The copyright protection on the Internet is one of the most important issues in the modern society. The technical progress of the end of XX century has led to the review of the role of the intellectual property in both separate countries and in the entire world. The modern epoch, also called “informational society”, faces an increase in the number of problems connected with the difficulties in the implementation of the law regulating transformation and reproduction of information. Consequently, currently, the issue of copyright requires a thorough scientific investigation as the protection of the intellectual property on the Internet has not been accordingly investigated. This paper discusses the tension between protecting intellectual property on the Internet and the proliferation of alternative distribution mechanisms. It also describes current controversies surrounding P2P and other forms of digital sharing and social and ethical implications of Digital Rights Management. Finally, it presents the purpose of copyright outlines whether the current copyright law and enforcement serve this aim.
According to the article “Definition of a Copyright,” copyright law is the branch of civil law, which regulates legal relations connected with the creation and the utilization of works of intellectual property that are the results of creative activity of people. However, nowadays, websites are filled with articles, books, and media content used without the right holder`s agreement. When copying the material from one site to another, the users tend not to copy the names of the authors and sometimes even change the names. Thus, with the increase in the use of intellectual products, there also grows the number of cases of the copyright violations.
According to the statistical data provided by “Online Piracy in Numbers – Facts and Statistics”, 70% of users do not find anything incorrect in the use of pirated materials. For instance, 98,8% of all data located on the P2P services is copyrighted. Moreover, almost 69% of pirate resources are hosted in the US and the EU. Only one of 10,000 most popular pictures on the BitTorrent is not copyrighted. As one can see, the violation of the copyright norms occupies a significant position on the Internet.
Socioeconomic and cultural factors in the sphere of intellectual property mean that the legislation on copyright regulates public relations. These relations are of particular importance for the right holders who need to protect their material interests, for the society, and the country. One of the main rates in the development of the modern society is the level of the development of science, art, culture, and technology. Moreover, the degree of legal protection of intellectual property also influences the economic development. The impact of the social factors on the violation of the copyright norms becomes more important because there appear new, more affordable, and cheaper ways of copying and storing information. Thus, the utilization of objects of the copyright also grows, causing frequent offenses and crimes in the area. Consequently, it forms the social and criminological basis for the implementation of criminal prosecution for the violation of the intellectual property rights. This infringement is connected with a high rate of socially harmful behavior in the country, its latency, and the material damage caused to the society.
The protection of the intellectual property is provided by the ways determined by the law, taking into account the nature of the violated right and the consequences of the violation. Any individual has a right to use a product only on the basis of the author`s agreement. Exceptions include the cases of the utilization limited by the exceptions from the law (citing, distribution or sale of the examples produced on the basis of the right holder`s agreement). The verification of this arrangement may be done with the help of the license agreement.
To enforce the implementation of the copyright norms, there was the development of a set of treaties and conventions both in the US and all over the world. One of the examples of the successful copyright laws is the EU enforcement Directive, which Stamatoudi considers one of the most prominent pieces of legislature. This Directive approaches the issue of the copyright violation from three different sides. They refer to the development of cooperation with the third countries via negotiations, the use of custom norms with the neighboring countries, and the utilization of enforcement measures inside the EU that include sanctions and remedies.
According to Karaganis’ article The Global Congress Research Survey: Research Priorities, Part 2, Copyright, Users’ Rights, and Enforcement, all regulations should create comfortable conditions for the satisfaction of the interests of different social groups. They have to be favorable for the growth of the economy and the business, as well as for the social development. Sometimes, even in the traditional sectors of the economy, it is difficult to find a balanced solution for certain issues, which will not violate anyone`s interests. It is even more complicated to understand and feel the balance of power in the new economy connected with the Internet development and the growth of new technologies.
To determine the favorable level of regulations in the sphere of the Internet economy, it is necessary to analyze the positions of all the participants in the process of information exchange. In the traditional economy, there exist three contributors:
– The society of the authors who are the creators of new informational products. In most cases, such products may be located in both traditional media and the virtual space. In certain situations, the Internet may be the main if not the only platform for the location of such information.
– The society of the right holders who are not the authors of the content. They are the book publishers, music labels, producers, trade organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and everybody who provides the authors with an opportunity to promote their product.
– The users of information who use the Internet resources for entertaining and educational goals.
With the development of the Internet, in these relations there has appeared the fourth element – the Internet providers. For today, there has not been created a conventional understanding of what can be understood under this term and functions of the Internet providers. In general, their role can be determined as:
– The provision of access to the information networks;
– The provision of the functioning of the network resources;
– The provision of access to the corresponding objects.
Among the major problems of the copyright protection caused by the development of information technologies, one may determine the following issues:
– A legal ambiguity of the key issues or a lack of practice in the sphere of the Internet (for example, an absence of legal notions in the field of information technologies.
– A transboundary type of the use of the intellectual property objects. The appearance of access to the product on the Internet provides people with an opportunity to utilize it in any part of the globe. As a result, there occur cases of the intellectual property use on the territory not regulated by the copyright norms.
– A problem of tracing the product`s utilization. It is connected with the fact that a maximally unlimited number of users, up to several million people all over the globe, can have access to the file if opened.
– In the digital era, the users received an opportunity to copy the information and to spread it over large distances. Due to this there appeared a conflict between the right holders and the internet providers. The authors do not have access to the private information about the users, but they can identify the internet providers. The right holders appeal to the fact that internet providers cause harm to audio and video industries.
From the above examples, one can see that the existing laws and regulations regarding the protection of intellectual property are not always enough to serve this purpose. For example, the RIAA decided to terminate the criminal prosecutions against the users who share illegal content. According to Sandoval, it will shift the total responsibility to the Internet providers, who have to warn people that they are sharing illegal content. If the person does not stop engaging in such an activity, the Internet providers have to cease the provision of access to the Internet resources. However, the RIAA will continue to file lawsuits against the users who download more than 6,000 music files per month.
A rapid development of the Internet technologies, and particularly the appearance of the Web 2.0, has caused new problems for the regulation of the copyright norms. Web 2.0 is a general term which includes different Internet services that may be characterized by a vast use of media content and a high degree of interactivity among the users. The term Web 1.0 describes the Internet resources aiming to share news from one source. On the contrary, Web 2.0 embraces a wide spectrum of services based on the users` interaction. They include social networks (Facebook), platforms filled with users` content (YouTube, Flickr), blogs (LiveJournal, Twitter), video blogs, and P2P sharing networks (BitTorrent). Decherney states that at a certain period, one service was accused of the violation of the copyright norms (p. 81). Wikipedia is considered the pioneer in the development of this technology. The further development (Web 3.0 or a semantic web) now is understood as a set of services, which use data on a certain user and are user-oriented. It also includes “cloud” calculations, when the client`s computer contains a minimum of programs and data.
As the result of the rapid development of technologies, which allow the users to share different works, there appear the issues connected with the copyright norms observation and the issues of the responsibility of such platforms, in particular. According to Netanel, when looking for a possible solution of the copyright issues in the new conditions, it is necessary to think whether the suggestions of the right holders are reasonable (p. 4-5). An attempt to limit the access to the products of information may mean a limitation of other rights, namely the right to the access to information and the right to the freedom of expression. Malcolm states that it is necessary to understand to which extent the right holders` economic requirements justify the substantial limiting of the right to the access to information (p. 298). For many years, the issues, which now are considered a violation of the copyright norms, have been viewed as a free legal use.
The cheapness and the easiness of making copies of the pieces together with the appearance of Web 2.0 have caused a rapid growth in the turnover of the works of art and their exchange among the users. At the same time, there occurs a transformation of such notions as “intellectual product” and “intellectual property”. The main problem with this process is that the traditional approaches are unable to cope with the problem because the necessity of a physical example has disappeared.
Smith and Telang state that in the copyright discussion, there can be seen a deep misunderstanding of the role of copyright law on the Internet. One side of the conflict considers the results of intellectual work material products and compares their turnaround with the turnaround of other products. Being afraid for their income due to the vast utilization of inexpensive technologies for making copies, they tend to protect their property in any possible way. Another side of the conflict understands the value of an abstract idea, which finds its reflection in the results of the creative activity. The free turnaround of the ideas is the necessary condition for the progress and the expansion of market of intellectual products. In this situation, the Internet creates new opportunities for the production and promotion of innovative products.
In the book Media Piracy in Emerging Economies”, Karaganis states that the users do not tend to violate the copyright law with the aim to get the maximal amount of content for the minimal payment (p. 1). However, it is worth considering several issues. In particular, an important reason for a large-scale turnaround in the world is a too high price for the legal products. Another reason is a lack of development of the Internet infrastructure and payment systems.
The success in a rapid growth of the user`s services, which create access to the legal content, shows that the interests of the users and the right holders may be combined with the help of new business models. On the one hand, legal resources provide a user with the access to the high-quality content. On the other hand, the right holders get an opportunity to receive appropriate remuneration for the works. Under such conditions, the Internet may be considered no longer a threat but become another media channel together with television, radio, and printed books.
Moreover, the development of such services will help the users to solve the ethical issues caused by the use of illegal products. On the one hand, some users do not want to pay for the media content, but on the other hand, the unavailability of a high-quality legal material makes the users look for the other sources of information to satisfy the informational needs.
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The current regulation of the copyright norms has gradually compared the copying of physical examples to making copies of electronic products. However, the requirements of such control rest on the comparison between intellect product and a material object that does not seem to be correct in the modern epoch. In the digital era, such a comparison may lead to a shortage in the information turnaround, a selective legislature. Furthermore, as the result of the impossibility of a high-quality implementation of such norms, it will not satisfy any side in the conflict. Therefore, there is a need to improve concepts of the product access regulation.