This time last year, our experts made some predictions about what to expect in the world of copyright in 2018. Here is how those expectations stacked up to reality.
Trends that should grow: 4-1-2
- Legislation: I’d like to see Congress pass one or more of the many pieces of Copyright legislation that are currently in the legislative hopper. We’ve posted about the CASE Act already; I continue to think the innovation it represents – an Alternative Dispute Resolution procedure for copyright cases under a specified dollar limit – is basically a good idea. Passing Senate 1010 (about the appointing procedure for Register of Copyright) might also be to the good; I’d also like to see the situation improved with regard to creators getting paid for the use of their music in the streaming environment (cf H.R. 1836, see also Rep. Collins’ (R-GA) ‘Music Modernization Act’). Scoreboard: Win. It was an active year for legislation. The Music Modernization Act passed, hearings were underway as recently as September for both Senate 1010 and the CASE Act.
- Battling Behemoths: I’d like to see the issues in Oracle v. Google resolved. I’m not counting on that, though. (I’d also like to see the European Commission pass some of the copyright revisions that they have been working on bravely for a couple of years already; but I am not counting on that, either.) Scoreboard: Loss. Although Oracle v. Google and the European Commission made headlines throughout 2018, neither reached a conclusion.
- Digitize and preserve: I’d like to see more digitization of older works and collections by organizations like HathiTrust, the DPLA. So long as the substantial and legitimate concerns of actual rightsholders are respected, I am a great fan of preservation and digitization — these activities contribute to the public good, which is one of the core goals of copyright (the other is incenting creators to create). Scoreboard: Win. DLPA scaled back its efforts, but overall this trend continued to grow in 2018.
- Open Access: I’d like to see greater clarity from the US Administration on their approach to Open Access (OA) for the research outputs of projects funded with Federal money. It’s been a while since the public has had any updates or reaffirmations on this. Scoreboard: Win. OA made even bigger waves than we anticipated with the introduction of Plan S.
- Creators: I’d love to see more individual creators, of all media types, thrive and prosper in the new year. “Shine on, you crazy diamond[s].” Let’s aim for more self-publishing successes, more young songsters getting their start through YouTube; more 3D-printed Things. Scoreboard: Tie. Self-publishing, YouTube and 3D printing may not have lived up to be the trends we anticipated, but creators still had a great 2018 with audiobooks and podcasts.
- Peer-review: I’d like to see peer-review strengthened and made more efficient; I’d like to see the impact of predatory journals minimized, or fade from the scene entirely. This is one among many pressing issues in scholarly and scientific publishing, and you could do worse than to follow them on a daily basis here (Scholarly Kitchen). Scoreboard: Win. Peer-review is a key value-add for many publishers, and 2018 saw notable efforts to streamline the process (as well as an increasing distaste for predatory journals).
- Try it before you buy it: I’d like to see more publishing experiments, more pilot projects, and more funding for both. These guys (Digital Science), for example, are doing amazing things. Scoreboard: Tie. We’re impressed by MIT’s PubPub, but overall this trend didn’t quite reach the heights we had hoped to see.
Trends that should dwindle or disappear: 2-1-0
- Infringement: I’d like to see fewer poorly-based infringement suits in the entertainment industries clogging up the courts. Sometimes, it turns out that someone copied your stuff; and, assuming you have a good shot at proving it, we all (quite appropriately) have resort to the courts. Usually, though, it may simply seem like your idea was copied; and that by itself is simply not actionable under copyright. It seems like the last guy who won one of these was Art Buchwald, back in 1992. My view is similar regarding suits stemming from critical comments within YouTube postings. Too often, these may amount to attempts to restrict legitimate criticism. Don’t do that. Scoreboard: Loss. Unfortunately, 2018 didn’t see much progress here.
- No Term Extension: I’d like to see no extension of the term of copyright in the US. It seems to me that if 95 years isn’t enough, nothing is. In other words, I’m looking forward to seeing more materials enter the public domain due to their copyright terms expiring, a year from now. Scoreboard: Win. No extension occurred, so a variety of fantastic content will enter the public domain on January 1, 2019.
- Fact-driven policy: On a utopian note, I’d like to see less ideology and more practicality injected into copyright policy debates. But what are the odds of that happening? Scoreboard: Win. The utopian dream became a legislative reality when the common-sense Music Modernization Act passed unanimously and was signed into law. May 2019 and beyond bring more fact-driven public processes.