Public/Private and Copyright Reform in Cyberspace


  • Niva Elkin-Koren

    1. Niva Elkin-Koren is a faculty member at Haifa University School of Law. She received her LL.B in 1989 from Tel-Aviv University, her LL.M in 1991 from Harvard Law School, and her SJD in 1995 from Stanford Law School. Her research focuses on Law and Technology and Copyright Law. Among her publications: Copyright Law and Social Dialogue on the Information Superhighway: The Case Against Copyright Liability of Bulletin Board Operators, 13 Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, 1995; Copyright Reform and Social Change in a Digital Era, Science Communication, Dec. 1995.
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A report recently released by the Information Insfrastructure Task Force, a Committee formed by the Clinton administration to articulate and implement its vision for the National Information Infrastructure (NII), recommended several amendments in copyright law. Among other things, the Report recommended expansion of the exclusive right of public distribution to cover not only physical distribution of copyrighted works to the public, but also on-line transmission. Cyberspace, however, transforms the notion of private and public, and blurs their boundaries. Therefore, this paper argues that the notion of “public” may no longer serve to define the scope of copyright monopoly. The continuous use of the public/private dichotomy as a basis for defining the scope of copyright, expands the power of copyright owners to exclude their works and fails to serve the purpose of copyright law. Proposals for copyright reform should take account for the transformation of the public/private distinction in Cyberspace.