It is always risky to attempt to predict trends, perhaps especially so in copyright law. The temptation for any writer is to predict that the law will develop in the ways that he/she wants it to change.
Five Copyright Trends to Watch
1. Digitization Projects
Libraries, archives, and other institutions no doubt will continue to digitize many parts of their collections in order to make them available to users remotely. The big question is whether they will digitize copyrighted works without permission or whether the availability of mass licensing will make it easier for these organizations to get permission for their digitization projects.
2. Licensing of Digital Works
It is entirely safe to predict that licensing of digital works will not only continue but will increase. Most people are honest and do not wish to infringe copyright. Well drafted license agreements that publishers can actually enforce will be a strong deterrent to infringement.
3. Digital Rights Management (DRM)
Releasing digital works without technological protection mean that copyright holders are forced to repeatedly protect their rights through threats of litigation. Hackers can break most DRM systems within a relatively short period of time so we will see publishers adopting newer DRM and stronger systems. Most publishers will be using license agreements coupled with strong DRM when distributing digital works.
4. Enforcement of Rights
When license agreements and DRM do not work, publishers must be willing to take action to enforce their rights. Cease and desist letters and threats to sue may be effective. Successful infringement suits can also have a persuasive effect on the future actions of others. As the public learn the outcome of a particular case they may be motivated to change their behavior to comply the ruling in the case.
Since enacting the Copyright Act of 1976, the US has been steadily harmonizing its laws with those of other industrialized countries. As the trend for internationalization grows, rights holders must learn more about international law and be diligent in enforcing their rights abroad. The importance of international law in the copyright will be likely to increase.