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
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:
We must take care to guard against two extremes equally prejudicial; the one, that men of ability who have employed their time for the ser-
2A second argument in support of IP law is the principle that the creator of an information product ought to be entitled to control the dissemination and use of that information, an issue that is considered throughout this report. For the moment, note that the constitutional language granting Congress the authority to create copyright and patent protection mentions only an instrumental purpose: "To promote the progress of science and the useful arts" (U.S. Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 8, Para. 8).
3Those debates include the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (P.L. 105–304), which amends the Copyright Act, title 17 U.S.C., to legislate new rights in copyrighted works, and limitations on those rights, when copyrighted works are used on the Internet or in other digital, electronic environments. Efforts to enact legislation to provide protection for databases that do not qualify for copyright are taking place in the 106th Congress through H.R. 354, the Collections of Information Antipiracy Act, and H.R. 1858, the Consumer and Investor Access to Information Act. In its Treasury and General Government Appropriation Bill for FY2000 (S. 1282), the Senate Appropriations Committee endorsed the creation of an interagency federal office to fight against the infringement of IP rights of U.S. entertainment and computer companies. This action came in response to requests from industry executives such as Bill Gates, chairman and CEO of Microsoft Corporation, and Jack Valenti, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (Rogers, 1999).