The Escalating Copyright Wars

The Escalating Copyright Wars

Yu, Peter K., "The Escalating Copyright Wars" . MSU-DCL Public Law Research Paper No. 01-06

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    Piracy is one of the biggest threats confronting the entertainment industry today. Every year, the industry is estimated to lose billions of dollars in revenue and faces the potential loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. To protect itself against Internet pirates, the entertainment industry has launched the latest copyright war. So far, the industry has been winning. Among its trophies are the enactment of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Vivendi Universal's defeat and purchase of, the movie studios' victory in the DeCSS litigation, the bankruptcy and subsequent sale of Napster and its recent relaunch as a legitimate subscription-based music service, the Supreme Court's rejection of the copyright bargain theory in Eldred v. Ashcroft, and the recording industry's relative success in its mass litigation campaign.

    Notwithstanding these victories, the war is expanding and has become even more difficult for the industry to fight than it was a year ago. Today, copyright law is no longer a complicated issue that is only of interest and concern to copyright lawyers, legal scholars, technology developers, and intellectual property rightsholders. Rather, it is a matter of public significance, affecting all of us in our daily lives. The ground has shifted. If the entertainment industry does not pay attention to the public and if it continues to use ill-advised battle strategies, it eventually might lose the war.

    Delivered as part of the 2003 Frontiers in Information and Communications Policy Lecture Series at Michigan State University, this Article examines the strategies used by the entertainment industry to fight the copyright wars: lobbying, litigation, self-help, education, and licensing. It also explores the impact of Eldred v. Ashcroft on these strategies, the decision's ramifications on future constitutional challenges to copyright laws, and recent developments in the international copyright arena. It concludes by arguing that the entertainment industry should change its existing strategies in light of the proliferation of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks and the increased consciousness of copyright issues.

Facts on copyright

  • No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of copyright based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution of a digital audio recording device, a digital audio recording medium, an analog recording device, or an analog recording medium, or based on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device or medium for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings. Later acts amended US Copyright law so that making 10 copies or more is considered commercial, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act effectively permits DRM (Digital Rights/Restrictions Management) to prevent manufacture, importation, or distribution of recording devices if the device bypasses an access or copy control.
  • First-sale doctrine Copyright law does not restrict anyone from reselling legitimately obtained copies of copyrighted works, provided that those copies were originally produced by or with the permission of the copyright holder. It is therefore legal, for example, to resell a copyrighted book or CD. In the United States this is known as the first-sale doctrine, and was established by the courts to clarify the legality of reselling books in second-hand bookstores.
  • Access control was always used as a measure to disallow works from being copied without the consent of the author/owner. The Library of Alexandria (a.k.a. "The Kings Library") was not a place that an average person could walk into and borrow a book from. Ptolemy III paid the sum of fifteen talents of silver to be allowed to copy the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides.

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