The ‘Lather, Rinse, Repeat’ model for understanding the copyright licensing paradox

Since the season of “he said she said” in copyright licensing is now in full bloom, I thought it wise to reveal a model I have developed for understanding the copyright licensing paradox.

To be clear, the paradox is not that the parties involved don’t understand this model.  The paradox leads to confusion over the right wrench to throw into the machine to make the model stop.

The model:

Note: The following steps can be performed in any order.  In particular, steps One and Two are often performed in reverse order. 

Step One

One party wants to obtain a license for as small a fee as plausible, under the most flexible of terms. The other party wants to grant a license for as large a fee as plausible, under the most stringent of terms.

Step Two

One party accuses the other of benefitting from copyright infringement and holding down the work of creators. The other party accuses the one of benefiting from innovation infringement impingement and holding up the work of technologists.

Step Three

One party claims the dollars on the table are too large, but pays. The other party claims the dollars on the table are too small, but accepts payment.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

The above models plays out ad infinitum for a few very simple reasons:

(A) Both parties have different interpretations of key concepts., such as “plausible,” “flexible,” and “stringent.”

(B) Both parties are correct. Most new technologies can and do “infringe” upon copyrights.  Most licensing deals will “infringe”  “impinge” upon innovation in some way.

(C) Speaks for itself… pure paradox.


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