It is commonly said that copyright matters because it encourages the production of socially beneficial, culturally significant expressive content. Excessive focus on copyright law and policy, however, can obscure other information practices that also produce beneficial and useful expression. The functions that make up the creative cycle— creation, selection, production, dissemination, promotion, sale, and use of expressive content— have historically been carried out and controlled by centralized commercial actors. However, all of those functions are undergoing revolutionary decentralization and disintermediation.
Different aspects of information technology, notably the digitization of information, widespread computer ownership, the rise of the Internet, and the development of social networking software, threaten both the viability and the desirability of centralized control over the steps in the creative cycle. Those functions are being performed increasingly by individuals and disorganized, distributed groups.
This raises questions about copyright as the main regulatory force in creative information practices. Copyright law assumes a central control structure that applies less well to the creative content cycle with each passing year. Copyright law should be adjusted to recognize and embrace a distributed, decentralized creative cycle and the expanded marketplace of ideas it promises.