Reflections on Copyright

Reflections on Copyright

An interview with Professor Paul Goldstein

Prof. Goldstein photoAn interview with Professor Paul Goldstein, the Stella W. and Ira S. Lillick Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.

A globally recognised expert on intellectual property law, Professor Goldstein is the author of an influential four-volume treatise on U.S. copyright law and a one-volume treatise on international copyright law, as well as several leading casebooks. He is also of counsel with Morrison & Foerster. In 2015, Professor Goldstein was inducted by Intellectual Asset Management into the IP Hall of Fame, which honors those who have helped to establish intellectual property as one of the key business assets of the 21st century.

Professor Goldstein spoke at a roundtable on Copyright reform on 1 July 2015, organised by the IP Academy, Singapore. This is part of IP Academy’s series of Thought Leadership activities to bring renowned IP experts to share with the local community their knowledge and insights on the latest trends and issues in the highly-evolving global IP and economic landscapes.

Prior to the roundtable, IP Academy had the opportunity to hear from Professor Goldstein on the challenges facing copyright owners today and his thoughts on the future of Copyright Law.

IPA: With today’s connected and technologically advanced world and ever-changing business environment, what are the most pressing challenges faced by IP rights-holders, in particular copyright owners?

Goldstein: The most pressing challenge faced by copyright owners worldwide–today and over the next few years–is to implement low-cost, typically automated, systems for licensing their works. The present, high transaction costs of securing a license not only discourage users from doing so, but–far more dangerously–they encourage courts and legislators to carve out exceptions to copyright in order to facilitate these uses. The fuse for action by copyright owners is short. If copyright owners fail to develop low-cost licensing mechanisms over the next few years, they will find that their previously exclusive rights have eroded, and it will be too late to restore them.

IPA: Are these challenges different in Asia’s emerging markets, compared with the more developed economies?

Goldstein: The challenge differs modestly in Asia’s emerging markets where the comparative absence of entrenched, but outmoded, licensing mechanisms, as well as a taste for high-tech solutions, may foster readier development and acceptance of digitally automated licensing systems.

IPA: How does copyright law need to evolve in order to keep up with the changing business environment and new technologies?

Goldstein: Copyright law does not need to evolve to keep up with new technologies. What needs to evolve are receptivity among copyright owners to the use of new technologies to facilitate low-cost, frictionless licensing, and resistance among legislators and courts to popular calls for trimming copyright’s exclusive rights. The operation of markets will take care of the rest.

IPA: What do you think is the balance between protecting rights-holders and providing access to encourage innovation? Can policy-makers find this balance?

Goldstein: History is the surest source of wisdom on the correct balance between exclusive rights and unfettered, priceless access to copyrighted works. Whatever the economics of incentive to creativity may be, the legal balance that has been in place for the past century has at the very least done nothing to disturb the level and quality of literary and artistic creation that we have enjoyed over this period. I think that it would be dangerous for legislators and courts to tinker with that balance.


Interview conducted by Trina Ha of The IPA Beacon Editorial Team