The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) is fairly a firm means in trying to deal with a complex online legal subject. But since the web encompasses worldwide jurisdictions, copyright laws in every country are different. What is considered stealing in my country may be viewed differently in other states.
The Copyright Law and the Copyright Holders
The copyright law basically encourages websites and Internet Service Providers to cooperate with the copyright holders (individuals or companies) to give copyrighted materials a protection. In exchange of their cooperation, websites and ISPs are given protection, too, from copyright infringement allegations. It is highly important to understand the doctrine of DCMA because if one day you decide to put content (article, photo, video, artwork, etc.) online, you need to understand the benefits and potential harm it can bring you. Some people obey the law; some strongly oppose unto it. Let’s discuss the positive and negative aspects of the copyright law.
Pro #1: Copyright protects everyone’s creative work
One of the strong points of U.S. copyright law is that it automatically protects all creative works as soon as your company posted them online. Contrary to popular belief, copyright is not an exclusive privilege. Any content that is covered with copyright law receives restricted security as soon as it is placed in a preset format. The DCMA does not require companies to indicate a copyright notice on the content to protect their ownership because content made after 1989 is automatically copyrighted. These protections are useful when it comes to restraining intellectual property theft, but they have limitations. The copyright law does not allow companies (where you entrusted your content) to request punitive damages if any of your creations are infringed.
Pro #2: Copyright law shelter artists
The copyright law was conceived to defend the intellectual property of people in creative sectors. Present legislation endows companies with a clear-cut and direct tactic in dealing with breach of exclusive rights in a civil setting, where they have to present only the burden of proof – as compared to proof beyond a reasonable doubt as in criminal procedures – that the copyright was breached. When artists see that their work is being circulated online, and no single cent goes back to them, the production of the next creative work would be debilitated because of lack of funds. With the copyright law, they can simply address a letter to, say Facebook, and ask to remove the information from the site.
Pro #3: Action is immediate
Perhaps one of the best things if your work is registered with U.S Copyright Office is the quick action on infringement notice you impose. For an instance, you caught a copy of your short film on a blog, and you send a notice to U.S. Copyright Office about it, the said office will send a court sanction to infringing party that commands them to close down publication of the work in question right away. Since the action is immediate, it can prevent further losses due to copyright infraction.
Con #1: Extended protection require fees
Basic protection does not include the privilege of punitive damages. In order for companies to gain an option to seek punitive compensation for any infringement, they must register the content through the U.S Copyright Office. And the materials need to be enlisted individually along with appropriate documents, meaning the company must pay for a registration fee as low as $35 or as high as $220. If you are a writer and want to gain extended protection for all of your 30 articles, you have to pay relatively large fees to get it done. While this perfectly works for conglomerates with multi-million dollar earnings, registering plenty of creative works can be time-consuming and costly for small companies.
Con #2: Expensive to implement
In real life, small businesses and individuals have neither the time nor the funds to sue or fight copyright claims. This course requires legal representation and everyone are aware how expensive attorney’s fees are. Small copyright owners might not afford a lawyer in the long run, and a small defendant might not have the means to contest an infringement lawsuit from a large company. Given that the breach of copyright is open for the entire world to see, would anyone spend so much time and money doing so? Unless your song is registered under Warner Music, it is very unlikely that a civil proceeding will occur.
Con #3: Abuse and ambiguity
Intellectual property rights are ambiguous and can be interpreted in various ways. Although many areas enclosed by U.S. copyright law are direct ad upfront, by the very character of creativity, some issues are uncertain and open to analysis. Notions such as the fair exercise of policy and differentiating derivative creations from original works are not clearly described, and they must be determined by a jury or a judge on a case-by-case basis. Because of this, every now and then a company that holds copyrighted piece spends time and cash in chasing its case, only to find out in the end that the material was not infringing by the court’s description. Also, when copyright law came into the scene, individuals, parties and companies started to use the law as a sledge hammer against posting of creative content that is really not infringing anyone’s intellectual property rights. Since website can steer clear of being sued if they shut down the supposedly offending material, they tend to do so even if there are false claims to copyright infringement.
Some argues that when your original work is being copied and shared over the Internet, it is also a form of marketing on your works. Instead of focusing on the losses from smaller sales, unknown artists prefer their work to be shared a hundred or thousand times and gain a follower/fan/admirer of their materials. This alone encourages them to create more content. While others, who are very protective of their pieces, consider sharing without permission as an act of intellectual property theft. Views on copyright infringement vary from company to company and from artist to artist.
In conclusion, what works for one artist may not help another one. The copyright law, the way I see it, is essentially a reasonably novel effort to deal with an “easier said than done” subject. The law has pros and cons. Therefore, the lawmakers should try to highlight the positive aspects and eliminate the negative ones.