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From Hypatia to Victor Hugo to Larry & Sergey: "All the world's knowledge" and Universal Authors' Rights

The Faculty of Law and the New Zealand Law Foundation presents a Public Lecture by New Zealand Law Foundation 2014 Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Professor Jane C. Ginsburg.



Access to “all the world’s knowledge” is an ancient aspiration; a less venerable, but equally vigorous, universalism strives for the borderless protection of authors’ rights. Late 19th-century law and politics implemented copyright universalism; 21st-century technology may bring us the universal digital library, and with it a clash of utopian yearnings -- if culture freely accessed comes to mean culture unremunerated. Does the universal digital library of the near future threaten copyright holders, particularly book publishers? Lest we sound too soon the dirge for traditional publishers and newer commercial distribution intermediaries, we should remember that digital media may enhance “access to culture,” but culture freed from its former masters may yet not be “free.” Access-triumphalism may bring us not the universal digital library but the universal digital bookstore.

In this talk, Professor Ginsburg will first evoke two utopian goals: universal access to knowledge, and universal authors’ rights. The former implied a curator-custodian, a public institution that would gather, systematize and make available theworld’s knowledge. The latter enforced private prerogative through the international recognition of authors’ property rights that arise from their creativity or are justified by the public benefits those creations bestow. Creators and custodians of knowledge long pursued complementary aims, despite occasional skirmishes between copyright owners and libraries. That now may be changing. In the last part of this talk, she will address the clash of utopias epitomized by the Google book-scanning program and the legal responses it has inspired, including the recent decision by the SDNY upholding Google’s fair use defense. Finally, as we query whether, through mass digitization, libraries will replace publishers, or vice-versa, we should not lose sight of the authors, who are both copyright’s raison d’être and the necessary forebears of libraries, for without works of authorship to stock the collection, there is nothing to curate.

Date Thursday, 23 October 2014
Time 5:30pm - 6:30pm
Audience Public,All University
Event Category Humanities
Event Type Public Lecture
LocationMoot Court, Level 10 Richardson Building
Contact NameLauren Julian
Contact Phone64 3 479 8857

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