As multimedia publishers have discovered, the process of obtaining IPRs in materials for a package may be more time and resource consuming than any other part of the project. This highlights the paradox inherent in the relationship between the existing IPR regimes, and digital technology; that it can be a difficult and resource intensive task for an individual to ensure their compliance with the law, but an extremely simple matter, and one with little risk of penalty, for the law breaker to download and copy electronic versions of literary, artistic, musical and cinematic works.
This paradox has led to extensive discussion of the role and future of existing IPR regimes in relation to the proposed broadband digital networks, or "Information Superhighways" currently in fashion amongst governments(13). So far, however, these discussions appear to have failed to provide any significant impetus for change against the inertia of existing national and international regimes.
In broad terms, there is a copyright infringement when an individual copies a work held in electronic format without the authority of the copyright holder. Such infringement is widespread in a number of Usenet newsgroups that carry pictures (notably those of supermodels or actresses)(15), where it has been estimated that between 95 and 100% of the pictures made available are infringing copies. Equally, electronic mail messages are subject to copyright protection as literary works, and as a result, copying them in whole or in part, without the permission of their author is a breach of copyright. In practice, however, there is often little more than lip service paid to this(16).
Section 107 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) 1988(17) states that where an individual sells, hires, exhibits, or distributes an infringing copy of a copyright work in the course of a business, or distributes "otherwise than in the course of a business to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright" an offence will be committed. It is clear that this would catch individuals who attempt to sell infringing electronic media such as computer programs or pictures over the WWW, what is less clear is the situation regarding an individual who simply places infringing material on a webserver where it can be copied by others. Much turns upon the interpretation to be placed on the word 'distributes'; a broad concept would appear to cover virtually all situations where infringing material was placed on an open access webserver; a narrower interpretation would require that the individual placing the material on the open access web server perform some action other than to simply provide a facility for illicit copying(18).
13 See for instance in the US, the controversial report of the IITF Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights on "Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure" which was chaired by Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks Bruce A. Lehman, and makes legislative recommendations to Congress to fine tune the law for the digital age - published September 1995 and archived in various formats at http://www.uspto.gov/web/ipnii/ (as of 26/11/95).
14 For a general overview of intellectual property law, see Bainbridge, D. Intellectual Property 3rd ed. Pitman Publishing 1995. For a specific, but dated, overview of the CDPA 1988 see Dworkin, D. & Taylor, R.D. Blackstone's Guide to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 Blackstone Press 1989.
15 See as an example the newsgroups alt.binaries.pictures.supermodels and alt.binaries.pictures.teen-idols (the latter is archived at http://web.cs.ubc.ca/grn/newsgroups as of 14/11/95).
16 Although increasingly, particularly on legal oriented e-mail lists and newsgroups, individuals are beginning to expressly assert their rights in their posts by way of statements, outlining what purposes their posts may be copied for, placed in their signature blocks. Further, the recent development of Microsoft Network (MSN) and the resulting fear that Microsoft intends to dominate Internet services in the same way that it dominates the PC operating system and software markets, has led some individuals who post on Usenet newsgroups to expressly prohibit MSN from making and caching copies of their posts. For example: "Microsoft Network is prohibited from reproducing this work in any form, in whole or in part, without the express written consent of the original author."
17 Which applies to Scotland, s157 CDPA 1988.
18 The US case, US v LaMacchia No 94 10092 RGS (D.Mass December 28 1994) demonstrates why such distinctions may be important. See also the UK cases CBS Records v Ames Records and Tapes  Ch 91; CBS Songs v Amstrad Consumer Electronics plc  AC 1013.
19 Although their length may be important, as single words or short phrases may be denied copyright protection, particularly if they could be better protected by trademark or the tort of "passing off". See Exxon Corporation v Exxon Insurance Consultants Ltd  Ch. 119.
Graphics Multimedia Virtual Environments Visualisation Contents