Copyrighted work

Laws around the world, of different nations define the word property as a possession whether tangible or intangible, definite or inchoate, that which such a possessor has a legal right to. A quick view of traditional Roman legal principles which most modern nations espouse provides the concept of seven incidental rights of ownership over property.

To wit: Jus possidendi or the right to possess; Jus utendi or the right to use and enjoy; Jus fruendi or the right to the fruits; Jus accessionis or the right to accessories; Jus abutendi or the right to consume the thing by its use; Jus disponendi or the right to dispose or alienate; and Jus vindicandi or the right to vindicate or recover. (H. S. De Leon 2003, p. 76)

The aforesaid seven incidental rights to ownership in relation to dominion over property interplay and at times even conflict especially when it comes to application as between the possessor and the owner (because most of the time they are two distinct entities), depending on what type of property is involved. This flame of “love-hate” relationship between application of such rights and protection of the same is further fanned by the industrial and cultural changes, so does the property or things we own.

(Phukan & Dhillon 2001 p1-2) Today we stand in an age where information technology is applied in almost every aspect of our lives. Ideas and information viz intellectual property forms part as one of today’s largest economic gear cog. It is of this emphatic aspect that we take into consideration the concept of Intellectual property. Intellectual property is a form of property which basically originates from the ideas and creative processes of the mind while the expressions which spring forth to relate and express the result of such creative process is what we consider as intellectual property itself.

To put it simply Ballantine’s Law Dictionary defines intellectual property as “those property rights which results from the physical manifestation of an original thought. ” Our legal system in relation to the treaty on Intellectual property established by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has defined Intellectual property as; “intellectual property generally refers to rights relating to, among others, the following: 1. literary, artistic, and scientific works 2. performances of performing artists, phonograms, and broadcasts

3. inventions in all fields of human endeavor 4. scientific discoveries. ” But in application the coverage of intellectual property is much broader. To wit: a)    Copyrights and related rights; b)    Trademarks and service marks; c)    Geographic indications; d)    Industrial designs; e)    Patents; f)    Layout-designs (Topographies) of Integrated Circuits; and g)    Protection of Undisclosed Information. Now to focus on the aspect of Intellectual property which computer ethics is mainly concerned the aspect of copyright and related rights. What is a copyright?

A copyright is a system of legal protection an author enjoys in the form of expression of ideas. It is founded upon two basic principles. The first principle is that works are protected by copyright by the sole fact of their creation, irrespective of their mode or form of expression, as well as their content, quality or purpose. While the second principle provides that such protection extends only to the expression of the idea, not to the idea itself or to any procedure, system, method or operation, concept or principle, discovery or mere data.

Today as “CUT AND PASTE,” “DOWNLOADING,” “PEER TO PEER,” “TORRENT FILES” as well as “CD RIPPING” among others, concepts and practices becomes vogue. (Wood, W. A. , 1993, p23-27) The thin line between fair use and copyright infringement becomes a blur. But what is fair use? Fair use of a Copyrighted work is a privilege given to persons other than the owner of the copyright to use the copyrighted material in a reasonable manner without its consent, notwithstanding the monopoly granted to the owner by the copyright. (Wood, W. A.

, 1991, p7-10)  It is meant to balance the monopolies enjoyed by the copyright owner with interests of the public and of the society. While copyright infringement is the use of a copyrighted material beyond what is considered as “fair use”. It is considered as beyond fair use when the usage of the copyrighted material violates the economic rights and moral rights of the author over the copyrighted work. (H. S. De Leon 2003 IPL, p1-20) The arena of conflict between recognition and protection of intellectual property and the freedom to use ones property (specifically a computer) falls squarely on this point.

I mean, does sharing ones mp3 preference over your “Multiply” or “My space” page violate the economic right to reproduce and right to public performance of the composer? Or does such usage constitute fair use and therefore legally tenable? Or does sharing “torrent files” over the web a violation of the author’s economic right to first public distribution or first sale? These questions manifest the need to clearly set out guidelines and protocol that defines whether the use of a copyrighted material over the internet is considered as “fair use.

” But do the questions really call for such a development? Or does it firmly evince the fact that the relationship between copyright protection and the freedom of computer usage and the internet, is like a relationship between us and the society where there are no hard and fast rules and protocols only tolerance, standards and mores which changes depending on the need and trends of the times.


Sanjeev Phukan, Bemidji State University, USA & Gurpreet Dhillon, University of Nevada, USA, “Ethical Intellectual Concerns in a Multicultural Global Community”.

Wood, W. A. , “A View of Computer Ethics by Managers and Students,” The Journal of Computer Information Systems, 22:2, 1991, 7-10. Wood, W. A. , “Computer Ethics and Years of Computer Use,” The Journal of Computer Information Systems, 23:4, 1993, 23-27. Stark, A. , “What’s the Matter with Business Ethics? ” Harvard Business Review, May-June 1993, 38-48. De Leon, H. S. , “Comments and Cases on Property,” Fourth Edition, November, 2003, 1-3, 75-80. Ballantine’s Law Dictionary