Monday, October 25, 2010

Copyright & the Economics of Digital Publishing

burning bush, near the library

A recent post here reminded me of studying the history of copyright in library school. The origins of copyright can be seen as a three-way tug of war among businesses, the public, and the government.

I think this tension also exists currently in the modern networked marketplace. It seems applicable to content that is published digitally, for example. Publishers see an avenue for reducing costs, but there is a problem with the lack of control over digital content. So, publishers invent new controls to preserve their business. While that is going on, the public happily embraces online content, but by and large resists the new controls. Government, meanwhile, treads the fine line of creating rules both to give the public what it wants (cheap stuff, easy access) while encouraging profitable business.

As with copyright, librarians are somewhat stuck in the middle of digital publishing. We generally don't want to be lackeys for business, and tend toward supporting the public, but libraries are frequently supported by governments. It's an interesting vantage point.

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