Tim Wu, guest-blogging over at Larry Lessig’s site, reports:
So today copyright scholar Joe Liu at Boston College asked a room full of law professors an interesting question. What did we think copyright would look like in 8 years? Here were some of the main categories of predictions (some contradict):
1. Primarily a criminal regime (remember when copyright was considered civil law?)
2. Focused on control of the design of hardware & software (in the model of the Broadcast Flag) to prevent infringement ex ante;
3. A regime dedicated to preserving the retail market and revenue streams for 4 discs: (CDs, DVDs, Software CDs, and Video-Game CDs), having given up on nearly everything else;
4. Made in WIPO or the FCC as often as the U.S. Congress;
5. Gone (not a good bet).
This list is interesting in several ways. (1) There’s no mention of alternative compensation systems. I would have expected them to rank, at least, above the no-copyright outcome. (2) The first option, copyright as a criminal regime, seems implausible, given the limited prosecutorial resources available. How much of our public law-enforcement resources will we really be willing to spend to defend copyright? Will this become another drug war? (3) The presence of the second item, copyright as regulation of technology design, is disconcerting. As I have written at length before, such a policy would be a major drag on innovation, while failing to prevent infringement. The lawprofs are not endorsing this outcome but are merely predicting it; but the fact that they find it likely is troubling. (4) The fourth item, copyright law being made in the bodies like the FCC and WIPO rather than in Congress, may already be happening. And it’s bad news. Lately, pro-innovation forces have had reasonable success in influencing Congress, and less success with other bodies.
UPDATE (August 6): Tim Wu writes, in a comment below, that the lawprofs did in fact discuss alternative compensation systems.