So I'm getting ready to teach today's copyright class at NYU. The tentative subject for this week is "the birth of copyfight." I came up with a few interesting milestones:
1998: DMCA, CTEA
1999: grassroots reaction to works-for-hire clause
2000: Future of Music Coalition founded
2001: Creative Commons founded
2003: RIAA lawsuits commence
2003: Downhill Battle founded
2005: Participatory Culture Foundation founded
So then I decided to check out my favorite cultural divining rod, Google Trends, to see whether I could show that popular interest in copyright as a subject has also been on the rise. Much to my surprise, the opposite was the case: since 2004 (the first year Google started to compile this data), search volume on the term "copyright" has consistently shrunk. Eyeballing it, it looks like total search volume is down by about 50% over 4 years (unless that's a logarithmic scale they use).
Can it be that the post-DMCA foment of internet-fueled interest in the social role of intellectual property is dying down? Or are we simply a more educated world, and fewer of us need to understand what this word "copyright" is all about? It's not like the news pegs have gone away -- to the contrary, according to the chart, news volume on the subject of copyright has soared, maybe tripling in the same period (except for a sudden, vertiginous dip in 2008, which I'll chalk up to preemption by the primaries and the general presidential race).
Maybe Lessig was right to bail when he did.
What do you think?
UPDATE: exactly the same trends apply to searches for "intellectual property" (see second chart below)