The politcs of reproduction

Digital distribution isn’t just a quandary for filmmakers or “the industry”- politicians are worried about it too. Just how copyright law can be maintained, transformed, or judged gratuitous is something that the Congress is grappling with (though unsurprisingly, not in a very productive way).

Over at think tank Cato’s Unbound, which operates in a kind of debate format, Rasmus Fleischer has posted his argument as to why the entire Copyright law is superfluous, essentially because in the digital age, all media is so easy to copy that it is not possible to protect works from being duplicated without payment.

Though this leaves out the issue of protection of the original work entirely, even at a basic digital level it seems to me it is possible to imbue works with some kind of authorship, though it is clear that the ease of copying files makes it difficult to prevent duplication.

Technology-wise, there seems to be a plan afoot to imbue source files with a digital watermark- so that the files could still be copied but where they came from would be reflected in their DNA. While serious pirates might work to get around such marking, the average person would not probably object- especially if the cost involved was either not direct to the consumer or came as part of some kind of subscription-based plan (the days of individual-download pricing do seem numbered).

Filmmakers may not see the value in copyright anymore. As Fleischer suggests, many forward-thinking indie filmmakers are moving to a community model for distribution and making money, an “added value” experience for viewers who can participate in more than just watching a film. One problem is that without protections, other people can make money off your film too, and if their distribution network is already established, they may shut you out of your own release.

Tim Lee will be rebutting the article tomorrow at Cato Unbound. Stay tuned.

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