Copyright in the networked world: copyright police

Publication Date01 Jan 2006
AuthorMichael Seadle
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
Copyright in the networked
world: copyright police
Michael Seadle
Assistant Director for Information Technology, Michigan State University
Libraries, East Lansing, Michigan, USA
Purpose – The purpose of this column is to look at how copyright enforcement is handled.
Design/methodology/approach Legal issues in enforcement are examined, as well as the
initiatives of organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Findings – Some rights owner organizations are taking a vigilante approach to enforcement.
Originality/value – Copyright decisions are often a matter of risk assessment, and understanding
enforcement procedures is a part of that assessment process.
Keywords Copyright law, Riskassessment, Law enforcement
Paper type Research paper
This article looks broadly at copyright enforcement issues. These include the role of
police and of private organizations, economic issues involved in changing people’s
behavior, legal alternatives, liability issues, clandestine enforcement solutions,
international enforcement, and why enforcement matters for libraries. Libraries
must consider how enforcement is done whenever they make a risk assessment,
whether that has to do with the use of an orphaned work or a fair use.
Copyright police
Consider an episode of the Disney Channel’s animated cartoon The Proud Family ... In her
first two weeks of employment, Penny [the 14 year old daughter] takes an after-school job in a
music store. In her first two weeks of employment, Penny spends more on CDs than she earns.
She then meets an older, subtly menacing boy who introduces her to file-sharing and the
philosophy of “free-music.” After Penny goes home and installs the software, all hell breaks
loose. The music store goes out of business, city services begin to fail because of lost tax
revenue, and the cops finally come knocking at Penny’s door. In the end, civilization – from
its retail sales to curbside trash pickup – is restored only after Penny removes the file-sharing
programs from her computer (Hilton, 2005).
In the USA police do not ordinarily take part in copyright enforcement, though they
may well act on a judge’s orders if an action for infringement comes to the courts. This
cartoon may be seen as propaganda rather than as a representation of reality.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Michael Seadle is not a lawyer, and nothing in this column should be considered legal advice.
Copyright in the
networked world
Received 3 December 2005
Revised 4 December 2005
Accepted 5 December 2005
Library Hi Tech
Vol. 24 No. 1, 2006
pp. 153-159
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/07378830610652167

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