Information Technology Strategy: Class 9.5! – Digital Rights Management


That’s right . . . 9.5. Don’t ask . . .

We had Daniel Staley and Kendall Gracey in today to talk about digital rights management (DRM) and how the Internet has impacted it copyright law and what the future may hold. (Students were asked to talk watch This is what I learned today and forgive my note-taking abilities. This post is a bit schizophrenic.

For years people have been copying media and sharing with their friends. This has only recently become an issue due to the ease and potential distribution of sharing that media. Instead of my friends at school getting a copy of the tape, everyone I’m connected to online is a potential recipient and with services such as Napster, I suddenly had over 1 million friends I’d never met. This is where the issue exploded.

Let me throw out some essential definitions before we start.

Copyright is defined as:

Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. (source)

We also talked about the first-sale doctrine that was introduced in 1976 that simply states once someone has purchased an original version of the item, they’re allowed to make copies and distribute them as long as they’re not being compensated for those items.

Items that can be patented are as follows:

Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefore, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title. (source)

Trademarks exist:

To avoid confusion among consumers and protect the reputation of the business. (source: Me)

Let me also say that it’s important to think of a lawyer as a consultant when starting up a new business venture. The current rate for a lawyer is $300 an hour which comes out to be about $12,000 a week!  In their own words, most litigation is preventable if you simply take the time up front to structure things appropriately.

We reviewed why copy right law had been extended from 50 years to 70 years beyond the life of the author, back in 1998. The reason has two round black ears and his business has been entertaining kids for many many generations. The Copyright Term Extension Act (also known as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act) was passed to protect the Disney assets and I’m wondering what will be done in 2018 to avoid the same scenario.

Napster is ground zero for the copy right issue. The record companies won and the Napster brand was closed, sold and eventually became a paid service.

The reason the Sci Fi channel changed it’s name to SyFy was purely the desire to own the brand; trademark the name. Sci Fi is a public domain description of a genre, and could not be trademarked. For more; read here. We talked briefly about the lawsuit against Flickr and Creative Commons and I realized that Google is hiding behind fair use for it’s book scanning project.

Finally we discussed patenting a business process. You can do this and given how much technology is changing how we do things. It may be in your best interest to review your process with a patent lawyer. More about this here.

I’d like to thank Kendal and Daniel for coming and sharing their knowledge of the space.

By Michael Myers