The Internet and Copyright Protection

The Internet and Copyright Protection

The Internet and Copyright Protection act in the US have been under consideration for many years. The thrust of the discussion in both Houses of Congress was to make it difficult for individuals to pirate or access material on the Internet without paying a license fee. The original intent was to regulate the Internet but the bill has evolved to address many other concerns. Some opponents of the Internet and Copyright Protection act have characterized the bill as a giant clampdown on the Internet.


In theory, the intent was to regulate Internet activity and protect the intellectual property of its citizens. However, the way the Internet has developed has changed the focus of the copyright protection debate. The Internet and Copyright Protection Act is designed to stop people from pirating Internet content, but the argument is that the Internet work is no longer protected from hyperlinks or computer code that leaves permanent footprints on servers. Furthermore, some Internet work is protected by “safe harbor” clauses that allow certain activities to be carried on without charging a license fee. Such safe harbor provisions do not prevent people from sharing copyrighted material; rather they provide protection for specific commercial uses.


The Internet and Copyright Protection Act was intended to end the problem of Internet pirates but the solution does not stop there. The problem is much bigger than downloading copyrighted materials. The problem is with the production of content. The Internet and Copyright Protection Act attempt to address the production of Internet content while failing to address the pirating of Internet content. The legislation is largely ineffective in stopping piracy because it attempts to criminalize the production of Internet work. Consequently, the problem of Internet piracy and the issues surrounding copyrights run deeper than the bill would have us believe.

Internet and Copyright Protection Act

On the surface, the Internet and Copyright Protection Act to make a lot of sense. It seems sensible that if an Internet user is confused about what he or she is doing, that person should contact a legal expert for assistance. The problem is that the supposed copyright protection helps to create more Internet criminals, thereby creating a problem with increased property rights abuses and Internet piracy. Property rights abuses are the cause of most of the problems surrounding Internet piracy and the Internet.


One could make a distinction between copyright and related rights in the information society communication and the Internet. The Internet and copyright protection are designed to encourage certain aspects of the Internet – creation of new online content, creation of new business models, production of Internet work and modification of Internet content. As Internet and copyright protection is considered a part of Internet work, one could easily argue that the Internet and copyright protection should extend to all aspects of information society communication, not just to certain aspects of Internet use. This would imply extending the protection to all forms of Internet communication, such as blogging, web designing, online education, scholarly publishing, cultural expression and so on.


Unfortunately, the problem with this approach is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to draw a bright line, beyond which the Internet and copyright could never be used. For instance, Internet intermediaries have long been criticized for being effective facilitators of piracy. Since Internet intermediaries do exist, there is no way of judging their efficacy as legal protectors of intellectual property. Moreover, the Internet and its related technologies have grown so quickly that it is difficult to distinguish between communication and action by a technological standard that has become the standard-fit for any given communication medium.

successful operation between A and B

On the face of things, one could draw the following parallel: Say A creates a painting and sends it to B who prints it out in a store. There is a successful operation between A and B, the Internet being effectively involved in the exchange of information. Now, if A were somehow to assert that he owns the painting because he had made the Internet available to B, then a copyright owner might rightly object. This case law would involve a clash of interests between the Internet and the physical world. In order to discern when and if Internet activity crosses the border into the realm of protected activity, the balance inquiry turns to the statutory law as well as common law considerations.


In terms of statutory law, one could draw the following parallel: A publisher could assert ownership of any work even if the publication was never made available to the public. Similarly, an Internet service provider could assert ownership of any and all Internet websites even if that website did not permit Internet access to the particular materials at issue. Similarly, Internet intermediaries could also assert ownership of any hyperlinked work even if that link was never triggered or activated. The difficulty here is that the relevant statute of limitations on the Internet is very vague and, thus, depends on subjective circumstances to determine when an Internet activity crosses the border into the realm of protected conduct. For this reason, no conclusive statement can be made as to whether hyperlinking crosses the border or not.


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