Sunday, November 13, 2011

#Copyright :New #Internet Laws Overview

Copyright law strikes a balance between private rights and public interests. Not everyone likes the balance the law sets. Copyright owners complain that it does not adequately protect them from infringement of their works. Critics contend that copyright law tilts too far in favor of the interests of copyright owners and does not safeguard the rights of consumers.

Yet because copyright law is public law—enacted by Congress, enforced where appropriate by the President, and interpreted and applied by the courts—there is plenty of opportunity to monitor the effects of the law and to debate the ways in which it should be reformed.

Increasingly, however, copyright law is being privatized. Its meaning and application are determined not by governmental actors but by private parties, and in particular by deep-pocketed copyright owners. Increasingly, the balance between private rights and public interests is set by private lawmaking.

My new book, Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law, shows how copyright owners, unhappy with the scope of protections that Congress has given them, routinely grab more rights than they are entitled to under the law. They do this at the expense of consumers and of the public at large.

One example is the widespread use of contractual provisions that enhance the rights of copyright owners. Many works, especially works delivered in digital form, are made available only to people who agree to give to the provider broader rights of ownership than copyright law itself actually confers.

For instance, the Copyright Act protects the right of fair use but in contracts accompanying digital works consumers waive the right to make any use of the work without the copyright owner’s permission. Copyright law permits consumers to give, lend, or sell their copy of a work after they are done using it. However, terms of use imposed by the supplier prohibit any transfer at all.

While copyright law permits reverse engineering of software to develop interoperable products, contractual terms imposed upon the customer prohibit all reverse engineering. Some contracts even require the customer to agree not to contest the content provider’s claim of copyright ownership, raising the possibility that works that are not even protected by copyright are subject to limitations that mirror those available for works that truly are more