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November 14, 2005
On the (Neglected) User in Copyright Law
As if on cue in preparation for today's Picker MobBlog on the place of "the user" in copyright law (yes, folks -- that's you and me), Cindy Cohn on Friday offered a few bon mots on the Google Print Library Project:
I think that if the debate gets framed as a binary choice between authors and publishers on the one hand and Google on the other, it would be a shame. There is another interest here -- those of "us" who are trying to find the right thing to read. I submit that we "book searchers," more colloquially known as "readers," are an important part of this debate and that Google isn't really the same as us.
Whatever else one thinks about Google Print, it is unequivocally good for readers. I submit that allowing authors and publishers to control who or how easily we can find their works by controlling the search tools available to readers is unfair to "us."
Georgetown University law professor Julie Cohen
, whose paper
forms the basis for the MobBlog discussion, argues for a definition of the user in copyright law that better captures her role in copyright's "larger project" -- promoting the progress of knowledge.
It's a much-needed reminder: conflicts over copyright don't involve only the plaintiff and the defendant. If copyright is about promoting "the progress of science and the useful arts," it's also about us.
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