< Copyright Infringement >
What the heck is intellectual property (hereafter called IP)? According to uta.edu, IP is 'any product of the human intellect that is unique, novel, and unobvious." This product 'must also have some value in the marketplace.' IP can include an idea, invention, expression, literary creation, or a unique name.
What, exactly, is copyright? Copyright, according to wipo.int (hereafter called WIPO) is 'a legal term describing rights given to creators for their literary or artistic works.' Items covered by copyright include: novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspapers computer programs, films, paintings, drawings, advertisements and maps.
What is copyright infringement? Cybercrime.gov (CC), a division of the United States Department of Justice deems copyright infringement as "the unauthorized reproduction and/or distribution of copyright protected works" and has attached a penalty of potential fine and incarceration to back up this new, high-tech law. CC plainly states that "copyright infringement is a federal crime punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. The DOJ has issued a new counter-offensive called Operation: Buccaneer, named for the commonly known term for copyright infringement: "piracy."
Who are the main culprits (often termed "freeloaders: by the recording and film industries to incite negative connotations with file sharing)? One might think that the college-aged male yields the highest population of freeloading. However, according to a Pew Internet and American Life Project survey, only 37% of all file sharers are college students. 48% of all those surveyed were aged 18-29, signifying Generations X and Y's ability to effectively maneuver around the internet for entertainment. 42% were aged 30-49, while only 10% of those surveyed were over age 50. 64% of all file sharers were male. Although no racial statistics were gathered for this survey, it is easy to see that the main population guilty of sharing unauthorized files is also the rapidly growing consumer demographic of Generation Y. There is a direct link between file sharing and profit/loss.
Is copyright about maximizing profit at the expense of accessibility? Many freeloaders surveyed said that they downloaded only a couple of songs by a particular artist before purchasing the entire album at an authorized retail price.
At the Symposium of the Americas in September 2000, then Attorney General Janet Reno stated that "Our copyright, trademark, and patent laws provide core protections for the engine driving the economic prosperity enjoyed in this hemisphere and around the world by promoting innovation, investment, and high-paying jobs." In the following story, it becomes unclear where the line is to be drawn between artistic innovation and profit (the black and white) and items that operate within the gray.
Eric Miller was a small-time distributor of pirated bootleg CDs and VHS tapes. These recordings were of live performances of artists such as Destiny's Child and Duran Duran. Miller operated his business from his home in Langhorne, PA, outside of Philadelphia. His operation was based on the website phillynetservice.com. He also has his own photo studio that is promoted at ericmillerphoto.com. (The email address between the distributor website and his photography website remains the same, according to CC.)
Miller was ordered in 2002 to cease and desist his "Trafficking in Live Musical Performances" by the DOJ, but ignored these orders. He operated his distribution business from May 7, 2002 through May 14, 2003 when he was arrested and charged with Trafficking. Miller's bootlegged copies were of live musical performances, performances not authorized by the performing artists. 25 VHS tapes were sold before his arrest in 2003. A Consent Order of Forfeiture was ordered regarding Miller's VHS and CDs. These were removed from the premises. Their whereabouts are currently unknown, but are presumed to have been destroyed by the DOJ upon confiscation. Miller had sold these items for $14.99 per bootleg CD and $18.99 per VHS, which are comparable to average, authorized retail prices.
The verdict, sentenced by the Honorable Judge Gladys Kessler, was 6 months home detention, 3 years probation, $519.72 in restitution, and a $1000 fine. At the trial, Kessler called Miller's activities "theft of people's hard work, efforts, and artistic abilities." US Attorney Roscoe C. Howard, Jr. added that "people who steal and sell the artistic works of others need to recognize [that] this behavior is theft. They also need to realize that while they are out on the Internet transacting business, there is always a paper trail leading right back to them. They are not as anonymous as they might think, these crimes have a negative impact on the music, motion picture, and software industries, and these crimes will be aggressively prosecuted."
Eric Miller has been contacted by Heather Rone, and at the time of this publication, has offered no comment.
Mr. Miller was not downloading songs or films. He sold items that cannot be found on the market. These bootlegged items are not authorized for resale by the artists. However, some bands acknowledge the existence of live performance bootlegs and while they do not necessarily condone these activities, they do not seek out these bootleggers for prosecution. Jam bands such as the Grateful Dead and the Dave Matthews Band adhere to this approach to bootlegging.
The artists featured on Miller's website, including Duran Duran and Destiny's Child, are bands that have profited millions of dollars from album, merchandise, and ticket sales. Would the $500 Miller paid in restitution make a dent in the profits incurred by these two acts alone? Consider that the sales did not interfere with the regular retail items, and we have ourselves a conundrum. These live performances were most likely purchased by "huge fans," which implies that these consumers would most likely own the authorized retail copies as well as bootleg copies. The interference with the artists in this scenario comes not from profit, but from appearance. Bootleg copies are not touched up by sound mixers, or airbrushed to enhance the artists' appearances. Bootleg copies are "down and dirty" which may not be as attractive as a touched up, authorized recording. And when it all comes down to it, we must remember that the person recording the performance most likely paid the authorized price of admission, with a concert ticket.
The following section will take a closer look at the websites posted that were used to acquire the information in the preceding paragraphs.
Examined are CC and WIPO. Both websites are devoted to IP laws and upholding the value of their federal laws and global treaties.
CC is obviously a US government website, not only indicated by the .gov suffix, but by the layout and set-up as well. Opening CC in your browser returns www.cybercrime.gov/index.html, which is more 'graphically enhanced' than the text-only version, available at www.cybercrime.gov/txtindex.html. A link is provided at the top of the page for easy access to this text-only page. I will focus on /index.html for this assignment.
The website provides easy access to articles published by the DOJ, and a nifty search engine on /index.html, but once a link is clicked, it often more difficult to return to the index page without using the browser's 'back' button. At the top of the page is the official DOJ symbol and an introductory banner. Beside these images is a thumbnail of current Attorney General John Ashcroft. Linked to this thumbnail is an mpg of a recent cybercrime speech given by Ashcroft (located at CC.gov/Ashcroft_Speech.mpg).
The general feel of the website is stale and legal, flat and stagnant. It is uninteresting, to say the least, unlike the second website used in this assignment, www.wipo.int.
The feel of the page is much lighter at WIPO as well. Even though this is a valid, global institution, there is no legal staleness like CC.
The home page takes the minimalist approach, leaving a substantial amount of white space around a central image (composed of smaller pieces). This central image is, at the center, four squares meeting. The edges of the one giant square, formed from the internal 'squares,' become more rounded and spherical. From these squares are spheres that radiate outward.
This design could represent the four hemi-spheres (of the globe) converging into one harmonious structure. These four hemi-spheres (as rounded squares) radiate outward, perhaps symbolizing the power and influence of these four entities operating as one fluid unit. These spheres could also act as a metaphor for the spheres of influence that radiate outward into a global marketplace.
There are four points located at the edges of the spheres with links to different sections of WIPO. A link is provided in a scrolling marquee fashion, (but without the annoyance of typical marquees), below the central image. This marquee acts as a minor news banner highlighting important news events such as April 26, "World Intellectual Property Day."
With this glimpse into IP laws and sites, it is likely that we will shift uncomfortably in our collective seats when opening file-sharing application(s) on our computers. When we think of an old song we haven't heard in years and want to download, say Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," for a quick listen, or if we want to download the new, critically acclaimed Air album "Talkie Walkie," we'll have to pay for it, either monetarily from a downloading service that passes profits back to the record labels, or from the US Department of Justice.