Exploring International Copyright’s Gaps and Flexibilities

Ruth Towse took part in the Kernochan Center’s 2017 Symposium “Exploring International Copyright’s Gaps and Flexibilities” held at Columbia Law School, on October 6.

The main theme of the Symposium was that international copyright treaties, particularly the Berne Convention and TRIPS may never be revised again, though the world has changed enormously since their promulgation. While the creative industries now rely ever more heavily on the making of copyright-invoking copies and transmissions, at the same time, there are increasingly urgent calls for copyright reforms to improve outcomes for authors and better facilitate the continued availability and use of works.

The challenge set to the expert panels was to analyze the gaps and flexibilities within copyright’s international framework – and posit how they might be navigated to support meaningful reform even in the absence of textual change. A stimulus to the discussion was a recently published book edited by Rebecca Giblin and Kimberlee Weatherall, What If We Could Reimagine Copyright? (ANU Press, 2017), available at  https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2561108.

The panel Ruth was invited to join was on Improving Copyright for Creators, moderated by  Niva Elkin-Koren, University of Haifa. Panelists were Martin Senftleben, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Séverine Dusollier, SciencesPo, Jane Ginsburg, Columbia Law School Mary Rasenberger, Authors Guild. Much of the discussion was on research on legal schemes in various states. Ruth’s paper stuck out as the only economic contribution (luckily well-received!). In it she pointed out that what was often missing from these discussion was an understanding of the underlying market forces that govern the incentive and reward that copyright offers and, perhaps more relevantly, the contracts that authors make with publishers. She pointed out that though there was much talk about ‘fair remuneration’, there was no definition of what that is (either in law or in economics); furthermore, establishing authors’ reversion rights likely has the unintended consequence of reducing upfront royalty rates or fees.

Two further panels were: Facilitating Transactions and Lawful Availability of Works of Authorship, moderated by June Besek, Kernochan Center, Columbia Law School with panelists: Rob Kasunic, United States Copyright Office. The Hon. William Vancise Q.C., Retired Chair, Copyright Board of Canada, Kate Spelman, Lane Powell LLP, Board Member, Creative Commons and Rán Tryggvadóttir, KU Leuven Center for IT & IP Law. And Remedies, Enforcement and Territoriality, moderated by Tim Wu, Columbia Law School with panellists: Giuseppe Mazziotti, Trinity College, Dublin, Eric Schwartz, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp and Kimberlee Weatherall, University of Sydney.

Full details on http://www.law.columbia.edu/kernochan/symposium-2017-gaps-and-flexibilities. Papers from the Symposium will be published in the Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts http://www.lawandarts.org/