Cross-posted from morningconsult.com[by Lateef Mtima]
When I was growing up in Harlem in the 1960s, I like many other children in America had heard of and yearned to visit the still somewhat new and apparently magical restaurant called McDonald’s. The TV commercials depicted mouth-watering French fries, double-decker hamburgers and thick milkshakes. “Just look for the golden arches,” the ads invited. But for kids in Harlem — where the first McDonald’s did not arrive until 1973 — the golden arches were nowhere to be found. For us, McDonald’s seemed almost mythical.
For a large segment of the creative community, copyright protection in the United States is a lot like McDonald’s was for Harlem kids in the 1960s — close enough to get our attention, but too far beyond our reach to mean anything. That protection, which is guaranteed under the law, is only available to those who can afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on copyright litigation. The cost and complexity of even routine copyright litigation often renders the courts beyond the reach of smaller rights holders, especially those in marginalized communities. Middle- and working-class creators hear about superstars and big corporations enjoying the protections of copyright, while for them, actual copyright protection is effectively all but a mythical right. Consequently, many legitimate claims simply go unaddressed, a “lack of access to justice” problem that is all too familiar in certain strata and segments of American society.