Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay

Digital Golems. Copyright and Lex Electronica

Book in French

Presses des Mines, coll. «Sciences sociales», 2016, 264 p.

English français

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Regulatory models from the analog era, based on physical medium scarcity and exclusivity, are called into question by digital technology paradigms of copying, remixing and sharing. Law and copyright in particular have developed and adapted in response to innovations in reproduction and dissemination technologies, creating access control as an artificial corrective. Technical standards and the extension of exclusive rights have been conceived independently, leading to tensions between cultural industries and rights of the public. But they can also lead to the constitution of commons.

The book offers a techno-legal model of regulation for the sharing of culture. Following research on “lex informatica”, it is based on the mutual influence between law and code. It proposes a reconception of copyright categories to facilitate creative usages and non-market sharing, and an improved technical expression of those rights built on the systematic analysis of licenses and ontologies. As foreword author Lawrence Lessig summarizes: "The law could infect code, carrying its values".

The golems, artificial creatures of the mythology, designate pieces of computer code that prevent to copy and reuse works online. Developed by right holders to protect their interests, they implement decisions automatically and indiscriminately , without control by the society, the state or the law, without distinguishing legitimate uses. But the golems can turn against their masters and create resistance. Beyond access to information and culture that is the subject of this book, the metaphor turns powerful to denounce the logic of encoding binary rules in the digital devices and algorithms that govern our lives and make decisions based on big data and traces we leave on networks, platforms, connected objects and smart cities.

This book is grounded on over ten years of participation to copyright legal and technical regulation on the field. Co-founder and legal lead of Creative Commons France at CERSA CNRS University Paris 2 between 2003 and 2013, the author participated to MPEG technical standardisation at ISO, to two advisory commitees on copyright at French Ministry of Culture, and to diplomatic conferences at WIPO (United Nations) with the status of observer as president of Communia, the international association on the digital public domain.

Foreword by Lawrence Lessig

Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay, PhD in law and permanent researcher (associate research professor) at French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), heads the Information and Commons Research Group at Institute for Communication Sciences CNRS/Paris Sorbonne/UPMC. She is also a visiting Fellow at London School of Economics and Political Science Department of Media and Communications.

Book reviews

André Priou, Les Golems du numérique. Droit d’auteur et Lex Electronica, «Les livres du mois», Le Monde Diplomatique, juin 2016, p. 25.

Alexandra Giannopoulou, “Book Review: Digital Golems – Copyright and Lex Electronica”, SCRIPTed – A Journal of Law, Technology & Society, Volume 13, Issue 1, May 2016.

Book talks

- ISCC, Paris, 20 June 2016
- Cersa CNRS, Paris, 13 September 2016