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The Internet and Copyright

The Internet and Copyright

by G on June 20, 2013

pirateThe Universal Copyright Convention was the first attempt to create a universally accepted world-wide system for the “copyright of protection of literary scientific and artistic works”. Updates and incorporations of these copyright provisions have been made historically through the decades, and implementation has come in the form of ratifications by countries or member states (in Europe) at a national level.

For example, in the UK the Design and Artists Copyright Society helps to protect the copyright found within a drawing or picture. At a regional level the Copyright Directive in Europe (Council of European Parliament 2001) combined with the Electronic Commerce Regulations (EC Directive 2002) saw copyright and other associated legal rights protected at a regional level, while international organizations operating with recognized mandates include the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) – even if these organizations draft policies that are left for member states to ratify at their discretion.

Conclusion? There is very little practical information available for how the protection of copyright and other Intellectual property rights, beyond those defined by national law, work in the Internet context.

However, at the national level copyright protection can work: a case of trademark infringement in the U.S. saw the jewelry producer Tiffany Inc. file suit against ebay Inc. accusing them of facilitating the selling of counterfeit Tiffany products via its auction website. The study, while only drawing on the US experience, shows how it is possible for entities to bring infringing parties to account, at a national level.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act Service Ltd (see DMCA.com) provides a series of commercial services to help parties that believe they have had their copyright infringed (according to US law), to issue a formal “takedown” request and have breaching content removed.

However despite claims about such services having global reach there is no mandate which grants the society immediate global accountability, and therefore enforcement is only as strong as the partnerships that are forged by the agency. While the “basic rule on copyright is that to use it in any shape or form is restricted by the owner” , might be true in practice, the reality of enforcement when opened up inside the borderless domain of a SNS, is in practice impossible.

Ardito (2007) notes that it is against the terms of service of Youtube.com for users to upload content for which they do not possess the copyright, and that the additional threat of complying with agencies, such as the DMCA, are likely sufficient in terms of being defensible in a court of law were Youtube.com accused of being complicit in a copyright infringement.

Conclusion? because a person can register a free email address and then use that to create an account on a SNS, it becomes almost impossible for copyright holders to track and bring to account offenders.  While it may be possible to have items taken down, finding the people is virtually impossible.

What does this mean for copyright owners in practice?

That if you are a copyright holder you should expect your work to be used without your permission or consent once it is published to the internet.  You can openly give up certain rights by assigning a creative commons attribution to the work, but again if someone want to use it on either  a website, or as part of an advertisement, for another product the chances of being able to find it are slim at best.

Consider the following: What is the likelyhood of a copyright owner being able to find out that a copyrighted image of theirs that was being used in a paid-for advertising programme inside Facebook or remarketing via Google Adwords. Here’s where they would need to go if they wanted to make a report to Google and what such an enquiry might look like in pdf in practice.

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Author Information
Glyn S. H. has been online marketing since 1999 and has developed campaigns for leading luxury brands that have included Nestlè and Interflora . He works primarily in for the Travel and Tourism sector, helping hotels beat-down OTA paychecks. He has a web-marketing company, a Masters in Professional Communication, speaks fluent Italian, and is married with two kids. He also has a good sense of humour – essential for survival in web-marketing. He is not employed by Google. To contact via email: glyn@ (this domain).


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