This paper presents a detailed examination of copyright laws, with a comparison to peer-to-peer file transfer. The author will take the reader on an exploratory journey, in which the details and outcomes of several well-known cases will be scrutinized. The author will also discuss the importance of copyright laws, and the elements of various cases that caused the rulings to go the way they did. The paper will also include a discussion about the effect Hollywood has on copyrights when it comes to issues such as the ability to download movies and songs. There were seven sources used to complete this paper.
Copyrights vs. peer-to-peer file transfer revisited
When the technological explosion of the last few decades created issues in the area of copyright law, many people thought it would be a cut and dry decision. They were wrong. For the last several years, courts around the world have been charged with trying to figure out whether or not companies like Napster and movie download places are breaking the law and if so how can they be stopped? Copyright was a simple issue before the Internet was invented. Things were in writing and they could not be stolen, period. Bootlegged tapes and videos for sale were no different than committing plagiarism in the eyes of the law, and it was a simple procedure to prosecute, rule and sentence for those offenders. However, the advent of the Internet has created an entirely new division of questionable practices, in which no guidelines have been set to deal with them to date. Whether or not copyright laws and rules are being broken when it comes to Internet activity, like downloading songs and movies has so far been decided in the courts on a case by case basis. There are international considerations as well, because Internet users in other countries can access companies similar to Napster and download material. The laws of that nation pertaining to copyrighting may differ from the laws in the states, which further complicates the whole situation. As the world continues to expand its online capabilities, it will become more important than ever to establish guidelines and rules regarding copyrighting modem materials. Until that is completed, the world waits and wonders when and how to apply what is already established.
Before one can fully comprehend the importance as well as the confusion regarding the laws of copyright, and some of the ways the Internet is falling between the cracks, one must first fully understand what the copyright laws are and what they do to protect people and their works. According to the dictionary, a copyright means the exclusive right to reproduce, publish, and sell the matter and form (as of a literary, musical, or artistic work). While copyright attorneys and courtrooms argue the logistics around the globe, the concept is really quite simple in most cases. If one writes a book, or song or paints a picture they own all rights to that work and how it is used. They have the right to reproduce it, publish it, or sell it. This does not give anyone else the right to do so with the original person's work. In fact, a person who purchases the work cannot resell it or reproduce it without the express permission of the originator.
The purpose of the copyright rule is to protect work from being exploited without the creator's permission. In addition to the moral and principled reasons for protecting the work, there are financial considerations as well. When one creates work one has the right to benefit from that work financially just as the owner of a mechanic shop enjoys the financial benefits of the work he does on the customer cars each day.
It is very important that the copyright laws be maintained and obeyed for several reasons. The first reason is that if they were not enforced anyone could steal work from the originator and reap a profit, thereby taking money out of the originators lifestyle. In addition to the financial reason it is important to follow and maintain copyright law, because without it there would be great difficulty tracking who owned an original work if any legal issues came up regarding said work.
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the U.S. (title 17, U.S. Code) to "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize other parties to do the following:
Reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phono records;
Prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
Distribute copies or phono records of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
Perform the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
Display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and Perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission, in the case of sound recordings.
It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the act to the owner of copyright. However, sections 107 through 121 of the Copyright Act establish limitations on these rights. In some cases, these limitations are specified exemptions from copyright liability; a major limitation is the doctrine of "fair use," which is given a statutory basis by section 107 of the act. In other instances, the limitation takes the form of a "compulsory license," under which certain limited uses of copyrighted works are permitted upon payment of specified royalties and compliance with statutory conditions.
Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created it. Only the author or those deriving their rights from the author can rightfully claim copyright."
Throughout the years, there have been many cases in which the copyright laws have been challenged and upheld. In more recent years many of the copyright cases have turned to the film and music industry because of the increased ability to duplicate and distribute such products. One of the famous case in recent history was the Sony vs. Betamax case. This case was before the internet was invented and for its time it was about state of the art wars on ownership.
It was ruled on in January of 1984 but the actual problems started several years before that. When VCRS were fist invented people were very excited because the could buy or rent movies at the local store and watch them at home. Many families who otherwise could not watch movies were now afforded the opportunity to do so. It was not long before the public realized that the VCR had been built with a recording device and that recording device could use a blank VHS tape to record television shows and television movies. The industry was not thrilled with the ability and many actors at the time spoke out against it, claiming it was a copyright infringement to do so.
In January 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that home recording of television programs on a VCR violates no law. "One may search the Copyright Act in vain for any sign that the elected representatives of the millions of people who watch television every day have made it unlawful to copy a program for later viewing at home, or have enacted a flat prohibition against the sale of machines that make such copying possible." (Sony vs. Betamax).
One of the most important elements of the case was the fact that movies and television shows being shared with the public were considered almost a public domain. If someone wanted to record it and watch it again at a later time they were only recording something that had been handed over to the public already. In addition to this it was not for profit but private use, which made it, even less of a copyright infringement than if the thousands around the nation were selling the recordings. The television shows were public property once they were broadcast in the eyes of many including the deciding court officers.
This was a similar case to the later case of Napster. Napster was hurting themusic industry the prosecution charged, because the artists get royalty payments off every CD or tape that is sold. The artist cuts the cd or tape and the costs are returned through sales. However after the costs are recouped the artist usually receives a small payment for each CD or tape that is sold. When the public began to have access to Napster and…