INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROTECTION IN CYBERSPACE: Towards a New Consensus
When it comes to the Internet and government policy, the indecency issue has garnered the greatest attention over the past few years. However, over the long term, intellectual property protection will in all likelihood prove to be the more important concern because of the need to make the Internet economically viable. At the heart of the matter is a paradox: How to protect ownership of copyrighted material while at the same time making digital works widely available over the Internet and other online services.
Industry self-regulation and innovative new technology may hold the answers. In the field of intellectual property protection, cross-industry cooperation and self-regulation can enhance digital copyright protection and spread the value of Internet and the World Wide Web to a wider audience, serving to increase, not devalue, the worth of the copyright.
While technology is blurring traditional lines of copyright protection, particularly in the once discreet areas of distribution, reproduction, and transmission, there remains a basic premise – regardless of whether the work is in analog or digital form – that unauthorized reproductions are illegal. There is no question that if content distributed over the Internet is infringed, copyright holders will simply refuse to make valuable works available on the Internet and related online services. Similarly, requiring Internet access providers to place cumbersome or confusing controls on that same content, or requiring them to monitor or police content, will be inefficient and ineffective, alienating consumers and lessening the likelihood that cyberspace will realize its full potential.
Copyright protection measures which result in singling out Internet access providers, and legislative proposals which attach liability unfairly to access providers, will undoubtedly undermine the delivery infrastructure, forcing these companies from the marketplace and making access to the Internet more difficult.
Copyright holders, content providers and Internet access providers have a mutually dependent relationship – quality online content increases demand for Internet access, while increased Internet access increases the demand for quality online content. Absent significant cooperation among content and access providers, the Internet can easily dissolve into a muddle of competing and parochial interests.