The lending of books in electronic format by public libraries (digital lending) is gaining increasing importance both in the US and in the EU. Digital lending involves a number of acts that are subjected to the copyright holders’ exclusive rights, but – unlike in the case of the loan of physical books – a general consensus has emerged that no exception or limitation provided by copyright law may be applied to such activities. Thus, public libraries are currently offering to their patrons digital lending services based not on copyright limitations or exceptions, but on contractual arrangements among the parties concerned. Quite interestingly, despite the fact that they are aimed at regulating digital objects, many of such agreements provide solutions that intentionally mimic some of the “frictions” of the physical world (for example, distance between users and libraries, rivalry in consumption and deterioration of physical books and so on). Private-ordering models have proven to be satisfactory for copyright holders, who object to the introduction of a specific exception in copyright law and argue that “frictions” are needed for digital lending not to interfere with the market for the sale of e-books. On the other hand, however, many librarians consider such “frictions” to be nonsensical in the digital environment and point out that contract-based solutions for digital lending have led to unnecessarily high prices and, in some cases, a refusal to supply e-books to libraries. Although many limitations that are inherent in the use of physical books may seem absurd when applied to intangible copies, this chapter argues that incorporating a number of “frictions” into digital lending models may be a fair price to pay in exchange for its judicial (or, in a next future, legislative) recognition as an activity not subjected to the copyright holders’ exclusive rights.
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Dan L. Burk
During the past several years, an increasing number of scholars in a variety of fields have begun to re-emphasise the centrality of matter in their exploration of the world. This “new materialism” seems in part a reaction to the “discursive turn” during the latter years of the twentieth century which over-emphasised the cultural and semiotic dimensions in our understanding of the universe. Drawing on multiple theorists from Deleuze to Latour, scholars in disciplines across the humanities and social sciences have begun rejecting the physical dualisms that pervade even postmodern analyses, in order to develop a coherent understanding of observed phenomena. This approach has become particularly important in the area of “digital humanities”, where the digitisation of traditional expressive forms, or the development of new digital expressive forms, fundamentally implicates the connectivity of the virtual and the material. Copyright has long rested upon a series of dualistic doctrinal structures, including the fundamental dichotomy between the immaterial “work” and its fixation in a physical “copy.” This distinction, which was never entirely coherent even in traditional media, has broken down in the face of digital instantiations of creativity. The disconnection between legal doctrine and new media has now resulted in decades of incomprehensible decisions regarding the fixation of works in computer circuitry or the transmission of works across telecommunications media, particularly the internet. New materialism might offer copyright a path out of such unsustainable distinctions, by providing a viewpoint that traverses the artificial opposition of work and copy, recognising the primacy of matter in the development of creative expression.
Peter K. Yu
Since its inception, copyright law has been developed around the concept of “copy”. Although copyright began mostly as a right vested in copies, and therefore a right to prevent others from multiplying copies, the emphasis has now been dramatically shifted to the act of copying itself. The terms “copy” and “copies” have also been slowly re-conceptualised to respond to changing technology and to expand the scope of copyright protection. The first half of this chapter takes a historical perspective. It recounts the use of the concept of “copy” by the Stationers’ Company and in the Statute of Anne. It also addresses two different sets of challenges to this foundational concept: (1) the US Supreme Court case of White-Smith Music Publishing Co v Apollo Co and (2) the efforts in the mid-1990s to update the concept to meet the needs of the digital environment. The second half of this chapter is forward-looking. It examines four areas in which digital technology has posed major challenges to the concept of “copy”: reproduction, distribution, public performance and making available. The chapter concludes with six observations concerning the future development of copyright law in the digital environment.