It is commonly said that copyright mattersbecause it encourages the production of sociallybeneficial, culturally significant expressive content.Excessive focus on copyright law and policy,however, can obscure other information practicesthat 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 controlledby centralized commercial actors. However, all ofthose functions are undergoing revolutionarydecentralization and disintermediation.
Different aspects of information technology,notably the digitization of information, widespreadcomputer ownership, the rise of theInternet, and the development of social networkingsoftware, threaten both the viability and thedesirability of centralized control over the stepsin the creative cycle. Those functions are beingperformed increasingly by individuals and disorganized,distributed groups.
This raises questions about copyright as themain regulatory force in creative informationpractices. Copyright law assumes a central controlstructure that applies less well to the creativecontent cycle with each passing year. Copyrightlaw should be adjusted to recognize and embracea distributed, decentralized creative cycle and theexpanded marketplace of ideas it promises.