There is a misconception among Internet users that terrestrial copyright laws do not apply on the Internet (Page 1 of 5)

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With any new technology, there are new issues that are raised. The Internet is no exception. The Internet is the collective term used to describe the international network of computers that store and exchange the data held in file repositories, e-mail applications, mailing and discussion lists, intranets and extranets, Usenet and the World-Wide-Web (WWW). Because the World-Wide-Web (or "Web" as it is colloquially known) is synonymous with the Internet, the two terms are used inter-changeably. An intranet is an internal network that functions essentially like the Internet except access must be authorized, and is protected by a firewall.

The explosive growth in Internet use over the last decade or so has raised issues that have infiltrated into society at a rate and on a scale of unprecedented proportion. Among this vast plethora of issues is that of copyright. Copyright is the legal right that exists to provide protection to the creator of a "work". The purpose of copyright is "to allow creators to gain economic rewards for their efforts and so encourages future creativity and the development of new material which benefits us all" (Intellectual-Property, 2001).

The need for copyright arose inline with the invention of the printing press, when the ability to reproduce written texts became relatively simple. Today the ease at which text and indeed images and sound can be reproduced by computers has become so quick and simple that the laws regarding original ownership are invariably overlooked and has led to the misconception that copyright laws do not apply in the electronic environment. The Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention provide subjects of signatory countries (among them the UK, US and Canada) with automatic copyright protection. It is still useful however, for works published on the Web and on intranets to include the international copyright symbol, followed by the name of the copyright owner and the year of publication. The term, "All Rights Reserved" may also be added. Although not legally necessary, this warning serves as a reminder that protection is in force (The Patent Office, 2000).

Copyright protects any original creation in a material form. The list of what can be protected is endless but the main categories include literary, dramatic, artistic and computer-generated works such as databases. It does not cover ideas, names or titles. Web and intranet pages along with e-mail, computer programmes, and non-electronic written works fall into the category of Literary Works and these are all protected for the duration of the author's life plus 70 years after death or 70 years from date of publication in the case of anonymous/corporate authorship. Anything that is protected by copyright is termed a "work" and under UK law, the works that are published on web pages and intranets are treated in the same manner as non-electronic works.

Copyright, like other possessions can be bought, sold, leased, given away and bequeathed. It is important to remember therefore that the creator of a work is not necessarily the copyright owner. Employees usually waive copyright on any work they produce whilst employed to their employers, likewise so do students unless specifically stated otherwise in contract. The owner of a copyrighted work is granted both economic and moral rights. The economic rights give the copyright owner control over the use of their work; moral rights associate the work with its creator and seek to ensure it is not manipulated, distorted or used out of context (The Patent Office, 2001).

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

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