There are already some technology tools today, and many more in development, that can securely label intellectual property and provide the means for those who have control and have been given notification of the infringement to monitor, take down, and/or block infringing material.
Copyright owners and content providers have the tools available to label, tag, or add a digital watermark to the work at the beginning of a transmission’s "food chain," before it is sent out onto the Internet. Depending on the perceived value or importance of the work, the copyright holder can "wrap" the package with various levels of protection. These protections can restrict reproduction, use, re-transmission, and provide the means necessary to identify, locate, impede or take down unauthorized reproductions. This technology approach maintains the value of copyrighted material.
Leveraging such tools, and working closely with access providers and end users, copyright holders will be empowered to make protection and enforcement decisions for themselves, instead of being shoe-horned into a one-size-fits-all legislative "solution." For example, copyright holders and content providers who desire the utmost security can choose encryption technologies that allow for secure transmission to only those with whom the owner has a direct relationship. A copyright holder can even limit the use of content to a single authorized "customer." Digital watermark technology places special codes in audio recordings and visual arts to help identify the purchaser and prevent infringement without destroying the work itself. Technology also offers an approach which involves labeling infringing web sites and blocking access to them.
The same technology that enables the lawful and authorized distribution of digital content promises the potential to identify and track unauthorized reproduction, as well. When crafting the application of the technology, all of the stakeholders must, however, be sensitive to the privacy issues on both a national and global scale. The latest versions of both Microsoft and Netscape web browsers, for example, have the ability to track the identity and usage of those who access each web page. Additionally, companies such as CyberCash offer the potential to facilitate payment of royalties for online usage while at the same time tracking the identity of the purchaser. Future copyright protection tools will only become more precise, sophisticated, enabling and empowering. The Platform for Internet Content Selection ("PICS") which was initially developed, for example, to empower families with the ability to control access to indecent content, can be adapted in the copyright protection arena, as well.
These technologies could severely limit an infringer’s anonymity, enabling access providers, as soon as they are given compliant notification, to track and take down unauthorized reproductions. By assisting content owners in learning the identity and possible location of the infringer, proper steps can then be taken to enforce copyright laws already in place.
Moving forward, the discussion will shift to address questions like:
· If the relative cost of efficiently "tagging" valuable content before it is distributed is minimal and widely available, under what circumstances should an access provider be held liable if the content provider or other responsible party fails to notify the access provider of an alleged infringement?
· Are there technological limitations with respect to the ability of an Internet access provider to be able to take down and/or block infringements, even if there is a notification?