Authorship in the Age of the Conducer
Copyright Society of the USA, Vol. 54, Issue 218, January 2007
60 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2008
The age of centralized information production is over. Today, countless creative enterprises involve decentralized collaboration by hundreds of end-users. Yet, the Copyright Act's last major revision occurred over thirty years ago, when a centralized, corporate model of production was the primary means of delivering information products on a mass-market scale. This Article contends that several features of the Copyright Act, remnants of this earlier corporate-driven era, are outmoded and fail to offer optimal incentives for the decentralized, non-profit-driven model of creative production utilized by many in the software and information-production fields. Specifically, the Copyright Act assumes creativity stems from the creative hand of a single guiding genius whose work becomes immutable once fixed in a tangible medium of expression. The Act also assumes that creative endeavors result primarily from a desire for financial recompense. These assumptions made sense when the tools of production were expensive and information production was largely a function of profit-driven corporate efforts. However, today many fields of creativity involve decentralized, collaborative efforts, often driven by non-financial impulses. As a result, copyright law does not provide an optimal incentives regime for decentralized, end-user-driven creativity. These endusers, simultaneously consumers and producers of information products, function largely outside the descriptive and theoretical underpinning of the utilitarian regime the 1976 Copyright Act established. As this Article contends, the Act's assumptions regarding authorship, creativity, and artistic motive need to be reexamined and reformulated so that the Act's guiding purpose - to encourage the production of creative works - continues to function effectively in an era of decentralized, end-user collaborative projects.
Keywords: Conducer, end-user production, peer production, amateur, authorship, incentives, user, producer, consumer, virtual world, open source, collaborative authorship, legislation
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By Dan L. Burk