Copyright law faces unanticipated barriers due to the untroubled channeling of digital works and the simple methods with which work in digital form can be replicated.
The aim of copyright law is to tread a fine line between the originator and copyright owner’s rights so that they can control and safeguard their businesses and works. Copyright is now more crucial than ever, particularly when it comes to effectively identifying the source of materials. Thanks to the internet, consumers all over the world now have easy access to information with hardly any restrictions. They have been able to view and replicate works without having to adhere to copyright restrictions. How does copyright law address this global issue, and how can it be used to overcome the barriers imposed by internationality?
The aim of this article is twofold. First, to find a middle ground between the exigency to encourage accessibility to works, in order to provide and share information and learning, and second, to preserve the interests of copyright holders.
The necessity of copyright law was recognized with the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. Copyright law has developed, by means of legislative changes, in retaliation to technical advancements, such as the advancement of photography and computer technology.
Traditional principles in copyright law, such as classification of works into separate groups, are now being challenged by digitization. Copyright law faces unanticipated barriers due to the untroubled channeling of digital works and the simple methods with which work in digital form can be replicated. The treaties commonly known as “internet treaties” – WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) – were acquired by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in retaliation to the distress concerning the effect of digitisation on copyright law.
To prevent infringement, copyright works in digital form are subjected to technological security measures (TPMs). The problems of copyright enforcement for digital works have been discussed by various ideologies. The ideologies of legal theorists illustrate the foundational pillars of the digital copyright model. The said ideologies vary from complete abolition of copyright protection for works, to a moderate stance that supports the public–private rights alignment. Some ideologies suggest abolishing copyright laws, as extreme minimalist theorists believe the copyright laws to be dead. The ideologies of neo-classicists suggest that the influence that copyright owners presently wield must be limited by public interests. The ideologies of the postmodernists take a subjective approach to digital copyright, focusing on the collective concept of text engagement. The idea of user-generated content was pioneered by postmodernists. The moderate stance emphasizes the significance of extending exceptions and restrictions to copyright works in digital form, according to proponents of the approach. The moderate stance embodies a balanced and technologically impartial stance to copyright laws.
In the Sony Corp case, the court dismissed an argument that Sony video cassette recorders (VCRs) capable of recording television programs could be held responsible for committing copyright infringement because they could not be used for non-infringing purposes. This case identified a basic premise: developers of products, such as VCRs, are not responsible for contributory infringement of copyright if the product in question may be used for non-infringing purposes. The said case was further cited in Vault Corp v Quaid Software where the court found that the defendant’s decryption software could be used for non-infringing purposes because it made correct archival copies, and held that making archival copies is non-infringing to a large extent. In the Google Books Case, a division of Google’s Library Initiative, it scanned millions of books into its database and was thereafter sued by their authors for copyright infringement. The district court found the Google project to be of reasonable use. The plaintiffs in retaliation filed appeals and argued that Google’s digital copying of complete books created substitutes for their books, and that Google’s digital copy archive exposed their work to be copied and made freely accessible to users by hackers. These claims were dismissed by the Court of Appeals, which found that the district court correctly upheld Google’s fair use defense.
Copyright protection isn’t absolute, and there are exceptions and restrictions in the statute. It is widely acknowledged that users have a purpose in being allowed to use a copyright work even without authorisation of the copyright owner. In general, fair dealing requires a copyright holder to recreate a work for personal research. TPMs can fully eliminate the fair dealing provisions. When a TPM restricts people from viewing a work, it also supersedes the user’s right to fair dealing. The overall impact of technical locks on learning and education is enormous.
- Bently, L. & Sherman, B. (2009). Intellectual Property Law, 3rd edn., New York: Oxford University Press.
- Stim, R. (1999). Copyright Law, 1st edn., Cengage Learning.
- Sony Computer Entm’t Am Inc v Divineo Inc 457 F Supp 2d 957 (2006) 968.
- Vault Corp v Quaid Software 847 F 2d 255 (5th Circuit 1988)
- Authors Guild v Google Inc No 13-4829 (2d Cir. 2015)
 Sony Computer Entm’t Am Inc v Divineo Inc 457 F Supp 2d 957 (2006) 968.
 Vault Corp v Quaid Software 847 F 2d 255 (5th Circuit 1988)
 Authors Guild v Google Inc No 13-4829 (2d Cir. 2015)