The Sony Rootkit Fiasco

Michael Geist has published a nice article on the Sony rootkit fiasco. Check it out here. Also, for detailed coverage and commentary, see what Ed Felten has to say at Freedom To Tinker. I hope that Michael is correct that this fiasco brings public attention to the risks of technological protection measures (TPMs) and perhaps, more generally, leads to more careful consideration of the path we are taking in copyright law.

Proponents of TPMs have focused myopically on the benefits of increased control over access to and use of content and the improved ability to meter use and more efficiently price discrimiate. While the benefits are systematically overstated (generally in terms of “improved” investment incentives), the (social) costs are systematically ignored by proponents, even though legal acadmeics and public interest organizations have been screaming about the costs/risks for years. Hopefully, the Sony fiasco will bring the social benefits and costs into perspective.

Unfortunately, myopicism and shortsighted optimism are all too common in copyright policy making. Such thinking has led us down what I refer to in a forthcoming article as the “Demsetzian path” of increased propertization and privatization of intellectual resources. As you probably suspect, I critique this mode of thinking in the paper, which is titled Evaluating the Demsetzian Trend in Copyright Law. Last week, I sent the final version to the publisher (Review of Law and Economics); so it is too late to use the Sony rootkit fiasco as an example. that will have to wait for the next article…