Territorial Rights?

Publishers and broadcasters in their dealings usually define market rights in terms of ‘territories’. It will matter to a publisher whether or not their ‘co-publication’ rights include an exclusive right to sell copies of the English-language edition of a book in Australia, New Zealand and/or the whole of the European Union. Lots of stuff on the BBC websites is only available to users who have cookies or IP addresses which suggest that they are based in the UK.

Globalisation and internet technologies will render these rights increasingly indefensible. BitTorrent or similar peer-to-peer technologies will undermine the discreteness of territorial restrictions. Myka make a small set-top box device that hooks up to BitTorrent and will allow users to download any TV programme, anywhere. BitTorrent can also be used for downloading books, sometimes perfectly legally. According to the economist Gerry Faulhaber (as reported by Teleread) ‘copyright is dead’. That sounds a bit extreme, but I reckon that exclusive territorial rights may be in the intensive care ward.