Seminar on copyright with Dan Burk, UC Irvine and Jens Schovsbo, Copenhagen University

After cancellation due to illness in the fall this research seminar finally came through. I know Dan Burk from my time in Minnesota and has followed his works on copyright and digital rights since then. Dan started enthusiastically by demonstrating the difference between old fashioned and modern hotel keys. The first has a clear script, a message, where as the modern (digital) key has the meaning, the code hidden inside. The first is bulky where as the latter is (almost) physically non-existing. The same for traditional (material) texts which have to be copied the hard way everytime. Digital products are reproducable infinitely.
This challenges traditional notions of copyright of course. Dan moved on by discussing different strategies for enfording the copyright in the digital age. An idea is to make information bulky again or, at least, hard to copy. For example by building material characteristics into the digital products. Examples are built-in limitations of use as for example used in DVD films. Another strategy is to track the use of the product, enabling the copyright owner to track where and when his products are used. The last option makes a lot of possibilities for tracking media habits, use then facilitating surveillance and opening endless possibilities of targeted marketing based on usage patterns, just like for instance Amazon already does.
In short copyright holders in the digital age do not necessarily need copyright but they need technologies and other practices to protect their products, what Burk calls digital rights management.