Social Media Research Paper
March 3, 2012
American Digital Media Copyright Issues
Copyrighting digital media is a balancing act for the U.S. government. The digitization of entertainment (i.e. music, movies, software, books, etcetera) makes legislating difficult. Copyright owners seek to maintain the intellectual property of their creative works. On the other hand, consumers want the freedom to use their purchases—of copyrighted products—in various ways: sometimes in ways prohibited by law. On the other hand, certain uses of digital media products have no legal precedent. As a result, the landscape of copyright law is continuously adapting to consumer demands and other forces within the economy.
The usual complaint surrounding copyright infringement is revenue lost from pirating. A Washington Times article reported two months ago about a man—Xiang Li, a Chinese national—pleading guilty to “conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and wire fraud in the distribution of more than [one hundred million dollars worth] of pirated software around the world.” Mr. Li disabled the “access control features” and digital licenses of software files and sold the on his website Crack99.com (Seper, 2013).
What is so striking about this case is that these cracked software programs were sold for the express purpose of mass-producing more. In essence, Mr. Li earned one hundred million dollars off of high-end sales, but there is no way to calculate the loss exacted from subsequent resales or free downloads. For his crimes, Mr. Li could be sentenced to 25 years in prison with a $250,000 fine (Seper, 2013). This weighty sentence exemplifies how serious the government is cracking down copyright infringement.
An ongoing debate has been evolving over the role of digital copyrights in the future. Some proponents of legislation may violate consumer rights (Musick, 2004). Digital products have always been limited in their profitability because they are susceptible to duplication. Pirating jeopardizes the ability of creators to recoup initial costs associated with researching and developing digital media products. The monetary incentive behind creation is diminished by theft. The United States government is adamant in their effort to deter the misuse of intellectual property (Musick, 2004). Evaluation of Copyright Legislation
The Congressional Budget Office or CBO is a non-partisan legislative agency of the United States that was established in 1974—by the Congressional Budget Act—to report on budgetary and economic issues. Members of the CBO are not considered based upon their political partisanship. The CBO uses expert analysis by way of impartial and objective reviews (CBO Overview, 2013).
The U.S. Congress relies on the CBO to offer in-depth analysis on digital copyright law. Congress may tackle copyright legislation in three ways: forbearance, compulsory licensing, and copyright law revision. Under forbearance, the U.S. Congress would stand back and let market forces resolve issues on their own. Product innovation and consumer demand may come to an amicable resolution by way of digital rights management or DRM technology. Some forms of DRM are very effective at rebuffing piracy. DRM can also be utilized for differential pricing (Musick, 2004).
For instance, a different price might be charged for using a digital music file for listening or mass-producing. DRM can prevent consumers from making duplicates. Another avenue of profitability is providing access, to digital media products, in a limited capacity. Netflix and ITunes are examples of this type of service (Musick, 2004).
An example of compulsory licensing would be Congress setting a flat-rate tax on certain products or access points to copyrighted works; then, royalties for creators of intellectual property would be determined by the amount of usage. No system is perfect though. Applying a flat-rate tax will undoubtedly cause problems.
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