Advancements in today's technology have allowed users to access and use computer programs, movies, music and other multimedia for which they have not purchased. Technological advancements are coming along at such a quick pace that the enforcement of copyright laws cannot keep pace. Music piracy exploded in the late 1990's and caused groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to crack down on companies such as Napster that provided that provided free music downloads. The number of lawsuits against individuals who illegally download music has escalated to the point that people are now switching to legal internet sites that sell music downloads. The ethicality of this issue has touched many people throughout the world while the legality of file sharing is a widely debated topic in the courts and music industry.
There are various laws that govern copyright practice. These laws are in place to protect the rights of artists while preserving the public's right to benefit from the works of those same artists. The foundation for copyright law in the U.S. is based on the Copyright Act of 1976, a federal statute that went into effect on January 1, 1978. This law protects copyright owners from the unauthorized reproduction, adaptation, performance, display or distribution of their copyright protected works. Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of a copyright owner is an infringer. A copyright owner can recover actual or, in some cases, statutory damages from an infringer. Other federal laws protecting against copyright infringement include the Federal Anti-Bootleg Statute, Fair Use Doctrine, and The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. The Federal Anti-Bootleg Statute specifically protects against the unauthorized activities such as the distribution of sound recordings and recordings of live performances. The Fair Use Doctrine allows citizens to cite copyrighted materials for uses such as teaching and research. The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extends the U.S. copyright from life plus 50 years to life plus 70 years. Individual states also have laws protecting against copyright infringement and piracy, but they mirror the federal laws.
There are also a number of international copyright laws. These include The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Rome Convention, the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (The TRIPS Agreement), The World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT). These international laws do not form an international copyright law but most countries have agreed upon the most basic terms of copyright protection. These laws set the minimum standard of copyright protection worldwide. They also make it easier to fight the piracy of American products in other countries.
There are several laws that deal specifically with digital music. One such law is The Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 (AHRA). This law more or less protects the makers of devices, such as audio cassette players and minidisk players, used to make digital music recordings. The producers of these products must register with the copyright office, pay a royalty on each device they sell, and include software on each device that restricts the ability to make copies of copies. The manufacturers of these devices are then protected against infringement when consumers use the product illegally. Another law dealing with digital music is The Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995. This law gives owners of copyrighted material the right to authorize public performances of their work. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) originated in the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization's Diplomatic conference in Geneva. This law helps to meet standards set forth in the treaties mentioned in the various international laws. The DMCA prohibits the...
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