Digital Media Project
A research initiative of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School


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The Digital Media Project aims to resolve emerging and outstanding problems revealed by recent social and technological change. A simple shift of format – the transition from hard-copy objects like vinyl records to digitized bits of information like MP3s – has prompted an upheaval of business models, legal principles, and social practices associated with the use, distribution, and control of media. This upheaval has created a void in the digital media world, a void that policymakers, industry representatives, and consumers are scrambling to fill with new laws and technological solutions.

The goal of the Digital Media Project is not to advance a simple agenda but instead to help educate stakeholders – government officials, the media, artists, businesspeople, and the public at large – about the choices and values that can guide law and technology to maximize the potential of digital media for the years ahead.

In its fourth year of investigating how the transition from analog to digital can occur in such a way as to get the benefit of this transfer with as little constraint as possible, the Digital Media Project is focusing on key areas:

  • Patent law: the tension between the benefits derived from encouraging scientists to produce more research by protecting creators’ work, and the drawbacks that a complicated, expensive patent law system can cause such as increasing barriers, higher cost, and commercialization of science.
  • Scholarly context: How can the benefits of digital media be used in education and how are businesses, laws and technology preventing academics and educators from reaching this potential?
  • Digital Media Exchange: Building on Professor Fisher’s exploration of alternative compensation systems – most explicitly set forth in his book, Promises to Keep – the DME is a web-based, open source platform that enables the distribution and licensing of digital content.
  • Digital Media in Asia, which looks at the evolving interplay of law, technology and business issues as they relate to the creation and dissemination of content in Asia.
  • New tools such as recommendation engines, playlists, blogs and podcasting.
  • The regulatory context of television in its rollover from analog to digital.
  • Digital Media in the EU, which looks at the evolving interplay of law, technology and business issues as they relate to the creation and dissemination of content in the EU.
The Center also collaborates with Gartner on a number of research projects. Examples of recently released reports include an analysis of business models in the Digital Media space, extensions of its widely-noted 100-page review of Apple’s iTunes music service, and an update of our White Paper on Copyright and Digital Media, with new international dimensions. Prof. Terry Fisher, Prof. Jonathan Zittrain, and John Palfrey submitted a brief to the United States Supreme Court in the Grokster case that was cited in a concurring opinion, with the help of more than a dozen students. Berkman also continued work related to an amicus brief in Capitol Records v. Alaujan in US Federal District Court, part of an ongoing litigation between the recording industry and alleged digital file-sharers.

Recent Release:

"The Digital Learning Challenge: Obstacles to Educational Uses of Copyrighted Material in the Digital Age"
Available in PDF and HTML.
Listen to an interview about the paper with Berkman Fellow William McGeveran through AudioBerkman.