COPYRIGHT AND FAIR USE IN THE DIGITAL AGE

AUTHOR: TAMARA, FRANKLIN

AFFILIATION : UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “It is a principle of American law that an author of a work may reap the fruits of his or her intellectual creativity for a limited period of time.” “Copyright” literally means the right to copy. There are more than 300 years of history and legal cases that developed copyright law in the U.S. It all began in England in the late 15th century, with the introduction of the printing press. In 1710, Parliament passed the Statute of Anne, which “established the principles of authors’ ownership of copyright, preventing a monopoly by booksellers,” according to the Library of Congress (LC). Skip to 1998, when President Bill Clinton signed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in an effort to move the nation’s copyright law into the digital age. Among other things, the DMCA sets limitations on copyright infringement liability for online service providers (OSPs). “If you post something on the internet, the OSP that gave you access to the internet didn’t want to be responsible if you were infringing copyright. That was one of the big topics the DMCA was meant to address,” explains Frederic Haber, VP, secretary, and general counsel of the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). The DMCA also imposes rules prohibiting the circumvention of technological protection measures used by copyright owners to protect their works. “If somebody with a copyrighted work put a digital lock on it, you were not allowed to break the lock,” says Haber. For instance, if an ebook publisher locks the text with DRM tools, it is illegal to break that lock.

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