User-generated online content 2: Policy implications

Michael B. McNally, Samuel E. Trosow, Lola Wong, Caroline Whippey, Jacquelyn Burkell, Pamela J. McKenzie


This paper examines the policy dimensions of user–generated content (UGC). It argues that policy–makers must create a policy environment that both balances both creator and end user’s rights and allows for the flourishing of UGC production and distribution because of both its economic and cultural value and ability to stimulate innovation. This paper emphasizes that UGC is an important creative outlet because it possesses either or both originality and transformativity. It discusses the multitude of means through which UGC generates value, serves as a medium for cultural expression and allows innovative activity. Despite the importance of UGC numerous barriers exist to inhibit its production including private ordering mechanisms such as licenses and technological protection measures and both major branches of intellectual property law (patents and copyrights). This paper reviews the current policy framework for UGC in the U.S., U.K., and E.U. before presenting a case study of the proposed UGC exception in Canadian copyright law. It concludes by discussing the how policy–makers can create a flourishing UGC environment and provides specific policy recommendations.


user-generated content; copyright; patents; intellectual property; technological protection measures; privacy

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