INTERACTIVE;NO EASY ANSWERS FOR VEXING COPYRIGHT CONCERNS; CONGRESS DELAYS HEARINGS WHILE RIGHTSHOLDERS, ONLINE SERVICES ARGUE THE ISSUES

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The issue of copyright protection, one of the thorniest problems for marketers and media on the Internet, is still far from resolved, despite weeks of wrangling in Congress.

The House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property last week postponed a planned meeting for the second time as negotiations between the creative and the online sides continued. The meeting was rescheduled for June 5.

Congress' goal is to amend copyright law to include the Internet. The problem is that what online providers and copyright holders want is vastly different.

CONCERN FOR CREATORS

"We are concerned about people who are going to harm creators of the work by posting it on a Web site," said a spokesman for the Creative Incentive Coalition, representing copyright holders.

Among the issues:

Should online services be responsible for monitoring copyright violations?

What happens when a computer user in the U.S. accesses material from an overseas site that violates a copyright?

Should copyrighted material sent by e-mail be treated any differently than copyrighted material posted on a Web site?

INCENTIVES FOR ONLINE SERVICES

The Creative Incentive Coalition wants to provide major monetary and legal incentives for online services to monitor their content.

Meanwhile, the Digital Future Coalition, representing online services and telecommunications companies, argues that those services are often merely conduits for many Internet actions. The group is asking for an exemption from copyright laws for instances in which online services merely serve as a conduit.

Further complicating the discussion is the fact that traditional copyright enforcement proceedings would take too long in the speedy world of the Internet. The Digital Futures group wants copyright holders to send an e-mail rather than secure a cease and desist order.

Both sides are "trying to define the level of liability and what are the conditions on which people will be held liable," said Robert L. Smith Jr., executive director of the Interactive Services Association, which counts among its members people on both sides of the issue.

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