“Nothing is permanent except change” – Herodotus

Amassed with the aforementioned saying, we people cannot keep away from change. Change forms part of our daily activities. Innovations and technologies really forms part of the society.

Copyright reform became a big issue today as many copyright owners, inventors, businessmen, creators, and other persons who possesses such right, whether they are aware to have that right or not, clamour for stiffer protection and implementation of said copyright.

The way I see it, some manner of copyright reform is inevitable, given how fundamentally current and emerging technologies are changing the way we create, consume, distribute and redistribute data and intellectual property these days. As such, it makes sense that the best place to start the discussion is with the least controversial reforms, as these are the areas where some sort of compromise seems most feasible.

The Philippine copyright law extends copyright protection to authors of newly created works of authorship that have been fixed in a tangible medium of expression. These works must be “original” not only in the sense that they owe their origin to the person claiming to be the author, but also in the sense that they exhibit some creativity in the expression of whatever ideas or information the works embody.

Although some countries extend copyright protection to creations that are not fixed in a tangible medium, for example, live jazz improvisations, I believe that Philippine Intellectual Property Law’s fixation requirement is consistent with good copyright principles because fixation facilitates achieving the cultural goal of making extant copies of the work available for future generations and because it provides a workable basis for differentiating those works that are the subject of copyright protection and those that are not.

Copyright law is, for many reasons, under considerable stress today. The most obvious and perhaps most significant source of this stress is the radical transformation of public access to information that has been brought about by changes in computing and communications technologies and accessibility of information through global digital networks. The internet and world wide web, in particular, have destabilized many copyright industry sectors as the economics of creating, publishing, and disseminating information-rich works have dramatically changed. New business models have not always proven successful. It may take some time and patience to allow disrupted copyright sectors to consider, experiment with, and develop other or more refined models and approaches with which they will be reasonably comfortable.

One important development has been the phenomenal growth and profusion of user-generated content. Copyright has, of course, always touched and enriched untold ordinary people, as well as specialists, by fostering the provision of entertainment, education, and other information goods and services, but until recently copyright law was relatively invisible to the general public. Amateurs as well as professional artists and authors are now encountering copyright issues on a regular basis.

Copyright rules implicate many daily activities of ordinary people. Copyright has thus suddenly become significant not only to industry insiders who are steeped in this law’s complexities, but also to the millions of people who access information on the Internet and who often share this information with others.

Another important development has been the widespread use of peer-to-peer file-sharing technologies to exchange copies of copyrighted works, particularly music and movies. The willingness of millions of people to engage in such file-sharing has understandably frustrated the entertainment industry and generated a sense of crisis. Efforts to address this phenomenon through litigation have shut down some services and resulted in some compensation to rights holders, but the phenomenon itself has not abated. Efforts to encourage or require intermediaries, especially technology and telecommunications companies, to control or impede infringing activities have met with limited success.

Copyright law performs a number of important functions. It facilitates public access to knowledge and a wide range of uses of creative works of authorship, and, in so doing, it helps educate our populace, enrich our culture, and promote free speech, free expression, and democratic values. It provides opportunities for rights holders to recoup investments in creating and disseminating their works and to enjoy the fruits of whatever success arises from the public’s uses of their works. In the process, copyright also plays a role in regulating new technologies and services through which creative works may be accessed.

A well-functioning copyright law carefully balances the interests of the public in access to expressive works and the sound advancement of knowledge and technology, on the one hand, with the interests of copyright owners in being compensated for uses of their works and deterring infringers from making market-harmful appropriations of their works, on the other. Copyright law should enable the formation of well-functioning markets for creative and informative works that yield benefits for all stakeholders.

Technologies, innovations, modernization, and the so-called digital era, among others, are the factors/reasons nowadays which hampers some rights granted by the law. These factors, however, are inevitable as the generation at the present time continue to create things, express ideas through technologies that are considerably useful not only to certain people but as well as to the general public. We must take into consideration how all kinds of creators are using new technologies to build and share new works, connect to audiences, and innovate. Furthermore, we should take into account the essential role fair use plays in ensuring that copyright law fosters, rather than stifles, that creativity. Our government protects the creators, authors and inventors by implementing laws that will served as their shield against any possible infringement or violation of their vested rights. Such protection is granted by the law in order to foster creators or authors to persist from making new things and expressed ideas. But other people may ask, are they rights really protected? Are the laws implemented properly and strictly so as to avoid dilution of their rights? Do other people knew and recognize their rights? Some questions where only law implementers and those authors could substantially answer as they are the immediate parties to such.

At this level of generality, agreement is easy to reach. Disagreements tend to arise over how to implement these goals in statutory language and actual practice. The technology sectors contribute largely to the progress and development of our economy. Such is the fact, we cannot take apart technology from our daily practice, if not all mostly that is. Speaking of technology, internet automatically forms part of it. Media, networks, television stations and newscasts, all of these are easily shown and viewed in the internet. E-mail, like, share, tweet, post are the common ways on how we communicate to the public several clips, pictures, documents, and other data that we like and thinks will be useful to others.

Are we people think first before we act? Sometimes yes, but, unfortunately, oftentimes not. All the acts that we did and doing, do we consider other’s right? These might probably the reason why most of the people affect rights of another, for not assessing that it may prejudice others. Simple acts may constitute a violation of someone’s right. Defenses of others is that they aren’t aware of such violation. But based from the wordings of the law, “the law excuses no one from compliance therewith”. Culled from these provision of the law is that we cannot just deny a fact simply because we are not knowledgeable of such thing.

Infringement, a simple act which may contravene certain individual’s rights. Most infringement were done in case of copyright. Generally, for the students who sought to have an unproblematic way of obtaining a photocopy of the books they need in the school. Just browsing the internet and a sort of downloading will do. Nearly everyone assume that the information downloadable in the internet were provided and intended for the public use. We should know that such is not the fact. Although these information, documents, pictures were held in the public does not mean that they were public domain. The presumption with those is that they are protected by the law and the people, mostly internet users, are subject to limitations imposed by the law from obtaining such copies. For example, the books photocopied by the students and other people in need of such has a limitation, they may photocopy the book but should it constitute the substantial part of the book, such will already amount to a violation of author’s right under the law. Government enforcement efforts that temporarily or permanently shut down lawful websites are based on nothing more than allegations of infringement. Moreover, they need to include the technologists who actually understand the collateral damage that can result when changes to copyright may impact fundamental internet architecture, as well analysts who are developing real evidence based on hard data, not spin. In other words, there is a way to make these things work in a manner that really does benefit creators and the public without cutting off the powerful communications channels that so many people have become accustomed to.

Why most of the creators want reform? Is it for the greedy reason to monopolize the product of their own intelligence and creativeness or to ensure better protection that the law has granted to them? At present, advancement on many aspects cannot be controlled. True it is that the law endowed with safeguard to creators and authors but the law provides as well rights to be exercised by others. The law is fair enough to afford reciprocal rights to everyone. Reformation with the existing laws will not solve any problem as long as the said existing laws comparatively applies to each and every one. Copyright reform? Extending the years in which the author will have the exclusive right to, among others, distribute, reproduce? Such reform will only focus on the importance of strong copyright enforcement, and precious little about the importance of fair use, first sale, and other elements of the copyright balance. The law provides for sufficient period of time with regard to those rights and to grant otherwise might result to attenuation of other’s existing rights. Such as extending of the term provided by the law, those might result to as Lawrence Lessig of Stanford University correctly identifies, ‘perpetual copyright’’ meaning, intellectual property never returns to the public domain and the public is poorer for it. Current copyright laws are a form of piracy led by corporations who steal our birthright, the ideas, stories, and characters handed down to us through the millennia and then locked up, imprisoned on corporate balance sheets.

A well-functioning copyright law carefully balances the interests of the public and of copyright owners. If our government aims reform to the existing copyright laws, the following guidelines must be taken into account, copyright law should encourage copyright owners to register their works so that better information will be available as to who claims copyright ownership in which work; the Copyright Office should give serious consideration to developing some mechanisms through which users could receive guidance on “fair use”; a small claims procedure should be available for resolving small-scale copyright disputes; copyright owners should have the exclusive right to control communications of their protected works to the public, whether by transmission or otherwise; more elements in copyrighted works than just ideas and information should be excluded from the scope of copyright’s protection for original works of authorship; copyright law should recognize that there are more fair use purposes than is recognized in the current statute; limitations and exceptions to copyright law ought to be based on principles, rather than being largely the product of successful lobbying; serious consideration should be given to extending to authors of works, other than those made for hire, a right to be identified as authors of their works.

Authors are under no obligation to give notice to the world about their claims of copyright, either by placing notices on individual copies of their works or by registering their claims of copyright with a government office. This rule has some beneficial effects because the law should not erect unreasonable hurdles to obtaining copyright protection. However, inadequacies in notice about copyright claims and reduced incentives to register copyright claims have contributed to substantial difficulties in tracking down who owns which rights in which works. These difficulties impede many socially desirable uses, including some that would be licensed if it were easier to find the appropriate rights holder. In addition, the specter of possibly having to pay the other side’s legal expenses won’t just deter frivolous claims and nuisance suits, it will also serve to deter meritorious cases in which the prospective plaintiff has even a little doubt concerning his odds of prevailing.

If copyright is ever to be reformed, comprehensive review of copyright must be done and there needs to be some balance in the mix.

Our government need to acknowledge that certain facets of the law are outdated, that there is a big difference between commercial copyright infringement and noncommercial file-sharing, and at least entertain the notion of dialing back the term of copyrights somewhat.

On the other side of the aisle, those who would take a chisel to existing intellectual property law need to accept that some measure of legal consequence for things like file-sharing is going to remain in place, even in the internet age, and rather than arguing for the abolition of copyright damages or for the abolition of copyright itself, as some do, argue instead for penalties that strike them as more reasonable and measured. By combining the suggestions of people who have proposed the establishment of a small claims court of sorts for copyright offenses, we might be able to get somewhere on this issue, some sort of middle ground that rights-holders, technology companies and consumers can all live with.

There’s little doubt that the Philippine copyright law and intellectual property law generally, could use some reform, particularly in the vein of catching up with technology. I think a lot of artists, musicians and other creative folk would say that we could use some adjustments that make life easier for rights-holders and those who provide intellectual property rights enforcement services.

Whatever reforms might come in the future, as we endeavor to come up with sensible statutes and prudent public policy, we must keep the law of unintended consequences at the forefront of the discussion. Otherwise, in seeking to fix copyright, we may well end up making things worse.

References:

Intellectual Property Law
http://www.dmcaforce.com
The Copyright Principles Project: Directions for Reform
https://www.eff.org
http://rt.com

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