Legal Reform of Information Commerce

The legitimacy of copyright and patent law, comes from Government’s authority to tax and regulate commerce, not from any intrinsic claim of creators to dictate or control the use of their creations.

Unlike conventional physical property, protecting one’s interests in information commerce requires universal enforcement in applicable jurisdictions, and may have universal ramifications on publishing, commerce, or speech, in those regions. Information commerce calls for carefully designed legal and contractual relationships, involving both public institutions and commercial entities. The design of these relationships should consider both technical details of information and information systems, as well as commercial and social conventions related to information and publishing.

Based on the realities of information publishing and information commerce, it is expedient that public institutions play a proactive role in enforcing and regulating publishing activities of a commercial nature, as well as certain activities of publishing, distributing, storing, or using information which affects legitimate commercial interests.

In the following loosely structured notes, I present some of my ideas for an alternative design of legal rules of information commerce. While I find commercialization of informational activities wholly unnecessary, and often incredibly problematic and counterproductive, I recognize that it is a valid way to encourage creativity and innovation, and deeply engrained in our commercial culture.

New Rules of Information Commerce

Types of restrictions on the use a work

  • Owner Licensed Only, 3 years: No publishing, distribution, storage, or use of the information is allowed, in full or in part, except as explicitly permitted and/or licensed by the owner of a work, or which is allowed under fair use.
  • Publicly Issued Royalty Licensed, 25 years: Publishing, distribution, storage, or use of the work is allowed, provided the terms of publicly issued royalty license are met. The owner of a work does not control distribution, but has certain royalty claims whenever a work is distributed or used. There may be certain limitations on these royalty claims, and the public can “buy off” all remaining royalty claims to place the work in the public domain if it desires.
  • Public Domain: Publishing, distribution, storage, and use of the work is not restricted.

Four Types of Public Issued Commercial Royalty Licenses For a Work.

  • Per Copy
  • Per User
  • Per Use
  • Per Use Per User

Three types of uses

  • Unmodified only, with attribution
  • Modified, with attribution
  • Attribution only

During an initial period of three years, from the time of first publication, first public distribution, or first public performance, a work may only be used as licensed by the owner. If a work is used unlicensed, the owner may sue for damages of various forms. (If a work is “leaked”, the party that leaks it may be subject to certain liabilities, but it still begins the publication timer)

During a period of 25 years, the owner may apply for one or more of the four publicly issued commercial royalty licenses. Any use after a royalty license is granted must comply with one of these licenses, or may instead comply with a license or terms described by the owner. Any use before a license is granted is not subject to commercial royalties, though certain damages if the work was not attributed properly may apply. In applying for a royalty license, the owner shares relevant information like the cost of production and any ongoing commercial publishing or advertising costs. A royalty structure is awarded according to guidelines of the “Office of Public Commercial Royalty Licenses”. The royalty awards may be capped at a certain amount, which covers costs and provides an reasonable level of profits, or the royalty price structure may adjust based on the cumulative royalties awarded. Royalties may be used to cover fees, or fees may be paid up front. The royalty license will also specify what kinds of uses are allowed by the license, according to the request of the owner applicant and the guidelines of the royalty office.

For an indefinite period, the owner may apply for an attribution restriction on use.

Patents will also be managed under the same system, perhaps with small modifications.