The Kingdom of Content

Thomas Hazlett, professor of law and economics at George Mason university, writes about how "content" has become "king": 

In 1983, US cable operators paid an average of just $2 annually per subscriber in license fees – and over $238 in 2005. In aggregate, total payments to cable programmers from cable operators went from just $60m in 1983 to $16bn in 2005.

The advent of cable brought forth many legal questions: 

Where it all comes out is difficult to tell. In the early days of cable television, US law was a puzzle. Should cable systems be allowed to abscond with over-the-air signals of broadcast TV stations, re-transmitting them to subscribers? Or should cable operators – then called “Community Antenna Television” (CATV) systems – give broadcast TV stations a slice of the subscription fee pie?

This question went to the US Supreme Court in 1968 and again in 1974, an era when cable TV delivered only broadcast TV signals (ESPN, CNN, Discovery, A&E and the rest were to come years later). Both times the court held that cable operators retransmitting local signals owed nothing. In extending broadcast signals they improved reception for households, like a large antenna.

Now, we have a battle between the super copy-and-distribute machine and the "copyright-protected" content. As many have argued, in the case of the Internet, the increasingly more strict protections granted through copyrights can put stringent constraints on  cultural creativity.

Comments:

I don’t think just law can stop this giant copy-and-distribute machine (just think of file sharing programs), but is there any way to provide the authors with the profit they deserve(and they actually do the work for it)?

And by the way, there are some books that are available both in a printed version and a free download version, is there any study comparing the profit the publisher gets in this way and the profit the publisher gets by the classic publishing?

Posted by pasparto on April 20, 2007 at 02:25 AM PDT #

Lawrence Lessig' book, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, which is available free on-line does discuss some ways of making money as an author--most basically through copyrights, but for a "limited term."

The big legal argument here is about the "limit" in the term of a copyright.

Of course, the publisher can only earn money if the publisher controls access to the published material, at least for a "limited" time, whether through on-line access and advertisement or through hard copies.

Lessig argues that when the "limit" keeps getting extended, cultural creativity suffers.

Posted by M. Mortazavi on April 20, 2007 at 10:16 AM PDT #

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