Orpheum's writeup regarding the Copy Control technology piqued my interest because I had the opportunity to hear James Boyle speak at Duke University recently. James Boyle is an intellectual property professor and is basically at the forefront of the concept of public domain.
The presentation was conducted in an interview format and the bulk of it dealt with the definition of the public domain and the current state of affairs. To break it down into it's barest components, the public domain is all information and ideas that the public should be allowed to view for free. As of now, we have very little access to so much material because of the fact that it's all tied up with copyrights which claim to be a method of promoting innovation. The primary concept is that innovators will have more motivation to develop new ideas when guaranteed that they will receive fair compensation and will not be ripped off. The irony, as I understood it from Mr. Boyle, is that such laws actually hinder innovation and artistic expression. All of this material is lost to those who wish to use it in other forms of expression. By no means was he expressing support for the free exchange and pirating of others work, but rather expressing a displeasure with how long material is protected.
Information was cited that 99% of copyrighted material loses its marketability in approximately 6 to 7 years. However, protection is there for an incredibly long time after that period. What this ultimately leads to is a lock on information that people could be exposed to if it were freely available; they would never desire it enough to pay for it or they would be incapable of paying for it.
A great analogy was that The Library of Congress is like a giant bowl of pudding. There is so much information locked away from public view. So many great pieces of work with no one able to experience them. Now, the marketable portion of this pudding is equivalent to a small raisin. So we have a giant bowl of the greatest tasting pudding ever created, and we can't consume it because of a singular forbidden piece. What possible end can that serve besides the deprivation of human growth?
The bottom line is that the internet has created both an opportunity and a liability for the world of intellectual property. Currently, it's not being employed as well as it could be.
I would like to say that this presentation was probably the most interesting and entertaining academic activity I've attended. The quality of this writeup does not reflect the extremely high quality of the presentation.