We Need Robust Copyright Laws Now More Than Ever

The amendment to the US copyright law titled the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998” is credited for bringing intellectual property and copyright issues to the fore. The primary purpose of the amendment is to balance the needs of creators with those of the consumers and related business owners.

Contrary to popular controversy and myth, the law enjoys significant support from the corporate world as well as the entertainment industry. This includes authors, artists, business owners, corporate executives as well as lawmakers and enforcement agencies. This includes the broadcast, recording, motion pictures, publishing industry, and intellectual property organizations.

Vocal opponents to the amendment include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, numerous technology, and media companies under the umbrella of the Consumer Electronics Association, CEA, various education and research groups, libraries, and digital media consumer associations. The opponents are allocating big budgets directly and through lobby forums and umbrella organizations such as the CEA. They argue stricter copyright laws are hurting creativity, innovation, and American businesses.

Benefits of Stronger Copyright Law

Proponents, on the other hand, believe stronger laws deliver just that; increased creativity and trade. The law has also stoked heated debate revolving around the business models in the entertainment industry. The divide seems to pit creators and authors on the one side with technology providers taking the opposite end. The truth is that a healthy working relationship between the two is more profitable than any single side.

The current copyright law is stronger than ever before. It aims to streamline copyright issues in the face of digital and emerging technologies. The courts and law enforcement systems have a precedence of supporting the entertainment industry and copyright owners. With the advent of the global online village and emergent technologies, stronger copyright laws have become more important than before.

Inventions demand massive amounts of investments in time, energy and finances. Technology makes it easier to create impactful creations at a fraction of the cost. Many startups with great innovations are left at the mercy of their big-money competitors. This has been argued to kill innovation and the growth of new businesses.

The Future of Innovation

Getting rid of the patent and copyrights systems has been proven to have detrimental effects on the economic development of the industry and creativity. In the same manner, suggestions to adopt “sampling” as a business model in the media industry have failed to take off.

Stronger copyright laws reduce disputes arising from flawed patents. Updates and amendments to the existing law remain the best option for both the industry players and consumers. Creative content frameworks must align themselves with the needs of the industry. They must also protect the innovation space and promote creativity.

However, there is ample room for change. The Copyright Office frequently updates the list of exceptions to the law. Researchers, librarians and mobile device users have welcomed some of the significant exceptions to the law affected in 2006. Strong copyright law encourages innovation. It empowers creators with a source of living. It protects startups and their innovations, which are critical to the success of their business models.

Kopimi as a Religion

Kopimi is an online project that promotes a free internet. The movement campaigns against government control of the internet as well as the effects of intellectual and copyright laws on free content sharing on the web. It employs disruptive awareness campaigns. These have earned it recognition in Sweden as a religious community. Followers believe in their fundamental right to create, copy, and distribute online digital content. This includes media files, broadcasts, and software.

Kopimi was established as a response to counter the efforts of the Anti-Piracy Bureau. The Anti-Piracy Bureau aims to crack down on piracy. It has been credited with numerous successes of litigating against copyright violations in the movie and gaming industries. Kopimi is part of The Pirate Bureau, a Swedish group opposed to intellectual property and online copyright laws. The movement is behind the highly successful online file sharing site, The Pirate Bay.

Like all Kopimi stories, the origin of the religious angle has a funny twist. In a media interview, the lawyer for the proponents of online copyright law referred to file-sharing advocates as a “cult.” This gave the founders the idea to register the movement as a religious outfit. The church had just separated from the state in Sweden, and religious reform was in the air. Religious groups including Kopimi now enjoy numerous protections and advantages.

The Emergence of Kopimism as a Religion

The project borrows from the structure of religious organizations, specifically the Catholic Church. This includes the confidentiality and secrecy associated with communications between the Catholic followers and their priests. The idea to call the movement a church then went viral. Thus, Kopimism as a religion or the Church of Kopimism was born.

After several attempts, the movement was finally registered as a religious organization in 2012. It had an initial informal membership of around three thousand followers. Official recognition of the movement as a church did not yield tangible benefits. However, it strengthened the group’s identity and made it easier to mobilize new members.

Adherents believe in the freedom to copy and paste. The registration is seen as a big win in the battle against online copyright laws. It attracted a lot of media attention giving more mileage to the activists. The movement advances the philosophical belief that information including online content should be freely shared without restrictions.

The Founding Of Kopimism and Its Future

Isak Gerson founded Kopimism. The sincerity of the founder and the cult-like following of adherents have continued to drive the ideology and promote its cause. Kopimism mashes its values, ideology, and structures with heavy influences from the Holy Catholic Church. This includes adapting its slogan from a Bible quote. “Copy me, just as I copy Christ himself,” is derived from a Bible verse contained in 1 Corinthians 11:1.

The movement continues to build a strong online reputation, especially on social media. Kopimism continues to grow. It currently boasts of a presence in more than twenty countries around the world including the US. The movement is affiliated to The Pirate Party, a political party in Sweden. It drives its ideology through the political party, which supports the reform of copyright and patent laws.

Introduction and History of Copyright Law in the US

The US has an old and well-established copyright law framework. It dates back to 1790. It has undergone several updates notably in 1831, 1863, 1909 and 1976. Recently it has been revised in 1988, 1992 and 1994. Equally important is the 1998 amendment to the US copyright law. It caught the global spotlight for criminalizing digital copyright violations as well as introducing hefty penalties for the violations.

Additionally, the revision also exempted service providers from copyright and licensing violations made by their users. The amendment is called “Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.” You could go to prison for infringing on digital and online copyrights or assist in bypassing their management.

Copyright law is aimed at promoting the arts. The law recognizes authors, artists, inventors and other creators of original works and designs. The law protects their works. It empowers them to find markets for their products. The law also protects their rights to benefit financially from their creations. Under the law, creators can remodel their creations without requiring consultation. The emphasis of the copyright law is on promoting the creations rather than enabling financial gain for the creators.

How It Works

Copyright law supports the growth of the arts and sciences. It protects creators by granting them exclusive rights to their creations for a limited period. Such rights include the authority to copy, remodel or rewrite, publish and distribute their creations. It also empowers authors and artists to display and perform their works publicly. In addition, they have the rights to transmit them digitally.

These rights can be transferred and licensed out by the copyright holder. The licenses normally consist of specific rights, which are outlined in written agreements. Creators also retain the right to cancel a transfer or license of copyrighted works. These exclusive rights typically apply up to seventy years after the death of the creator. The policy of fair use allows the restricted use of some degree of copyrighted works for well-defined purposes.

Registration or publication is not a requirement for protection. However, it serves to enhance the visibility of an invention. All original creations including those that are not registered or published are protected under the law. Moreover, it is not mandatory for copyrighted works to carry copyright notices. Registration of copyrights is done under the Copyright Office. It is the work of federal law enforcement agencies to adjudicate violation cases.

What Does Copyright Law Protect?

What kind of creations is covered under the law? Copyright law covers audio and sound recordings, video, photographs, graphic design, and sculptures. It also protects literary works, musicals and dramas, choreography, architecture as well as compilations.

The most common form of copyright violation involves duplicating the original creation for financial gain. Using someone else’s creations by copying, creating similar products or distributing constitutes a violation. A copyright owner can stop a violator from using their work and obtain financial damages.

While the innovative use of ideas is protected, ideas and facts themselves are not. They are part of free speech under the First Amendment. In the same way, things such as titles, names, phrases, fonts, and fashion as well as federal government materials are exempt from copyrights

Does the Copyright Law Need To Be Tweaked?

Copyright was introduced into society as a way to promote learning in the year 1790. By protecting the authors of books, maps, and charts; these documents could then be mass produced and used in a large scale educational system. This simultaneously benefitted and paid a tribute to the creators of these works. Much about our society and the way people communicate has changed in 200+ years. This evolution is the catalyst of our current question; do copyright laws need to be tweaked?

History of Copyright Law

In 1976, the old copyright laws of the late 1700’s were no longer serving the creators of original works of art. As the old laws covered only a tiny fragment of original individual works, new laws were needed to encompass all forms of individual expression and technical skill. The laws were broadened to include all works of art in all mediums of expression. The new laws also deemed that the copyrights would be passed down to the descendants of artists so that heirs would receive all benefits and ownership of copyrighted material. The new laws of 1976 caused a surge in the production of artistic materials and individual wealth. This was due to the ownership and protection rights granted by the alterations. The new laws even covered mediums of expression that did not exist at the time, such as online photography, digital music, and software.

Modern Copyright Evolution

The world has changed dramatically as we become saturated with new methods of creating and sharing material through the internet. Problems now present themselves in the area of copyright boundaries. This is due to the abundance of available copyrighted material and the laws which do not provide a clear understanding of what constitutes as the infringement of copyright law. “Fair Use” is a term that protects artists who use others creations to create works of their own. Examples of “Fair Use” are music samples used in a rap album and the story elements of which parodies are based on. Laws that draw the boundaries of “Fair Use” are clouded and unclear. Many times, an artist is unsure of whether they are breaking the law until they reach the end of a court battle. Difficulties also present themselves as people use content on the internet to fuel works of their own. A blogger may use an image from a google search to help express their writing and infringe upon copyright law in the process. Due to the accessibility of copyrighted material and a general ignorance of the subject, many people find themselves on the end of a losing battle due to the lack of clear boundaries.

Copyright Law is one of the most valuable foundations that has empowered and protected artists today. It has provided a way for individuals to create work, maintain ownership, and benefit from the use and circulation of their creations. As the world evolves, so must the laws with it. Intelligence, after all, is the ability to adapt.

Copyright Protection for Derivative Works

Copyrighting a derivative work means to use the main theme of a creation or to use something original and significant from someone else’s work, that is interwoven into a creation of your own. Derivatives may take many forms. They may include music, software, art, novels, and technology. There are many rules that define what a “Derivative Work” is and also some loopholes that allow a certain amount of play within the field. Let’s take a closer look to identify where these boundaries are.

What Constitutes as a Derivative?

A derivative is a creation spun from the foundations of another’s creation. For example, if someone were to copy the major themes of Harry Potter, but changed the characters, locations, and institutions, this would be a derivative work. Likewise, if someone wrote a completely different story, but used J.K. Rowling’s foundational creations, such as Hogwarts, in their story, this would also be a derivative work. Music is much the same but follows slightly different rules since music is written in a different language. Many matching chord progressions are used in thousands of songs, yet these songs are much different. Items like music need to show originality in their creation in order to bypass the possibility of a derivative copyright infraction. Software needs to show that its origins were of a personal nature, and not the copy of someone else property.

The “Fair Use” of Derivatives

There are certain situations that permit the copy of another’s work, but they are limited to scenarios on which a creation based off of another’s work does not steal, but educates, informs or entertains in the case of parodies. Writing a book review would duplicate the original storylines but not so in a way that would discredit the original author. Scholarly articles also may replicate another’s work for education purposes. Parodies are the closest one can get to create a derivative work without crossing the legal boundary of copyright protection. Though it may pull almost all the material from the original author, a parody does so in a way that admits it to be a copy, made with the personal touch of a new creator.

Creating Legal Derivatives

To create a legal Derivative work, you need the copyright holder’s permission to do so. To use an earlier example, perhaps you created a story that takes place in the world of J.K. Rowling’s, Hogwarts Academy. You would need written consent of this author to publish such a novel. She will provide guidelines by which you may use her world. She may insist on co-authoring, require a financial trade, or she may simply just give you permission.

It is important when creating new material to be original or to acknowledge those whom may have inspired your storyline with tangible, identifiable and copyrighted material. Cases in which derivative materials have been discovered have turned out poorly for the authors of the offending work. Creating material from another’s inspirations is fine, but make sure to protect yourself by getting permission, complying with guidelines and giving credit where it is due.

Kopimi: The Pirates behind the Pirate Bay

The Pirate Bay is a file sharing platform established in 2003 in Sweden. The platform hosts online indices of digital media and software. It enables users to search, download and share links to media files. The platform is based on the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing framework. It is part of a larger online project dubbed Kopimi. Besides The Pirate Bay, the Kopimi project also includes BayWords, BayImg, PasteBay, and Slopsbox.

Kopimi and the Pirate Bay

The name Kopimi is an innovative twist on the phrase “copy me.” It alludes to the operating mantra of enabling consumers and users to copy available files freely without worrying about intellectual property and copyright regulations. The online movement advocates for the free sharing and distribution of information. This is free from state control through intellectual and copyright laws.

The project started out as a think-tank to provide digitization and file-sharing options. This was in response to increased anti-piracy activism by the proponents of stronger copyright laws. The platform was developed under the auspices of the Pirate Bureau, a Swedish think tank with a focus on free content sharing and distribution.

Kopimi supports a free internet. It encourages fans and enthusiasts to display the Kopimi project logos on their websites as well as online content. This signifies that the owners do not mind their content being copied and distributed freely on the internet.

Activism and Riding the Controversies

The Pirate Bay is run by three proponents of a free and unregulated internet. These include Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde, and Fredrik Neij. The platform has weathered many storms with dignity. It is famous for publicly posting threats and accusations from copyright protection organizations as well as their written responses to the threats. They are quick to defend their position. The Pirate Bay has grown stronger from each legal claim made against it.

In 2006, their operations center was raided by Swedish police. The police confiscated trucks of information technology equipment from the center. In typical resilience, the site bounced back on the third day and setup a fully operational control center in the Netherlands. This mobilized fanatical support for the site with unprecedented media coverage. They then moved their operations back to Sweden.

In 2009, the three founders were found guilty of aiding and abetting copyright violations. They were heavily fined and sentenced to a year in jail each. The publicity around the platform continues to increase. This, in turn, increases the number of supporters. It is currently estimated to have over four million registered users and steadily climbing.

The Pirate Bay Continues to Drive Free Content Sharing

Consequently, the site has had to contend with numerous domain seizures and a shutdown of its public website; all of which it has successfully survived and continues to thrive.

Despite the legal and operations challenges, The Pirate Bay remains resilient. It has revamped its offline and online presence and continues to grow its fan base. This is through bold and definite action and reiterating its position on online copyright issues. It is still the leading anti-copyright crusader. The platform remains a key point for proponents of free content.

Photography and Copyright Law

We usually think of copyright law pertaining to words. We are all familiar with plagiarism and it is common sense not to steal another person’s writing. Few people, however, understand that images are also grounds for copyright infringement and that illegal use of these images can result in lawful and monetary consequences. Let’s take a look at the meaning of copyright, it’s relation to photography, and how best to use photos within legal boundaries.

What is copyright?

Copyright is a term that defines the ownership of intellectual and artistic material. Basically, this means all forms and mediums of artistic expression such as software, music, architecture, and photographs. It is easy to see why copyright exists. A photographer possesses a skill that they provide to a community. Using their work without adhering to copyright law is a form of stealing something from somebody else, as a means to promote your own wellbeing. There are many ways to work within copyright law and still achieve your goals. Let’s take a look at these methods.

Using Copyrighted Images

It is smart to assume that all images are copyright protected. This assures that you always take the proper steps to link photographs and acknowledge sources. Linking a source means that “clicking” the photo directs you to the source of the photo. Providing source acknowledgment means that you have taken the steps necessary to ‘pay credit’ to the owner of borrowed property in your material. It is the same concept that differentiates plagiarism, from the quoted material of an acknowledged source. That being said, using a copyrighted image, even when sourced, may still violate the copyright. To safely use images, it is important to get permission from the copyright owner or utilize a creative commons license.

Using Products under Creative Commons Licenses (CC)

A Creative Commons license is an agreement that specifies how an image may be used by a third party. CC’s are original documents that differ from one another. Some CC’s may allow you to use photographs in your blog, but not allow you to publish the photo in a book. A CC may be used in some instances without paying a dime for the material. But certain restrictions within a CC may not allow you to; for example, publish their photo in a magazine.

Stock Photo Agencies

A stock photo agency is a good way to purchase a CC license, which allows you access to a wide variety of photos, to be used in a manner that is deemed appropriate by the agreements in the CC license. Using a stock agency does not give you ownership of the material, but instead, grants you the right to use the material.

Using Copyright Images

In some instances, it is easier or necessary to get permission from a copyright owner, before you use their work. Although a photographer may have taken the picture, the owner may be the company they work for. It is always necessary to make sure you’re communicating with the copyright owner of the image before you can be sure that you have permission. Treating all images as copyright protected is a safe way to use photographs in your material while ensuring that you remain within legal boundaries.

What about the Copyright Week?

Copyright is a system that protects a creator’s expression through all mediums and includes but is not limited to software, art, data, and music. It is designed as a barrier to people who would copy a work they didn’t create or steal a product, such as a movie. Copyright law, like all good things, has the ability to be misused. It can become a barrier to innovation and de-rail the rights of ownership. It can also be twisted to benefit big business or a select group of people that it was never intended to serve. Copyright Week was created to celebrate the freedom that copyright laws offer us, but more importantly, it is a tool that draws attention to the misuse of copyright and unites people in a mission to dismantle laws that propagate unethical behaviors and business practices.

Protecting Ownership

The digital age has opened many doors for the unethical use of copyright. Many companies have created barriers to ownership, like the software in the items that we purchase. For instance, a farmer buys a tractor, and this machine functions from a central mainframe computer. The software controls harvesting, engine function, and operation. Farmers are notorious for working on their own equipment. New laws state that while the farmers did purchase the tractor, they did not purchase the software and thus may not alter it in any way. This is a direct violation of ownership and an unethical method to profit on farmers by creating a small market of mechanics that can work on these machines that profit the company that sells them. Many battles are waged over smartphones, computers and similar products.

Transparency

Copyright law is a protective system that needs to be communicated clearly and implemented in a way that is easily understandable. There are many practices that attempt to enact copyright law in a method that resembles a landmine. In other words, violators are unaware that they have infringed on copyright law until it’s too late. Laws that are designed this way are made to benefit corporations by persecuting unwary violators and profiting off of the legal ramifications of copyright infringement. Copyright Week exists to stand against this behavior.

Standing against Censorship

Copyright can be used in an unethical manner to censor the information that communities, demographics, and entire countries have access to. Copyright law is designed to benefit humanity, promote creativity, and fuel innovation. Copyright Week takes a stand against the censoring of information.

Promoting Circulation, Not Stagnation

Innovation is the ability to take something that is good and make it better. Innovation is the reason that we have access to the luxuries we do today. People have repeatedly improved upon others designs to make systems that are more efficient than their predecessors. Copyright Week takes a stand against laws that limit creativity, stagnate innovation and constrict forward motion. While protecting a creation from abuse is important; limiting our ability to question, refine, and alter property is a limit that handicaps progress.

Copyright Week is a celebration of a system that protects our property while also providing a platform that allows communities to unite and demonstrate a powerful and positive change in the world. It is vital that we have the means with which we may blow a whistle on poor legislation and unethical conduct. The world and its people are always changing, Copyright Week ensures that we can influence this evolution in a way that benefits society and protects the well-being of its communities.

Same Kind of Questions: AI and Copyright

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly evolving down a path that requires less input from humans and makes more decisions based on algorithms that mimic the way the human mind thinks. In times past, AI processes directly reflected the programmer’s input. But now, decisions are based on complex data input that is weighed by a preference for certain decisions based on current conditions. It’s easy to see how robotic actions are no longer just a product of mindless programming.

AI and Copyright

There now exist robots that are able to construct detailed portraits based on data gathered from Renaissance art, compose music and write journalistic articles for news outlets. This raises a concern for those invested in the field of AI. Is the work of a robot considered grounds on which copyright law is applicable? Copyright protects the original works of individuals. But a robot is not an individual. Regardless of how advanced they may be, robots are still cumbersome devices that use simple methods from programming to make decisions. But maybe now is a good time to begin questioning the copyright boundaries. For those of us who owned the first personal computers of the 90’s, none of us would have guessed that a product of 100X the power could fit into the palm of our hand by the first decade of the 21st century.

AI and Copyright Infringement

Another question breeches the surface of robots, in their current stages of development, use human works of art to base their own creations. If a robot uses portraits of copyrighted human creations to make its own art, is that not an infringement of copyright law? There is a fuzzy line where debates ask the question; is a robot an individual creator as covered by copyright law, and what is to be said of their creations? If a robot uses musical algorithms based on the work of others to create a composition and violates the boundaries of copyright, is the robot to blame? This leads to further inquiries that question the responsibility of a robots creator. As these machines are beginning to make more and more decisions on their own, who is responsible?

The science of consciousness is still in its infant stages of understanding. We do not know how to replicate sentience, nor do we know where it originates from. That being said, as AI evolves at a full-throttle pace, goals that seem to be far off, may actually be realities of the near future. Questions that ask the responsibility and credibility of AI creations help us to organize how AI fits into society, what we expect of them, and where we draw the lines of respect, credibility, and responsibility.