Essay: Copyright Law

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Copyright Law

The protection of a person's or an organization's intellectual properties, creative designs, innovative ideas, and original works has always been an important endeavor to ensure that these entities will always be acknowledged for the hard works they have done. If no safeguard is accorded these works, there are other entities that could steal them in the same manner as tangible properties can be stolen if left unguarded. Accordingly, there have been several controls, measures, and even legislations implemented to warrant the protection of intellectual properties, creative designs, innovative ideas, and original works. Some of the statutes date back to several centuries and different nations have various ways and means of protecting these important human outputs. These works though vary and depending on their type, different rules apply although the gist thereof is to guarantee that the rights to the works by these individuals and organizations will not be compromised due to the theft or misrepresentation of ownership by others. Intellectual creations are divided into three general categories which are creative expressions or original writings, brand names or designs, and innovations and inventions. The laws that apply to these intellectual properties are copyright laws, trademarks, and patents, respectively. The detailed differences amongst the three are (Copyright Website LLC 2011):

Copyright protects creative expression that has been reduced to a tangible form, such as a book.

Trademark protects brand names, literally marking items in trade.

Patent protects innovation and invention.

Amongst the three, copyright law is the main focus of this paper and will examine the evolution of the law up until how the application of which is in contemporary times. In addition, the copyright laws of some select countries will be discussed in brief and the future challenges facing copyright law. Delving into the matter though requires the intricate understanding of what copyright is and the law or laws that apply thereto. The major difference between copyright, trademark and patent has been introduced above but the clearer differentiation will be apparent once copyright has been dissected in detail. The generic definition of copyright is the exclusive legal right of the originator of an idea, design, concept and related human outputs to the ownership of said works that resulted from the person or entities intellectual capacities. The legal right extends to the original owner or author's right to authorize other entities to use said works. In order to have copyright protection though, the work or works will have to appear in tangible or observable forms. Hence, original and creative ideas existing in an entity's mind cannot be protected because there is no concrete evidence of their existence.

A case in point that can be made with regards to the above definition of copyright is when a playwright has a new- idea for a play and in his mind, he knew already how the plot will develop and who the characters will be. If the playwright talks about this to another playwright and the other playwright was able to produce a written play similar along the ideas of the original playwright, it will be quite difficult to prove that his idea was stolen because there was no tangible proof existing. But then if the original playwright has already written the play and a "similar" play was written also by another playwright (the one that the original playwright discussed with), then there can be an intellectual property and/or copyright violation. Indeed, the adage "if it is not written, it never happened or does not exist" always applies when it comes to copyright protection.

The idea of copyright and copyright law began several centuries ago with the invention of the movable printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the fifteenth century. "The issue of copyright arose in response to Gutenberg's disruptive technology infiltrating the British Isles. The printing press represented a supreme threat to the clergy's monopoly on idea dissemination; moveable type was the fifteenth century version of Napster. The technology that enabled the ability to copy and mass-produce books created an immediate need for its own subjugation. (Copyright Website LLC 2011)" Unfortunately, the law promulgated then was meant not to protect original and creative designs or works but to ensure that there would not be any threat to the powers of the clergy and even the political structure. This law was known as the Licensing Act of 1534 where the British government gave exclusive printing rights to the Stationer's Company thereby creating one of the very first media monopolies in history. Without a doubt, "the first copyright law was a censorship law [that] was not about protecting the rights of authors, or encouraging them to produce new works (QuestionCopyright.org 2011)" but providing the government with the control of what was printed and distributed.

From the Licensing Act of 1534, the Statute of Anne promulgated in England in 1710 was the first copyright law that was not discriminatory and protected the original and creative designs and ideas of authors thereof. No longer were the exclusive rights of publication under the purview of the Stationer's Company but were instead placed in the hands of the authors and the authors have sole discretion on the publication of their works. Further, there was a provision in the Statute of Anne as to the number of years an author has legal rights to the publication of his or her works with provisions for renewal. The specific provisions in the Statute of Anne that changed the control of copyright from the Stationer's Company to the original authors are as follows (Tallmo 2006):

Whereas Printers, Booksellers, and other Persons, have of late frequently taken the Liberty of Printing, Reprinting, and Publishing, or causing to be Printed, Reprinted, and Published Books, and other Writings, without the Consent of the Authors or Proprietors of such Books and Writings, to their very great Detriment...the Author of any Book or Books already Composed and not Printed and Published, or that shall hereafter be Composed, and his Assignee, or Assigns, shall have the sole Liberty of Printing and Reprinting such Book and Books for the Term of fourteen Years...

The Statute of Anne can be considered as a groundbreaking piece of legislation because the contents thereof formed the basis of various copyright legislations enacted in other nations. Even up to the present times, the different copyright laws in the world can trace some of their provisions in the Statute of Anne.

When copyright laws first came into existence as far back as several centuries ago, the main concern thence was on printed and published works. These are the textual writings such as books, essays, literature, plays, and other related textual documents. In time, copyrights laws or copyright protection have been extended to other tangible, original and creative woks and designs. To-date and based on the United States Copyright Act of 1976, the following are considered as falling under copyright protection (Radcliffe 2009):

Literary works. Novels, nonfiction prose, poetry, newspaper articles and newspapers, magazine articles and magazines, computer software, software documentation and manuals, training manuals, manuals, catalogs, brochures, ads (text), and compilations such as business directories.

Musical works. Songs, advertising jingles, and instrumentals.

Dramatic works. Plays, operas, and skits.

Pantomimes and choreographic works. Ballets, modern dance, jazz dance, and mime works.

Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works. Photographs, posters, maps, paintings, drawings, graphic art, display ads, cartoon strips and cartoon characters, stuffed animals, statues, paintings, and works of fine art.

Motion pictures and other audiovisual works. Movies, documentaries, travelogues, training films and videos, television shows, television ads, and interactive multimedia works.

Sound recordings. Recordings of music, sounds, or words.

Architectural works. Building designs, whether in the form of architectural plans, drawings, or the constructed building itself.

Since the American copyright law was enacted during the time when computers and computer programs are not yet mainstream works in society, there was no provision on the matter. However, the law was broad enough with the definition of "original work by author" that it also covers programming source codes, multi-media designs and contents.

The first thought when one hears about copyright laws is that the original owner of the tangible, original and creative work or design has the exclusive legal right on the publication and use of said human output. But copyright law has other broad applications whereby the original author can determine which ones to use. These broad applications are contained in the various rights an original author has under copyright law. These rights include reproduction right, modification right, distribution right, public performance right, and public display right (Radcliffe 2009). In addition, an original can transfer copyright or the exclusive legal right to tangible, original and creative work or design to another entity either in part or totally. This means that another entity can share the copyright with the original author or has full exercise of the legal rights. The latter can be done via legal process and the original author then divest all rights thereof. For example, a computer programmer working for a company may have provision in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Copyright Law.  (2011, July 31).  Retrieved July 22, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/copyright-law/7630604

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"Copyright Law."  Essaytown.com.  July 31, 2011.  Accessed July 22, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/copyright-law/7630604.