The Protection of Internet Users in the US

Introduction

The advent of the Internet has caused several changes in society. The process of communication is at full speed and the transfer of information was made light years faster. It is undeniable that the Internet has closed the gap among countries. Moreover, the Internet has become a tool in maintaining efficiency in various sectors. In the government, for instance, the Internet is used to ensure fast-paced transactions. For firms, the Internet is mainly an instrument that eliminates wasteful processes. Individuals are also benefited by how the Internet has delivered timely and relevant information.

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Despite the evident benefits, the Internet provides several challenges to its users. Several sectors have been devising plans to prevent the Internet from causing major problems. The government has developed some legal frameworks to monitor the activities made through the Internet. The government must intervene in situations where the Internet is used for unlawful purposes. Companies are also doing some actions to protect their companies from malicious Internet use. Firms must prevent unauthorized entry into their systems through the Internet.

The U.S. government has recognized the need to legitimize the protection accorded to Internet users (U.S. Copyright Office, 2007). Hence, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was enacted on October 28, 1998. This copyright law was specifically designed to punish individuals or groups that use the Internet to produce information that has a copyright. This is major legislation that seeks to limit the power of users to employ the Internet as an unlawful tool.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed to emphasize the increasing incidence of copyright infringement. It also protects Internet providers from possible copyright infringement raised by their users. DMCA is only an implementation of the two treaties agreed upon during the 1996 meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The two treaties include the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty. The bill passed in the U.S. Senate was approved by the body unanimously. It appears that the government is bent on instituting the copyright law.

DMCA provides 5 titles with specific goals. The first title discusses the implantation of the two treaties mentioned earlier. The second title drafts the limitations concerning the liabilities of Internet service providers for copyright infringement. The third title states exemptions on the production of a computer program for maintenance and repair. The fourth title includes miscellaneous provisions related to the Copyright Office, distance education, and other relevant subjects. The final title stipulates the protection needed for designs of vessel hulls (Band, 1998).

These are several exemptions to the law. Some of the exempted items include materials for educational purposes, obsolete computer programs, audiovisual works, and some specified literary products. Aside from the exemptions, there are some amendments proposed to the law. These revisions are important to ensure that the law is timely and addresses new issues that are related to copyright infringement.

The inefficiency of the Government

Several government agencies are working collaboratively to monitor the activities on the Internet. These institutions act as the protectors of users and Internet service providers (Litman, 2007).

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Since the laws are established, there is a need to install agencies to ensure that laws are being followed. Aside from monitoring Internet activities, these agencies serve as secondary regulators. Some agencies can provide supplements to strengthen the laws. To achieve efficiency, these agencies have to address issues of infringement based on their concern and specialty.

Despite the presence of DMCA, there are several inconsistencies in the manner in which Internet control is manifested. Loopholes in the laws are considered major detriments. DMCA, for instance, has been criticized for being lax in certain circumstances (Tew, 2006). Some firms complain that the implementation of DMCA has increased their cost of operations. Companies are required to acquire some devices that are used for monitoring. This has been viewed as a support to the firm that produces the copy protection technology. Video equipment manufacturers are obliged to support Macrovision technology.

The government has also failed to track down hackers on the Internet. Hackers are expert users that can break into a system even without authorized access (Hafner and Markoff, 1991). These individuals can acquire information and make massive production without being detected. Moreover, the process of prosecuting violators of the laws is at times slow. Decisions regarding these matters must be made efficiently.

When it comes to equity, the government has been allegedly biased in favor of copyright owners. These owners can easily request website content providers remove a suspected infringed content. The inefficiency on the part of the government is observed in instances when copyright owners are allowed to take down websites even without solid proof. Youtube.com is regarded as one of the most controversial websites about DMCA. The company has received several complaints as to its users posting copied videos. It is obvious, however, that these copyright owners are more concerned about their financial gains. As such, there is a deprivation of people’s freedom.

As for efficiency, most critics highlight the damage done by DMCA on research. This is most evident among researchers using cryptography. There are some parts of the laws that qualify some form of cryptanalytic research as copyright infringement. Aside from legitimate researchers, some students complained against the excessiveness of DMCA. Students who use cryptanalysis in their subjects were paralyzed. Unfortunately, the government does not know what people want and need, thus, failed to provide exemptions to this situation. Some researchers were reluctant to publish their works because of DMCA concerns. The government has been a penchant for favoring copyright users. Most of these owners are huge businesses with financial interests.

DMCA has been seen as a threat to freedom of speech. Internet users are barred from expressing their opinion on their websites because of the law. On the other hand, the government is busy punishing individuals who download songs from the Internet. This is a sign of ineffectiveness in terms of making DMCA serve its purpose. EFF Senior IP Attorney Fred von Lohmann cited the case of Perfect 10 vs. Google. The case provided some insights on which content can be classified as copyright infringing (Doctorow, 2006).

Conclusion

DMCA causes more problems than giving solutions and the government should probably drop the DMCA. It has caused more problems than provide solutions to the prevalence of copyright infringement protecting only the economic interests of copyright owners. This means that the government has been inefficient in implementing it. In addition, the government is more bent on tracking legitimate users. Instead, it has to provide ample protection to the Inter users. There has to be a balance in the manner in which the government provides protection through DMCA of which there is an adverse effect on the freedom to innovate, share information, and engage in other permissible activity.

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Creating flexible laws is a major requirement. A law must adapt to changes in the metrics of the Internet. The legislations have to be open for amendments when such revisions are required. Building the infrastructure is also a major initiative for the government. This means that computers have to be upgraded and programs need to be developed. The collaboration of government agencies is also an important aspect. These institutions need to act as one team in trying to remedy copyright infringement.

Aside from these efforts, the level of governance can still improve. Strict implementation of the law is a must. There needs to be a strong desire from the government to pursue these goals. The process of prosecuting violators also needs to improve. Fast decisions and proper punishments are necessary. Moreover, the government needs to push for the tracking of hackers. These individuals have to be checked and prevented from making more damage. To achieve efficiency, the government needs to develop all tools needed.

References

  1. Band, J., (1998), The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Washington, DC: Morrison and Foerster, LLP
  2. Doctorow, C., (2006), Boingboing.net, Fox commits copyright fraud,” Web.
  3. Hafner, K. and Markoff, J., (1991), Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier, London: Simon and Schuster
  4. Jacobson, R.B., (2001), Copyrights and Wrongs. Web.
  5. Litman, J., (2001), Digital Copyright, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
  6. U.S. Copyright Office, (2007), The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, Washington D.C.
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