The concept of copyright is one that has given rise to as many of the big legal battles of the last decade as any other. With the advent of the Internet as a major tool in people's work, life and studying habits, the amount of intellectual property that is travelling around the information superhighway is quite simply stellar. It may just be that we have never before seen a time when the rules of copyright were regarded less by the general public - as songs, music videos, book excerpts, television shows and films are traded on the Internet with varying degrees of impunity. How likely a copyright infringer is to be shut down depends on a number of factors.
One such factor is the size and influence of the individual or organization that holds the copyright on a piece of work. If you redistribute a television show that has mass popularity by placing it on a website, the station who hold the rights to the show or the production house that made it can quickly apply for an injunction to prevent you from continuing to gain from what they perceive as their work. If, however, you were to place concert footage of a little known singer-songwriter online, there is little likelihood that legal action will be taken. Apart from the fact that it may be viewed as good publicity, the difficulty of compiling a lawsuit makes it often too difficult for a smaller commercial entity to get anything substantive done.
Likewise in the case where some musical groups decided to take on what they viewed as the negative impact of peer-to-peer downloading software. This practice entails one individual putting some musical tracks on a mirroring site to allow others to download it into their own collections. When done in bulk, it is probably the most profound example of simultaneous file transfer, and something that showcases one of the major reasons for people having the Internet. However, when popular download site Napster made a number of tracks by the band Metallica available for download, the rockers were quick to complain and take out an injunction demanding that Napster stop hosting Metallica songs for broadcast.
The argument is that, having heard and even downloaded the tracks into one's own collection, you will not spend the money on purchasing any of them. This has been disputed, however, with many people leaving positive reviews and those whose opinions are taken seriously potentially influencing a number of people to go and spend money.
Copyright is different from trademarking in that a trademark protects specific words, short phrases and designs for use in commercial settings, whereas copyright protects the actual ideas and the work that goes into making them reality. While a trademark violation can interfere with a company's marketing strategy, a copyright violation is different in that it interferes with an individual's work. One is a matter of intellectual property, the other a case of identity theft. It is for these reasons among others that a "blog" post is always time- and date-stamped demonstrating when it was written, giving it its own form of copyright.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.
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