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Copyright in the Digital Environment


Course Description

Printing privileges were the predecessors of copyright and came about five hundred years ago as a response to a technological innovation called the printing press. In order to make investments in costly printing processes worthwhile, printers needed temporary monopolies in the printing of certain books, in order to recoup the investment in such books. Initially those monopolies were vested in the printers themselves, which were usually organised in guilds. Temporary monopolies or rights vested in the authors (rather than the printers) started with the Statute of Anne in England in 1709. In 1886, the first and still most important international treaty on copyright, the Berne Convention (BC), was concluded, of which most countries in the world are now members.

Copyright evolved in response to later technolgical inventions, such as the the phonograph, the camera, the filmcamera, the tape recorder and the photocopying machine. The latest and possibly most daunting challenge to date are digital technologies, which enable mass reproduction and distribution of digitised information.

The possiblities of digitization of music, film, text and 3D design and its subsequent distribution over the internet with hardware available to millions of people world wide create fundamental and very interesting questions regarding copyight and related rights. Should copyight be fundamentally changed, severely curtailed or even abolished? Is copyright currently being abused by major industries with dominant positions? Does the fight against illegal copying have any chance of being succesfull? Is limiting copyright in various ways or abolishing copyright alltogether the answer? What would the consequences be? What are the alternatives?

In this course the current situation pertaining to copyright and digital technologies will be studied and discussed.

Participants in this course are expected to have a basic working knowlegde of copyright and other intellectual property rights. They need to be familiar with the basic rules of international and EU copyright and have some knowledge of staturory copyright in their onw country and in the EU.
In order to guarantee the existence of this basic knowledge, participants that have not followed a course in intellectual property law of at least 5 ECTS or any comparable course will be required to get their knowledge up to speed with a reading list (including Van der Kooij/Visser, EU IP Law, chapter 4, copyright and related rights, the ‘European Copyright Code, (The Wittem Project), some abstracts of EU copyright case law) provided by the course coordinator.

The course wil concentrate on the key challenges to copyright, the reactions so far and the possibilites and foreseeable developments in the near future.

After an overview of the issues, the lectures will concentrate on specific topics and specific industries which rely on copyright. There will be five lectures / workshops focused on legal issues / aspects of copyright affected by digital technologies and five lectures focused on the problems and solutions.

Course Requirement

Master Degree

Assessment Method

Scientific paper on a subject to be approved by the course coordinator, ca. 5 pages (75%)
One or more oral presentations (25%)