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Internet Copyright Infringement: What You Need to Know

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Manish Jindal

February 2, 2024

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Internet Copyright Infringement: What You Need to Know

In today’s digital age, the internet has transformed how we create, share, and consume content.

With just a few clicks, we can access a wealth of information and entertainment at our fingertips.

While this connected world has undoubtedly revolutionised our lives, it has also given rise to a complex and often misunderstood issue: internet copyright infringement.

As creators pour their heart and soul into producing original works of art, literature, music, and more, they’re faced with the daunting challenge of protecting their intellectual property in an environment where copying and sharing are all too easy.

Internet copyright infringement issue is a widespread problem that goes beyond the realm of just pirated movies or music; it encompasses everything from plagiarised blog posts to fake videos that tarnish reputations.

The consequences of this digital dilemma are far-reaching, with creators losing out on revenue, and their hard work devalued, while businesses and individuals face potential legal ramifications.

As we continue to navigate the vast expanse of the internet, it’s crucial for us to educate ourselves on the nuances of copyright infringement and take the necessary steps to safeguard our creations and respect the work of others.

In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the world of internet copyright infringement, exploring its various forms, the impact it has on creators and businesses, and the measures one can take to protect their valuable intellectual property.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property protection that grants the creator of original works exclusive rights to use, reproduce, distribute, and display their work.

Examples of copyrightable works include literature, music, photography, and software.

Copyright protection is granted automatically upon the creation of a work and generally lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years.

Uncovering the Legal Void: Copyright and the Digital World

The Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act of 1988 and the Indian Copyright Act of 1957 do not specifically mention the terms “internet” or “digital.”

The Indian Act does, however, provide legal protection for computer software, yet it lacks provisions for preventing online software piracy.

The 2012 amendment to the Indian Act also fails to define “digital work” or “internet.” These gaps in the laws have created legal issues.

As defined by the aforementioned statute, a “digital product” will, nevertheless, be a compilation of copyrights produced by an author with a distinct identity.

The Indian Copyright Act of 1957 lists the acts for which exclusive rights of ownership are accessible under Section 4.

The terms of the Act, then, apply to any author of an artistic, dramatic, literary, or musical work.

Owners of “digital products” are subject to all provisions applicable to owners of acts covered by Section 14 of the Copyright Act of 1957.

Any infringement of a “digital work” or any work on the internet will constitute infringement under the Copyright Act.

The legal gaps must be addressed to ensure proper protection for copyrighted material on the internet.

Related Article: Software Piracy Protection in India

Internet Copyright Infringement

Internet copyright infringement is the unauthorised use of copyrighted material on the Internet without the permission of its owner. This includes downloading, uploading, streaming, and distributing copyrighted material such as music, movies, software, or other digital content.

It can also include using someone else’s artwork or writing without proper attribution.

In the digital age, it has become increasingly easy to share and access copyrighted content, making copyright infringement a widespread issue.

Examples of internet copyright infringement include online piracy, illegal file sharing, plagiarism, and the unauthorised use of images, videos, or other media.

This infringement can lead to significant financial losses for the creators, reputational damage, and legal consequences for both the infringers and those who facilitate the infringement.

It is essential for internet users to be aware of the importance of respecting intellectual property rights and taking the necessary precautions to ensure they do not infringe on the copyrighted material of others.

How Does It Take Place?

Copyright infringement on the internet can occur in various ways, as individuals and organisations use different methods to share and access copyrighted content without permission.

Here are some common ways that copyright infringement takes place online:

Framing

Framing is a technique where one website embeds content from another website within its own web page.

This can lead to copyright infringement if the content is displayed without permission from the original copyright holder.

Framing can mislead users into believing that the framed content is part of the embedding site, potentially causing confusion and harm to the original creator’s reputation.

Example

The case of Washington Post Co. v. Total News Inc. is an example of a practice called framing.

In this case, the accused had built a website that incorporated over twelve hundred news sources.

On the left side of the page, they featured the plaintiff’s news column, and at the top, Totalnews.com was displayed.

A visitor was directed to the plaintiff’s website when they clicked on the link in the news story.

The plaintiff claimed that this framing tactic was a violation of their copyright. The case was settled out of court after the defendant agreed to stop using framing tactics.

Online Piracy

This involves the unauthorised downloading or streaming of copyrighted material, such as movies, digital music, software, or games.

Websites that host pirated content often generate revenue through advertising and can significantly impact the creators and industries producing the content.

Illegal File Sharing

Copyright infringement can occur through the distribution of copyrighted material on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, torrent sites, or other file-sharing platforms.

Users often share files without the permission of the copyright holder, leading to lost revenue and potential legal issues.

Related Article: File sharing copyright infringement

Plagiarism

This is the act of presenting someone else’s work as your own, whether it’s written content, images, audio files, or even entire websites.

Plagiarism can occur intentionally or unintentionally but constitutes copyright infringement either way.

Unauthorised Use of Images and Videos

Using copyrighted images or videos without permission, such as embedding them on websites, social media, or in presentations, constitutes infringement.

This includes using images found through search engines without verifying the copyright status or obtaining proper licenses.

Deepfake Videos and Images

Deepfakes are digitally manipulated videos or images that use artificial intelligence to create realistic representations of someone doing or saying something they never did.

Creating and sharing deep fakes can infringe on an individual’s copyright and cause reputational damage.

Software and Source Code Infringement

Unauthorised distribution or use of copyrighted software or source code, often referred to as software piracy, is another form of copyright infringement on digital networks.

Linking

Linking refers to the practice of creating hyperlinks that direct users to other websites or web pages.

While linking is generally considered legal, it can lead to copyright infringement in cases where the link directs users to unauthorised or infringing content.

This includes linking to websites that host pirated material or directly linking to copyrighted files without permission.

Related Article: Is hyperlinking copyright infringement?

Caching

A cache is a temporary storage location that can be found in computer systems.

It is used to temporarily store data, such as frequently accessed web pages, images, or files, to speed up the retrieval process and reduce network traffic.

The process of copying information from the original location to the cache is known as caching.

This allows users to access the content quickly without having to wait for it to load from the original source every time they want to view it.

There are different types of caching methods that can be used.

  • The first method involves copying the actual document that is displayed on the computer screen while browsing the web.
  • The second method involves copying and keeping the document among the user’s previously viewed documents.
  • The third method involves storing the document on a website or an Internet Service Provider (ISP) server rather than on the user’s personal computer.

It’s important to note that the content stored in a cache is only available for a limited time.

Once the time limit is up, the cache is cleared and the content must be retrieved from the original source again.

Nonetheless, caching remains a valuable tool for improving the speed and efficiency of computer systems.

Public Display of the Right by Uploading on the Internet

Uploading copyrighted material to the Internet without permission, such as posting copyrighted images, videos, or text on websites, social media platforms, or file-sharing sites, constitutes copyright infringement.

This public display of copyrighted material allows others to access, share, and potentially profit from the content without the copyright holder’s consent.

Example:

In the case of Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. Frena, the defendant set up a bulletin board service (BBS) where users could share materials.

Unfortunately, some of the materials shared on the BBS were infringing, or violating the rights of the copyright owner.

The plaintiff, Playboy Enterprises Inc, sued the defendant for copyright infringement. The defendant argued that he didn’t know about the infringing materials and should not be held responsible.

However, the US District Court did not accept this argument and found the defendant accountable for the acts of infringement.

This means that even if the defendant didn’t know about the infringing materials, he was still responsible for them because he created the platform where they were shared.

Archiving

Framing and linking refer to ways of connecting two websites.

Framing involves displaying the content of one website within another website while linking involves creating a clickable link between the two sites.

Neither of these methods involves downloading or saving the content from the other website.

However, archiving is a different story. Archiving means downloading and saving content from another website, then combining it with other materials.

If you archive content from another website without the owner’s permission, it could be considered a violation of their rights.

Even if you include a hyperlink to the original website, it’s not enough if the content has been archived without permission.

The hyperlink should only direct users to a different section of the same website, where the content has not been archived.

In all these scenarios, it is crucial to respect intellectual property rights and ensure that copyrighted material is used, shared, and distributed in a manner consistent with the law and the wishes of the copyright holder.

The Impact of Copyright Infringement on the Web

Financial Losses

Copyright infringement can lead to significant financial losses for creators and industries.

Illegal downloading and sharing can result in lost sales, while plagiarism can diminish the value of a creator’s work.

Reputation Damage

Infringement can cause reputational harm to creators and businesses.

Plagiarism and deepfakes can damage an individual’s professional reputation, while businesses that engage in or facilitate copyright infringement may lose consumer trust.

Legal Consequences

Copyright infringement can lead to legal consequences, such as lawsuits and fines.

In some cases, infringers may face criminal charges and jail time, particularly if they profit from the infringement.

For more information on the consequences of copyright infringement, you can check out the linked article.

The Legal Maze of Copyright Infringement on the Internet

The internet, often referred to as the “network of networks,” has revolutionised the way we communicate, interact, and access information.

However, it has also created a new realm of legal challenges, especially when it comes to copyright infringement.

In the tangible world, jurisdiction could be easily established, and laws could be enforced. However, the virtual world of cyberspace poses unique legal issues.

In cases of copyright infringement on the Internet, several countries may claim jurisdiction.

This makes it difficult to decide if the jurisdiction should be based on the origin of the material, the place of storage, or the location where the material is displayed.

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Even if jurisdiction is determined, the choice of law is another challenge.

Laws relating to copyright infringement may differ between countries, or they may even be in conflict with one another. This creates a legal maze that infringers can exploit to escape punishment.

Moreover, even if the infringement is established, it is difficult to prove, given the complexities and technical diversifications of the internet.

This, coupled with the challenges of determining jurisdiction and the conflict of laws, makes it almost impossible to enforce copyright laws in cases of infringement on the internet.

The financial feasibility of pursuing legal action is another significant obstacle. Pursuing legal action against an infringer on the internet can be expensive and time-consuming.

It may not be feasible for individuals or small businesses, leaving them vulnerable to copyright infringement.

In conclusion, the internet has brought about a new era of creativity and innovation. However, it has also created new legal challenges, especially when it comes to enforcing copyright laws.

The legal maze of jurisdiction and conflicting laws is a significant obstacle that needs to be addressed to ensure fair and equitable protection of intellectual property rights in the digital age.

Personal Jurisdiction: US Court’s Power Over Individuals

The concept of Personal Jurisdiction has been introduced by Americans to counter the issue of jurisdiction.

This concept empowers the Courts to entertain a case over an individual, either through general or special jurisdiction.

The ambit of Personal Jurisdiction was further broadened by the US Supreme Court in the case International Shoe v. Washington.

The Court laid down the minimal contact test, which enables the state to enforce contracts provided there has been a minimum sufficient amount of contact between the defendant and the forum state.

The “Three-Pronged Test,” which stipulates that three requirements must be satisfied for the use of personal jurisdiction, was also implemented.

Moreover, the ‘Sliding Scale Framework’ was postulated, consisting of three categories of activity on the scale, which determine the proper exercise of jurisdiction.

The first category is the business category, the second category is subject to the level of interactivity, and the third category’s exercise of jurisdiction is not proper.

Jurisdiction in Internet-related Copyright Infringement Cases in India

Section 62 of the Act: Additional Forum of Jurisdiction

Section 62 of the Indian Copyright Act states that a person seeking redressal for an injury caused can institute the suit at the place where they voluntarily reside, carry on business, or personally work for gain.

It is possible to compel the wrongdoer to appear in the plaintiff’s preferred forum. This provision provides an additional forum of jurisdiction for plaintiffs to seek relief.

Yahoo! Inc v Akash Arora: Establishing Cause of Action

The Delhi Court ruled in this case that the cause of the action might be proved by means other than merely accessibility.

As a result of the plaintiffs’ interactions and economic activities within the state’s local boundaries, the court’s jurisdiction was widened in this case.

This decision indicates that a plaintiff’s activities in a particular jurisdiction can establish the cause of action.

Infringement on the Internet: Minimum Contact

In situations of Internet infringement, it can be assumed that a defendant created minimum contact if they subscribe to Indian Internet users and conduct business there.

If a lawsuit is decreed against an Indian in a foreign court for internet infringement, it can be implemented under Section 13 of the Civil Procedure Code of 1908.

But when it comes to unresolved jurisdictional disputes involving individuals from other nations, the Courts must proceed with extreme caution.

Uniform Practice of Exercising Jurisdiction

The WIPO Copyright Treaty, WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and the Berne Convention do not provide a uniform practice for exercising jurisdiction in copyright infringement cases.

Therefore, it is up to individual countries to determine the extent of the jurisdiction in such cases.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Content

Register Your Copyright

While copyright protection is automatic, registering your work with the appropriate government agency can provide additional benefits.

Copyright registration can help you in cases of legal disputes, making it easier to prove ownership and seek damages.

Use Watermarks and Digital Signatures

Adding watermarks and digital signatures to your content can help deter unauthorised use and distribution.

These marks make it more difficult for infringers to remove the identifying information and can help you track your content online.

Monitor Your Content Online

Regularly monitoring your content online can help you identify instances of copyright infringement.

Use tools like Google Alerts or specialised content monitoring or digital piracy monitoring services to keep track of where your work is being used and shared.

Seek Legal Assistance

If you suspect your copyrighted material has been infringed upon, consult with an attorney who specialises in intellectual property law.

They can help you navigate the legal process and determine the best course of action to protect your rights.

How Can One Prove Internet Copyright Violation?

To prove infringement of copyright, you typically need to establish two elements:

Ownership of a valid copyright: You must show that you own a valid copyright to the work in question. This can be done by providing evidence of the original work, such as drafts, notes, or other materials that demonstrate authorship.

Registering your work with the appropriate government agency can provide additional benefits, making it easier to prove ownership in case of legal disputes.

Unauthorised copying or use of the copyrighted work: You must demonstrate that the alleged infringer copied, distributed, or used your copyrighted material without your permission.

This can be done by providing evidence of the infringing material and showing a substantial similarity between the original work and the infringing work.

In some cases, proving copyright infringement may also involve establishing that the alleged infringer had access to the copyrighted work.

This can be demonstrated through direct evidence, such as an email exchange or documentation of the infringer accessing the copyrighted material, or through circumstantial evidence that suggests a reasonable opportunity for the alleged infringer to access the work.

7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Sharing Content Online

Before sharing any content on the internet, it’s essential to keep copyright laws in mind to avoid the claim of copyright infringement.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself to ensure you are not violating any copyright laws:

  • Do I own the copyright to the content I am sharing? If not, do I have permission from the copyright holder to share it?
  • Is the content I am sharing in the public domain, or is it protected by copyright?
  • Am I using the content in a way that falls under fair use, such as for educational purposes, commentary, or criticism?
  • Have I properly attributed the source of the content and given credit to the copyright holder?
  • Am I sharing the entire work or just a portion of it? If it’s just a portion, have I used only what’s necessary for my purpose?
  • Am I sharing the content in a way that is likely to compete with or harm the market for the original work?
  • Have I considered the potential consequences of sharing copyrighted content without permission, such as legal action, actual damages, and harm to my reputation?

By asking yourself these questions, you can help ensure that you are not infringing on anyone’s copyright and avoid potential copyright issues.

It’s important to always respect the rights of copyright holders and to obtain permission or use content in ways that fall under fair use.

Copyright in the Digital Age: The Internet’s Threat to Creative Ownership

The internet poses a threat to the unique creations of copyright holders for a few reasons:

Ease of copying and distribution

With the internet, it’s easy to make copies of digital content and distribute it to a global audience.

This means that a single infringing copy of a work can quickly spread and be accessed by millions of people.

Consider music, for example. In the pre-internet era, music was primarily distributed through physical media such as records, CDs, and cassette tapes.

While it was possible to make copies of these media, it was relatively difficult and time-consuming to do so.

This meant that copyright holders had a greater degree of control over their content, and it was harder for infringing copies to be made and distributed.

With the advent of the internet, however, music can be easily copied and shared with just a few clicks.

This has led to widespread piracy of music, with millions of people downloading and sharing infringing copies of songs and albums every day.

As a result, many musicians and sound recording labels have seen a decline in revenue, making it more difficult for them to earn a living from their music.

The same is true for other forms of digital content, such as movies, TV shows, books, and software.

In each case, the internet makes it easy to copy and distribute infringing copies, which can have a significant impact on the livelihoods of copyright holders.

Difficulty in Tracking Infringement

It can be difficult for copyright holders to track and identify instances of infringement on electronic networks, especially if the infringing copies are hosted on servers in different countries or on peer-to-peer networks.

For example, if someone posts an infringing copy of a song on a file-sharing network, it may be downloaded and shared by hundreds or thousands of people before the copyright holder even becomes aware of it.

This can make it very challenging for copyright holders to enforce their rights and protect their content.

Lack of Control

The internet allows people to share and distribute content in ways that are beyond the control of copyright holders.

For example, even if a copyright holder removes infringing content from one website, it may continue to be shared on other websites or through social media.

Lack of respect for intellectual property

Finally, the internet has created a culture where intellectual property rights are often disregarded or undervalued.

Many people believe that digital content should be free and available to anyone, which can lead to widespread infringement.

While this may be appealing from a consumer perspective, it can have serious consequences for copyright holders.

If people don’t value the time, effort, and creativity that goes into creating digital content, they may be less likely to pay for it, which can make it harder for copyright holders to earn a fair return on their investments.

Overall, the internet has created many opportunities for innovation and creativity, but it has also created some challenges for copyright holders.

As we continue to navigate this new digital landscape, it will be important to find ways to balance the interests of copyright holders with the interests of consumers and society as a whole.

Conclusion

In conclusion, internet copyright infringement is a pressing issue in our ever-evolving digital landscape.

As technology continues to advance and the ease of sharing content across the globe increases, the responsibility falls on all of us to protect and respect the intellectual property of creators.

From individual artists and writers to large corporations and industries, the impact of copyright infringement is far-reaching and can lead to financial losses, reputational damage, and legal consequences.

By educating ourselves about the various forms of online copyright infringement and taking proactive steps to ensure that we use and share content ethically, we can contribute to a more responsible internet culture.

Supporting creators and their work not only fosters innovation and growth but also helps maintain the integrity of the digital ecosystem that we all depend on and enjoy.

Let us strive to champion originality, creativity, and respect for intellectual property as we navigate the boundless world of the internet.

By doing so, we can create a more equitable online space that values the hard work and dedication of the countless creators who enrich our lives with their unique contributions.

FAQs

Are copyright laws applicable on the internet?

Yes, the said laws do apply on the internet. Copyright protection extends to all original works of authorship, regardless of the medium in which they are created or shared.

This means that copyrighted material, such as literature, music, images, and software, is protected under copyright law when it is published or shared online.

As a result, unauthorised use, reproduction, or distribution of copyrighted material on the Internet can lead to copyright infringement and potential legal consequences.

What is Internet copyright infringement?

Internet copyright infringement is the unauthorised use of copyrighted material fixed in a tangible medium on the Internet.

This includes downloading, copying, distributing, posting, or otherwise using someone else’s copyrighted works without their permission. It can include text, images, videos, music, and software.

This infringement can lead to significant financial losses for creators, reputational damage, and legal consequences for both the infringers and those who facilitate the infringement.

What are the common types of Internet Copyright Infringement?

Some common types of Internet copyright infringement include:

a. Online copyright piracy: Unauthorised downloading or streaming of copyrighted material, such as movies, music, software, or games.
b. Illegal file sharing: Distribution of copyrighted material on peer-to-peer networks, torrent sites, or other file-sharing platforms without permission.
c. Plagiarism: Presenting someone else’s work as your own, whether it’s written content, images, or audio files.
d. Unauthorised use of images and videos: Using copyrighted images or videos without permission, such as embedding them on websites or social media.
e. Deepfake videos and images: Creating and sharing digitally manipulated videos or images that infringe on an individual’s exclusive rights.
f. Software and source code infringement: Unauthorised distribution or use of copyrighted software or source code.
 

How can I protect my copyrighted material from Internet copyright violation?

To protect your copyrighted material from internet infringement, you can:

a. Register your original work for legal protection with the appropriate government agency.
b. Use watermarks and digital signatures to deter unauthorised use and distribution.
c. Clearly display copyright notices and licensing information on your website or content.
d. Regularly monitor your content online using tools like Google Alerts or specialised content monitoring services.
e. Seek legal assistance from legal authorities if you suspect your copyrighted material has been infringed upon.

What are the consequences of copyright infringement on the web?

The consequences of internet copyright infringement claims can include:

a. Financial losses for creators due to lost revenue from unauthorised use or distribution of their work.
b. Reputational damage for both creators and businesses associated with the infringement.
c. Legal consequences, such as lawsuits, fines, and even criminal charges in some cases.
d. Removal of the infringing material from websites, social media platforms, or other online spaces.
e. Loss of trust and credibility among audiences and customers.

What should I do if I am accused of Internet Copyright Infringement?

If you are accused of infringement on the internet, you should:

a. Immediately remove the infringing material from your website, social media, or other online platforms.
b. Contact the copyright owner to apologise and discuss any necessary steps to rectify the situation.
c. Review your use of copyrighted material to ensure compliance with copyright laws and licensing agreements.
d. Obtain proper licenses or permissions for any copyrighted material you wish to use in the future.
e. Consult with an attorney who specialises in intellectual property law to help you navigate the legal process and determine the best course of action to protect you from intellectual property issues.

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