Multimedia content and the super highway: rapid accelerator or foot on the brake?

Fred Greguras, Michael R Egger and Sandy J. Wong


A different type of highway builder may take us into the interactive future. News, entertainment, education and other productions are ready at the on-ramp and may eventually be carried across the U.S. by the information super highway network. Many of the productions will contain numerous and diverse digitized works, e.g., software, motion pictures, video, graphics, music and photographs. Intellectual property rights, particularly copyright, are critical to the creation of productions or titles that contain such multimedia content. Currently, in many instances, pre-existing works are not used in such content because obtaining such rights is costly and time-consuming. The greatest creativity and ultimate value in multimedia products will likely come from new creativity combined with the creativity of pre-existing works.

This paper summarizes the copyright and licensing issues involved in creating multimedia content, describes activities in Japan with repect to such issues, and proposes a U.S. multimedia clearinghouse. There is no U.S. clearinghouse for identifying who can authorize the right to use copyrighted content in a multimedia product. Eventually, such a voluntary clearinghouse could be a “one-stop” license shopping center where the content user pays a specified fee for a set of rights. The clearinghouse could provide a means to fairly compensate the owner of the pre-existing work while making it easier to secure license rights to such work.

The U.S. appears to have an initial worldwide, competitive advantage in multimedia productions and titles because of its lead in market-driven creativity in software, particularly in mass-market application softwre that fills a market need. For example, one key competitor, Japan, is weak in mass-market application software other than video game software. The availability or non-availability of a clearinghouse could increase the U.S. competitive advantage or provide the opportunity for others to catch up.