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Ending Digital Piracy in America
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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Every day another song is completed in a recording studio in New York City or another movie is made in Hollywood or a pilot episode for a TV show is produced in Los Angeles. Each day a computer programmer programs another game into a new computer. These are four of the many forms of the entertainment that are copyrighted, meaning it is the legal right granted to an author, composer, playwright, publisher, or distributor to exclusive publication, production, sale, or distribution of a literary, musical, dramatic, or artistic work, accessible to American citizens in the world today. To obtain many of these forms people turn to the Internet. Available there is a broad range of entertainment for people world wide, not just Americans. One can play the game that a programmer programmed in, download copyrighted material from music artists off of websites such as Kazaa and watch the new movie he/she has been dying to see for free, all of which are examples of digital piracy. In Mike Godwin's "Hollywood vs. the Internet," he writes of the escalating popularity of digital piracy and ways the Content Faction and the Tech Faction is trying to prevent it. The Content Faction includes a wide range of companies that are copyright holders like movie and TV studios, record companies, book publishers and Tech Faction is comprised of companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Cisco Systems, and Adobe. Downloading the material produced from these companies is a federal offense and the laws created should be enforced while additional legislation to prevent it is being produced.
Supported by the Content Faction, an initial step in the war against digital piracy was the idea of watermarking. First introduced around 1979 the idea of watermarking did not become popular until 1990. According to the website www.watermarkingworld.org/intro.html, a nonprofit website devoted to digital watermarking, the page "Short Biography of Digital Watermarking" defines watermarking as "Imperceptible insertion of information into multimedia data" (1). The faction wants to stop the duplication of copyrighted material through a plan that institutes the watermarking of digital material, which means inserting information such as numbers or letters in to the data through a minor alteration of the data. Godwin writes, "the watermark would contain information telling home entertainment systems whether to allow copying and, if so, how much" (174). If the plan of watermarking is implemented, it will help control every image such as pirated TV shows and movies that goes through home entertainment systems and would not allow the illegal viewing of such digital images. Still, while watermarking is a good idea, provisions need to be made on how much of a limitation watermarking would be allowed to create and under what conditions.
The Tech Faction is also against the downloading of copyrighted materials. Godwin writes, "Many of them-especially those who have been developing their own DRM technologies-want to see a world in which copyrighted works are reasonably well-protected" (175). The faction wants to see that the ideas many of their corporations have been working on for years are protected from the eyes and ears of those not paying for their services. The faction supports the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, also known as the DMCA, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998. This piece of legislation bans the creation, dissemination, and use of tools that avoid DRM technologies also known as digital rights management technologies (Godwin 175). Any violation of the prohibitions of this act could result in severe civil and sometimes criminal penalties. This act is another step in the right direction and the reason is that the DMCA will aide in the prevention of the illegal distribution of the work of an artist whose passion and sole income is the music they are producing, TV shows or movie they star in.
A major media company against illegally downloading copyrighted material is the Walt Disney Company. This corporation owns other major media outlets such as ABC and Miramax Films. In 2000 Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, stated in a speech to Congress, "Just as computers make it possible to create remarkably pristine images, they also make it possible to make remarkably pristine copies" (qtd. in Godwin 175). Eisner's speech inspired the idea for the Holling's bill. Hollywood executives feared that without strong copyright protection in widespread use, piracy will allow digital versions of movies to be pirated as readily as MP3 audio files once were with Napster. This bill would make it a civil offense for anyone to develop a new computer or operating system that does not incorporate a federally approved security standard preventing unlicensed copying. For the first offense, violators could be fined no more than $500,000 or a prison term up to five years, or both, and could be fined no more than $1,000,000 or a prison term for no more than ten years, or both for any violation after (McCullagh 3). Eisner's proposal to Congress was the first of many propositions brought before the government and is a good start in the very strenuous uphill battle ahead. While the watermarking idea includes only digital TV, the Holling's bill also known as the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act, would include all of digital technology.
One piece of legislation being produced began in July 2003 when a House of Representative's Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property held hearings on the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act of 2003 (PDEA) (H.R. 2517). The PDEA was meant to inform the public of the program to be created to teach the public about the significance of copyright piracy through the Internet. If enacted, this bill would enhance criminal enforcement of copyright laws, clarify the authority to seize unauthorized copyrighted works, and educate law enforcement agencies and the public about Internet piracy. The bill would modify three sections of the Copyright Act to clarify the enforcement authority of the federal government. The new bill would amend [sec] 441 (a) to make clear that federal criminal enforcement actions are available for works that are not federally registered. It would also amend [sec] 602(a) to clarify that the Act's prohibition against importing copies includes works that are not recorded and not registered. Finally, [sec] 603(a) would be amended to direct the Postal Service and the Treasury secretary to develop regulations to enforce import prohibitions for works that are not registered with the Copyright Office or recorded with the Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Customs. Enforcement also would be enhanced under the bill through programs to be developed by the FBI and the Justice Department (Delaney et al. 20). The significance of this bill gives the FBI and state and local law enforcement the opportunity to instruct people of the effects of digital piracy and clarify to the public the seriousness of the crime they are committing. Also the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act instructs the FBI to produce a program that will assist in the information sharing between copyright owners, Internet service providers and law enforcement. Under the PDEA, anyone who knowingly redistributes or reproduces digital material for commercial or financial
gain could face a prison sentence, fine or both, depending upon the number of previous offenses if any at all. The Justice Department's effort to improve enforcement of the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act would prevent many of the illegal friend-to-friend files sharing throughout the United States.
Over the past 30 years the increase in technology has been astounding. America has gone from having one radio and television in the home to having multiple entertainment systems in the home and automobile. Yet as our knowledge increases so does the opportunity to steal someone else's belongings. Some people believe that Hollywood celebrities do not need and certainly do not use all the money they legally obtain from the work they produce or star in. This also does not matter when the legality of an issue is at stake. Though some may not agree with it, digital piracy is a crime and the actions taken so far against it should continually be enforced and the effort to prevent it should continually be made. The idea of watermarking digital productions to prevent copying and illegal viewing, and the legislative documents created to enforce the prevention of illegally downloading copyrighted materials through the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act and Digital Millennium Copyright Act are all steps in a positive direction. However, this is not the complete solution to the problem of copyrighting someone else's material. There are still so many opportunities available to infringe upon someone's rights by illegally pirating one's music, illegally viewing one's television show and illegally downloading one's movie, all of which is solely one's property.
Delaney, Edwin M., et al. "House Subcommittee Holds Hearings on Copyright Piracy
Deterrence Act." Intellectual Property and Technology Law Journal. 15:10 (2003): 20-21.
Godwin, Mike. "Hollywood vs. the Internet." Speculations. Ed. Jason Landrum, Matthew Wynn Sivils, Constance Squires. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 2003. 173- 178.
McCullagh, Declan. "Security Systems Standards and Certification Act."
Declan McCullagh's Politech. 16 Sept. 2004 <http://www.politechbot.com/docs/hollings.090701.html>.
"Short Biography of Digital Watermarking." Watermarking World. 2002. 17 Sept. 2004 <http://www.watermarkingworld.org/intro.html>.
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