Remember when information wanted to be free and cyberspace was going to be the new frontier beyond law and beyond commerce? When young IP law profs assigned themselves the task of creating a new ethos for a whole new universe where no one would own anything and everyone would share?
Today the big legal news is the fight between the gazillion-dollar behemoth Viacom and the other gazillion-dollar behemoth Google over rights to what’s on YouTube — see Globe & Mail coverage here.
Can you remember which of these company is new-economy and which is old? Neither can I.
What matters here is that the day when digital information could be valued at Zero is dead, dead, dead. It’s valuable. It’s becoming the most valuable commodity in the world. YouTube ain’t free — it’s a moneyspinner. The question here is simply whether Google’s people get all the money or Viacom’s get a share too.
And the way to handle it is to monetize it. It’s unfortunate that the Viacom-Google battle is still construed as Viacom forcing Google to take down copyright material, to make copyright material unavailable. That’s playing into the IP lawyers’ obsolete idea that everything must be free so everyone has access. That’s not where this is really headed.
Where it’s heading is licensing: make it available — and licence it. Digital access has immense benefits for everyone. Licensing means the benefits will shared with those who create the value, and then there will be more of it.
The solution to digital copyright doesn’t lie with IP profs anymore. It’s with the economists. The lawyers are stuck with utopian concepts that expired in the 1990s. The economists are ready to assign and distribute real value.