack of clearly defined property rights for digital music, citing the vagueness regarding fair use and secondary liability. One panelist described an environment of "not me" concerning who was responsible for copyright infringement by students on university networks. Legal clarification would go a long way in helping to define the roll of the University to address filesharing on their networks.
- Publishers are Adapting Business Models. One panelist lauded the relationship between publishers and universities, explaining the journal market has successfully accommodated consumer demands by offering flexible licensing arrangements. Although some didn't quite have the same high opinion of the publisher/university relationship, I personally buy single articles from journals and am pleased to have the option to do so.
- University Students Hate the Entertainment Industry and have a distorted view of the role of the RIAA. One of the panelists, currently performing a study for a Midwest university, shed some light on the attitudes of college freshmen towards the music and movie industries. His surveys have revealed that many students think media should be free. Some students also feel justified in downloading product from artists who have already made large amounts of money. Many students are also under the impression that the Recording Industry Association of America sets prices and dictates business models for the industry. On a brighter note, the panelist's survey showns that not everyone participates in illegal filesharing - 51% of respondents admitted to doing so.
- Education on Copyright Should Begin Before College. Illegal filesharing often begins in the 7th or 8th grade so by the time that individual gets to college, attitudes about copyright are already well established. More research is needed on the behavior of this age group in order to accurately define the issue. Panelists also suggested that colleges must change their approach to copyright education because "finger-wagging" to discourage illegal filesharing without discussion on the importance of copyright is not effective.
- Look Abroad for Examples of Piracy's Effects on the Entertainment Industry. One of the panelists spoke about the effects of piracy on "Bollywood," the movie industry in India. He said the movie industry only expects to take in revenue for a movie in the first few weeks after release in India's four major cities. After that, unauthorized copies flood the market. As a result, the movies tend to follow the same plot pattern and have to be made very cheaply in order to turn any sort of profit.

Over at the Copyright Alliance blog, there is talk of possibly taking this show on the road to encourage more thoughtful debate on the topic. A transcript and video excerpts should be available in the near future.

posted by Amy Smorodin @ 9:56 AM | IP