10 Pages Posted: 9 May 2019 Last revised: 30 Jul 2019
Date Written: March 10, 2019
This essay, written for a symposium commemorating John Perry Barlow, who died on February 7, 2018, revisits Barlow's 1994 essay for WIRED magazine, "The Economy of Ideas: A Framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Age (everything you know about intellectual property is wrong)." Barlow observed that networked digital technology posed massive and fundamental challenges for the markets for what Barlow termed “the work we do with our minds” and for the intellectual property laws designed to shape those markets. He predicted that those challenges would melt extant intellectual property systems into a smoking heap within a decade, and mused about what we should design to replace it. That collapse didn't happen, or, at least, it didn’t happen in that way or in that time frame. Most of what was idiotic and counterproductive about the ways that copyright law worked in 1994 is still idiotic and counterproductive in 2019. In this essay, I look at what happened instead, and ask whether the transformation Barlow predicted might yet occur in the near future.
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