The Association of American Publishers (AAP) held its general annual meeting last Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency Washington. The 2:30 PM session was titled "The Future of Copyright" and, according to the AAP's website, featured the following:
- Marybeth Peters, Register of Copyrights for the U.S. Copyright Office
- Pamela Samuelson, Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law Professor of Information Management and the Director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology at the University of California Berkeley
- Mark Helprin, Author of Digital Barbarism: A Writer's Manifesto
Publishers Weekly did a story on the session on Thursday:
...Mark Helprin urged publishers to take a very aggressive to getting the message out about the importance of copyright, saying that whether they know it or not publishers are in a war with technology companies and other parties over the value of copyright...Pamela Samuelson...disagreed that framing the issue as a war [was] the correct approach, saying that would turn customers into enemies. She said publishers should experiment with pricing and different business models to meet the changing expectations of consumers.As I read the article, I realized that--despite being a writer--I am much closer to Dr. Samuelson's side of the continuum than I am to Helprin's. It's been about six months since I posted my opinion on the copyright debate. I'm going to repeat what I said then:
Efforts by companies or cultures to suppress technology have almost always failed. Technology wins in the end. Trying to stop technological progress never works.According to Publishers Weekly, Marybeth Peters of the U.S. Copyright Office "also acknowledged that it is getting close to the point, with all the changes in technology, that Congress may need to look at revising copyright laws."
And I guess that sums up my thinking on the state of publishing today. I believe the following:
1) U.S. copyright law is antiquated and needs to be overhauled.
2) Writers and publishers need to stop trying to stop the new technology and figure out how to make it work for them.
3) The developed world needs to move outside its own egocentric needs and recognize how the new technology can advantage those who are not as well off as we are...The prohibitive costs of printing, shipping and warehousing books for underdeveloped nations limits the amount of printed material that can be provided to poor areas of the globe.
While I acknowledge that the ground under the publishing world is shifting, instead of working on stopping the earth tremors, I'm focussed on learning how to locate the footholds and practicing how to hop nimbly from rock to rock.