What's Important? Intellectual Property Rights and Fair Use Laws

Intellectual Property (IP) isn’t like physical property. You can’t
locate IP with a physical address like you can a house. IP is abstract
and requires different forms of protection than a house or a car. Do
the majority of Americans want their laws changed to protect the
[financial][1] interest of wealthy corporations? Did you know the term
for copyright protection was [extended][2] in 1998 by 20 years? This
means that copyright protection lasts the life of the author plus 70
years. The term for Works for hire last for 95 years from the date of
publication or 120 years from the date of creation (whichever comes
first). [ The recording industry][3] is seeking to make record
contracts [works for hire.][4] How does this promote the arts? What
purpose does it serve? For starters, the extension of the copyright
protection term [kept Disney’s beloved Mickey Mouse][5] from falling
into the public domain. Money helps protect your interest.

> One of the bill’s strongest supporters was the Walt Disney Co.,
which lobbied hard to keep Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and other
Disney characters in copyright for an additional 20 years. Disney
Chairman Michael Eisner made his concerns known to Senate Majority
Leader Trent Lott, while the company’s political action committee
used its influence on other legislators.

Secondly, making musical contracts works for hire increases the
revenue for the recording industry, a.k.a. the major labels. This
helps the labels keep the fruit of their contracts, i.e. the band’s
songs, for life. Even though the artist wrote and recorded a song, the
band member’s could only use it with the permission of the copyright
holder, the label. If an artist left the label for another, he could
lose his songs. Congress is empowered “To promote the progress of
science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and
inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and
discoveries” [[US Constitution, Section 8].][6] This power is carried
out through copyrights, trademarks, and patents. Recently, this power
has been abused and used to promote profit at the expense of science
and useful arts.

#### Copyrights

[What’s wrong with copyrights?][7] For starters, they are abused by
industry to prevent fair use. [ The record companies][8] would like
you to believe that you need to buy a copy of a CD for use in your
house and a copy of the same music on tape for you to use in your
car. [Fair use][9] allows you to make a taped copy of the CD for use
in your car. Why would the record industry want you to believe this?
Simple, about $10.99 for the price of the tape versus no money if you
legally copy what you own. It is also legal for you to lend this copy
of the CD to a friend. Napster and MP3s increase the scale, not the
concept, of sharing music. The Senate has held [hearings][10] to
discuss the issues.

Corporations would like you to believe that this copying will lead
them to bankruptcy. Lawsuits have been filed by the [RIAA][11] against
anything [MP3][12] related. [Industry research][13] has indicated
that trading music online actually increases record sales.

#### Patents

Patents are flawed mostly due to the Patent’s Office inability to
effectively determine if software concepts should protected. Many
obvious items have recently been granted patent protection. (See
[CSS][14], [HTML Banner Advertising,][15] and [POST][16])

The consequences of the Amazon [“One Click”][17] patent may
[stifle innovation ][18] on the web. Only time will tell.

#### Trademarks

Trademark law is extremely complicated. If you fail to adequately
protect your mark you may lose the protection it affords. It has long
been established that different markets could have the same term
trademarked. For example, there can be a _Longhorn Moving_ and a
_Longhorn Grocery_. The consumer is expected to be smart enough to
afford a distinction between the grocery market space and the moving
market space. If the moving company began to sell groceries then there
could be a problem, until then all is well.

On the internet things aren’t so simple due to limited top level
domains (TLD: .com, .edu, .org, .gov, .mil, .net, etc). What if
Longhorn Grocery and Longhorn moving both apply for the domain name
Longhorn.com? Is any one company more entitled to it than the other?
What if I as a Texas Longhorn fan registered longhorn.com as my
personal tribute site to the Texas Longhorns? Should either of these
companies be allowed to take the site away from me? Am I

In this simple case, the problems of only a few TLDs become painfully
obvious. Until their is a fair and accepted method for resolving
domain name disputes, the little man will be the victim of
corporation’s legal department. Often, [domain name disputes ][19]
are solved by large corporations sending cease and desist letters to
the ISP of the domain owner. The ISP will pull the site, as required
by the DMCA, and the domain owner will effectively lose the site,
unless of course they can also afford an army of attorneys. One such
case involves _Verizon Networks_ (formally PrimeCo) letters to

[2600][20] to cease and desist from using [verizonREALLYsucks.com][21]

Find out more about [Napster’s legal defense][23].

In a related note, read about the MPAA’s case against linking to DeCSS
_[link removed on Feb 25, 2004 because the domain no longer
exists–ed.]_ by [2600.com][24].

[1]: http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,16071,00.html
[2]: http://www.laderapress.com/laderapress/noname1.html
[3]: http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/06/14/love/index.html
[4]: http://techlawjournal.com/intelpro/20000201riaa.htm
[5]: http://www.trainingsupersite.com/publications/newsletters/PermGrp/perm_toc.htm
[6]: http://www.house.gov/Constitution/Constitution.html
[7]: http://www.public.asu.edu/~dkarjala/commentary/PhillipsStmt.html
[8]: http://slashdot.org/articles/00/05/27/1736245.shtml
[9]: http://excellent.com.utk.edu/~bates/papers/ica99fu.html
[10]: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20000717/en/music-napster_6.html
[11]: http://www.riaa.com
[12]: http://www.zdtv.com/zdtv/siliconspin/features/story/0,3725,2560826,00.html
[13]: http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-2306997.html?tag=st.ne.1002.thed.ni
[14]: http://www.patents.ibm.com/patlist?icnt=US&patent_number=5860073
[17]: http://www.patents.ibm.com/details?pn=US05960411__
[18]: http://www.oreilly.com/ask_tim/amazon_patent.html
[19]: http://www.2600.com/news/2000/0508.html
[20]: http://www.2600.com
[21]: http://verizonREALLYsucks.com
[22]: http://VerizonShouldSpendMoreTimeFixingItsNetworkAndLessMoneyOnLawyers.com
[23]: http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-2198482.html
[24]: http://www.2600.com/index.html