‘People Shouldn’t Expect Intellectual Property to be Free — Without it America Would be Nothing’

In the latest episode of ‘Understanding IP Maters,’ the podcast that looks at the IP stories of creators who became successful entrepreneurs, movie producer and author Jonathan Taplin talks about the role of IP rights and the need to respect the people and businesses that generate them. 

“People don’t ask for cars or food to be free, but when it comes to intellectual property, just because it is a little evanescent, why do we expect it to be free?”

“It’s hard for most content providers to make a living in the so-called Internet Age (6:45) … There are really two sets of laws that need to changed. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Decency vs. Engagement

Section 230 of Decency basically says that no internet provider can be called a publisher… Facebook can never be sued for anti-vax information that is blatantly untrue, for example, while the Boston Globe can be. So Facebook and others really don’t care what goes up on their platform as long as it generates engagement.

“For Section 512 of the DMCA, copyright owners cannot sue YouTube for making my recording or publishing that is being infringed. I can only ask them to take it down. And if they do within a reasonable time, usually about two weeks, they are in the clear. This does not prevent others from posting other recordings of the same song, so there is always a version of an iconic recording like The Band’s ‘The Weight’ on YouTube .

“It’s a game of ‘whack-a-mole’ that doesn’t really discourage unauthorized use, and leaves artists and other content providers vulnerable. It’s a real conundrum. Both of these safe harbors need to be addressed.”

“One result is that Jay-Z, Beyonce, Adele and Taylor swift, who have negotiating leverage, are doing extraordinarily well and millions of musicians are making nothing or $1,000 a year, which is not enough to sustain a career.”

Multiple Hats

Taplin has been a movie producer, Innovation Lab director, Wall Street deal maker, inventor and tour manager for both Bob Dylan and The Band.

Taplin has produced movies for Martin Scorsese (including ‘Mean Streets’ and ‘The Last Waltz’) and other prominent directors. His films were nominated for Oscar and Golden Globe awards and chosen for The Cannes Film Festival five times.

He worked on deals for Merrill Lynch, and created the first video-on-demand service, for which he sued a well-known company for infringing his patents. He is author of an acclaimed 2017 book on technology and culture, Move Fast and Break Things, and a more recent autobiography, The Magic Years.

An outspoken critic of copyright abuse, he believes creators of all types, including content creators and inventors, need to be treated fairly. At risk, he says, is a range of output from sound recordings to medical break-throughs and journalism, to culture and the economy.

Taplin’s articles on culture and the Internet have appeared in national publications, including the Wall Street Journal. He is a council member of the Authors’ Guild and Director Emeritus at USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab.

‘Quite Optimistic’

‘I’m quite optimistic,” he concludes. “The Biden administration has said it will support copyright holders, and I’m assuming they will support patent holders, too. This is because the intellectual property is what made America so unique.

“Why is it that Apple has such a dominant share of the smart phone market or American movie companies dominate the movie space and music business? It’s because of intellectual property rights; without them there would be nothing.”

More about Taplin at www.jontaplin.com

Some of the quotes were edited for space.

Go here to hear the podcast – ‘The High Cost of Free Content’

Image source: understanding.org; jontaplin.com

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