Legal Theory

Due to Copyright Law Generation Gap, Future Protection is Murky

Once upon a time, as far as relative old-timers at least in their 40s and 50s are concerned, many Americans felt that certain obvious copyright violations were not only illegal but wrong.

A subsequent sea change in technology, though, has not only made the moral issue of copying much murkier, even as far as the middle-aged and senior citizens amongst us are concerned, but may have virtually eliminated it, for those of college age and below, writes a New York Times technology columnist.

Among older Americans, for example, it isn’t clear that copying a library music CD to replace the very same disk that you purchased, after the store-bought disk gets scratched, raises much concern from a moral standpoint, writes David Pogue. But most agree you shouldn’t take material that clearly belongs to someone else, simply because you want to have it without paying for it. In a recent college appearance, by contrast, it was virtually impossible to offer any example of copying that triggered the students “morality alarm,” however, he says.

“I don’t pretend to know what the solution to the file-sharing issue is,” Pogue concludes, although admitting that it probably isn’t traditional copyright protection. “I do know, though, that the TV, movie and record companies’ problems have only just begun. Right now, the customers who can’t even ‘see’ why file sharing might be wrong are still young. But 10, 20, 30 years from now, that crowd will be ‘everybody.’ What will happen then?”

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.