Intellectual Property Rights in the Internet Age

Clearly, the copyright law is burdened by problematic enforcement, foremost of which is the identification of offenders. The internet has become a convenient way to hide the identities of those involved in copyright infringement as it is easy not to provide correct information and build a false identity. The transnational nature of the web also makes it harder for prosecution attempts since laws vary from country to country, a fact that has long been recognized by legislators and crime investigators.

(Adoption of Convention on Cybercrime, 2001) Detection of copyright violations is also extremely difficult given the scope of reach of internet connectivity. The problem is compounded by the fact that not all internet users are adequately informed—in fact, a vast majority of them are not informed at all—of the existence of copyright laws or that it applies to the internet. For instance, Skvarka (1996) notes that “one of the biggest mistakes that people believe is that if a work has no copyright notice, it is not copyrighted.

” Few are aware that all works that have been produced privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is automatically considered copyrighted material. Aside from the lack in user education about internet copyright laws, another hindrance in its enforcement is the inherent weakness of existing copyright laws. Brock and Rosston (1996) observes that “our current copyright law is based on a model devised for print media and expanded with some difficulty to embrace a world that includes live, filmed, and taped performances, broadcast media, and most recently, digital media.

” (Brock and Rosston, 1996: 271) The internet copyright law remains vague in many aspects, which provides a convenient excuse for some people to escape or to disregard copyright laws altogether. Fujita (1996) echoes this sentiment by stating that the copyright law undermines the authors’ rights in favor to that of the users. The “fair use” clause, for instance, has been the subject of much contention as exemplified by Napster’s case wherein Napster argued that its file-sharing technology was encouraging “fair use” by allowing users to “product sampling” of music tracks.

(Klein, Lerner, and Murphy, 2002:206) This case also raised the question of indirect liability since Napster by itself was not directly involved in its users’ activities, in the same manner that Sony cannot control how the consumers of its recording technologies use their products. (Landes and Lichtman, 2003: 119) Perhaps another equally important question posed by the internet copyright law is its impact on society and in the promotion of creativity.

Lessig (2001) argues, for instance, that the greater control over the internet content through harsher copyright laws will undermine the potential of the internet in furthering human creativity and information-sharing. He therefore asserts that the internet should be a “free resource” to enable generation upon generation of its users to create and contribute to the information revolution.

Bachrach, et. al. (1998) also raised the question of who shoud claim the right to and control the distribution of scientific papers in light of the fact that it has become standard practice for publishers of both online and offline journals to transfer the rights of papers from the author to themselves. They therefore argue that authors should be given the right to choose to post their works online , although they admit this proposal would draw mixed reactions from both profit-oriented and non-profit online publishers who charge for access to these copies to maintain their operations.

The contention surrounding the internet copyright law therefore boils down to the issue of to whom control over the internet as a vast information and intellectual resource should belong to. Brock and Rosston (1996) observes that “to the extent that current legal rules make some parties “haves” and others “have nots,” the haves are fans of the current model, while the have nots suggest that some other model might be more appropriate for the future.

(Brock and Rosston, 1996: 271) For instance, there are allegations that the internet copyright law benefits only large companies by providing them with “a framework that ensures that these companies can compete in the marketplace. ”(Rosenoer, 1997:1) Napster’s case is a stellar case in this sense since it provided its users downloading capability of music that hurt the profit-making capabilities of major record companies but it gave its users the benefit of free music and artists tremendous exposure, thus opening up the possibilities of a music industry that was independent of major record labels or the indie (independent) scene.

All these issues point to the need for re-examining existing internet copyright laws, including whose interests these currently protects. Indeed, copyright law is necessary but it would have to change according to the demands and needs of a society that is starting to accept and adjust to the fast-paced, open-source environment. The point is that while internet copyright laws may prevent abuse of the works of others, they also have the potential to undermine the equalizing power of the internet and thus hindering its potential to reduce information gaps and access to intellectual resources for those who need them most.

In the end, internet copyright laws should strike the delicate balance between control and freedom to access, which is only possible by prioritizing the demand for human creativity and societal needs over the economic rights of those who seek to gain more control and in the process extract more profit from the intellectual resource of the world. Only then can the power of the internet in fully transforming societies be truly unleashed.

Works Cited:

Adoption of Convention on Cybercrime. The American Journal of International Law 95,4(2001): 889-891. Bachrach, Steven, R. Stephen Berry, Martin Blume, Thomas von Foerster, Alexander Fowler, Paul Ginsparg, Stephen Heller, Neil Kestner, Andrew Odlyzko, Ann Okerson, Ron Wigington, Anne Moffat. “Intellectual Property: Who Should Own Scientific Papers? ” Science 281, 5382(1998). Brock, Gerald W. and Rosston, Gregory L. The Internet and Telecommunication Policy: Selected Papers. United States: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996.

DiMaggio, Paul; Hargittai, Eszter; Neuman, Russell; and Robinson, John P. “Social Implications of the Internet. ” Annual Review of Sociology 27(2001):307-336. Doucette, Shannah. “We Must Never Abandon Our Starting Block. ” White, Fred and Billings, Simone. WELL-CRAFTED ARGUMENT Text Book (Second Edition) Santa Clara University, 2005. Field, Thomas G. Copyright on the Internet. 2006 July 23. Downloaded on 12/13/07 from the Franklin Pierce Law Center website