We have accumulated an increasingly rich body of data concerning online communities, particularly those that share virtual environments. The on-line interactions of such communities are uniquely mediated by the audiovisual content of the software interface, which becomes a feature of shared culture. Much of this content is subject to copyright law, which confers on the copyright owner the legal right to prevent certain unauthorized uses of the content. Such exclusive rights impose a limiting factor on the development of communities that are situated around the interface content, as the rights, privileges, and exceptions associated with copyright generally tend to disregard the cultural significance of copyrighted content. Thus, the opportunity for on-line communities to legally access and manipulate the graphical elements on which their communities are built is frought with potential legal liability. Reconsideration of current copyright law would be required in order to accommodate the cohesion of online communities through cultural uses of copyrighted content.

About the speakers

  • Professor Dan L. Burk

    Chancellor’s Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine

    Professor Dan L. Burk is Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine, where he is a founding member of the law faculty. An internationally prominent authority on issues related to high technology, he lectures, teaches, and writes in the areas of patent, copyright, electronic commerce, and biotechnology law. He is the author of numerous papers on the legal and societal impact of new technologies, including articles on Internet regulation, on the structure of the patent system, and on the economic analysis of intellectual property law. Professor Burk holds a B.S. in Microbiology (1985) from Brigham Young University, an M.S. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (1987) from Northwestern University, a J.D. (1990) from Arizona State University, and a J.S.M. (1994) from Stanford University. Prior to joining the faculty at UC Irvine, he taught at the University of Minnesota. He has served as a legal advisor to a variety of private, governmental, and intergovernmental organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union Committee on Patent Policy and the OECD Committee on Consumer Protection.