Serving a Public that Knows How to Copy: Orphan Works and Mass Digitization

By Peter Brantley, Publishers Weekly

The UC Berkeley Center for Law and Technology (BCLT) is among the most eminent study centers for intellectual property (IP) law. Coordinated by Professor Pamela Samuelson, this last week it pulled together approximately 200 highly accomplished and well-spoken legal scholars, practitioners and librarians in a small conference on orphan works, “Orphan Works and Mass Digitization.”

Looking at the longer term trends in e-reading, Karaganis predicted that inexpensive ereaders, below $35., will quickly become widely available, democratizing access to knowledge. An ever-growing copy culture is likely to generate over-reactive calls for IP enforcement, and ultimately be increasingly disruptive to legacy publishers, but it will also prove to be hugely beneficial to the growth of a global reading culture.

This tension between formal culture and its informal siblings is something that we have often naively contested, but in reality it is more of a symbiosis. Summing up towards the end of this singular conference, Jason Schultz noted in twitter that the key question was how people and their institutions can be part of this world, and learn to serve publics who know how to copy. Our ability to address that question will serve as answer to whether we can transform our existing institutions and markets to be a protagonist in the world around us, or be reduced to passive digital storehouses. 4/14/2012