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Copyrights and the Computer:
Changes to Stop Piracy
Brian Metz
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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In the coming years the entertainment industry has to decide its direction in the issue of copyright protection. In the article "Hollywood vs. the Internet" Mike Godwin takes a look into the future and what decisions could be made on this issue. He examines different schools of thought with one being highly restrictive, which could change how the consumers operate. The Internet and computers are now widely available, so if everyone wanted to pirate music they have the ability to do so. Some type of protection should be in place to help protect the industries right, but hopefully it will not change the way people use the Internet or computers. There is no way to completely eliminate Internet piracy because it is impossible to track all illegal copies and file sharing through computers with the current copyright standards. That is why a change is needed. There are two different sides to this argument, to place restrictions on the digital technology or create new laws that stop illegal copies of media. The protection put in place to stop piracy should not overstep its boundaries and interfere with technology development; adding more stringent copyright laws will not solve the problem. The content faction can use the Internet to help reach more consumers instead of limiting it's power.

There are two different factions in copyright advocacy. The technology side wants measures in place, but they should not restrict the people's use of computers. The other side wants to eliminate illegal copies by taking away a person's abilities to make copies of any media type even though it may not be copyrighted. "The content provider is better positioned than ever to eliminate traditional user privileges"(Band 33). The Internet is at a turning point where it can become completely restricted or allowed to be public domain. If laws are passed to restrict Internet usage, how will they be able to distinguish copyrighted material from uncopyrighted material? A change like that can hurt a person's abilities to use their computer even if they are not trying to make illegal copies.

Some type of action must be taken to help the entertainment industry protect their products from illegal piracy. The amount of video and music piracy has increased as the abilities of the personal computer changed causing industry to change their approach to copyright protection. There is a proposal of a watermark system that "would contain information telling home entertainment system whether to allow copying" (Godwin 174). Taking these measures would give the companies a way to limit the illegal copies of their original product. This concept of a watermark is a good idea but deciding where to implement this protection is another important decision. Should this be a universal restriction where all new technology must have a watermark or it will not work? Or should only the new media such as DVDs or CDs have the new limitation placed on them? These measures would be difficult to implement and would take a large modification to the industry.

If a new copyright system is in place the next logical decisions would be where and to what extent it should be used. There is a major concern that most computers now have access to the Internet and some type of file sharing system. The content faction wants to the limit the capabilities of the computer to prevent the illegal copying of files. "Limiting how they perform their basic functions, means turning them into special-purpose appliances" (Godwin 178). A decision like this could complicate the way people live their lives. This is not a practical application for copyright protection because it would be intrusive and have negative effects on computers abilities. A change to the Internet would be more viable than changing the technology.

Although music is at the foreground of the issue other forms of the media are being copied. "Digital television will be the first battle ground. Unlike DVD movies, which are encrypted on the disk then decrypted every time they're played, digital broadcast television is unencrypted"(Godwin 173). Because of the way television is structured it makes it more difficult to protect the copyrights. People have televisions in their homes and can record it at will with the addition of the Internet there is a simple way to redistribute material illegally. An alteration to the copyright protection would stop piracy of television shows and would require more complicated measures. The signal would have to be encrypted and decrypted by the television receiver, so the encryption would prevent the individual from redistributing the signal. This is an example of how to prevent illegal piracy and not change the quality of the product for the consumer.

Computers are the main issue in copyright protection whether it is the software on a computer or its abilities to reproduce copyrighted material. There are difficult decisions ahead because they should not destroy the technology industry; the changes should be in the realm of the Internet. Because of the new technology "computers are potentially a very efficient copying mechanism, and because the internet is potentially a very efficient distribution mechanism"(Godwin 173). The tools at the disposal of the consumer are far greater today with the advent of new technologies. Computers are more powerful and less expensive, with the addition of CD burners in the last few years it is relatively easy to make copies of media. The major threat for the content industry is that the consumer will disregard copyright laws and steal their products.

Godwin only presents one type of copyrighting system such as the watermark, but less invasive forms of music protection have been created. Pay sites have been created to lawfully distribute music. Advocates of music over the Internet support this because "fans will have no trouble paying for the music they love" (Godwin 173). This is a viable option for companies to use the Internet to their advantage to reach the consumer rather than restricting items on the web. This idea of protected music sites will help companies get revenue from the Internet but the problems of file sharing still exists. The market for pay sites have been increasing so this could be a simple alternative to copyright infringement if illegal file sharing is stopped.

In recent years there have been different laws created to help protect the entertainment industry. " The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) will soon enable content providers to create the pay-per-use environment" (Band 33). This paved the way for pay music sites and other forms of revenue for the entertainment industry through the Internet. This act did not seem to solve the industry's problems. People can still obtain illegal copies, but this act did give the industry a new way to reach consumers. The industry still wants more protection and control over the digital technology and the Internet.

The new laws established will stop some illegal use of copyrighted material. However this will not stop the Internet piracy of an individual because it is unlikely that they will ever be caught. "New laws do not meaningfully address Internet piracy, the content community remains vulnerable to piracy"(Band 34). The restrictions mainly apply to large entities such as businesses and public libraries; there is no real way to catch people with their personal computer because they are too small to notice if a person wants to make an illegal copy. There are too many computers and Internet connections to watch everyone's activities online. This is why the content industry is still calling for more protection of digital devices. Control of digital technology could lead to more restrictions that will hinder the abilities of the consumer's personal computer. .

There is a trend that is starting to limit the digital capacities of new technology. "The DMCA flatly bands almost all circumvention devices even those capable of noninfringing uses"(Band 34). This opens a new world of possibilities for the content faction and the opportunity to eliminate piracy altogether, but that type of action could only be made with the restriction of digital devices. If there are restrictions placed on the digital technology it could hinder the technology business. With computers, capabilities limited in the future, people will be less likely to purchase new ones because they are not as useful. A computer that does not fulfill a consumer's need would be less desirable and create an inconvenience for those who want to use it lawfully. This is why changes to the hardware would cause more of a problem than a change to the operation of the Internet.

The content community has already established laws to limit digital technology. "The DMCA flatly bands almost all circumvention devices even those capable of noninfringing uses… the DMCA would do little to deter unlawful conduct, but much to deter conduct that is otherwise lawful". (Band 34) The circumvention devices mentioned are programs that have the capabilities of making digital copies of media, not all such devices are used to violate copyright laws however they are still being restricted. This is an example of how copyright laws are interfering with peoples technology use. Even with the establishment of this law, it does not eliminate an individual's ability to make illegal copies. A large corporation or university would be restricted because they are monitored; however a person could still share files illegally over the Internet.

There will be some tough decisions ahead regarding technology and copyrights with the world being in the digital age it is difficult to keep people from breaking copyright laws. Computers and the Internet create a simple way of copying media through digital devices, this is a new problem for the entertainment industry which requires them to think of how they can improve their copyright protection. The price of movies and CD's is high and the abilities to copy media is now easier than ever; this gives people a reason to illegally copy the material ,until people are caught and realize what they are doing is stealing, the entertainment industry will continue to lose money. The entertainment industry demands a change to keep their products safe from those who illegally take their products. But there is no clear solution to this problem because it will have repercussions on the way people function; tighter control of the Internet and technology could stop piracy but it would effect areas that do not concern copyright infringement. Decisions that restrict technology to prevent the possibility of illegal copies of material will make the convenience of the Internet and computers a thing of the past. The limiting of the Internet would stop the worldwide file sharing and reduce the problem. This type of decisions would not change how the personal computer operates outside of the Internet.

Works Cited

Band, Jonathan. "The Copyright Paradox: Fighting Content Piracy in the Digital Era" The Brooking Review 19.1 (2001): 32-34.

Godwin, Mike "Hollywood vs. the Internet". Speculations. Ed. Jason Landrum, Matthew Wynn Sivils, Contance Squires. Iowa: Kendal/Hunt, 2003. 173-78

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