Copyrights Essay

2576 words - 10 pages

Copyrights are designed to provide some form of protection against unauthorized use of original informational materials. The rapid shift of information production and distribution to electronic form, with its corresponding ease of copying, naturally makes copyright-dependent industries nervous. Much talk in the news and on the net these days is about the future of copyright law, a law developed in an age of print and now perhaps too tied to that medium to have ready application to today's information technology.The fate of copyright may seem in doubt to some, but copyright has a long durable history. It has survived countless technological changes over nearly two centuries, including the advent of photography, the phonograph, player pianos, motion pictures, audiotapes and cassettes, and computer programs-and it's still going strong. From this historical perspective, then, one might paraphrase Mark Twain by concluding that reports of copyright's death are greatly exaggerated.Neither to expect that copyright will survive the new information technologies is not to expect that it will be unchanged, nor that those industries publishing, music, computer software, etc. that depend on copyright law will remain unchanged. To the contrary, pressure for change will build on both industry practice and copyright doctrine to sharply intersect in several areas. One significant area is that of copyright preemption of state contract law. For a combination of reasons, we can expect to se considerable emphasis in litigation on the preemption doctrine in the future.Copyright owners have a variety of rights under the copyright act, including the rights of reproduction, and the rights of public distribution, performance, and display. For convenience, let the term "copying" serve as a surrogate for all of these various rights.Copyright owners need a certain amount of protection against copying in order to make a profit at a given level and scale of business. "Protection" means an assurance that no more than some amount of copying of their works will take place once those works are released to others. Protection does not have to be, absolute. That is, once a work of authorship is released to the public, as a practical matter some uncontrolled copying is possible and even likely. But without some practical, predictable limits on copying, copyright owners will not be willing to release commercial materials to the public in any substantial volume.Those who are steeped in copyright law will naturally and almost automatically think of those predictable limits as stemming from copyright law. Protection against copying does not depend solely on copyright's legal restrictions however. Those restrictions are but one of four forms of protection. For example, the publishers of Rolling Stone magazine, with it's glossy photographs and typeset text, do not need to worry much about their market being eaten away by photocopy machines-photocopies of Rolling Stone are just too inferior...

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