Why We Need to Review the Copyright Laws

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The quick access to the internet has made texts, images, and popular music effortlessly accessible, shareable through diverse downloadable and viewing links. Consequently, this has further amplified copyright infringement cases across the world.

I have recently studied two major copyright infringement case studies covered by the media and they have brought to bear certain concerns relevant stakeholders must pay critical attention to.

These cases are:

  • Vanilla Ice vs. David Bowie/Freddie Mercury- Under Pressure
  • The Associated Press vs. Fairey- Obama’s campaign image

Though, not novel cases, I have discovered that efficient and relevant copyright law is predicated on the solidarity and ingenuity of countries, international bodies, and copyright organizations to devise codes that will accommodate creativity and ‘scare’ users away from illegal copy use.

In this article, I will highlight some recommendations to the government and relevant stakeholders specifically on the urgency to revamping copyright laws and systems to meet evolving technological innovations. But first, I will briefly explain what copyright entails from the British and American perspectives.

British Library explains that copyright ‘gives creators protection against the use of their work without permission.’ Copyright covers diverse kinds of work such as (a) original literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic works (b) sound recordings, films, or broadcasts, and (c) the typographical arrangement of published editions.

The US Copyright Act 1987 states that an “infringement occurs when a person does something without the license or permission or consent of the copyright owner. It is often referred to as ‘Piracy’.

So, here are my thoughts and recommendation after my study of the aforementioned cases:

A group of authors observed that the “copyright registration system can no longer meet current business development need”. This is especially for software copyrights since some countries like the USA, Ireland, the UK only ‘encourage’ not ‘mandate’ individuals to register their piece despite the proliferation of the internet and accompanying technologies that have rendered replication of artistic work seamless.

Since registration is not a compulsory action, there are no modalities to checkmate if a product or idea is simply a duplicate of previous creative works. Hence, an updated registration system with institutionalized policies and procedures must be adopted and ‘mandated’ to preempt preventable copyright infringement cases.

Secondly, the majority of contemporary copyright infringement rights can be blamed on the ‘easy route’ of the internet. An author observed that ‘technological advances such as high-speed internet connections and media encoding technologies have enabled copyright pirates to steal more efficiently” and has deprived copyright owners of their economic rewards.

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If AP’s image of Obama was not online, Fairey would most likely not have spotted the image to consider adapting it. Garchago Roger in a research piece noted that the Copyright, Design and Patent Act of 1988, overdue for review, is still the current law in the United Kingdom which is ‘still primarily rooted in the analog era of the previous technology”.

Hence, as the world continues to shrink, stringent rules to discourage infringement must be upheld across all countries. Legislatures must also consider the current competitive environment and continue to evolve to meet or even surpass technological advancements considering emerging innovations such as The Espresso Book Machine which is set to significantly impact the ‘realm of copyright’.

An example of such legislation is the Digital Economy Act of 2010 which in part states that its functions to “make provision about the online infringement of copyright and about penalties for infringement of copyright and performers rights”

Lastly, it is not illegal to be inspired by the sound recording of another artist and it is a known fact that to legally sample a music piece is time-consuming, complicated, and expensive.

Depending on the type of song, creatives would need to pay a sample clearance fee from different right holders. This was the case of Vanilla Ice versus the British Rock Band Queen and singer David Bowie. Vanilla Ice might have considered the rigorous protocols involved to get permission to use Under Pressure’s beat.

Besides, we live in a world where remixes, mash-ups, cover-over songs have become a regular phenomenon across the musical spectrum all thanks to digital technology.

Therefore, the procedure for sampling creative works must be regulated and convenient so copyright owners can get the credits they deserve and at the same time creativity is not restricted.

History has shown that technology will continue to transmogrify, hence copyright laws must continually evolve to meet growing demands. As a matter of fact, technology has not reduced the profitability of creative works but has charted novel ways to “exploit the market, increase penetration and accelerate production”.

In conclusion, copyright is certainly not established to restrict people from utilizing a creative piece or stifling innovation, on the contrary, it’s simply to permit them to use it legally while allowing creatives to enjoy the fruits of their endeavor.

A budding researcher with a keen interest in the media and developmental policies that has the propensity to spur growth