The Report of the Copyright Principles Project, a working group convened by Pam Samuelson, is now available.
On a quick read, the Report appears to be thorough, and reasonable, and balanced. It is also an entirely copyright-centric document. What I mean is that it takes the continuation and refinement of an autonomous system of copyright law as a premise, just as recent discussions of patent reform take the continuation and refinement of an autonomous system of patent law as a premise.
There was a moment, centuries ago (let’s say the late 17th and early 18th centuries), when the stuff that became the subject matter of copyright wasn’t so clearly distinguishable from the stuff that became the subject matter of patent. There was (and is) no natural or obvious division between the two; the line was drawn based on technological, social, and political considerations that were in flux then and stabilized over the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries. If they are in flux again — and I think that they are — then it strikes me that IP reform should be talking about copyright and patent (and trademark) law simultaneously.
Practically speaking, that’s a non-starter. But conceptually speaking, I suspect that some value would emerge from an “IP Principles Project.”