Clinton DMCA Architect’s Mea Culpa

geist.jpgLeave it to Canada to bring some clarity to the ongoing U.S. copyright debate. McGill University in Montreal hosted a “Digital Dystopia” seminar last week. The money quote swirling around the Internets is, of course, Bruce Lehman’s – “I’m afraid our Clinton Administration policies didn’t work out very well,” said the architect of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Ironically, he prefaced that statement with the hope that his remarks “won’t be quoted in the American press” – guess he isn’t as tech-savvy as he’d like to think.

Lehman said, “I think at least with regard to music, I believe that we are in, if not entering the post-copyright era.” He also observed that in the pre-copyright era of Mozart and Beethoven, patronage made the arts possible, but artists themselves were quite undervalued. Now, of course, the Internet has made musical performers paramount, and they now have more control their own destinies. But like Springsteen today, Mozart had to tour to make the really big bucks.

“In the absence of copyright,” said Lehman, “there will be a new form of patronage for industries that require music for their business.” Lehman went on to observe that the policy failures weren’t the fault of consumers as much as it was the industry’s failure to adapt to emerging technologies:

We’re going that way because people have lost respect for the copyright laws. But I don’t just blame college students and teenagers for this. I blame the moguls in the music industry, because had they been thinking about these business models when we were doing our work in 1994 in the Clinton Administration, had they been working on effective online distribution models when the Internet first came into business … perhaps we would not be in the situation that we are. But the culture of that industry was such that those people were concerned with developing artists and public taste. They weren’t interested in technology – minions did that.

Michael Geist has a nice summary on his blog, and he also delivers an effective riposte to Lehman and Canadian Patent Trademark Office representative Ann Chidowitz, who is a much more strident defender of the old order:

When our security researchers spend a third of their time talking to lawyers about what they can and cannot say I think you’ve got a problem. I think you’ve got a problem when someone like Felton (a Princeton security researcher) knew about Sony’s rootkit problem [for] months” before it became public in a blog.

Geist talks about the many ways this stifles innovation. “It’s the untold stories of the DMCA that are the most harmful,” he says.

Check out the entire 3 hours on Google Video.

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