Copyright in the New Digital Environment:The Need to Redesign Copyright
Irini Stamatoudi and Paul L C Torremans (eds.)
Sweet & Maxwell, London, 2000
Dr Assafa Endeshaw, Associate Professor of Law, Nanyang Business School, Singapore
This book consists of nine articles by predominantly European writers, as the editors put it, on 'how copyright can address the consequences of digitisation'.
The articles follow no particular format nor do they, as it were, fit into each other. Each article embarks on a theme apparently of the contributor's choice but largely from the European perspective (even if there are two non-European writers):
'technological neutrality' in the response of copyright to digitisation;
the nature of multimedia works vis-à-vis databases;
the status of multimedia under French law;
the impact of digitisation on, respectively, computer software copyright, moral rights and droit de suite in the UK;
the role of technical devices in protecting copyright;
the liability of service providers;
the treatment of digitisation by the copyright treaties.
Although the stated motive for the book is 'to discuss the impact of digitisation on copyright law', the coverage is, as the summary of the contents above suggests, rather limited to a few aspects leaving the impact on the nature and substance of copyright law essentially untouched. Perhaps because of that lacuna, the discussion of the chosen topics is sometimes incoherent, symptomatic, no doubt, of the inchoate state of the legal (copyright) response to the digitisation of information. The editors' treatment of digitisation as being synonymous (sic!) with 'the online environment' (at v) exemplifies that state - an astonishing fact particularly when the title of the book points towards a new 'perspective'.
Moreover, the contributions often overlap presumably because as each writer had to cover common areas of concern before delving into their allotted (specific) scopes. It would appear that the editors could have helped avoid this by stating the fundamentals or foundations in an introductory or extended prefatory piece before mapping out the areas to be explored by the various contributors. That the editors only took one and a half pages to do this meant that each writer would be forced to come to terms with the common issues in the manner they saw fit.
In terms of the contents of the specific topics, it could be stated generally that, in spite of the illuminating discussion throughout the book, there is dissonance among the contributors. That may not be objectionable on a subject that still continues to attract plenty of space in the periodical literature and in books. However, the diversity of views in the contributions owes not always to the differences in perception of the nature of the new technological processes or digitisation. An instance is where the discussion veers towards topics beyond the specified scope even if new. Thus the article on droit de suite is totally out of place (since the point of contact with the title of the book is in its introduction and in the conclusion!) while the piece on liability perches uneasily between copyright and general tort law.
Finally, the coverage of countries tends to be skewed towards Europe though Canada and the US figure to some extent in the discussions and references. While this would not necessarily imply that a full discussion of the relevant topics is impossible without bringing in other writers from different jurisdictions, the indubitable fact is that the problem of digitisation, not just for copyright but intellectual property as a whole, is a matter which needs resolution on an international level. Jurisdiction-specific perspectives such as expounded in this book may indeed trigger interest in broader debate but one would feel that more inclusive approaches should be preferable for that purpose.
This is a Book Review published on 4 July 2003.
Citation: Endeshaw, A, 'Copyright in the New Digital Environment: The Need to Redesign Copyright', by Irini Stamatoudi and Paul L.C. Torremans (eds.), Book Review, The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT) 2003 (1) <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/03-1/endeshaw.html>. New Citation (as at 1/1/04): <http:www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2003_1/endeshaw/>.