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Is More Protection of Intellectual Property Rights Necessary on the Internet?

I firmly believe that we need to protect any form of intellectual properties (IP) built by one through hard and honest work. At the same time, I also believe that several of the current methods of protecting IP, such the as the copyright laws, patent systems and legislations, are not evolving fast enough in order to protect IP and avoid hindering the path of creativity and innovation.

“The digitization of music provided the intellectual property community with the opportunity to explore new ways to protect copyright through tools amenable to the Internet. Unfortunately, this opportunity was never seized or taken advantage of; instead (as normally is the case) copyright owners asked their attorneys to sue NAPSTER (and many of its copycats), instead of legitimizing the digital dissemination of copyrighted material through licensing schemes and other legal channels.”

The case of Napster was the beginning of what could have been the foundation of the ‘digital IP protection future’ where the digital industry could have collaborated with other stakeholders in order to develop a modern mechanism of content distribution and consumption through fair licensing techniques. Unfortunately, due to the narrow perspective of money minded entities, the opportunity was not seized. Not very far after which the industry started working on Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems which would so call stop the problem of piracy.

“Content providers claim that DRM is necessary to fight copyright infringement online and that it can help the copyright holder maintain “artistic control” or ensure continued revenue streams.” Wikipedia

Corporations claim that DRM is necessary to fight copyright infringement online. But there’s no evidence that DRM helps in this fight. Instead, DRM helps big business stifle innovation and competition by making it easy to quash “unauthorized” uses of media and technology (1). While the titans of the digital industry like Sony, Microsoft and others have fought to make the DRM a standard, there has many who have campaigned against it as “the mean” to protect IP and copyrighted materials.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) consider the use of DRM systems to be anti-competitive practice (2). The FSF through its ‘Defective by Design’ campaign, maintain that the use of the word “rights” is misleading and suggest that people instead should use the term “digital restrictions management” (3) which I believe makes perfect sense as you cannot use your own hardware and software which you bought legally in ways you need to, not necessary for piracy purpose. However, over the years I have seen some good initiatives one of which I work with often is the Creative Commons (CC) license. CC is a non-profit organisation from the United States with affiliations in several regions of the globe, promoting the expansion in the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally with a flexible sharing philosophy behind the initiative. CC has released several copyright-licenses known as the Creative Commons licenses (4) free of charge to the public. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. An easy to understand one-page explanation of rights, with associated visual symbols, explains the specifics of each Creative Commons license.

“Creative Commons licenses do not replace copyright, but are based upon it, the result of which is an agile, low overhead and cost copyright management regime, profiting both copyright owners and licensees.” Wikipedia

I believe that if we want to benefit from our own IP we should start by a change of mentality and approach in how we want to consume the IP belonging to others and that would be, at a lower price which can be easily accessible via mediums such as a personal media player, for example, an iPod.

To conclude this section, I would say that Intellectual Property Right does not need more protection on the Internet, rather, the corresponding content generated by those IP should have much easier and flexible licensing, distribution and consumption channels, to such an extent that copying would become an unnecessarily stupid act. One such good example here is the Apple iTune store where one can buy a song at less than a dollar (for the US region) or Amazon Kindle where e-books are sold at a very competitive price.

How do you perceive the increasing insistence of governments to push for stronger forms of intellectual property protection on the Internet?

This is an undeniable fact that governments from all around the world are trying to push for stronger form of IPR protection trough legislations and treaties. While I agree that the current armada of IPR protection (consisting of copyright laws and patenting system) in many countries are not evolving at the same pace compared to their neighbours on the global level, that does not mean that government agencies should push any IPR form of what they classify or believe to be “protective measures” without the involvement and collaboration of all the required stakeholders. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) 2011, Protect IP Act (PIPA) 2011 are some of the latest examples showing attempts from the US authorities for what they claimed:

“To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes.” SOPA 2011, US House of Representatives

In the beginning of 2012, a series of coordinated protests occurred against SOPA and PIPA. Protests were based on concerns that the bills, intended to provide more robust responses to piracy arising outside the United States, contained measures that could cause great harm to online freedom of speech, websites, and internet communities. Over 115,000 website joined the internet protest (5). In addition to the online protests, there were simultaneous physical demonstrations in several U.S. Cities and other part of the world. To date, these protests has proven that a majority of the digital age citizens do not agree with whatever the authorities might propose as regulative measures and I firmly believe that the current state of the Internet is not broken so there is “no need to fix what is not broken” what is needed over the long run is more liberty for the new generation to be creative and innovative rather than restrictions through laws which cannot be achieved until the authorities realise it.

(1) Digital Rights Management—Electronic Frontier Foundation

(2) Fred Von Lohmann, May 2004 ‘FairPlay: Another Anticompetitive Use of DRM’, Electronic Frontier Foundation

(3) ‘Defective by Design’, Free Software Foundation

(4) Creative Common Licenses

(5) Wortham Jenna Jan. 2012, “Public outcry over anti-piracy bills began as grassroots grumbling”. New York Times

By Duksh K. Koonjoobeeharry, Team Lead, Open Source Geek, Internet Legal Research

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