Abstract - The Information Society 27(2)

The Pre-Internet Downloading Controversy: The Evolution of Use Rights for Digital Intellectual and Cultural Works

Kristin R. Eschenfelder, Anuj C. Desai, and Greg Downey

This paper describes and explains the shift in the database industry’s treatment of downloading as an unwanted byproduct of new technology to a product feature in terms of shifts in “use-regimes,” or changes to market practices, legal rules, user expectations, and technology-based tools that shape the use of intellectual and cultural property.   In the early 1980s citation database users did not have the right to “download,” or save, citations from bibliographic databases.  Yet by the early 1990s citation database publishers had partnered with bibliographic citation software developers (e.g., ProCite) to make easy downloading of citations a product feature.  In this paper we both tell the lost story of the pre-Internet downloading controversy and how and why the meaning of downloading changed over a twenty-year period.  In doing so, we present a theoretical framework that is useful for analyzing changes in use rights for a variety of types of intellectual and cultural goods. Finally, we compare lessons from this historical case study to contemporary use right debates in the intellectual and cultural property literature.

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