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62 Federal Communications Law Journal 587 (2010)


Academics and popular critics alike want to distill, reform, or altogether destroy U.S. copyright law as we know it. Much of this stems from animosity toward the old-guard record industry's alleged practices of overcharging consumers, underpaying royalties to artists, and suing teenagers and grandmas. But what those calling for reform all seem to neglect is a tiny but inevitable fact: for the first time in history, composers and recording artists can keep their copyrights.

Tangible media sales are being replaced by P2P file sharing, retail downloads, and streaming Webcasts. Digital technologies and wireless networks have opened prime channels for music production, marketing, and distribution. Everything that used to be done by corporate middlemen like record labels and music publishers can now be accomplished either by the artist or for a reasonable professional service fee. As a result, artists can finally retain their constitutionally mandated copyright protections and control the way they license and derive royalties from their original works.

Given these considerations, the administration, the Congress, and the courts should recognize that our existing "strong" copyright laws can benefit and incentivize artists in unprecedented ways. Instead of entertaining suggestions for massive copyright reforms such as rewriting our copyright statutes, adding more compulsory license provisions, imposing levies on technology, and expanding the fair use doctrine, let us rather embrace a simpler national innovation policy--one which protects artists' incentives through "strong" copyright laws and promotes the practice of licensing. Ensuring that artists have the most flexible options to license their works will result in maximized creation and dissemination of original works to the public. And what better way to strive toward the constitutional objective of cultural creative "Progress" than by stimulating proliferation of more original works?