Intellectual Property

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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Intangible rights protecting the products of human intelligence and creation, such as copyrightable works, patented inventions, TRADEMARKS, and trade secrets. Although largely governed by federal law, state law also governs some aspects of intellectual property.

Intellectual property describes a wide variety of property created by musicians, authors, artists, and inventors. The law of intellectual property typically encompasses the areas of COPYRIGHT, PATENTS, and trademark law. It is intended largely to encourage the development of art, science, and information by granting certain property rights to all artists, which include inventors in the arts and the sciences. These rights allow artists to protect themselves from infringement, or the unauthorized use and misuse of their creations. Trademarks and service marks protect distinguishing features (such as

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names or package designs) that are associated with particular products or services and that indicate commercial source.

Copyright laws have roots in eighteenth-century ENGLISH LAW. Comprehensive patent laws can be traced to seventeenth-century England, and they have been a part of U.S. law since the colonial period. The copyright and patent concepts were both included in the U.S. Constitution. Under Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the Constitution, "The Congress shall have Power ? To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." The first TRADEMARK LAWS were passed by Congress in the late nineteenth century, and they derive their constitutional authority from the COMMERCE CLAUSE.

The bulk of intellectual PROPERTY LAW is contained in federal statutes. Copyrights are protected by the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C.A. §§ 101 et seq. [1994]); patents are covered in the Patent Act (35 U.S.C.A. §§ 101 et seq. [1994]), and trademark protection is provided by the LANHAM ACT (also known as the Trademark Act) (15 U.S.C.A. §§ 1501 et seq. [1994]).

Napster and Intellectual Property

In early 1999, Shawn Fanning, who was only 18 at the time, began to develop an idea as he talked with friends about the difficulties of finding the kind of MP3 files they were interested in. He thought that there should be a way to create a program that combined three key functions into one. These functions included a search engine, file sharing (the ability to trade MP3 files directly, without having to use a centralized server for storage), and an Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which was a means of finding and chatting with other MP3 users while online. Fanning spent several months writing the code that would become the utility later known world-wide as Napster. Napster became a nonprofit on-line music-trading program which became especially popular among college students who typically have access to high-speed Internet connections.

In April 2000 the heavy metal rock group Metallica sued the on-line music-trading Website Napster for COPYRIGHT infringement. Several universities were also named in this suit. Metallica claimed that these universities violated Metallica's music copyrights by permitting their students to access Napster and illegally trade songs using university servers. A number of universities had banned Napster prior to April 2000 because of concerns about potential copyright infringement and/or because traffic on the Internet was slowing down university servers. Yale University, which was named in the suit, immediately blocked student access to Napster.

Metallica argued that Napster facilitated illegal use of digital audio devices, which the group alleged was a violation of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961. Napster responded that the Fair Use Act allows owners of compact discs to use them as they wish. Therefore if an owner of the disc decides to copy it into a computer file, he or she should be allowed to do so. If this file happens to be accessible on the Internet, then others can also access or download it without being guilty of a crime. Napster further claimed that since it made no profit off the trades, it owed no money in ROYALTIES. The Ninth Circuit held that Napster's operation constituted copyright infringement.

FURTHER READINGS

Alderman, John. 2001. Sonic Boom: Napster, P2P, and the Battle for the Future of Music. New York: Perseus.

Merriden, Trevor. 2001. Irresistible Forces: The Business Legacy of Napster and the Growth of the Underground Internet. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

CROSS-REFERENCES

Art Law.

Intellectual property laws give owners the exclusive right to profit from a work for a particular limited period. For copyrighted material, the exclusive right lasts for 70 years beyond the death of the author. The length of the right can vary for patents, but in most cases it lasts for 20 years. Trademark rights are exclusive for ten

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years and can be continually renewed for subsequent ten-year periods.

Intellectual property laws do not fall in the category of CRIMINAL LAW, per se. Some copyright laws authorize criminal penalties, but by and large, the body of intellectual property law is concerned with prevention and compensation, both of which are civil matters. This means that the owner, not the government, is responsible for...

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