Gaming Strategy
Featured Stories
Legal News Financial News Casino Opening and Remodeling News Gaming Industry Executives Author Home Author Archives Search Articles Subscribe
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Mark Grossman

Safe from Copyright Law

15 December 1999

The beauty of the Internet is that copyright law doesn't apply. It's the perfect place for the free exchange of ideas. This week, I'll highlight some of the differences between the law of copyright in traditional media, like books and magazines, with the law on the Net.

The Net's like a vision from the sixties where people share information and thoughts freely without being concerned about selfish concepts like ownership. With a couple of clicks of your mouse, you can copy and paste information from any website and make your own website.

You can even get your graphics from other sites. It's all inter-linked anyway. Your server, their server, it doesn't matter on the Web. When it all comes together as a Web page, nobody will even know that your graphics weren't yours and that they came directly from somebody else's server.

The Net lowers the barriers to creativity. For example, if your competitor has a well-done corporate brochure and it's in book form, you can't just change the name to your name and have a corporate brochure. If you did that, you would be infringing their copyright. Copyright law essentially forces you to reinvent the wheel. It's an incredible waste of economic resources!

This is not so on the Net. If they put the brochure on the Net, you can use it as your own. If you get creative, you don't even have to copy and paste it.

For example, if they have their company name as a graphic above their text, you might be able to get this to work. You could design your website so that when somebody types in, it brings up your graphic and the text drawn directly from your competitor's server. You don't even have to waste hard drive space storing the text. Let their computer do the work.

Again, your server, their server, this is the Net. It doesn't matter. Resources are shared and as you already probably know--nobody owns the Internet.

Clearly, the law couldn't be different. With ease with which copy and paste functions work, the law would be fighting a losing uphill struggle if it tried to enforce antiquated concepts of intellectual property ownership in this digital world.

Music and Books

Music downloads are already a big part of the Web world. With the MP3 format, people are downloading away. Kids don't need boom boxes anymore. All they need now is a computer and a Net connection. What's incredible is that all this music is free and without copyright restrictions.

Soon, we'll be seeing whole books available on the Net for downloading at no cost. We won't need libraries or even bookstores because it'll all be free!

Now, while I agree that books coming out of a typical laser printer aren't as attractive and easy to physically handle as a printed book, I'm sure that the printer manufacturers are up to the challenge. I have no doubt that once enough free books are available for download, we'll see home book printers that will be capable of outputting an easy to handle and read home format.

Well Not Quite

At about this point, some of you are scratching your head wondering if I've possibly lost my mind. Let's just summarize the point by saying that maybe I've made a misstatement or two.

Actually, I'm not sure that much of what I've said so far is true. Yet, the world that I've just pictured represents the logical culmination of the common misconception that copyright law doesn't apply on the Net. Copyright law does apply in the online world. Really. It does. I'm not kidding this time.

It has to apply. If it didn't apply, the Net would never reach it's potential. Businesses would have to be leery of posting content because they could lose it in my parodied world.

Sorry, but if you want artists to put their music on the Net, you'll have to expect to pay for it. Maybe one day we really will download books and have home printers that create an easy to carry and read format, but expect to pay for it.

The real paradigm shift with books will come when the e-book concept really takes off. Instead of awaiting a FedEx from, soon you'll download the entire book into your easy to carry e-book using your high speed Internet connection.

Still, whether it's books, music, corporate brochures or whatever, it only works if the Net is a safe place for intellectual property. Few will risk posting or making intellectual property available if the Net continues to be the Wild West.

It's going to take a combination of intellectual property law modifications and clarifications along with good technology to maximize the Net as the nearly perfect means of sharing information and creativity. As is usually the case, the new technologies are getting there faster than the new laws.

These new technologies will help reduce the ability of pirates to steal content posted on the Net. As these technologies mature, we'll see more content take to the Net.

The Real Scoop

Copyright law applies on the Net just as with any other media. Just a few examples of things protected on the Net (using traditional language) include literary, musical and graphical works, as well as sound recordings and motion pictures.

In Net Speak, literary could be a doc file, musical an MP3, graphical a jpeg, sound recording a wav and motion pictures an avi. I'm sure you get the point.

Copyright protection for this article attaches the moment my fingers hit the keyboard-even before I do my once a minute save. (If once a minute seems excessive, I would remind you that I work in Windows. Need I say more?)

Conceptually, the copyright attaches at the moment that the column exists in a tangible medium of expression. This means that in my head doesn't count, but that my monitor does.

It's copyrighted whether I put a copyright notice on it or not and I don't have to register it. Now, having said this, there are many good reasons for a copyright notice and registration. The short version is that you would have certain procedural advantages if you're ever forced to sue somebody for infringing your copyright.

One thing that is required for this article to be eligible for a copyright though is "originality." This requirement isn't stringent though. "Original" in the copyright sense of the word doesn't mean novel or unique and certainly doesn't mean a thought that's never been expressed. It just means that I didn't copy it from somebody else's work.

If it required true novelty, it would probably mean that I couldn't write an article about copyright that I could copyright. After all, since this is an article that covers only the basics of copyright law, it's probably fair to say every thought that I've covered has been covered somewhere before. It's just that this article expresses the thoughts in Mark Grossman's words.

(How many monkey's typing on how many keyboards for how many infinities, assuming that you could have more than one infinity, would it take before a monkey randomly typed this same article? Never mind. The question's just the symptom of a wandering mind and the mood that it takes to write the first half of this article as a reversal of reality.)

Back to the Beginning

Now, let's take the opening paragraphs of this article and rewrite them into reality.

The beauty of the Internet is that copyright law does apply. With intellectual property protections firmly in place, the Internet is the perfect place for the free exchange of ideas.

The development of Net law reflects the decade of the 90's, which was the decade that the Net truly entered our lives. This developing law reflects the unbridled capitalism of our contemporary culture and the high regard our society places on the right to own property and the right to protect that property from thievery.

While the technology may make it all too easy to steal intellectual property with a couple of clicks of your mouse, you do so at the risk of infringing somebody's copyright.

Safe from Copyright Law is republished from
Mark Grossman
Mark Grossman