Intellectual Property in the Digital Environment: An NFAIS Update

Article excerpt

If you think the fine line between copyright and fair use is getting hazy for digital as well as print, you are not alone. At an NFAIS meeting last month in Philadelphia, 25-plus attendees gathered to try to decipher a few of today's most topical copyright and intellectual property (IP) issues.

A cast of industry notables at the 1-day conference offered insights from different angles, including commercial, noncommercial, academic, and government perspectives. Getting acquainted with the terminology was just the beginning for some conference-goers. If the terms H.R. 5439, S. 2695, Section 108, Title 17 U.S.C. U.S. Copyright Law, and the DMCRA were new to some for starters, attendees were well-versed by the time they left.

Some info pros and content providers may fall back on the old premise that "it never hurts to ask for permission," but the quest for copyright protocol has even the most savvy users erring on the safe side and even enjoying a bit of precautionary industry humor: "Burn before reading."

Going digital has everyone operating in a new environment, with new rules and plenty of options. And social attitudes may take longer to change than legal regulations take to enact to get everyone playing in the same arena. Frederic Haber, vice president and general counsel at the Copyright Clearance Center, launched the morning discussion with an overview of licensing and technology as protection mechanisms for IP, along with copyright for digital rights management systems and the impact of open access on compensation to IP.

Taking over the podium, Dan Duncan, director of government affairs at The McGraw-Hill Cos., continued by unraveling some key legislation currently being debated by Congress, digging into the history behind the current copyright parameters: the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act (Boucher bill), orphan works legislation (H.R. 5439), open access to research (S. 2695), and the status of technological-protection exemptions to copyrighted works.

Elena M. Paul, an attorney and executive director for the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, then pursued the impact of Google Book Search on copyright. With all this "information [that] wants to be free," she said, the available literature has chosen not to mention that Google is a for-profit company. Paul asked the question, "What kind of ownership is Google trying to establish? …