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Copyright Laws of the Technology Age: The Issue of Piracy
Levi Patrick
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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Mr. John Stevens English 1213-007 20 September 2004 "Within five years the music industry will be a cottage industry" (qtd. in Godwin 176). This bold statement is not a cynical prediction, but a well-informed statement made by an unnamed technologist for News Corporation. Copyright and piracy issues are currently bombarding the newsstands, court rooms, and the United States Senate. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), music, movie, and information companies, which make up the Content Faction, are losing their income due to unrestrictive copyright protection attempts and continued file sharing. Content becomes free by means of "100 percent accuracy in copying" (Godwin 178) and file sharing software, leaving most antipiracy mandates all but useless. Technology companies who produce VCRs, CD and DVD players and other home entertainment components must take responsibility for the correction of this unfair use of the technology and content. Copyright regulations and antipiracy mandates must be put into action and the Technology Faction must enforce some encryption, or coding process, to protect music, movies, and information that are being pirated.

Napster made peer-to-peer file sharing popular and technology made the process easy, but continued copyright infringement and content piracy, which plagues the Content Faction, is in vital need of a solution. Today, information and content piracy continues to elicit unpleasant emotions of disproval and discontent from the public as many continue to take part in that which they condemn. Content piracy is often overlooked, but children who share music with friends, parents who copy movies for their neighbors, and computer hackers who prowl into information databases all meet the description of a content pirate. The act of sharing music or information with friend is generally approached as an innocent deed. However, the RIAA 2003 consumer report show that this effortless but illegal process is causing a great threat to the music, movie, and information companies whose industries' are slowly showing effects of content piracy through diminished year-end revenues (RIAA 1). The Content Faction demands the aide of the Technology Faction and the government in putting an end to this offense.

One Digital Rights Management (DRM) feature, that has been proposed to prevent copyright infringement, would involve TV signals, VCRs, CD and DVD players, radio receivers, amplifiers, and speakers. A hypothetical "watermark would contain information telling home entertainment systems whether to allow copying and, if so, how much" (Godwin 174). This theoretical system could apply to all digital media, but presents its own set of implications; "a watermark that's invisible to the audience yet easily detected by machines will be relatively easy to remove" (Godwin 174). This problematic method of solving the issue of digital media piracy might not be timely or even work, leaving the Content Faction in need of another type of intervention, which is found in Washington D.C.

Although it has not been formally introduced to the Senate, a bill "that would mandate a national copyright protection standard" (Godwin 176), by Sen. Ernest Hollings, has caused some emotions from within the Technology Faction and within the Senate. The Content Faction claims it needs such a standard to survive, but to initiate such a law would "make it a civil offense for anyone to develop a new computer or operating system (or any other digital tool that makes copies) that does not incorporate a federally approved security standard preventing unlicensed copying" (Godwin 177). The Content Faction is in dire need for copyright protection with the Technology Faction their only hope. Though the technology industry "believes people should be able to do whatever they want with their digital tools" (Godwin 178), except what is improper according to copyright regulations, they might take a considerable, but worthwhile setback while trying to convince the public to buy less capable computers or operating systems. Still the Tech Faction feels that they "are strongly antipiracy, but we think mandating these protections is an abysmally stupid idea (Godwin 175). Without some type of intervention, the technology industry might find themselves with no new content and eventually no reason to produce VCRs, CD and DVD players, radio receivers, amplifiers, and speakers.

Another point to consider, along with possible legislation and hypothetical prevention methods, is the effects and implications that these actions will have on the content that is currently available to the public, including home movies, cassette tapes, CDs and DVDs and other media that uses current technology. These media items will essentially become useless if a watermark type protection is put in place. The watermark technology would make viewing, using, or listening to non-coded media impossible, leaving entire collections useless to current technology. This is a large complication for this solution as it hinders any possibility of a user friendly transition. One available alternative to the controversial renovation is to approach this technological overhaul in stages, where the public is given a time table in which all new technology will incorporate a mandated antipiracy feature and all new media will incorporate the complimentary technology allowing its use. During this allotted time, the public will the opportunity to convert all previously owned media to the updated media technology. Along with this conversion, the public might be able to put to use a bill proposed by Sen. Ernest Hollings (S.2201), the Online Personal Privacy Act, which would require "businesses to obtain consumer consent to collect and disclose sensitive personal information" (Tillman 14). Not only does this bill protect public information, it will allow for people to safely transmit their media from the old technology to the new without fear of any mistreatment or disclosure of information. The public would also gain the right to sue if "an ISP, OSP, or commercial Web site operator collects, discloses, uses, or fails to provide reasonable access to, or reasonable security for, sensitive personally identifiable information" (Tillman 16). Results are not to be immediately expected as hoped by many Content Faction affiliates, but a slow and steady transition, through technological intervention, needs to occur.

The rarely mentioned support of file sharing has its own argument to be heard. "With no costs of manufacturing, packaging, shipping, or retailing CDs, downloads can be offered at a marginal cost of virtually zero and can be enjoyed by music fans at the cost of just a few minutes of computer time" (Gallaway 279). The music industry, who claims to be the forefront victim of copyright infringement, may need to assess the future economic status concerning the technology industry. The ease of downloading content through the Internet is attractive to the public and the idea of paying for only desired songs might negatively affect the sales of albumsm, but may ultimately increase sales for a greater volume of performers. This increase of media would surely propel the technology industry to satisfy consumer needs. In the defense of file sharing, Napster attorney David Boies argues that "Internet music trading does not hurt sales of prerecorded CDs and may actually enhance them by whetting consumers' appetites for new music" (Gallaway 279). If this sentiment is able to contend file sharing laws the Technology Faction will find they are able to continue raising the ability and performance of future products without threat of limiting regulations. However, with readily available media, even under regulations that enforce antipiracy mandates, the Content Faction lingers with no pure answer to how their content will be protected from unlawful use. Increasing legal availability boasts a higher revenue potential but leaves copyright infringement issues untouched, failing to mention that it would ultimately force the Content Faction to deal with a more advertised means of potential content piracy.

This issue will not have a defined or pleasant end until the two factions agree to work together and consumers face the moral matter that thievery is wrong and immoral. People might not adhere to any copyright laws that punish the user, even if such laws could be readily enforced in every home. Godwin brings up the point that maybe such a ban or protection mandate might go smoothly. "It may even be the case that, if they were asked, most people would be willing to trade the open, robust, relatively simple tools they now have for a more constrained digital world in which they have more content choices" (Godwin 178). The ultimate answer to this puzzle relies on the actions of the Technology Faction and their agreement to meet the government standards of copyright regulation and regardless of their position on the matter, it remains that the Content Faction and the music industry might soon meet their end if regulations are not enforced and digital copying machines do not accept the federally approved security standard preventing unlicensed copying.

Works Cited

Gallaway, Terrel and Douglas Kinnear. "Unchained Melody: A Price Discrimination- Based Policy Proposal for Addressing the MP3 Revolution." Journal of Economic Issues 35.2 (June 2001): 279-287.

Godwin, Mike "Hollywood vs. the Internet." Speculations. Ed. Landrum, Sivils, and Squires. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 2003. 172-178.

Tillman, Bob. "Internet Privacy Legislation Emerges." Information Management Journal 36.5 (Sep/Oct 2002): 14-18.

The Recording Industry Association of America. 2003. 19 Sept. 2004. <http://www.riaa. com/news/marketingdata/facts.asp>.

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