Respect and Integrity

The internet has opened up a world of opportunities for artistic and literary creation. Ease of transmission from creator to viewer, and re-transmission from viewer to viewer, makes the internet an ideal medium for artistic and academic creators to disseminate their work, and for commercial creators to reach a wider audience. Technology has provided the means for people to innovate -- along with the means for viewers to edit, alter, distort, and redistribute the words, sounds, and images they find on the internet.

For this reason, authors may find their creations altered and posted, or simply re-posted, in unlikely new places. Those who copy and re-transmit may have any number of reasons for doing so. Some are creating new works of art or making social commentary; some are honoring an admired artist or author. Some are pirating or seeking financial gain. Whatever their reasons, those who alter and/or re-transmit the works of others on the internet enter the core of the copyright and trademark laws, whose doctrines are well-explored but whose parameters remain relatively untested on the internet.

This raises questions about the rights of the original creator in relation to the copier. Do copyright and trademark owners have the right to prevent the use of their materials on the internet? Should the infringer, and/or the infringer's Internet Service Provider, be held responsible when a author's rights are infringed? Should internet users be allowed to use the technology of the internet to thwart attempts at copyright and trademark enforcement? Should original creators have the ability to demand that they be given credit (or that they not be given credit) for a work? Are the operators of fan-'zines (internet magazines created by admirers) engaging in copyright and/or trademark infringement? More generally, who should adjudicate copyright and trademark claims on the internet? Who is responsible for policing the internet? In the ideal world, would the system of protection and attribution of works on the internet be the same, or different from those in the "real world?" Would a system of legal protections even exist?

During this third week of the course, we will be discussing these issues in detail. To sharpen your understanding of, and reaction to, these issues, please begin by reading the attached hypothetical problem. At the end of the problem, you will find links to a variety of legal and nonlegal resources that are relevant to these issues. After looking over those resources, you are encouraged to participate in the various discussion groups contained in the virtual classroom.