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Copyright

Updates

29 Nov 2016

After passing the Investigatory Powers Bill earlier this month, the British parliament has now approved the Digital Economy Bill. The bill includes provisions on access to digital services, digital infrastructure, intellectual property, digital government, and online pornography. The latter part, which aims at preventing access to pornography for people younger than 18 years old, has been subject to intense debate. Apart from forcing websites to add age verification checks, it also puts in place rules to ban 'videos depicting unusual practices from adult websites'. The law has been criticised both by free speech advocates and security experts, the former claiming that the law is too restrictive, the latter that it will not prevent pornographic material on non-adult websites.

28 Nov 2016

In a global operation coordinated by Europol, Interpol, and the US National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Centre, law enforcement authorities in 27 countries seized over 4500 domain names for illegally selling counterfeit products online. According to Europol, ‘Operation In Our Sites (IOS) VII’ targeted copyright-infringing websites and third-party marketplace listings selling luxury goods, sportswear, spare parts, electronics, pharmaceuticals, toiletries, and other fake products.

13 Oct 2016

An article in The Hill, Software patents preventing free expression online explores questions of possible monopoly on concepts for software, analysing the importance of a concurring opinion written last week by Judge Mayer in the Federal Circuit court (the US court that hears patent appeals cases). Mayer opined that software (and the Internet) are widely-used tools for expression, and declared that they are they are 'essential channels of scientific, economic, and political discourse.' The article goes on to support more protections for 'innovation and freedom of expression online'.

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Knowledge and ideas are key resources in the global economy. The protection of knowledge and ideas, through Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), has become one of the predominant issues in the Internet governance debate. Internet-related IPR include copyright and trademarks. Copyright protects the expression of an idea when it is materialised in various forms, such as a book, CD, or computer file. The idea itself is not protected by copyright. In practice, it is sometimes difficult to make a clear distinction between the idea and its expression.

The copyright regime has closely followed the technological evolution. Every new invention, such as the printing press, radio, television, and the VCR, has affected both the form and the application of copyright rules. The Internet is no exception. The traditional concept of copyright has been challenged in numerous ways, from those as simple as ‘cutting and pasting’ texts from the Web to more complex activities, such as the massive distribution of music and video materials via the Internet.

The Internet also empowers copyright holders, by providing them with more powerful technical tools for protecting and monitoring the use of copyrighted material. These developments endanger the delicate balance between authors’ rights and the public’s interest, which is the very basis of the copyright law.

 

The issues

Amend existing or develop new copyright mechanisms?

How should copyright mechanisms be adjusted to reflect the profound changes effected by ICT and Internet developments? One answer suggested by the US government’s White Paper on Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure is that only minor changes are needed in existing regulation, mainly through ‘dematerialising’ the copyright concepts of ‘fixation’, ‘distribution’, ‘transmission’, and ‘publication’. This approach was followed in the main international copyright treaties, including the Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) convention and the WIPO Copyright Treaty.

However, the opposite view argues that changes in the legal system must be profound, since copyright in the digital era no longer refers to the ‘right to prevent copying’ but also to the ‘right to prevent access’. Ultimately, with ever greater technical possibilities of restricting access to digital materials, one can question whether copyright protection is necessary at all. It remains to be seen how the public interest, the second part of the copyright equation, will be protected.

 

Protection of the public interest – the ‘fair use’ of copyright materials

Copyright was initially designed to encourage creativity and invention. This is why it combined two elements: the protection of authors’ rights and the protection of the public interest. The main challenge was to stipulate how the public can access copyrighted materials in order to enhance creativity, knowledge, and global well-being. Operationally speaking, the protection of the public interest is ensured through the concept of the ‘fair use’ of protected materials.

 

Copyright and development

Any restriction of fair use could weaken the position of developing countries. The Internet provides researchers, students, and others from developing countries with a powerful tool for participating in global academic and scientific exchanges. A restrictive copyright regime could have a negative impact on capacity building in developing countries. Another aspect is the increasing digitisation of cultural and artistic crafts from developing countries. Paradoxically, developing countries may end up having to pay for their cultural and artistic heritage when it is digitised, repackaged, and owned by foreign entertainment and media companies.

Events

Instruments

Conventions

Link to: Convention on Cybercrime (Budapest Convention) | Article 10 – Offences related to infringements of copyright and related rights (2001)

Judgements

Resolutions & Declarations

Standards

Other Instruments

Resources

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Papers

Personal Data Storage in Russia (2015)
Comparative Analysis on National Approaches to the Liability of Internet Intermediaries for Infringement of Copyright and Related Rights (2014)
Competition in the Software Industry: the Interface between Antitrust and Intellectual Property Law (1999)

Reports

Enabling Growth and Innovation in the Digital Economy (2016)
2016 Special 301 Report (2016)
The Impact of Digital Content: Opportunities and Risks of Creating and Sharing Information Online (2016)
Content Removal Requests Report (2016)

Other resources

The Twitter Rules (2016)

Processes

To keep the Internet engine running, innovation is key, especially when it comes to intellectual property.

To keep the Internet engine running, innovation is key, especially when it comes to intellectual property. Unlocking Internet Economy through Copyright Reform (WS 167) addressed the consequences of copyright policies on Internet innovation, with the session organisers arguing that the current Internet innovation system, characterised by ‘multinational corporations, fledging start-ups, telecommunications providers, content creators and consumers [forming] increasingly complex value chains’, often contradicts the copyright regime.

 

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