Distributed Intellectual Product Rights Common Rights, Collective Rights and Intellectual Property
Distributed Intellectual Product Rights
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Nicholas Bentley

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Distributed Intellectual Property Rights is a proposed system for regulating intellectual property that replaces the copy-based model of Copyright with a rights-based model. A new regime for our digital world that still grants the original author some singular rights for a limited term but also allows consumers to acquire rights to the intellectual product and protects the common right of access for all.

Copyright originated in an age where the expression of the intellectual product in physical form, such as a book, intrinsically helped to limit and regulate the copying of the creative product. This allowed the copyright regime, where society grants sole reproduction rights to the author for a limited term, to function successfully over the last two centuries. Today the situation is changing, in this information age where digital information can be easily copied at minimal cost this natural physical limitation to unauthorised copying is removed. It is therefore time to reconsider the principle of the copyright model.

Copyright, by definition, regulates the physical copying of the intellectual product not the use and access to the intangible intellectual content itself. The system proposed here changes the regulatory emphasis to identifying and protecting the creative content, the intangible intellectual component of the intellectual product. This new regime will grant collective rights to an intangible intellectual product and the Distributed Intellectual Property Rights (DIPR) system will regulate access to these collective rights. The 'social contract' is upheld by ensuring common rights to the intellectual content both during the term of the authors controlling interest and after the product passes into the public domain.

The DIPR regulatory environment is created by two sets of administrative offices on the Internet with the interests of those who create intellectual products represented in the 'Author Rights Office' and users rights represented in the 'Consumer Rights Office'. Persistent identifiers, attached to any physical manifestation of an intellectual product, identify the offices that record the rights of these creators and consumers and also locate metadata for the product and even copies of the product. This dual independent office structure provides protection of personal information while at the same time forging the important social links between the author and the consumer.

The change in priorities under DIPR to protecting the identification of an intellectual product rather than the physical copies makes the regulatory task easier and the rules for using the products simpler. The DIPR system also avoids some of the problems and pitfalls of any scheme that attempts to restrict the flow of digital information with controls and encryption. Some of the advantages of the DIPR system would be:

·       Clearly defined rules for using identified digital products.

·       Registered consumer rights to intellectual products.

·       Protection of all personal information.

·       Protection of the common right of access to intellectual works for education and social purposes.

·       Automatic and permanent archives of intellectual works.

·       Avoidance of technically complicated and expensive centralised access control systems.

·       Avoids the need for systems of non-discriminatory taxes on digital media and services that would then be used to provide funds to reward artists.

·       Many new marketing strategies for the rights holders who can form peer-to-peer partnerships with consumers.

·       A technical framework to support all other rights management and metadata systems.

Adopting this new regime does not necessitate abandoning copyright it merely offers authors or their agents the opportunity of publishing their work in a new environment designed for digital products. There are already examples of authors relinquishing some of their copyrights such as the Free Software Foundation and the Creative Commons. There is even evidence that P2P file sharing is not all bad news for authors and media companies; for instance it produces valuable publicity that in turn attracts new customers after they have sampled a product. The collective regime and the DIPR system formalises and extends these developments, emphasises the benefits of group ownership and responsibility for a product, produces a whole new field of business models and has the potential to limit damaging third party abuse of intellectual products.

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© 1999-2007 Nicholas Bentley Updated: May 2007