Posted by: drgeophysics | September 18, 2009

Copyright in the United States.

Dr. Geophysics' pad.

Dr. Geophysics' pad.

In the United States there are three broad classes of laws that cover intellectual property, copyright, patent and trade mark. This blog looks at the chaos that now surrounds copyright following the 1999 revision of the Copyright Act.

Copyright has always been a balancing mechanism between the financial rewards for creativity to the creators of such works, and the benefit to society from the free distribution of such works.  At the present time we have problems, the rights of society have been seriously eroded.  Here are some interesting copyright related stories.  In the United States copyright was rewritten during the 1990’s  and the penalties for copyright violations are intense now, really serious business.  Copyright now exists the instant that something is placed into a “tangible medium”, which can include computer RAM.  Using the photograph in this blog as an example, the instant the picture was placed in camera memory, I possessed United States copyright.   For those found guilty of copyright violations, a federal offense,  financial ruin is the typical result.

The aggression of copyright enforcement in the United States is fierce.  Every DVD and video tape sold in the United States starts with a listing of the criminal and financial penalties of copyright infringement.  Imagine if every time you started your automobile a voice in the dash board starting telling you the fines for speeding.

Here are some recent links:

ASCAP wants money for every download of anything that includes music, vid clips, 30 second song segments, etc. They have unleashed their lobby groups to write the laws and get them passed (this is basically how what we are stuck with now came about. Wasn’t 1999 a wonderful year, oh yeah, the roll back on financial regulations that led to the present Great Depression was going on also).

A rather ignorant university professor is about to learn about copyright law. (He could easily be arrested and fined, for starters, $150,000 for this stunt).   As anyone who has studied copyright law understands public domain only exists within Federal space, there are no similar protections for things produced by states, counties, cities, etc.   This has been upheld many times.  Generally in cases like this one that include GIS datasets, which are sold for profit after being paid for from locally collected tax law. They are not public domain.   This case from California is different.

What are the fines now for copying things like music?  How about $1.92 million for downloading 24 songs. A more detailed story from the Tech Law Notes. The 1999 amendment to the Copyright Act of 1976 allows $150,000 per infringed work.

Here is a graduate student who feels “lucky” that he was only fined $675,000 for downloading 30 songs.   Here is the Boston Globe story. Of course he faces life long bankruptcy.

The same people destroying the lives of young people are now trying to push elementary school lessons that avoid the mention of fair use. Here is the story.

That about things like BitTorrent–they are being targeted for major legal action.  I’m convinced that TCP/IP logs are being kept for future legal action against anyone interacting with such sites.  Here is a $111 million fine related to Bit Torrent.

Or how about selling a company, but maintaining copyright that defines the company. eBay has made a very, very expensive copyright blunder. Check this story out:

The founders managed to maintain ownership of the source and licensed it to eBay in their 2005 deal and are now seeking an injunction and statutory damages which could total more than $75 million per day.

Here is the story.

Disney learns about copyright and a $4 billion merger goes into the ditch.

In contrast TJX can expose more than 100 million credit cards to potential fraud and be fined less than half of this amount.  Does this make sense to you?

How about this, the MPAA pushes collective punishment by shutting down an entire town’s WiFi.

The MPAA has successfully shut down an entire town’s municipal WiFi because a single user was found to be downloading a copyrighted movie. Rather than being embarrassed by this gross example of collective punishment (a practice outlawed in the Geneva conventions) against Coshocton, OH, the MPAA’s spokeslizard took the opportunity to cry poor (even though the studios are bringing in record box-office and aftermarket receipts)

Here is the story, unbelievable!

On of the best sources for information regarding Copyright Law in the United States is the Stanford University Copyright and Fair Use site.  Here is the link.

This system is hurting the country and has given unbalanced and unfair power to a small industry.  We are stuck with a dysfunctional system because of poorly constructed laws.


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