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iLaw on Digital Media, EUCD, and OSS


Yesterday was the IP-day at iLaw Eurasia, a five-day program about ICT policy organized by the Berkman Center, the eGovernance Academy Estonia, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Advanced Network Research Group at the University of Cambridge, and the Open Society Institute. In the first session, Professor Terry Fisher provided a fantastic introduction to IP law in cyberspace in general and the current tussles over digital media in particular. He also analyzed and evaluated scenarios for the future of digital media, including approaches such as strengthening IP rights, self-help, and alternative compensation systems. I had the pleasure to talk about the implementation of the EU Copyright Directive and discuss basic policy approaches and -choices in the context of anti-circumvention legislation. We used the implementation of the EUCD as an example to illustrate some of the thorny problems often associated with the transposition of EU-IP directives and harmonizing treaty law more generally: Scope and definitions, exceptions and limitations, and sanction and remedies.

In a second module, we were discussing IP protection of computer software. Terry started the session with an excellent lecture, offering a comprehensive overview of the different approaches to – and the evolution of – software protection by law. Much of the subsequent discussion, most ably led by Berkman Center’s Excecutive Director and iLaw program chair John Palfrey, was about the promise of Free/Open Source Software in Eurasia. Many of the fifty representatives from government, the private sector, and civil society in Eurasia emphasized the important role of OSS in creating a more sustainable information industry in economically less developed countries. However, we also discussed potential problems related to OSS, such as documentation, training, maintenance, etc., and legal risks associated with it. In this context, we touched upon potential concerns such as liability and (increased?) exposure to IP litigation – a much discussed topic here and abroad, given recent litigation in the U.S.

Our fabulous Mary Bridges, Communication Director at the Berkman Center, has summarized some of the take-away points from yesterday’s discussion.

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