Back to His Future: Kaplan on the Web

As I noted yesterday, I’m reading Prof. Kaplan’s 1967 classic, An Unhurried View of Copyright. In Part III of the book (styled “Proposals and Prospects”), he looks into his future and sees … our present. In a particularly compelling passage, after urging that “we must look more closely at the technological environment of copyright,” he describes what we know as the web:

“You must imagine, at the eventual heart of things to come, linked or integrated systems or networks of computers capable of storing faithful simulacra of the entire treasure of the accumulated knowledge and artistic production of past ages, and of taking into the store new intelligence of all sorts as produced. The systems will have a prodigious capacity for manipulating the store in useful ways, for selecting portions of it upon call and transmitting them to any distance, where they will be converted as desired to forms directly or indirectly cognizable, whether as printed pages, phonorecords, tapes, transient displays of sights or sounds, or hieroglyphs for further machine uses. Lasers, microwave channels, satellites improving on Comsat’s Early Bird, and, no doubt, many devices now unnamable, will operate as ganglions to extend the reach of the systems to the ultimate users as well as to provide a copious array of additional services.”

Kaplan, Unhurried View, at p. 119.

Forty years after Prof. Kaplan gave this lecture, we can only say: Indeed!

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