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Copyright Laws And Regulations

With the new millennium now here, what are some of the changes headed towards us? Now that we have Y2K out of the picture, we unfortunately have something new to fear, well at least for some of us. The stealing of intellectual property is on the rise and there are very few copyright laws and regulations out there to prevent these things from happening. Since we are now living in the digital age it is very easy for anyone to get a hold on intellectual property and spread it around to whoever is online. The hard thing is to track down who these people are. More government regulations are needed on the Internet to protect intellectual property.

Without more laws and regulations, there will be more Napster imitators in the future. The Internet is a relatively new thing and very unpredictable at this point. New things are being discovered everyday, both for good and not-so-good reasons. Of course there are also laws and regulations that apply to the Internet. Very few of them protect against intellectual property, but they do exist. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) passed in 1998, is a law that tried very hard in protecting all sorts of copyrighted digital material such as movies, songs, and books.

The trouble is that all forms of commercial digital copy protection have been broken quickly and efficiently, and will continue to be hacked” (Scheschuk 60). The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) accuses Napster of “contributory infringement and vicarious infringement,” not of direct copyright violation. Because of this, The Staple Article Of Commerce Doctrine defends Napster of contributory infringement because Napster provides other non-infringing uses such as sampling, space shifting, and the authorized distribution of music.

The Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 (AHRA) is another regulation that helps protect Napster users because it allows audio music swapping for noncommercial use (Mercer 1). The term “Napster” is now well known amongst the people who are doing a lot of online music trading. This is a program that makes trading music online easier. It all started in 1999 when a Northeastern University dropout decided to make a program that will make it easier for people to trade MP3 files online (Kaminer 48). Shawn Fanning has now become a well-known name around the music industry.

This is because people from the music business are accusing him of stealing their copyrighted music. Although this is somehow true, Fanning has a few tricks up his sleeve in his defense. Since there are very few laws and regulations for the Internet there isn’t much that the courts can say about it. There are a lot of people who are in support of Napster. Even some music artists are supporting Napster, especially the unknown bands; they want to get their music out there. Whether or not their music is copyrighted or not, Napster will do them a favor to distribute their music.

Once someone hears their music and likes it, they will tell their friends about it and so on. This is sort of like free advertising for their music. It seems as though nothing can stop this music-swapping phenomenon. People have been downloading copyrighted music for a couple of years now for free, so they think they have the right to do it. But it isn’t right, it’s a privilege” (Ulrich 54). Since more and more people are using the Internet, file sharing is more widespread. Napster is a free program to use and this is why so many people are registered to use it.

When Napster was brought to court, it lost the first of many cases. So, why did they lose their first case? Section 1008 of the AHRA, which regulates “home taping,” was not written with online technology in mind, giving the complainants’ lawyers respectable arguments. Section 1008 governs noncommercial home taping by consumers; Napster users, they argue, are engaged in public distribution. These lawyers also argue that Napster has tried to profit from what it knows are illegal copying activities (Mercer 1). Although Napster lost this case, the fight is still going strong till this very day.

The reason? There are many different views on what the definition of property is and what makes it ownable. The RIAA has had good success in its legal crusade to shut down Napster’s music-swapping service. So far, the RIAA has argued that they’re trying to restrain not a technology but a business, Napster, which is stealing their industry’s property (Caulfield 69). Most of the people from the music business are accusing Napster of these infringements. Since their hard work is being put up on the Internet and is free to the taking, they have a right to feel this way.

They all feel that Napster is robbing them of their hard work, their very lives. This is why they are making a big effort to shut it down. We now live in world that relies on the Internet in many ways. When our internet-centric generation has an urge for something entertaining; they know that they can find something to keep them busy in cyberspace, most likely for free. They now know that they don’t have to go to Blockbuster to rent movies or Tower Records to buy CD’s anymore. They can just sit comfortably in their own homes and download if from the Internet.

This is why Napster is so popular nowadays because this gives them what they all want. Right now it’s only music but as the year goes on, they will have movies and even books ready to be downloaded (Mendham 26). Napster is just a small part of the theft of intellectual property because they are just songs. When it comes to worldwide publications and big hit movies, it becomes a bigger deal. There are already Napster-like services for videos and full-length feature films. Books, blueprints, vintage comics and stock photos may be next in line. Even newspapers and magazines are worried.

This is the time when everyone will jump into the fight (Ulrich 54). For good reason, major film companies are taking action because of what they found out. Since there are many Napster-like services out there that you can download full-length feature films that are only out in the theaters on to your computer screen for free, they have every right to take some action. This is what they need because they can join forces with major record labels to try and stop these programs from spreading, for good. Whether we like it or not, the stealing of intellectual property happens everyday.

Besides the whole Napster case, people can actually steal ideas, even if they haven’t had it written down yet. When this happens, the question is, what can you do? Companies that have been reported of the theft of intellectual property usually called in the feds or local law. But does this mean that they will do anything about it? Most of the time they cannot do much. Many of the cases usually go civil or simply go away (Albiniak 70). Nobody knows the true numbers, but probably about 90% or more of cases involving trade secrets or intellectual property thefts never see the light of day.

They’re quietly settled out of court or resolved in civil proceedings that are seldom made public. But every once in a while, companies decide to file criminal charges (Littman 1). Generally, it’s a good idea to involve the law or report it to some kind of high authority. Luckily there are options to choose from, the FBI, the Secret Service, increasingly sophisticated regional high-tech task forces, and even local police can be responsive. But the best way is to pick your cyber cop carefully because you need to know if they are knowledgeable about these kinds of cases (Littman 1).

Napster will always be looked at as the master of intellectual property theft. Currently the case between Napster and the RIAA is still going strong but it seems as though Napster will be forced to turn into a multi-million dollar business with the help of other big businesses. “In roughly a year, Napster has become the vortex of legal technological issues. Copying and stealing the work of others is not in the public interest, but all computer technology is fundamentally built on fast, perfect copying” (Dugan 2).

The reason why Napster is considered to be breaking the rules of the game is because it does more than just sharing files. People go on the website and register their computers to get a username, now they are ready to search for their favorite songs at no charge to them (Dukart 1). Napster wasn’t even planned to be a business. This reason alone isn’t enough to stop people from filing charges against Napster. Even if Napster ended up being wiped off the Internet, there are many other Napster wannabes out there that will someday create problems again.

Other programs like Gnutella and Freenet are also growing to be very popular in the substitution of Napster. Both were built to demonstrate and expand on the Internet’s potential to facilitate the free flow of information and also will be much more difficult for a judge, or anyone else, to shut down (Caulfield 69). Also since these programs are developed by AOL software and act more as a business type program, it’s more likely to stay. Currently, since there aren’t enough laws and regulations that protect intellectual property, programs like Napster will seem to never disappear.

Even if Napster loses the battle in court, it will have the option of turning into a business and being partners with big budget record companies. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how many laws are out there that is protecting against intellectual property. It matters on how detailed the laws are. The laws and regulations need to be more specific and apply to what these programs are actually doing. Programs like Napster will most likely show up sooner or later. It seems like Napster is a nightmare that won’t go away to the record companies.

On the other hand, society will forever appreciate what it has done for us in the two years it’s been in existence and hopefully will continue to do so in the future. By the end of the year, the courts will likely rule one way or the other, and many predict that the Napster case itself will make it all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court (Alsop 83). Napster’s future looks pretty bright from recent news. It has been offered many deals from huge entertainment companies, but still has not decided it’s next move. It looks like the laws that currently exist didn’t do much to protect what they call intellectual property.

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