Reforming Copyright for the Digital Age – The Digital Library of Congress

This document describes a new means to manage copyright, patents, documents, professional procedures, and other artifacts and work product of creative and professional endeavors. This includes all media production, art, and reproducible works. The Library of Congress is a library containing the collection of human knowledge in the United States as of the last date of the indexing of the Library. Currently this means “right now, as of today”, but at some point in the future the date will enter into the past. Between now and that uncertain future point, the Library of Congress will maintain all patent, trademark, and copyright assets for the citizens and interests of the United States in perpetuity, so long as the citizens maintain the Library.

The new Library of Congress reenvisions copyright management from a disorganized system of law enforcement and disparate media into an actual Library that has the content distribution and rights management built in. This includes the indexing, hosting, seeding, licensing, and transaction of files. All reproducible files that receive any legal recognition of protection by the government must have a copy submitted to the Library that acts as the index and reference for the copyright. Only works that have been indexed and referenced in the Library receive legal copyright protection.

This is an improvement to physical libraries and will significantly simplify the management of copyright, and its resultant enforcement, across multiple dimensions of human endeavor. It also dramatically simplifies access to media from disparate providers through a common interface. While the Library of Congress is not intended to replace independent, privately owned services, it does provide a baseline level of access to anyone and ensures that all human work product can be accessed through a public service at a fixed rate that is not subject to the changing whims of media library owners that take advantage of the legal protections of copyright (and the resulting costs to the public) and exploit those rights provided them by the public, to exploit the public, at the cost of the public and benefit of the primary license owner (who, in most cases, did not actually contribute effort to producing the media in the first place).

The Library of Congress is a digital networking and file sharing protocol that consists of content files. These content files include professional works, such as architectural, engineering, and construction standards, production equipment and facility details, templates, and standards, product designs and production details, invention disclosures and claims, legal document standards and templates, farming and cultivation details, biology, husbandry, medical procedures, chemical processes, recipes, and other works of human knowledge development. They also include entertainment and instructional works, such as music, movies, shows, plays, recordings, performances, stories, poems, novels, tales, games, art, and other works.

The Library of Congress is a digital interface that can provide the interaction requirements for any medium hosted within, while enabling the location, procurement, and use of any item in the library  – not only a library, but a database, index, media player tool, license management system, and more.

The Library holds files in a quasi-distributed manner. There are multiple formal Libraries with physical implementations around the world that have copies of the database and portions of the physical holdings. They act as mother-nodes for a distributed file system. All of the assets in the Library are indexed with accurate details and descriptions. They can be searched, and when the desired item is located, whether a contract template, movie poster, video game, or patented chemical process, a copy of the content is downloaded to the client’s servers. In the case of physical media, the request to access the media is sent to the chosen physical location, and the Library begins the process of physically transferring a copy for the client’s use. While physical copies are retained where possible, the largest element of the Library is the digital file hosting.

Anyone who uses the Library has the right and opportunity to permanently, persistently retain a local copy of the files and transfer those files to any file system or content storage system they control. If the files are left inside the Library’s indexing and management system, the users local copy of content from the Library acts as a distribution node in the system. All content is transferred using a BitTorrent style distribution, where peers with local copies contribute their own bandwidth to the file transfer. Everyone’s local copy of the Library’s content then acts as a node and transfer content that it hosts to other users on demand, based on the rules that the user sets (i.e. respect bandwidth and file transfer limits, time of day availability, load balancing, etc, typical network management obligations).

The Library is the means by which the prevailing authority, presumably the United States of America, but reasonably any other local authority that obliges to respect and enforce copyright, manages its enforcement of property rights for patents, trademarks, copyright assets, and other valuable artifacts of human development. In exchange to receive these protections, the content must be added to the Library of Congress. In turn, the Library is responsible the content’s distribution, payments, and rights management.

While all copyrighted media must be contained in the library as an index and proof to enable enforcement, the originator may sell the copyrighted media in any other format it chooses and receive copyright enforcement, presuming that an exact digital copy of that specific distribution is indexed in the Library. This permits the permutation of different versions in different mediums or formats while ensuring that those alternative versions are always available to rights holders or anyone who wishes to become a rights holder, whether they acquire it directly from the Library or through some alternate.

When a person wants to acquire any of this media, they can purchase access through the Library of Congress. For a set price structure that is identical across the different asset classes, and with the entire backlog of formerly-protected works that have fallen out of protection available as well, anyone can purchase reasonably priced access to the product of all human knowledge.

When a person purchases content, for example, a song, or tv show, a copy of it is transferred into their local account. In the same way as BitTorrent, the local copy is used to seed the file in the network for other clients. The person who purchased the content keeps that local copy as long as they want.

They can transfer the file to other technology that uses their accounts, for example if you buy a song you can move it from your laptop to your computer to your whatever, as long as the account you’re using it with is your own. It will be seeded from any host that has internet access and is capable of seeding.

Every type of content has a pricing structure. Consider a strawman example, where each song is $0.25, a TV episode is $0.25, a movie is $5, a video game is $20, a book is $10. Patents, chemical processes, drug processes, engineering plans, recipes, medical procedures, legal documents, and the like are licensed out on a fixed rate to anyone who needs to use them, using different rate structures depending on the type of work it represented.

“But my company currently sells video games for consoles for $70!” And they still can. Everyone can continue to sell any work in any format at any price structure they choose. However, to receive copyright recognition and enforcement, a copy of that exact version must be added to the Library under the Library’s standard pricing structure, and it must be (in some way) usable by the device in the same way that alternatively provided copies are. This is no different from how libraries currently work.

This approach extends the library from media to all forms of knowledge, and attaches a compensation structure to them. For example, any patent granted is automatically licensed to anyone who needs to use it, under the terms of the blanket license. As an example of patent rate structure, all patents used in a product go into a patent pool representing 3% of the cost of the delivered good or service, and the patents used are paid out pari passu from the pool (so if something used one patent it would get 100% of the pool, if it used 100 patents each patent would get 1% of the pool, etc). A similar approach can be used for any reproducible industrial, medical, or biological process.

A portion of the funds would go to the rights holder, the party that produced the content (or contributed to it) and originally added it to the Library. Another portion would go to the Library for upkeep, maintenance, R&D, and other operations costs. And a portion of the fee would be a transfer fee, for the storage costs of keeping the file, and the transmission costs of sending it. The distributed client hosts, each of whom paid for whatever portion of content is stored on their devices from the Library, would also be potential seeds for the content to other clients afterwards. And these client hosts would receive payment for their storage and transmission costs whenever someone leeched a copy (or portion of a copy) from them on the network.

Cost_of_content = license_fee + transmission_fee + hosting_fee

License_fee = fixed structure based on media type

Transmission_fee = variable fee based on the bandwidth, speed, file size, transfer distance, and total energy consumed. The Library back end automatically draws from the lowest transmission fee (i.e. algorithmic cost) nodes. This ensures that non-Library nodes and seeds are compensated for transmitting the files.

Hosting_fee = the cost of system upkeep for keeping files available. For downloads directly from a Library node, 100% of the hosting fee goes to the Library. For downloads drawn from other users, a proportional fee goes to the Library and other users. This compensates everyone for their participation.

Clients with paid copies would be able to show the contents of their local library to anyone who wished to view it physically, but could not transmit storable copies to anyone. For example, someone can show a movie at their home to guests, but not provide a copy for guests to keep. Anyone using media as part of a commercial endeavor would be able to purchase the commercial reuse rights based on fixed terms that automatically distribute payments to rights holders. Any artifact that repackages existing media, for example, a video game or movie that uses preexisting music, would maintain the set fee structure for the wrapped media in perpetuity. This ensures that license changes don’t force the alteration of original media works, for example having to remove songs from a TV show because the song was only licensed for broadcast and not streaming.

License permanence exists not only for reuse and repackaging of media inside other media, but for everyone. Anyone who obtains a license to a piece of media retains it in perpetuity, even if they no longer retain their local copy. Anyone who wished to receive a storable copy, or stream the content digitally, would have to create their own Library account and purchase access to the content. Once someone has purchased a copy, they have the license permanently, even if the file gets deleted. If they need to redownload a copy, they only pay the transmission and hosting costs, since they already own the license.

Anyone can produce content and contribute it to the Library at any time. This content can then be streamed, stored, or archived by anyone else at any time. Anyone who pulls a copy keeps access to that copy and can receive fees for its retransmission over the Library system. And anyone with a copy of the Library can also produce and contribute content to the Library. This makes the Library also act as both a streaming host, since video can be sent in real time, but also a history and repo, since that video is preserved in the Library as long as the rightsholder maintains their status.

By using a digital ledger and transaction system for the storage, distribution, and transaction of content in this BitTorrent style distributed-hosting file system combined with a digital-rights-management and digital payment system, such as blockchain, the Library of Congress can be a method of managing the rights and costs of storing and accessing human knowledge in a complex, digital society. It provides a means for anyone to access all human knowledge, while providing compensation for the individual and group contributions to producing said knowledge.

This approach greatly streamlines the management of digital entertainment, media, and human knowledge management. It provides an opportunity for a structured interface to multiple assets of human knowledge, and financial incentives to preserve that knowledge and disseminate it to anyone who may wish to have it.