Laws & Regulations Governing Copyright & Cyber-Related Issues

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Violating copyright laws on the Internet has become easier because of the rapid development of digital technology, which has outgrown the law. Music and movie producers have incurred decreasing revenue because of increased digital copying of their copyrighted works. The U.S. government has enacted various laws and regulations to curtail this problem, aimed at protecting dramatic, artistic, musical, literary and other intellectual works.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act incorporates several changes to the copyright law in line with the development of digital technology. Signed into law in 1998 by President Clinton, the act fulfills the World Intellectual Property Organization treaties. It prevents creation and marketing of products that facilitate unauthorized access to copyrighted products. The act also prohibits the removal or falsification of copyright details on protected works. It legalizes the copying of software when undertaking computer maintenance and prevents people from distributing or stealing goods using super information highways.

Fair Use

Fair use is a doctrine that allows people to use limited sections of a copyrighted material for purposes such as teaching, research, comment or news reporting. For example, entrepreneurs need not seek permission from photographers when using parts of copyrighted photos on their blogs; however, they must not use the photo in its entirety and should identify its owner. This doctrine is controversial, and it is advisable for people to seek permission from copyright owners before using copyrighted works.

Technology Education and Copyright Harmonization Act

The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act applies to students in distance learning environments. TEACH allows non-profit, accredited educational organizations to use copyrighted materials for distance education, but their use is limited to asynchronous or live class sessions. Under the act, it is illegal to transform analog works into digital format unless there is no digital version. Small business owners who have copyrighted their products can benefit from TEACH because it also prevents the use of such materials for commercial gain.

P2P File Sharing

The Copyright Act prohibits people from downloading movies or music through file sharing platforms, such as peer-to-peer networks. Violating this act exposes individuals to contributory or vicarious infringement. Contributory infringement implies that someone has knowledge of copyright infringement, perpetrates it or aids in the act. Vicarious liability occurs when people do not prevent any infringement by their juniors, yet they have the ability to do so. For instance, an entrepreneur may be culpable when he fails to use his authority to stop his employees from engaging in file sharing. They are also liable when they gain financially from these acts.


Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images