Copyright is a universal law created to protect authors’ of original creations’.It promotes the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries’.( U.S Constitution, Article 1, Section 8). It grants the authors’ exclusive ownership and legally allows them to deny others the privilege of using their works. Copyright can be placed on anything in tangible medium such as; literary, artistic, dramatic or architectural works, however, it doesn’t cover material in the public domain. It was first introduced in 1790, although most creations before the twentieth century were not copyrighted. The basic length of copyright is determined by adding seventy years onto the lifespan of the author. It cannot be renewed. This essay will focus on three main aspects of Internet Copyright. Firstly, it will discuss existing copyright laws, secondly it will analyse copyright infringements on these laws and finally it will discuss the importance of knowing and understanding copyright.
Copyright laws on the Internet differ in each country but they tend to cover the same principles. The act of Fair Dealing allows people to use a part of an original document without the permission of the author, however, the author of the original work and the source from which it originated must be cited. It must be a reasonable amount used only for research, teaching, criticism or comment with no financial gain. In the case of copying pictures or photographs, permission from the owner must always be sought with the exception of four things; it is owned by the government, was published before 1922 and registered at a Copyright office, advertised as free or in the public domain. The failure to comply by these regulations is known as plagairism. Laws relating to software are very simple. One copy of the program is allowed to be stored on a computer and one back up disc can be made, any more copies made or distributed are illegal and referred to as software piracy. Profit made by registering other peoples’ trademarks as one’s own is called Cyber squatting and although not as easy or as common anymore, it is still illegal. These laws protect original work and present businesses with the opportunity of advancement. They allow the public to use or view works within limits and are a small requirement for the vast amount of information available on the internet.
Infringements on Copyright, although being a federal offence, are common practices on the internet Software piracy is a worldwide problem. “Software companies are launching more and more lawsuits against major infractors”.( Webopedia, 2003, p. 1) Software is easy to duplicate therefore making it vulnerable to infringement. Share ware attempts to lower piracy by encouraging users to supply others’ with copies in the hope that they will enjoy it enough to buy the full version or pay a small monthly fee directly to the author. Illegally copying software doesn’t just affect the company but the user as well as they receive no documentation, customer support or update information on products. Piracy diminishes the worth of a program and proves difficult for small companies to stay in business. Cyber squatting is in illegal practice, common around the time of the birth of the Internet. Businesses were unaware of the Internets’ potential so people thought registering a well known trademark and waiting until the rightful owner realized the internets power would be profitable as they could sell the domain name back to the rightful owner . Panasonic, Avon and Hertz were all victims of cyber squatting. Today, the importance of having a domain name is common knowledge thus diminishing the number of cyber squatters rapidly. Plagairism is the most common illegal practice on the internet. Plagairism is very easy to do but doesn’t come without its’ consequences. Plagairisers are easily found on the internet with search engines, enabling authors to locate improper copies of their work and rightly prosecuting the offender/s. Plagairism also includes forwarding an email in which the intnded use has been altered.Students found to commit any of these face lowered marks, failure and even expulsion from schools. Infringement on Copyright is a violation of the law and property rights of the authors and deprives them of due credit of their hard work and efforts and can evolve into a costly court case.
It is of paramount importance to know and understand the laws of copyright. Abiding by the rules can literally save people millions of dollars. Copyright is a protection act and to defy it is to defy others the right to display their work and to receive credit on their achievements. As mentioned earlier, knowing these laws can be the difference beween passing a course or being diqualified. It is an incentive for students and the general population to create something original and share it with the rest of the world.
Most importantly knowing and understanding these laws enables the system to run smoother and creates space for people to better their work.
Internet Copyright is a valued law which is not taken seriously enough. Infringing Copyright is unfair on everybody. It inhibits innovation, diminishes the value of an artists’work, makes it harder on businesses and dissolves the credit to artists for their hard work, time and effort to produce work which is there for everyone to enjoy. Stronger laws and penalties will have to be introduced if Copyright infringement is going to lower or stop. Cd and DVD burners on the market and in computers contradict the regulations of copyright, almost making it legal to defy it. Why buy a product when it can be produced for a tenth of the cost? Why not copy information from the internet- who is going to find out? The internet is the biggest threat to copyright and with these unresolved issues its’ future appears unsuccessful.