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[FYI] U.S.: Copyrights Rule


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October 2, 2000

Copyrights Rule

Courts are racing to enjoin alleged violators of copyright law,
taking no account of the effects on the development of the Internet.

By Lawrence Lessig

As the copyright wars rage on in courts across the country  the
deCSS case in New York, MP3.com (MPPP) and Napster in California,
Cyberpatrol in Massachusetts  some people are beginning to ask a
very interesting question: Why do the courts treat laws that regulate
copyright so differently from laws that regulate pornography? Or to
put it another way, why is it so easy to invoke the power of the
state to protect Hollywood, yet so difficult to wield the power of
the state to protect kids?


Instead of urgency, I think a deeper blindness is at work, one that
will have profound consequences for the Net.

The regulation of porn raises a question of free speech. Courts get
that. So too does the regulation of copyright raise a question of
free speech. But courts don't yet see that. They don't yet understand
the ways in which this state sponsored monopoly over "who can say
what" can, at times, interfere with the "freedom of speech." They
don't see it because for 200 years, copyright law has functioned with
little interference from the First Amendment. There have been a
handful of cases raising extreme claims of conflict, but no clear
case that yet addresses how courts are to evaluate the intersection
of copyright law and the First Amendment.


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