Media Law and the Problem of Copyright The Law of Mass Media Media law in general is an area of the law which covers media communications of all sorts and sizes. Specialists in this field may work for individual companies, handling legal issues which come up in the course of doing business. They can also work for organizations which provide advocacy to people who run afoul of the law, or have private practices with consulting services and other forms of legal assistance available to clients.
In order to become a media lawyer, it is necessary to attend law school and complete a concentration in media law, an option which is not offered at all law schools. There are three general areas of interest within media law. The first is print media, including newspapers, magazines, print advertising and so forth. The second is telecommunications, including radio and television broadcasting. Finally, digital communications and the Internet are a broad field within media law, and as the Internet evolves, this frontier is constantly changing.
Mass media law refers to the collective set of laws that protect or limit media or the consumers from different issues that may arise from the use or exposure to mass media. Television, Internet, newspapers, magazines, and film are just some of the few examples of mass media that are governed by this set of laws. However, each form of mass media is subject to different laws under the general heading of mass media law given that each form of media interacts differently with the consumers.
This broad legal term can encompass many issues such as copyright or trademark infringement, libel, slander, censorship, privacy, confidentiality, and freedom of information. The aforementioned are the most common disputes argued over in terms of mass media law With modern communications technologies, the mass media has the ability to affect many people in a variety of ways. The laws that govern these communications can be complicated and have far-reaching results. Many of the suits brought by media lawyers involve copyright infringement, defamation, censorship, and privacy.
Copyright law is one of the main ways that mass media law is involved in communications industries. Copyrights apply to print, visual, audio, and digital media. Individuals and corporations own copyrights on creative communications or works, and media law often attempts to protect those rights. Copyright holders may require legal aid if their rights are contested, or if the creative work is copied without authorization, or pirated. Also, copyright law allows reproduction rights to be purchased.
For example, a filmmaker may wish to purchase rights in order to make a movie based on a previously published book. Another legal field within mass media law is defamation law. There are two main types of defamation – slander and libel. Both categories require the offending statements or visual representations to have a negative impact on the reputation on the person being defamed. The Problem of Copyright in Modern World Demonstrating ownership of a car or a house may involve producing a title or deed or bill of sale, something tangible which establishes the exclusive rights of the owner.
But how does one demonstrate these same ownership rights of poems or photographs or other creative works? The answer is called copyright. Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time. Generally, it is “the right to copy”, but also gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work, to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, who may perform the work, who may financially benefit from it, and other, related rights.
It is an intellectual property form (like the patent, the trademark, and the trade secret) applicable to any expressible form of an idea or information that is substantive and discrete. Copyright initially was conceived as a way for government to restrict printing; the contemporary intent of copyright is to promote the creation of new works by giving authors control of and profit from them. Copyrights are said to be territorial, which means that they do not extend beyond the territory of a specific state unless that state is a party to an international agreement.
Today, however, this is less relevant since most countries are parties to at least one such agreement. While many aspects of national copyright laws have been standardized through international copyright agreements, copyright laws of most countries have some unique features. Typically, the duration of copyright is the whole life of the creator plus fifty to a hundred years from the creator’s death, or a finite period for anonymous or corporate creations. Some jurisdictions have required formalities to establishing copyright, but most recognize copyright in any completed work, without formal registration.
Generally, copyright is enforced as a civil matter, though some jurisdictions do apply criminal sanctions. Most jurisdictions recognize copyright limitations, allowing “fair” exceptions to the creator’s exclusivity of copyright, and giving users certain rights. The development of digital media and computer network technologies have prompted reinterpretation of these exceptions, introduced new difficulties in enforcing copyright, and inspired additional challenges to copyright law’s philosophic basis.
Simultaneously, businesses with great economic dependence upon copyright have advocated the extension and expansion of their copy rights, and sought additional legal and technological enforcement. Copyright laws establish exclusive ownership of non-tangible concepts once they are put into tangible form. Once a poem is printed on paper, a photograph developed or a performance filmed, it becomes the property of the creator. In the United States, copyright protection exists from the instant a creative work is recorded in a tangible form.
There is no need for an official copyright to be registered in order for the creator to claim his or her rights. The history of copyright law goes back to the rise of the middle class and the invention of the printing press. Once it became possible for commoners to purchase copies of newsletters or literary works, publishers sought ways to establish ownership of the works themselves. Authors were routinely expected to surrender their own copyright to publishers, who would in theory pay royalties or a profit of the sales.
Copyright registration offices were established to handle the legal paperwork, but their jurisdictions were often limited to certain countries or regions. Other publishers were still free to publish manuscripts in other countries and sell them without regard for copyright. Copyright laws were first established in the United States in 1790, as part of the Constitutional protection for artists and writers. It wasn’t until the late 1880s, however, that an international effort was made to unify the copyright laws of participating countries.
This was the famous Berne Convention, which was only partially successful at first. The United States, a major contributor of copyrighted works, did not officially sign the Berne Convention agreements until the late 1980s, for example. Many people are confused about the protections offered by copyright. The current laws do not prevent others from using similar words, images or thoughts in their own works. Individual words and common images cannot be copyrighted.
Rather, copyright establishes exclusive rights to the exact form of the creative work, along with any other derivative forms of that work. The copyright holder is the only person who can legally produce a motion picture from his or her novel, for instance. In order for another person to use a copyrighted work, ownership rights must be transferred, in the same way a car buyer must obtain a legal title. Usually, there is a financial consideration whenever a commercial interest seeks permission to use a work protected by copyright.
Several exclusive rights typically attach to the holder of a copyright: * to produce copies or reproductions of the work and to sell those copies (including, typically, electronic copies) * to import or export the work * to create derivative works (works that adapt the original work) * to perform or display the work publicly * to sell or assign these rights to others * to transmit or display by radio or video The phrase “exclusive right” means that only the copyright holder is free to exercise those rights, and others are prohibited from using the work without the holders permission.
Copyright is sometimes called a “negative right”, as it serves to prohibit certain people (e. g. , readers, viewers, or listeners, and primarily publishers and would be publishers) from doing something they would otherwise be able to do, rather than permitting people (e. g. , authors) to do something they would otherwise be unable to do. In this way it is similar to the unregistered design right in English law and European law. The rights of the copyright holder also permit him/her to not use or exploit their copyright, for some or all of the term.
There is, however, a critique which rejects this assertion as being based on a philosophical interpretation of copyright law that is not universally shared. There is also debate on whether copyright should be considered a property right or a moral right. Many argue that copyright does not exist merely to restrict third parties from publishing ideas and information, and that defining copyright purely as a negative right is incompatible with the public policy objective of encouraging authors to create new works and enrich the public domain.
The right to adapt a work means to transform the way in which the work is expressed. Examples include developing a stage play or film script from a novel, translating a short story, and making a new arrangement of a musical work. Infringement of copyright is considered a serious crime because it denies the creator and others involved in the creation process, such as a production company or record label, the profits owed to them for use. In some cases, people engaging in infringement do not monetarily profit from the piracy, such as by offering a song for free through a file-sharing website.
Nevertheless, since the creator is denied his or her royalty for use, anyone who distributes, receives, or uses copyrighted material without a license may be charged with infringement, regardless of whether it was done for free. Legal penalties for infringement are typically monetary fines paid to compensate the victim for both lost profits and damages. A person or group convicted of infringement will also sometimes be held responsible for all court and attorney fees, and be subject to the seizure of all merchandise or equipment associated with the crime.
In rare cases, criminal charges may be filed instead of civil charges, which can lead to jail time as well as fines if successfully proven. Copyright laws have been changing for decades, mostly in favor of the author and his or her estate. Critics of current copyright laws say that the extended lifespan of copyrighted material is designed to prohibit fair use by the public. The first renditions of Disney’s Mickey Mouse character, for example, would have passed into public domain years ago if the copyright laws had not been altered.
Whether or not these primitive images of Mickey Mouse would be of any commercial value is not the point of the argument. Copyright laws now protect most creative works for the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years or more. Works created before 1 January 1978 are covered by different laws, and may be protected for 75 years or longer. While copyright protection may have saved the author from exploitation in life, it may offer too much protection for estates and companies eager to maintain their incomes from licensing fees and motion picture rights.
Copyrights and Internet Piracy in the USA (SOPA and PIPA bills) For years, pirated movies, television shows and music have been on the Internet. And for just as long, Hollywood and the entertainment business have been trying and failing to stop it. But with more and faster broadband networks as well as powerful and speedy computers, the playing of illegally copied music and movies is booming, as are sales of counterfeit goods from auto parts to pharmaceuticals.
Because most pirate sites are abroad, beyond the reach of United States law enforcement, companies have been left with a Whac-a-Mole approach to shutting them down. In 2011, the House and Senate took up separate bills, broadly supported on both sides of the political aisle, that aimed to cut off the oxygen for foreign pirate sites by taking aim at American search engines like Google and Yahoo, payment processors like PayPal and ad servers that allow the pirates to function. The House titled its bill the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA.
The Senate called its theProtect Intellectual Property Act, or PIPA. The bills were supported by some of the biggest business lobbies, including the Motion Picture Association of America and the United States Chamber of Commerce. But they were met with widespread protests that included not only free speech advocates but many of the biggest Internet companies. The bills PIPA and SOPA bills were intended to combat the theft of copyrighted materials by preventing American search engines like Google and Yahoo from directing users to sites that allow for the distribution of stolen materials.
They would have cut off payment processors like PayPal that handle transactions. The bills would also have allowed private citizens and companies to sue to stop what they believed to be theft of protected content. The opposition led sponsors of the bills to reconsider a measure that would have forced Internet service providers to block access to Web sites that offer or link to copyrighted material. In January 2012, the Obama administration said that it strongly opposed central elements of the bills all but killing them as they were.
In its statement, the White House said any proposed legislation “must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet. ” Parts of the bills that provided for filtering or blocking through the Domain Name System — the Internet’s address book — could drive users to unreliable routes through and around the blocked sites, the White House said. That would “pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. Under the proposed legislation, if a copyright holder like Warner Brothers discovered that a foreign site was focused on offering illegal copies of songs or movies, it could seek a court order that would require search engines like Google to remove links to the site and require advertising companies to cut off payments to it. Internet companies feared that because the definitions of terms like “search engine” are so broad in the legislation, Web sites big and small could be responsible for monitoring all material on their pages for potential violations — an expensive and complex challenge.
They said they support present law, which requires Web sites with copyright-infringing content to take it down if copyright holders ask them to, leaving the rest of the site intact. Google, which owns YouTube and other sites, received five million requests to remove content or links in 2011, and says it acts in less than six hours if it determines that the request is legitimate. The major players supporting the legislation, including the United States Chamber of Commerce and the Motion Picture Association of America, say those measures are not enough to protect intellectual property.
They emphasize that their primary targets are foreign Web sites that sell counterfeit goods and let people stream and download music and video at no charge — sites that are now largely out of reach of United States law enforcement. And they are fighting against what they characterize as gimmicks and distortions by Internet companies opposed to the bills. Most people in the tech world agree that the problem of piracy needs to be addressed.
But they say their main concern is that the tech industry had little influence on the language of the legislation, which is still in flux and so broadly worded that it is not entirely clear how Internet businesses would be affected. Big Internet companies say the bills could prevent entire Web sites from appearing in search results – even if the sites operate legally and most content creators want their videos or music to appear there.
Online Protests In November, Tumbler rigged a tool that “censored” the page its users see when they log into the site, explained the legislation and routed them to contact information for their representatives in Congress. The stunt resulted in 80,000 calls to legislators in a three-day period. In the broader Jan. 18. protest, anyone visiting Google and many other Web sites was directed to pages detailing the tech industry’s opposition to the bills.
Some who opposed the bill, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online rights group, saw a bright spot in a potential compromise called the OPEN Act, which would provide for the International Trade Commission to judge cases of copyright or trademark infringement. If the commission found that a foreign site was largely devoted to piracy, it could compel payment processors and online advertising companies to stop doing business with it.
Silicon Valley has championed companies that provide alternatives to piracy, like Spotify and Netflix. And the industry says that the problem could be solved by letting it do what it does best — innovating. Offline Arrests On Jan. 19, federal authorities announced that they had charged seven people connected to the Web site Megaupload, including its founder, with running an international criminal enterprise centered on copyright infringement on the Internet.
According to a grand jury indictment, Megaupload – one of the most popular “locker” services on the Internet, which lets users anonymously transfer large files – generated $175 million in income for its operators through subscription fees and advertising, while causing $500 million in damages to copyright holders. Four of the seven people, including the site’s founder Kim Dotcom, born Kim Schmitz, were arrested in New Zealand, the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation said; the three others remain at large.
The seven – who a grand jury indictment calls part of a “Mega Conspiracy” – were charged with five counts of copyright infringement and conspiracy, the authorities said. Mr. Dotcom and three others arrested in New Zealand appeared in court Jan. 20 and were denied bail. Extradition proceedings are underway. Government agencies said the charges represented “among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States. The arrests were greeted almost immediately with digital Molotov cocktails. The hacker collective that calls itself Anonymous attacked the Web sites of the United States Justice Department and several major entertainment companies and trade groups in retaliation for the seizure of Megaupload. Attempting to Find Common Ground The highly publicized fight over the SOPA and PIPA bills threw a spotlight on the disconnect between the Internet industry and the media giants of Hollywood and New York.
Despite full-court lobbying by big players like the Motion Picture Association of America, lawmakers abandoned the bills after tech companies and groups, along with ordinary Internet users, mounted a frenzy of protests, saying the bills would hurt Internet freedom and innovation. Now the challenge is for the two sides to find common ground on how to combat the piracy problem — though they can’t even come to terms on how big a problem it is. In a letter in December 2011 announcing its support for stronger antipiracy legislation, the Motion Picture Association of America said that “$58 billion is lost to the U.
S. economy annually due to content theft, including more than 373,000 lost American jobs, $16 billion in lost employees’ earnings, plus $3 billion in badly needed federal, state and local governments’ tax revenue. ” Many outside the industry are skeptical of its analysis. In February 2012, Public Knowledge, a digital rights group, pulled together a coalition of more than 70 tech companies and advocacy groups, including Amnesty International, Consumers Union, Reddit and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that sent a letter to Congress calling for lawmakers to rethink their approach. Now is the time for Congress to take a breath, step back, and approach the issues from a fresh perspective,” the letter said. It urged Congress to quantify the extent of piracy and its economic effects “from accurate and unbiased sources, and weigh them against the economic and social costs of new copyright legislation. ” Some in the Internet world go so far as to question whether illegitimate downloading and sharing is such a bad thing.
In fact, some say that it could even be a boon to artists and other creators. That free flow of information, media companies worry, is making consumers accustomed to getting something for nothing. Privately, several senior media executives said technology companies wanted to devalue copyrighted media content because it ultimately benefited the technology companies’ business. Media companies have no plans to immediately revisit the antipiracy legislation.
Instead, several entertainment executives said they planned to reorganize and have talked to labor unions, pharmaceutical companies and other backers of the legislation about a unified message so the antipiracy and anticounterfeiting movement was not just associated with Hollywood. These executives, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the issue is so heated, also said they wanted to look at how they could better harness the Web to educate the public about piracy, something they admitted they failed to do the first time around.