Harmonising Copyright Law and Dealing with Dissonance

Harmonising Copyright Law and Dealing with Dissonance

A Framework for Convergence of US and EU law

Sheldon W. Halpern and Phillip Johnson

The highly-regarded authors of this important work explore the constitutional, institutional, and cultural barriers to harmonisation of the copyright laws of the United States and the European Union. They consider these matters in the real world transnational environment in which copyright law operates and suggest that the reality transcends the differences, offering a framework for meaningful harmonisation.

Chapter 1: Harmony, policy and power

Sheldon W. Halpern and Phillip Johnson

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law

Extract

“Harmonisation” is such a lovely word. It conjures images of sweetness and light, of goodwill and fellowship. Turn the word into the phrase “global harmonisation” and we encounter a sense of peace and tranquillity. It is easy to see harmonisation in the abstract as a good thing; to be contrasted with dissonance, a condition to be avoided. Thus, we reflexively think of harmonisation of laws across national borders as necessarily desirable. In so doing, we may often avoid the troublesome question of the consequences of cross-border uniformity, eliding consideration of the nature and quality of the end product. In short, it is easy to see transnational harmonisation as a desirable end in itself irrespective of the substance of the “harmonised” law. That world vision has provided a significant impetus to the search for ways to create global intellectual property laws, to provide greater uniformity, harmonisation, as it were, across national borders in the field of copyright law, in particular. The impetus for a transnational copyright law, a law concerned with the intangible interest encompassed by the word “copyright”, seems to be a natural extension of the inherently transnational world contemplated by borderless commerce conducted via an intangible internet. Thus a traditionally territorial, nation-based body of law, such as copyright law, seems, with its strong internet presence, and the opportunity for large scale cross-border dissemination and, concomitantly, infringement, to have become essentially and irrevocably transnational.