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Internet Industries Are ‘Content Creators’ Too

Earlier this year, the House Judiciary Committee launched a “comprehensive review” to examine the role of technology and existing copyright laws in innovation. Their first set of hearings included only representatives from the music, movie and visual arts communities.

Today we had the chance to testify. (View written testimony and watch the webcast.)

We told Congress that copyrightable content is not only works of art and literature, movies and music. It also includes all of the software code written by professional computer programmers.

We told Congress about the importance of developers, open source and individual users.

We told Congress that they can’t exclude ordinary citizens from the discussion about copyright. If they only focus on the traditional “content industry,” they miss out on the Internet – the greatest engine of new content creation that the world has ever seen.

We told Congress that there are many business models for using copyrighted content to achieve success. Some business models rely on exclusive control of their content. Other business models rely on the widespread sharing and dissemination of their work. We need to make sure that the conversation doesn’t focus on just one business model to the detriment of others.

We told them that if we restrict sharing, we also restrict innovation.

At Rackspace, we know about both sides of this story. Three years ago, we decided to become both a technology company and also a content provider. At the time, Rackspace was looking for a new technology foundation to build our next generation cloud computing system. We joined forces with NASA to create OpenStack - and made it available for everyone to use.

OpenStack has grown so rapidly that it’s not only used by NASA, but by other operations across the federal government. The project is directly responsible for tens of thousands of new American jobs and has driven billions of dollars of growth and investment.

This massive contribution to innovation is the result not of exclusive and tight control over this copyrighted content, but of the deliberate spreading and dissemination of the efforts of each OpenStack contributor.

At Rackspace, we believe in and respect copyright. We’re on the front lines of the battle against copyright infringers and other online criminals. We employ dedicated teams that take enforcement actions every day under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as well as our own even stricter Acceptable Use Policy.

But we also believe that shared creative expression plays an essential role in our society. There are many new content creators and many new business models. We need to respect them all. Let’s make sure we empower all of America’s industries – and citizens – to innovate.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Van Lindberg.

Van Lindberg is Vice President of Intellectual Property at Rackspace. He is trained as a computer engineer and lawyer, but what he does best is “translate” to help businesses, techies and attorneys understand each other.

Van likes working with both computer code and legal code. For the past several years, he has been using natural language processing and graph theory to help him digest and map the U.S. Patent Database.

Before becoming a lawyer, Van was a research and development engineer at NTT/Verio, where he built automation tools and distributed systems using mostly Python. He was also an IT administrator for the Harold B. Lee College of Education at his alma mater, Brigham Young University. Van has been involved with open source since 1994, when a friend introduced him to Linux.

In April 2012, the American Bar Association Journal named Van one of “America’s Top 12 Techiest Attorneys.” He is currently chairman of the board of the Python Software Foundation, as well as the author of “Intellectual Property and Open Source.”

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