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Seven Copyright Principles for the Digital Era

A web page featuring the symbols of the U.S. Department of Justice (L) and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center is shown on a computer (REUTERS/Jason Reed).

Since last year, I’ve had the privilege of serving as one of 18 members of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Intellectual Property System. Recently, we’ve developed and published a set of digital copyright principles that we hope will provide a framework for addressing copyright in light of the many new technologies for creating, disseminating, and consuming content.

The original document as published through the World Economic Forum can be found here [PDF]; the principles it identifies are as follows:

1. Creators and producers of creative works should receive meaningful protection, recognition and compensation for their contributions to economic and cultural development.

2. Copyright law should reflect an appropriate balance between the rights of creators and copyright owners and the interests of consumers and other users of works.

3. Copyright law should be regularly reviewed and updated as appropriate to respond to new technologies and uses.

4. Copyright systems should enable rights to be meaningfully, practically, cost-effectively, and proportionally enforced.

5. A wide range of means should be available for creative works to reach the public, as enabled by Internet and other technologies—maximizing choice for both rights holders and users. It is desirable to have as much quality content as possible available in as many formats as possible.

6. Licensing should be streamlined in a content-appropriate manner and simplified to be as easy and efficient as possible, including for different types of content and across national boundaries.

7. The public should be educated about the purpose, scope and nature of copyright protections, including exceptions, and the reasons for proposed changes or government action.

Formulating specific copyright policy approaches can be complex, messy work. But the principles above can help guide that process, and can serve as a reminder that all of us share an interest in copyright systems that both incentivize creativity and provide balanced frameworks for accessing the resulting works.

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