Thursday, March 16, 2006

Have we looked into our Rights or are we Left? - Long Post

Watching some discussion on the Blogs and monitoring recent events got me into thinking, how does one protect copyrights of printed material especially on the Net.? I was also being hinted by a journalist acquaintance on this issue. How does one protect writings and copyrighted ideas when the culture of the community maybe inclined to take the easy way out of copying without acknowledgement.?

In the olden days, ideas and thought processes were written and later published as journals, books or magazine and this was distributed in exchange for wealth through the sale of such materials. Leakage of wealth and reduced sale were managed through the management of intellectual property and infringements were dealt either through licensing or suits.

Though simplistic in its description, but what is clear is that in the traditional method, every start of the process is backed by clearly defined documents (legal or otherwise) and hence responsibility and accountability can be traced.

With the invention of the photocopying machine, this technology then poses a big challenge to the protection of copyrighted materials and its distribution. With the proliferation of the internet, this infrastructure just brings distribution to a new all time high (positively or negatively).

ISPs are now being roped in to assist authorities in shutting down sites hosting files infringing copyrights issues in the form of mp3 and movies. This is becoming a prevalent issue and is being taken seriously in the music/movie industry fraternity. What will be more interesting is to observe the community come together to police the abuse of intellectual property rights of journals, news and ideas put forth on Blogs.

Now then, what are the challenges of protecting and distribution of ideas or writing on the Net.? Perhaps one way to explore this,is to look into issues and challenging in operating a Blog. In its simplistic form, a Blog is a journal of the writer published on the Net. The Journal can consist of ideas (new innovation or observation), hypothesis and/or photograph or any other multimedia files published in an electronic form.

The Author of the Blog does own some if not all of the Intellectual Property of the Blog if the writing and ideas put forth are original, of his own minus the acknowledged referrals and quotes. Unless and otherwise stated or claimed by the author, theoretically anything published on the Internet/Blog maybe deemed Public Domain and thus distributable. Recently there are initiatives of claiming IP rights on materials written by author under the banner of Creative Common. These are sets of terms which set forth the claim to rights and simplify the conditions on what and how the materials can be distributed.

What makes the Blog further entertaining is the ability for the Author to source comments from the Net community. The comments put forth are generally accepted as being owned by the commenter and thus is not part of the Blog author. However, there are other school of thoughts that implies that the comments forms part of the content and thus the Blog owner owns some part of the Blog and thus responsible for some of the Content. This can be quite challenging for the Blog owner.

The challenge is now extended, if the content posted does not comply with the law of the country ie if the content is sexually abusive in nature and the law in this country prohibits the publication of such content whether in print or otherwise.

The question pose to me is which Act and Legislation (if any) covers the Protection of Copyrighted Materials on the Net and which Act covers the regulating of Content published on the Net? How many of us are aware of our rights to claim and to pprotect our ideas. For those concerns on the issues of content, how many of us are aware that the content on our blogs is still subject to regulation under the Publication and Printing Act?

I think the general public may not be aware of their rights and responsibility of the content of their Blogs in relation to Law of the Country. I think there is a lot of work to be done in this area of educating the Malaysian Internet Community.


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