What’s in a name?


Does the term “copyright” improperly frame the problem of protecting digital assets?

The term suggests limitations on copying, but is copying really the issue?   Is not the real problem making copies and then reselling those copies [without any benefit to the creator of the asset]? If reselling, or more generally distributing, copies of some digital asset is the real issue then should we not talk about distribution-rights? 

So, if limiting copies is really just a surrogate for containing distribution, then how would framing the problem as distribution-rights change the situation?  If we look at the current situation, it can be argued that the perspective of limiting copies has driven technical solutions which have had some negative side effects which many consumers are rebelling against. For example, copy protection through Digital Rights Management runs into problems when the supplier decides to go out of business as has been the case recently with the music distribution arms of Microsoft and Yahoo. Legitimately purchase music is not longer usable.

Changing the focus to distribution rights might offer consideration of different control mechanisms. For example, encoding the identity of the original purchaser into the digital media would allow illegal distribution to be traced back to the source.

Focusing on distribution rights also allows one to set different scopes of distribution. For example, it’s OK to distribute to your family but not elsewhere. The intersection point of copyright and distribution-right is the right to redistribute to yourself. 

Is it not time to review how we look at the problem of managing digital media and finding a way to satisfy both consumer and provider’s concerns?


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