Intellectual Property - Electronic Copyright  

Study Guide

Copyright Updates

Electronic Copyright and Intellectual Property Issues 

Photocopying vs. Copying Electronic Documents 

    A photocopy is a way of saving or using  the works of another in print. If this technique is used for unauthorized republishing or as a way to make money it is very costly and risky. On the other hand, copying electronic documents are easier and inexpensive with the technology we have today. Although, this is easier and harder to get caught, don't be overconfident. If you put them on your Web site, BEWARE. This is illegal unless permission has been granted by the creator and you could be sued.
  • How can you use electronic documents safely?
  • Print vs. Electronic

Trademarks and the Web

    Trademarks are very similar to copyrights. Trademarks are designs which help us identify products. You may even love a product and how their trademarks appear. Even though it may seem innocent enough to put these trademarks on your web site, they are protected by law with exclusive rights given only to the creator. If you use these trademarks on your web site you should ask for permission. 
  • Is it illegal to use a trademark on your web site?
  • Can a Company find out that you are using their trademark?

  • Case Study: Lego Company

Database Copyright Protection

     Various international information conglomerates are pushing for restrictions on database accessibility, and scope of use, but also providing exclusionary circumstances. Particularly, databases of private sector or public-private partnerships are seeking access restrictions because of the increasing importance of the nature of this data. Further restrictions are being sought to limit the use of data collected to the initial inteded use thereby reducing the societal value of the origional data. 

     Legislation is now in the works in the US and the EU. With its passage, legislation is going to be drawn up in the United Nations through the World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO. If this legislation is passed then over 171 countries will have database copyright legislations. Currently, 18 EU nations have some type of database copyright legislation. 

 DeCSS Decrypting Lawsuit 
     An encryption algorithm known as CSS is used on DVD's to prevent illegal distribution of the media. This is a proprietary algorithm that must be licensed in order to legally decrypt DVDs. A group of individuals reverse-engineered this copy protection and started to distribute this decryption algorithm which they called DeCSS. DeCSS spread across the net showing up on many different sites that mirrored this algorithm for others to view. 

     DeCSS by itself is not very usefull, but it is the key component needed to copy the contents of the DVD to some other media. By extension, it is the key component to pirate movies, something the Movie Picture Association of America(MPAA) is very concerned about. In an effort to thwart the spread of this algorithm, the MPAA sought an injunction against 2600 The Hacker Quarterly, a newletter geared toward hackers and also a mirror of the DeCSS algorithm. Specifically, the MPAA sought action against the owner Emanuel Goldstein. 

     Goldstein argued for First Amendment protections citing that the code that represented the algorithm is a form of speach just like any other publication. After a drawn out trial, Judge Kaplan ruled against 2600 citing that its sole purpose was to break the copy protection efforts of the MPAA and thereby infringe on their rights. His order to cease all posting of this code has essentially been muted by the fact that enraged citizens have mirrored the code in servers outside of the United States jurisdiction, as well as getting it printed onto various "memorabilia" like t-shirts and coffe mugs. 

    Also see the DeCSS section of the DMCA Study Guide

 Secure Digital Music Initiative
     Secure Digital Music Initiative is an attempt to protect digitally recorded music from being illegally distributed. This illegal distribution is blatantly apparent in the success of the Napster mp3 file trading system. The techniques being developed under this initiative are attempts to watermark the music file so that either the file can only be listened to for a given number of times or cannot be copied. 

     A challenge was made by SDMI.org to the hacker community to break these proposed copy protection techniques. The community responded by breaking at least two of the five proposed methods, other attempts are still in dispute.

Other Issues

Copyright laws are being challenged in many different ways.  For further information please look at the sub categories under  Linking  and  Fair Use.

Index of Topics