Randal C. Picker
This is the third and final piece in a series of responses to Professor Michael Carrier’s article, “Copyright and Innovation: The Untold Story.”
The history of copyright and technology is one of conflict as each new means of distribution has emerged. We have seen this repeatedly with piano rolls, the phonograph, radio, TV, cable TV, and, perhaps most recently, the Internet. As has been noted before by me and others, copyright law establishes the framework in which new tools of distribution can be introduced. Copyright can kill technology, as perhaps occurred with digital audiotape and the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992. And copyright itself can be changed to make possible entry as occurred when statutory licenses were introduced to deal with Aeolian’s possible piano roll monopoly and to make possible the rise of cable television.
Michael Carrier considers this pattern again in his piece, “Copyright and Innovation: The Untold Story,” where he focuses on the rise and fall of Napster. Through a series of interviews with industry participants, Carrier argues that the technology industry—meaning here the entrepreneurs and their venture capital financers—reduced its efforts at producing new music innovations in response to litigation over Napster.
Professor Randal C. Picker is James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at The University of Chicago Law School and Senior Fellow at The Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.