Intellectual Property Law
Internet & interactive Media Law
The growth and widespread usage of the internet has given our society many advantages. We now have a myriad of resources and information readily available when needed. This not only saves us time and effort but also contributes to the productivity and education of our society. When it comes to intellectual property, however, the internet has presented IP owners with certain challenges.
On any given day, the average person probably spends at least thirty minutes on the web, whether they’re surfing Facebook or watching cat videos on YouTube. But when was the last time you considered whether that video of you and your friends performing choreography to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” was actually legal?
The widespread use of the internet by masses of people across the globe has contributed significantly to instances of copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and defamation. Since the internet did not come into common usage until the 1990’s, laws pertaining to the internet are fairly new and constantly evolving. As courts make decisions on cases, those decisions set legal precedents that can be applied to future cases.
A great deal of Internet Law cases fall under Trademark and Copyright infringement laws. Many of these laws were published well before the advent of the internet. For example, cases of Trademark infringement, everything from false advertising to cybersquatting, is covered by the Lanham or Trademark Act, codified at 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq. However, because the Lanham Act was enacted in 1946, in recent years, laws more tailored to handling the modern internet have passed, including anti-Cyberpiracy protection codified at 15 U.S. Code § 8131.
Copyright infringement consumes endless hours of website monitors attempting to protect the rights of artists and musicians, as well as authors and reporters. The concept of “Fair Use” allows for copyrighted material to be used without explicit permission in a minimal way. For the most part, any usage which is not-for profit, especially for educational purposes is permitted. Other factors, including the amount of material “copied” and the nature of that copied material is also considered. Some professionals have almost free rein with materials, including comedians, teachers, reporters, and other critics. In their case, they review the material and generate new material from the original source, rather than purely profiting off of someone else’s work.
“Fair Use” was made into law in the 1976 Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 106A. “Fair Use” as applies to the internet was established in the Amendment to 17 U.S.C, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1988 (DMCA). The DMCA primarily extended Fair Use protections to internet service providers and website hosts who have limited control over their users. This concept is called “Safe Harbor” in that the websites are not held responsible for users copyright infringements, unless they were fully aware and fully permitted the infringements. See Viacom Inc. v. YouTube, Google Inc.