A Vision for Copyright in the 21st Century

By Mike O’Donnell, Founder, iCopyright, Inc. 

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In the digital age, content travels to all corners of the world via the web and digital devices in a nanosecond. It is instantly indexed and syndicated by millions of publishers, bloggers, and aggregators. It is subsequently downloaded and passed along to others by billions of users. This is both a blessing and a curse for creators because they can easily lose their ownership rights and their ability to monetize their works.

Some creators have reacted to this challenge by trying to limit syndication and reuse to protect their revenue base. Others react by embracing broad redistribution of their content, but in a manner that kills their business model. I believe the key to solving this paradox is appropriately transitioning the implementation of copyright to the 21st century. My company, iCopyright, is focused on promoting creators and enabling users so that creative works can thrive in the 21st century.

No matter where you stand on copyright, you probably agree that it’s a confusing and contentious issue. Few people understand copyright and even fewer agree on how strongly it should be applied or enforced in the digital age. On one side, publishers are screaming for a crackdown on unauthorized uses of their content. They want credit for their works and they want to be compensated when others use them.[1] On the other side, aggregators and users have become accustomed to unfettered access to content — especially on the web. They view copyright as an impediment to the free flow of information.[2]

For the record, I stand firmly on both sides of this issue! I believe in the vision of universal access to all knowledge.[3] How do we reconcile the rights of creators with the needs of the public interest? Is it fair to allow people to “take” other people’s works and do whatever they want with them? That doesn’t seem right. Is it right to make content available for sharing and repurposing only to those who can pay for it? That doesn’t seem fair.

I believe we can apply copyright in a way that is not burdensome or oppressive. We can be right and fair. We can serve the interests of content creators, aggregators and users without inhibiting the free flow of content. In fact, being upfront about addressing the needs of all constituents will allow content to travel more freely than ever before. I believe it can be accomplished by incorporating three features into each and every work that is copyrighted. These features should:

1. Inform: Let users know who owns the content and what they can and cannot do with it. This includes Fair use and Fair dealing that do not require permissions.[4]

2. Enable: Give users the ability to obtain rights and permissions instantly when their intended uses are not covered by Fair use or Fair dealing.

3. Authenticate: Make it possible for recipients of copyrighted content to verify that the people providing it have obtained the rights to do so.

These features — inform, enable and authenticate — are like the three legs of a stool. They are needed to support copyright in the digital age. The problem with how copyright is applied to most content today is that one or more of these legs is missing.

The copyright notice that creators and publishers already attach to their works is the ideal delivery system for these three features. But copyright needs to be intelligent. It needs to be more than just an inert symbol that communicates that the work is protected by copyright law. It needs to be an active and intelligent hyperlink to digital technologies that inform users about what rights the creator has reserved. It needs to provide a way for people to voluntarily respect those rights and to be held accountable when they violate them.

The traditional copyright notice does not empower copyright holders or the people who come into contact with their works. It is has been applied like so:

© 2009, Mike O’Donnell. All rights reserved.

Yawn. That is so 20th century. I have no idea who Mike O’Donnell is, what he will permit me to do with his works, or how to go about licensing the rights to redistribute or repurpose his works.

The intelligent copyright notice[5], on the other hand, empowers both copyright holders and those who wish to acquire the rights to use their works. It is applied like so:

2009, Mike O’Donnell. Some rights reserved.

Cool! Copyright comes alive. I can learn more about Mike O’Donnell and what rights he has extended to his works. I can acquire rights and permissions with a few clicks.

Further, the publisher’s ‘article tools’ should also incorporate these features because they give users the go-ahead to do something with the content besides view it. Article Tools are an extension of the publisher’s copyright rules. The synergy between the copyright notice and article tools is covered in this white paper.

Note: Individual creators can have rules and reuse services that are different than those used by publishers. The linkable copyright notice above shows my rules as the author, whereas the article tools and copyright notice attached to this article show the rules of iCopyright as publisher. Copyrighted works would typically carry one or the other.

A Vision Based on 20-20 Hindsight

I started iCopyright in 1998 to build this three-legged stool. The pundits at the time were saying that copyright had become irrelevant. Some even said that copyright did not apply to content on the Internet. As the author of several books and many articles, and one who fully understood the power of the Internet, those words were not very encouraging. Fortunately, both of those prognostications proved to be false. The United States passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)[6], which reinforced and extended copyright protections to digital content. Other countries have passed similar laws.

In the ensuing ten years, it became clear that copyright was not going away. Its role in the economy has become more important than ever.[7] After all, we live in the information age. Copyrighted works are among the most valued and traded products in the world. However, the laws have not reduced copyright piracy or done much to help creators and publishers. Laws are not effective if they can’t be practically applied, or if they are only enforced sporadically. Even worse, copyright is seen by many as a nuisance…as an antiquated concept that can safely be ignored. Not exactly what the framers of the U.S. Constitution had in mind!

Copyright in its current form is too esoteric and too ad-hoc to have any meaningful impact on people who use content today. More people violate copyright than comply with it.[8] The nature of content has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, but the nature of how copyright is applied and enforced has not changed in 300 years. Copyright needs a facelift. It needs to be brought into the 21st century. It could also use a good public relations agent to change its image from villain to hero.

Working in this space for the last 10 years has taught me a lot about what will work and what will not work. I have a much better idea of what needs to be done to make copyright work for all stakeholders in the digital content ecosystem. These are the key lessons that I have learned:

1. Content creators and publishers need a foundation upon which they are assured credit and compensation for their works. Copyright is the best foundation they have. That foundation was built for an analog world. It has developed serious cracks in the digital world. It will crumble from disrepair unless it is reinforced and the mechanism for applying it is updated. The problem is not copyright law. The problem is ignorance of the law, the inability of most people to abide by it, and the inability of authorities to enforce it.

2. Most people want to respect the works of others. They themselves are creators and want their works to be respected. Most people view copyright as an issue of fairness, not an issue of law. ‘Do unto others…” is still a powerful motivator for getting people to respect copyright. Content creators and publishers make it too hard for people to respect their copyrights.

3. The best system is an honor system. Locking down the content with encryption mechanisms will not work. DRM (digital rights management) is dead for most content. Publishers should focus on enabling the 99% of people who will use their content legally, rather than limiting access to everyone in order to fight the 1% of people who are intent upon pirating it.

4. People can’t respect copyright if they don’t know what the rules are. Most copyrighted content does not communicate the rules.

5. If complying with copyright is a hassle, many people will not comply voluntarily, even if they know what the rules are. Rights and permissions must be instantly obtainable. Making people call, email, fax, or submit forms that delay permissions, gives them an excuse to “take” the content without permission. Humans have a great capacity for rationalization, especially when they are under deadline and the risks of breaking the rules are low or non-existent.

6. Providing content users with both free (personal) fair uses and paid (commercial) uses ensures a high degree of voluntary compliance with the publisher’s copyright rules. It also helps tremendously if the paid versions are available at different price points for different levels of quality and for different types of uses, such as non-profit and educational uses.

7. The best type of copyright policing is peer-policing. People won’t steal content when they have to prove to those they share it with that they obtained permission to do so, or that their use is permissible under the doctrine of fair use.

It is from these key lessons that I offer a clear and sensible vision for copyright in the 21st century. Using the article tools and copyright notice affixed to this article, I will also demonstrate how some publishers have begun to put this vision into practice by using iCopyright. My hope is that you will agree that this vision works as well for the users of copyrighted content as it does for the creators, publishers and aggregators of content.

Putting the Vision into Practice

The three features that comprise the vision — inform, enable, authenticate — have already been implemented by a group of creators and publishers who use the iCopyright system. It’s a good start, but greater ubiquity is needed to make the user experience more uniform and a natural part of the web experience. The vision needs to be extended to a broader array of copyrighted works, including images, music, and movies — and to a broader array of digital devices — such as mobile phones, book readers and iPods. My purpose is to rally content creators, content distributors, and content consumers – along with the industry associations that represent them — to embrace this vision and to help implement it.

Allow me to more fully explain and demonstrate the features, and then offer some ideas on how they can be extended to all copyrighted works and to all devices.


Letting users know who owns the content and what they can and cannot do with it

Clicking on the copyright symbol or article tools provided with the content should display information about the copyright holder and the rules for using the content. Each copyright holder should be able to define the rules for uses that are not exempt from permissions. This means defining what types of uses are permissible, the terms for those uses, and the price (if any). This feature should also educate users about the scope of rights afforded to the copyright holder under the applicable laws of the land, and the circumstances under which they do not have to seek permission to use the content.

Some copyright holders might inform users that they can do whatever they want with the content so long as they credit the author. Other copyright holders might prefer to allow certain uses for free, but require payment for other types of uses. In a free market society, such is the prerogative of property owners. Taking one’s property in the physical world without their expressed permission is theft. With a few exceptions, there’s no difference in the world of intellectual property. The exceptions are called “fair use” or “fair dealing.” Most countries define the exceptions under which permission is not required. You can learn more about those exceptions here.

Another aspect of this feature is informing users about copyright in general. Educating users about fair use and fair dealing exceptions, copyright law, and ramifications of infringement, will help engender respect for copyright and reinforce compliance.

Try it!
To see this feature in practice, click any of the article tools that appear at the top of this article, or click the copyright notice at the bottom of this article. You will see which uses I permit. Some are free; others require you to pay me. Remember, you didn’t have to pay anything to read this article. You only need to obtain permission if you want to do something with it. The tools enable a broad array of uses, but if there is something you want to do with the article and it is not listed on the menu, it’s probably because I do not allow it. But in any case, you can click on “Republish” and “Other Permissions” to request permission to do something you don’t see in my menu of permissions. I can usually get back to you with an answer within minutes or hours.

You can also click on the “Learn more” links located at the top and bottom of my copyright permissions toolbar, to learn more about copyright and the scope of the rights afforded to me under the law.

So now that you know what you can do with this article, you need a convenient way to obtain legal permissions instantly, assuming your intended use is not exempt from obtaining permission.


Giving users the ability to obtain rights and permissions instantly

The research is clear that most users will take content without permission (usually by copying and pasting it), if permissions cannot be obtained instantly. The web is about immediacy. Users expect instant gratification. Once users are informed about what they can and can not do with the material, they should be able to complete the transaction very quickly. Even if the copyright holder is granting free uses, this feature should prepare and deliver the content in the format desired by the user. For reasons that are important to the “Authenticate” feature discussed below, a license ID number should be issued and attached automatically to each licensed copy.

Try it!
To see this feature in practice, click on the Print tool that appears at the top of this article, or click the copyright notice at the bottom of this article, then select Print. Click “Free Prints” to make free copies. Notice the print-friendly version communicates the number of copies that can be made for free and cross-links to options for making more copies. Of course, these are my rules. Another copyright holder might allow 100 free copies or unlimited free copies.

Click “Instant Prints” to see the order form for making more than 5 copies. This feature processes the transaction and delivers an authorized master copy to the user. The user can also choose higher quality options and can even preview the options before purchasing. The same process works for other types of permissions, such as emailing this article, posting this article on the web, or republishing this article in a print publication. The permissions process can be completed in less than a minute.

So now that you have a way to obtain rights and permissions instantly, how do I know (as the copyright holder) whether you are complying with the terms? How do the people you share this article with know that you have permission to do so?


Making it possible for recipients of copyrighted content to verify that the people providing it have obtained the rights to do so

How many times have you been given a copy of an article, or received one via email, and wondered if the person passing it to you has the rights to do so? Probably never, unless you are a manager who is sensitive to copyright law and your job is helping your company avoid liability from infringement. Along these same lines, how many times have you viewed material on a website and wondered if the site owner created the material, licensed the material, or shamelessly pirated it? With the “Authenticate” feature, you can know whether the provider of the content has the rights to share it with you.

The problem with the vast majority of copyrighted content that is passed around and posted on the web is that no one knows if it is authentic. No one knows who has title to it. You wouldn’t buy a car unless you were given clear title to it. Copyright authentication makes it plain to see who has what rights to the material. The title lets everyone know who owns the material, who has licensed it, and who might have simply “taken” it. Peer-policing keeps most people honest. What’s more, this feature allows anyone who comes into contact with unlicensed material to report the person who gave it to them or posted it. Some trade associations pay hefty bounties for that information.[9] Think of it as Crime Stoppers for copyrighted material.

You might be wondering what stops dishonest people from gaming the system and displaying a fake title. The Authenticate feature includes a public record that anyone can access. Pirates have no way of changing the public record. They can display a fake title on the content, but anyone can quickly check the web to see that the title is not valid. In this respect, the copyright authentication database is like the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) database used for automobiles. A thief can sell you a car and give you a fake title, but if you check the VIN number, you can find out that the car was stolen. If the car does not have a VIN number, well, that tells you the same thing.

Further, certain copyright licenses can expire and the authenticate feature can be used to identify whether a previously issued license is still valid. If a user obtains the rights to post a copyrighted work on a website for 30 days, The license will expire on the 31st day and the public record will show that the site’s right to post the article is no longer valid. This is akin to driving a car with an expired license plate.

Try it!
To see this feature in practice, you’ll need to invest at least $3.50. If you don’t want to do that, you can get a good idea of how this works by viewing the screen shots below. To proceed with a live demo, click on the Email tool that appears at the top of this article, or click the copyright notice at the bottom of this article, then select Email. Click “Email Full Article” and purchase the rights to send this entire article to 6 or more recipients.

When you receive the email, notice the license tracking ID at the bottom. This is your “title” to email the article. It includes your name and the number of emails that you have the rights to send. It also includes a public-record URL that anyone can use to “authenticate” your right to email the article. If you send it to more than 6 people, those on the distribution list can see that you have exceeded the terms of your license. If you suppress the distribution list to hide the number of people you sent it to, an audit of your email server can easily show how many emails were sent. An audit is not something that most copyright holders will do. It is, however, something that companies may do to make sure their employees are not putting the company at risk by violating copyright. Audits of your email server, personal computer, Intranet and public web site can also be conducted by various agents and systems.[10]

Further, if one of your recipients forwards it on to more people, they would be doing so illegally. Those who receive the forwarded email can tell from the footer that the sender did not obtain a license to send them the article. The sender could, of course, strip the footer, but doing so would be like trying to sell a car without a title, or driving one without a license plate. The absence of a license identifier would indicate to recipients that the sender may not have obtained a license to email the article.

This is not a fool-proof system, but it provides reasonable checks and balances to verify that one has the rights to copy, email, post, republish, or otherwise use someone’s copyrighted material.

Figure 1 illustrates the iCopyright license identifier at the bottom of an article that was properly licensed for email forwarding. Note that it includes the name of the licensee (Mike O’Donnell), the number of emails licensed (6), and the renewal and verification locator (http://license.icopyright.net/3.7220-61607). The URL links to a page that displays a public record of the license (see Figure 2).

Figure 1

Figure 2 illustrates the public record. Clicking on the locator URL at the bottom of the email, or entering the URL into a web browser, shows the title of the article licensed, the quantity licensed, and whether it is valid. For privacy reasons, the licensee’s name is not displayed. However, the License Number allows the copyright holder to retrieve the licensee’s name and contact information, if needed.

The recipients of copyrighted material cannot only verify that the sender has a license, but they can also click to instantly obtain their own license to print, email, post, or republish the material. The Authentication feature provides a viral marketing benefit to the copyright holder when their material is licensed and shared. A person who gets copyrighted material from a friend, who got it from another friend, who got it from a co-worker, can also get instant rights to pass it on, or obtain rights to reuse the content in a different way. The copyright holder gets a record of this chain and knows who is using their material and for what purposes.

Figure 2

Anywhere in this chain, a recipient of copyrighted material can verify that the person sharing it with them has a valid license and is not exceeding the terms of the license. If the sender does not have a license or has violated the terms of the license, the recipient can click “Learn more” to report the infringer.

Try it!
Click this URL of my license record from The East Valley Tribune: http://license.icopyright.net/3.7220-61607. Click “Learn More” then click on the “Report Piracy” icon located at the bottom. This feature is provided in partnership with the Software and Information Industry Association. Other trade groups like MPAA, RIAA, and AAP have similar programs for other types of media.[11]

The objective of “Authentication” is to enable a peer-policing system for copyright holders, not to create a system for tattling or legal enforcement. The knowledge that it is easy for anyone to know whether a copy is legitimate, and to report it if it isn’t, should be enough to engender a high degree of voluntary compliance. Most people won’t take and pass-along content that everyone knows has been pirated.

I like to think of it as the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane on the information superhighway. You can speed right along when you are sharing content legally. When you are a single driver without the right to share, it’s not just the police you are worried about. It’s the other drivers that can easily use their cell phones to report you. A peer-policing mechanism for copyrighted works keeps most people honest most of the time.

Finally, you might be thinking, “So what, no one will care if their friends or co-workers give them pirated material. What good is the authentication feature if no one uses it?” This is where technology comes in to provide additional checks and balances. Applications like iCopyright Discovery are searching the web constantly looking for unauthorized uses. The system for copyright authentication includes peer-policing as the primary deterrent and technology policing as a backup deterrent. When infringers are caught by their peers or by detection technologies, they either pay the fine or lose their ability to continue using the content.

Extending the Features to Publishers and Aggregators

One of the challenges for copyright holders is how to preserve their copyrights when their material is published and distributed by publishers and aggregators. A freelance writer, for example, can lose track of her copyrights when an article she contributes to a news site is subsequently taken and distributed by visitors to the news site. If the publisher and aggregator carry forth the copyright holder’s 21st century copyright notice, rather than slapping the old copyright notice on it, the features discussed herein can go with it.

Try it!
To see how this works, click on my byline at the top of this article. It links to my profile, my copyright permissions toolbar, and my contact information. If this article is subsequently published by news sites, my byline and copyright notice can go with it. I can even share any reuse revenue with those publishers. My works don’t get sucked into the great void that is the Internet. Wherever my works go, my copyright notice and the features demonstrated herein can go with it.

In the same way that freelance writers contribute stories to publishers, but retain the copyrights, publishers also syndicate their content to other publishers and to aggregators and retain the copyrights. As in the example above, publishers can maintain complete control over their content by including their 21st century copyright notice before sending it to other publishers and aggregators. At iCopyright, we have perfected this feature for publishers like the Associated Press, whose content is distributed very widely by thousands of news outlets.

Try it!
To see an example of this in action, click the following link to review an AP story published by the East Valley Tribune: http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/story/138846. At the top of the story, click the “License” link. Notice that the permissions toolbar is co-branded with Tribune’s logo at the top and AP’s logo at the bottom. AP is able to extend its copyright rules to Tribune’s readers. Both of them share the revenue. AP does not lose control over its copyrights when its content is distributed by others.

Extending the Features to Search Engines

In addition to informing, enabling and authenticating copyrighted works via those who distribute the content, copyright holders can also extend the features to the search engines. Let’s say this article gets republished on a dozen other websites. That can easily happen if I submit this article to various publishers for republication, or if users click the “Post” link and post it on their blogs or websites. How would Google and other search engines index those webpages? Which of those websites will get ranked higher when users submit a search query using keywords that are likely to find this article?

To complicate matters, what if unscrupulous site operators pirate this article and their copy gets indexed by Google? What happens if the pirated version gets ranked first in search queries, because the pirates are better at search engine optimization than those who are posting it with my permission? Unfortunately, creators and publishers see this happening to their content everyday. They create the content; the pirates get the traffic and the ad revenue.

To solve this problem the search engines should “authenticate” the site that originated the article and rank it higher than sites that have copied it, by reading the 21st century copyright notice on each page. Further, if a site does not have a valid copyright identifier, the search engines could refuse to index it. This would take away a pirate’s ability to hijack the traffic of authorized publishers and to monetize the content at the expense of the copyright holder. This feature also provides a valuable service when people have found content through a search engine. Many people would prefer to visit the webpage of the person or company that originated the material, rather than those who have republished it.

Taking it one step further, the search engines could also display the copyright holder’s copyright information alongside of the page headline, link and snippet returned by a search query. This would help “inform” Internet users about copyright and what they can and cannot do with material they find through the search engines.

Figure 3 illustrates an example of how this could work. A user conducts a search for “Article Tools” on Google. The hits provide the page title and snippet of the sites that match the query. Notice that Google currently adds two links next to each snippet: “Cached” and “Similar pages.” These links provide contextual information that users might find helpful.

Google could also provide a “Copyright” link next to the snippet that, when clicked, provides information about the copyright holder and the rules for using that material.

Figure 3


Extending the Features to the Browser and Digital Devices

The way that content is accessed on the World Wide Web is through a browser. Everyone has their favorite, whether it is MS Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Google Chrome, AOL Netscape, or other. Browsers include all kinds of cool features for displaying the content. They also include features for printing, saving, and emailing the content. It would be trivial for the browser companies to add “copyright” as a standard feature. When a page is loaded by the browser, it can read the metadata on that page. The browser can then display the copyright information and permissions associated with the content on that page when the user clicks the copyright icon located on the Menu Bar.

This is not unlike how other icons commonly found on the browser Menu Bar work. Figure 4 illustrates common icons, including one for RSS feeds and one for copyright information. When the page is loaded for example, the orange RSS icon lights up to indicate that the site offers an RSS feed. Clicking the orange icon provides the RSS feed of that site. If the site does not offer an RSS feed, the icon is grayed out. This is exactly how the copyright icon would work. It would light up if the site owner provided copyright information and a permissions toolbar like the example in Figure 3. Adding a copyright icon as a standard feature of every browser would help educate users about copyright and foster voluntary compliance with the creator’s rules.


Figure 4

A browser is essentially a “reader” for content published on the World Wide Web. There are other kinds of readers that this vision for copyright could be extended to, such as Kindle (for books, newspapers and magazines), mobile phones, and iPods. If a device can display copyrighted content, it can “read” the owner’s copyright information and make it easy for users of the device to have the features proposed herein.

Extending the Features to Publishing Tools and Systems

The ultimate step to realize this vision is to have the features built in to the tools that create the content and the systems that publish it. All content is brought into existence using some tool. It is then published using some system. This article, for example, was created using Microsoft Word. It was published on the Internet using Drupal, a content management system. The article tools and copyright notice were added using a script provided by iCopyright. It would have been ideal if the script could have been enabled by Microsoft Word and/or Drupal. The easier it is for content creators to add the 21st century copyright notice to their works, the more content will have it. iCopyright is working toward the day where all tools that allow one to create content, and all systems that allow one to publish it, will enable this intelligent copyright functionality.

Extending the Features into the Enterprise

One of the primary benefits of a copyright system that incorporates the features proposed herein is the ability for companies to use it to license content from any number of copyright holders, for any number of employees, for any number of purposes, for one annual fee. The copyright site licensing model that is used by enterprises for print material today does not work well for digital content. They need a new model for the content their employees are downloading, copying and distributing from the Internet.

With the inform feature, copyright holders can specify which uses are permitted by corporations, educational institutions, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and other types of enterprise customers. With the enable feature, copyright holders can participate in the fees collected by copyright agencies on a pro-rata basis for the uses specified. With the authenticate feature, copyright holders can verify that they are receiving their fair share of the royalties distributed by copyright agencies. These features bring a new level of transparency and accountability to copyright licensing that neither copyright holders nor enterprise users enjoy today.

The Need for a Unified Vision

It is unfortunate that important issues like copyright are often hijacked by vocal and well organized lobbies on opposite extremes of the issue. This prevents a common vision from materializing. The Copy Right are painted as big, money-grubbing media companies who want to extend the duration of copyright, collect a toll for every use, and prosecute people who post or download content for any purpose. The Copy Left are painted as anarchists who want to abolish copyright or interpret fair use so broadly that few protections are afforded to creators. These competing visions pull people in different directions. They are short-sighted and self-serving. It’s time we found the middle ground.

The vision I am proposing is not revolutionary. It’s the middle ground between the Copy Right and the Copy Left. It empowers copyright holders and their works without creating barriers to the free flow of content, or making compliance burdensome. It’s important that we do something like it to preserve the spirit of copyright as defined in the U.S. Constitution:

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

This spirit is further defined by the Berne Convention, which most developed countries of the world are a party to:

“As soon as a work is “fixed”, that is, written or recorded on some physical medium, its author is automatically entitled to all copyrights in the work and to any derivative works, unless and until the author explicitly disclaims them or until the copyright expires. Foreign authors are given the same rights and privileges to copyrighted material as domestic authors in any country that signed the Convention.”

It is vital that we uphold these principles. An intelligent copyright system like the one demonstrated herein is a way to practice them in a manner that gives content creators, content distributors, and content consumers the right combination of incentives. Inform. Enable. Authenticate. Let us go forth and create and be assured that our works will be duly credited and rewarded in the 21st century. Let us honor and respect the works of others while advancing the public interest.


This vision for copyright is not mine alone. It has been forged and refined over many years with the help of colleagues who have worked with me at iCopyright and mentored me from afar. Most notably, Jonathan Peterson, iCopyright’s CTO; Andrew Elston, iCopyright’s Director of Publisher Services; Dan Sauerhaft and Lary Stromfeld, investors and tireless supporters; Ken Wasch and the good folks at the Software & Information Industry Association. Brian O’Donnell, Rob Weisberg and the staff at Access Copyright, The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency; The rights and permissions professionals at the media companies that took a leap of faith in me and iCopyright; And the many other people over the last 10 years who have indulged my obsession with making copyright meaningful and workable in the modern era. Thank you!

End Notes

[1] As of this writing, articles and commentary by leaders in publishing are appearing daily. Select examples:
AP Launching Newspaper Industry Campaign to Protect News Content


Is the Fair Syndication Consortium the Solution to Content Scraping?


Don’t Blame Google for Newspaper Woes


Henry Blodget, Steve Brill to Save Newspapers


Brill, Crovitz & Hindery Launch “Journalism Online”: About Time or Out of Time?


AP to Fight Illegal Use of Content on Web Sites


Murdoch says papers should charge on Web


What Google Can Do To Make The Web Less Of A ‘Cesspool’


[2] A number of groups champion the free-flow of information and a culture of sharing. I personally do not think their objectives are incongruent with the core principles of copyright, but they are perceived by some as anti-copyright. Sites worth visiting:







[3] I salute the work that Brewster Kahle is doing at Archive.org to make this fabulous vision a reality. The vision I am promoting for copyright intersects with Kahle’s vision in many respects. I believe they are compatible. The content amassed by a unified copyright system could be made available to Archive.org for all to access. This system could help build the archive.

[4] Fair Use is a provision of U.S. copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders. In Canada, the UK and other countries, it is called Fair Dealing.



[5] The “intelligent” copyright symbol shown here is a trademark of iCopyright, Inc. It is an example of a 21st century copyright symbol. It signifies to the recipients of works that copyright information, licensing, and authentication are encapsulated with the work.

[6] The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as Digital Rights Management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works and it also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. In addition, the DMCA heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmca

[7] The core U.S. copyright industries accounted for an estimated 6.56% of U.S. gross domestic product in 2005, or $819.06 billion, up from 6.48% of GDP, or $760.49 billion, in 2004, according to the International Intellectual Property Alliance. Those same core industries were responsible for slightly less than 13% of the overall growth in the U.S. economy from 2004 to 2005. http://www.iipa.com/pdf/IIPA2006CopyrightIndustriesReportPressReleaseFINAL01292007.pdf

[8] The Global Copyright Pandemic: A First-Aid Kit For Publishers And Information Providers, Outsells, Inc.


[9] The Software and Information Industry offers up to $1 million for reporting piracy.


[10] Various enforcement agents can run checks of email servers, computers, intranets and public web sites. An example of systems used by companies:




[11] Motion Picture Association of America: http://www.mpaa.org/piracy.asp

Recording Industry Association of America: http://www.riaa.com/physicalpiracy.php

Association of American Publishers: http://publishers.org/main/IntCopright/intCopyProtect/intCopy_01_01.htm

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