Copyright Collectives: Good Solution But for Which Problem?
WORKING WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW, Harry First, Rochelle Dreyfuss, Diane Zimmerman, eds., Oxford University Press, 2010
32 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2009 Last revised: 14 May 2014
Date Written: June 9, 2009
Collective administration of copyright has been touted as a solution to many of the ills of the copyright system and to many of the legal challenges brought about by the encounter between copyrights and the digital realm. It has been viewed as the magic bullet that bridges the unfortunate trade-off between incentive and access; a mechanism that allows both rewarding creators and unfettered access to works. While not at all a new phenomenon - music performing rights have been administered collectively in many countries for most of the 20th century - collective administration has recently proliferated across many other areas of copyright, often with enthusiasm.
This paper offers a less enthusiastic account. It examines several types of collective administration and argues that with rare exceptions, the various justifications for collective administration are too weak to justify departure from the competitive paradigm that underlies market economies. It suggests that in most cases collusion and rent-seeking mainly drive the formation of copyright collectives, and suspects that only rarely such rent-seeking may be justified as a matter of policy, either as a way to improve the incentives to create socially valuable works or on distributional grounds.
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