From Napster to iTunes to Pandora, the methods by which the public can obtain and share music have rapidly progressed.
groundbreaking innovations may need to wait, though, as the next
generation of technology is being stymied by the very copyright laws
that seek to protect the industry, says Michael Carrier, a professor of
law at Rutgers–Camden.
is not enough attention being given to the effect copyright law has on
innovation,” Carrier says about the fight against copyright infringement
and the attempt to extinguish every instance of piracy.
For his new article, “Copyright and Innovation: The Untold Story,” to be published in the University of Wisconsin Law Review this
fall, Carrier interviewed more than 30 CEOs and other top-level
executives from the recording industry, technology companies, and
venture capital firms to determine the relationship between copyright
law and innovation.
“Many innovators working on revolutionary technologies and many venture
capitalists told me that copyright law has harmed innovation in the
music industry,” Carrier says.
says it’s impossible to say exactly which innovations have experienced
roadblocks because they never publicly surfaced, “But industry leaders
made clear to me that there are numerous innovations that failed to
reach the market because of copyright laws,” he says.
his research, funded by a Google Research Award received last year,
Carrier points to Napster as the first instance of a peer-to-peer
service being liable for violating the copyright laws. Users of the
service were able to share music digitally, but questions of copyright
infringement surrounded the company and court rulings forced it to cease
operations. It is now owned by Rhapsody.
After the Napster decision, Carrier says, “a lot of innovators were scared away from trying to work with the record labels.”
also says the decision was a setback for digital music technology and
services like Spotify and Pandora, which could have been developed years
to copyright and innovation issues increased in early 2012, when
thousands of internet sites participated in a “blackout” protest against
two controversial anti-piracy laws that would have punished websites
that host pirated content.
to widespread public protests, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and
the Protect IP Act (PIPA) were ultimately pulled off the table.
laws presented examples of copyright holders trying to expand the law
to protect themselves at the expense of everybody else,” Carrier says.
“We saw that the technology and internet communities have muscles to
flex. Innovation needs to be part of the equation. I wrote this article
to help put innovation at the forefront of the debate.”
posted the article to the Social Science Research Network in July,
where it became the no. 1 downloaded article and was downloaded 3,000
times in one week.
The article also generated coverage from Billboard magazine, the New York Times blog, and more than 50 music, arts, law, and technology websites around the world.
A Philadelphia resident, Carrier is the author of Innovation for the 21st Century: Harnessing the Power of Intellectual Property and Antitrust Law (Oxford
University Press, 2009). He is a co-director of the Rutgers Institute
for Information Policy and Law and teaches courses in intellectual
property, antitrust, and property law at the Rutgers School of