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Copyright and the architecture of digital delivery

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Copyright law is largely a response to new media: from the printing press through radio, photocopiers, and digital computers, changes in copyright reflect the increased public availability of information reproduction technologies. But while the exclusive rights conferred by copyright are shaped by the technologies they respond to, the opposite is also true: technology is shaped in response to the requirements of copyright, altering or innovating designs to either avoid or accommodate the demands of the law. Nowhere has this dynamic interaction been more apparent than in the 2001 copyright decision against Napster and in the succeeding impact of that case. The Napster case and its progeny reveal a pattern of creative "inventing around" previous definitions of formal copyright boundaries. Such interactive re-imagining of technical and legal standards continues in current legal controversies regarding digital delivery systems such as streaming media, digital lockers, and "cloud" services, extending the pattern present in Napster and its progeny into current copyright policy.

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