Copyright

Internet users and creators threaten copyright's domain when they claim it does not carry over into cyberspace. They, the copyright haters, hold that the Internet should be an open for for the free exchange of ideas and information, including music. Even if the copyrights to this music are not owned by the RIAA, even if it is not copyrighted at all, the RIAA, as a copyright lover, takes a defensive position and overcompensates. To the industry, the Internet is a new market they cannot afford not to exploit. The RIAA has managed to turn the intentions of Internet creators and users on their heads. When some began to say that all of the music on the Net should be copyright free, the music industry demanded an expansion of copyright laws and an expanded means of enforcing those laws. It seems as though they are getting their way, too. The ongoing expansion may not stop with the Internet music either. Some fear that we will soon notice more copyright enforcement in regular CDs as well.

The Copyright Lovers

The formation of SDMI (the Secure Digital Music Iniative), the use of watermarking, new legislation that has been before Congress, and the settlement between Diamond Multimedia and the RIAA are all evidence that the music industry seems to be gaining headway in their campaign to expand and strengthen copyright laws and their enforcement. With SDMI and the placement of technological security devices in MP3 files and players, the industry would be able to track and limit how many copies ones makes, preventing consumers from owning a player that does not meet their specifications, and preventing others from hacking into MP3 files. All of this seems to be an attempt to ensure that the copyright holder, i.e., the record companies, receive royalties.

Congress seems to support this effort. Legislation has been proposed which would prohibit "making or using any device that can evade any copy protection" (Mann part 3, 5). If such a law passed, it would be impossible for any group to not comply with the RIAA and the SDMI specifications if they wanted their music tho be heard. Some, such as Adam Eisgrau of ALA and Pamela Sammuelson, a law professor at Berkeley, "believe that the proposed legislation is more sweeping than needed" to protect copyright (Mann part 3, 5). Intellectual property is now a major issue in legislation (Mann part 1, 3), but because the music industry has more money and power than the opposition it seems likely that Congress will continue to make laws in their favor. James Boyle says that the problem with the legislation is that "there's no movement to contract copyright terms or increase fair use." It is all in support of safeguarding copyrights (Mann part 3, 7).

Moreover, the case against Diamond Multimedia proves that the RIAA is willing to use legal force to make other businesses comply with SDMI specifications. Again, in the settlement Diamond Multimedia agreed to join SDMI.

The Copyright Haters

The desire for open access to information on the Internet seems to arise from what Ronald Bettig calls "the hacker ethic" (Bettig 237). "The hacker ethic is based on the sharing of computer programs and information" (Betig 237). Because program writing requires the contributions of more than one person, hackers developed an appreciation for sharing. This is true in the production of art as well as music. If artists or musicians do happen to do everything themselves, they are at least highly indebted to those who came before them (Bettig 239). Barlow seems to come from a similar set of beliefs. He holds that because the Internet is an entirely new medium, users need and entirely new economic model that is more appropriate. Copyright only applies to "physical representations" according to 17 U.S.C. section 102(6) (Rosenblatt). Barlow argues that the Internet is a realm of ideas, not physical representations and therefore, copyright has no place on the Internet.

The Copyright Paradox

Charles Mann notes that these two positions are reactions to a key paradox surrounding digital technology and copyright: "even as digital technology drives the potential value of copyright to ever greater heights, that same technology threatens to make it next to worthless" (Mann part 1, 3). To take either extreme position is to deny this paradox and turn it into an opposition. History shows that either extreme may lead to either censorship and a constant battle between publishers and pirates (in which the artists are the only ones who lose) or the decline of printed culture. In France the same opposition ruled the thinking of the most influential. Both extreme ideas were put to the test and made law, one after the other, and both failed miserably. The French ended up taking a middle position which seems to have worked. This is a position lawmakers attempt to maintain in the U.S. Another problem created by copyright is that although "copyright law is designed to remedy the market failure of the 'public good,' it causes another type of market failure by creating a monopoly" (Elkin-Koren 3). A middle position seems to be an acceptance of the paradox, and a keeper of the balance between "incentives to create and accessibility of information" (Elkin-Koren 3).

 

 

 

 

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