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The traditional tool for dealing with use and misuse of information is intellectual property law, the constellation of statutes and case law that govern copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. Part of the case for granting rights in intellectual property (IP) is the belief that protecting IP promotes the development of new products and services, and that erosion of those rights could threaten the economic performance of the information sector and curtail the major benefits it has brought.2 But as this report argues, with this new abundance of information and the ease with which it can be accessed, reproduced, and distributed have come problems that must be seen in all of their complexity, including related economic, social, technical, and philosophical concerns, as well as the accompanying legal and policy challenges. Debates over these issues matter because the outcome will have a significant impact on today's information sector companies and will help determine the character of the digital economy of the future.3
An Enduring Balance Upset?
The task of intellectual property protection has always been difficult, attempting as it does to achieve a finely tuned balance: providing authors and publishers enough control over their work that they are motivated to create and disseminate, while seeking to limit that control so that society as a whole benefits from access to the work. The challenge was elegantly stated some 200 years ago in a legal case in Great Britain: