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.