Christiane Schuman Campbell ’01 (international relations), discusses copyright law in the digital age.
By Kelly Anzulavich
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges facing copyright law?
A With the advent of the Internet comes the increased ability of individuals across the world to disseminate, copy and remix copyrighted materials and user-generated content. The perception exists that if it’s accessible over the Internet, it must be allowable to do whatever the user wants with the content. Legally, that isn’t the case.
Q: With the ease of reproduction, dissemination and storage in the digital age, is there any way to clearly define and enforce copyright law and fair use?
A: Copyright laws are necessarily ambiguous and flexible. Currently, the law states that a copyright protects an original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium. This same language can apply to new and innovative technologies. The copyright owner is the only one that can copy, disseminate, publicly perform and display the work or permit another to do so. However, some materials raise the question of whether they are unauthorized copies or original works of authorship. It may be considered lawful to rearrange a copyrighted work of another in a way that is creative, but to copy the work verbatim would not be. A derivative work is something that only the copyright owner can create. But if that derivative work possesses the requisite originality, it could become a new copyrighted work. Future legislation will need to either draw lines as to what constitutes a new original work, or as to when an individual has departed enough from that original work and created a new copyrighted work. An infringement analysis must consider fair use, for example free speech, and whether use of another’s copyrighted work is commercial or noncommercial. Basically, enforcement will follow how copyright law is defined and interpreted by future case law.
Q: How do you think we find balance between the end of piracy and the continuance of a tradition of free culture focusing on authors with the exclusive rights for a limited time, not companies, as the copyright laws continue to advance?
A: Person-to-person sharing today can quickly become viral. It would be impossible to control, unless we implement some type of surveillance that could stomp on people’s constitutional rights. The most practical solution is reasonable takedown procedures. Today, many big businesses have policies and procedures that can make users liable for willful and knowing copyright infringement.
Christiane Schuman Campbell of Duane Morris’ Intellectual Property Practice Group in Philadelphia has been appointed secretary of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s (PBA) Intellectual Property Section.
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