Napster Judge Proposes Copyright Revolution

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Napster Judge Proposes Copyright Revolution

Fri Nov 14, 2008 @ 12:25AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Revolution Judge Miriam Hall Patel made her mark more than eight years ago with a decision that shut down Napster. The peer-to-peer service encouraged copyright infringement, she reasoned.

Judge Patel is back in the news, thanks to a speech she gave at Fordham Law School where she unveiled an ambitious proposal to solve the world's copyright trouble. Her original Napster decision pleased copyright holders and displeased many in the tech community. Her latest proposal, on the other hand, won't win much applause anywhere.

Patel proposes a new organization comprised of public and private entities that will "issue licenses; negotiate, set and administer royalties; and adopt rules and regulations to carry out these purposes."

She wishes to throw out all licensing terms for copyrighted music and instead incorporate a compulsory license system, with possible opt-out provisions for certain rights holders. The new organization would arbitrate any royalty disputes. And oh yeah, she wants technology developers to seek approval from this body before introducing any application or device that records, distributes, and plays copyrighted material.

Will Patel's huge reform ideas convince anyone? Seems rather doubtful. The entertainment industry wants medicine from the ills of pirated material. Those who were unhappy with her original Napster decision believe that it's foolish, and ultimately impossible, to stand in the way of technological progress. What they can both agree upon is that bureaucratic interference in the control of digital media is not the answer.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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