Law and Technology
The Yin and Yang of
copyright and Technology
Examining the recurring conflicts between copyright
and technology from piano rolls to domain-name filtering.
THe eMeRGence of the Internet has put enormous pressure on the rights model of U.S. copyright law. That model is premised on the notion
that copyright holders are entitled to
control the making of copies of their
works, but technology has made that
control somewhere between fragile
and nonexistent. Content creators
have struggled to restore the control
assumed by copyright law. Two recent
developments, one pending federal
legislation and the second an industry-wide agreement between Internet service providers and content distributors,
provide new looks at this ongoing issue.
Technology and copyright have a
complex relationship. New waves of
technology have created novel expressive opportunities and dramatic improvements in the ability to distribute
copyrighted works. But new technology rarely asks permission, and with
each technical advance, we have seen
new opportunities and new clashes.
Perforated rolls for player pianos in
the early 1900s came from sheet music and roll producers were not eager
the rights model
of the law has not
are entitled to
but the practical
ability to enforce
that right has shrunk.
to write checks to copyright holders.
Radio saw recorded music as a way to
fill the airways even though disks came
with a legend stating that the music
was not licensed for radio broadcast.
And the VCR introduced a new vocabu-
lary—time shifting—and the chance to
watch TV on your schedule, not broad-
casters’ schedules. It did so without of-
fering any compensation to broadcast-
ers or show producers and even created
the risk that the financing model for
free broadcast TV would be put at risk
by viewers with nimble fingers who
fast-forwarded through commercials.