There is a misconception among Internet users that terrestrial copyright laws do not apply on the Internet (Page 4 of 5)

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IBM for example has developed a watermarking system that was first used at the Vatican Library. The watermark has the benefit that it is very difficult to remove and is instantly recognisable. In an attempt to combat "Digital counterfeiters", one technique created by Digimarc Corp. (2001) allows copyrighted information about the creator of an image to be embedded within an image in such a way that it cannot be seen with the naked eye but may be revealed using software (Abernethy & Allen, 1999).

The unfortunate aspect of these measures is that they make no distinction between unlawful users and those that wish to use material in the name of fair-trading. It's unfortunate that legitimate users should be prevented from using copyrighted work in this way but because of the ease in which copies of work can be made, these measures are deemed necessary. Not only is the extraction of copyrighted work from web sites a cause for concern but the uploading of illegal copies of work to web sites has also caused problems.

Although not UK-related, a US case involving online auction giant, eBay illustrates the point. In 2000, eBay Inc. won what it called a "precedent-setting" court victory when a federal judge ruled that the auctioneer had not infringed copyright when bootleg copies of a Charles Manson documentary were sold using its site (Nando Times, 2001). The site did facilitate in the sale of the pirated DVDs and videotapes but as Jay Monahan, eBay's associate counsel for intellectual property stated: "the court clearly says a company like eBay is not required to proactively monitor its site looking for infringing content." The judge said that the case was the first of its kind to test whether web sites were a "safe harbour" for people wishing to sell goods that infringed copyright (Bergstein, 2001).

Thus it can be seen, the misconceptions surrounding copyright on the Internet have resulted in many disputes and the proliferation in Internet use indicates the problems will only be exacerbated in future. It seems there is much ambiguity over what constitutes copyright infringement and what doesn't. Businesses would do well to err on the side of caution when considering such actions as deep linking. With companies becoming increasingly protective of their intellectual property, it is inevitable that in the future the issue of copyright will dominate the headlines more and more, challenging the boundless concept of how the Internet was originally conceived. Nimmo, commenting on the outcome of the Shetland Times v Shetland News case, summed the situation up well: "Victory for the protection of copyright" but a "blow for freedom on the Internet".

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Publication Date: Monday 14th July, 2003
Author: Ukwdc View profile

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