Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Published on under The Digital Age

One of my old law professors, James Grimmelmann, has written another piece for Ars Technica. When one of my favorite thinkers writes for one of my favorite web sites, you know I’m going to post that link here at like relativistic speeds. This one’s about how the copyright system has gotten a little insane as courts try to apply analog rules to digital media. Spoiler alert: law meets world rather poorly.

Suppose I could offer you a choice of two technologies for watching TV online. Behind Door Number One sits a free-to-watch service that uses off-the-shelf technology and that buffers just enough of each show to put the live stream on the Internet. Behind Door Number Two lies a subscription service that requires custom-designed hardware and makes dozens of copies of each show. Which sounds easier to build—and to use? More importantly, which is more likely to be legal?

If you went with Door Number One, then you are a sane person, untainted by the depravity of modern copyright law. But you are also wrong. The company behind Door Number One, iCraveTV, was enjoined out of existence a decade ago. The company behind Door Number Two, Aereo, just survived its first round in court and is still going strong.

Go read the rest of Why Johnny Can’t Stream, because it’s a great exploration of the landscape of copyright law as it struggles to keep pace with technology, and how it’s gone bonkers as a result.