Paralegal Guide: Multimedia Law
Though practices such as downloading music have become commonplace, legislation and regulations have been implemented in order to combat misappropriation and copyright infringement online. An increasingly pressing area of law, multimedia and online interactions are governed. The Internet poses many unique challenges, and further complicates ideas regarding intellectual property. In order to better understand issues surrounding this topic, and become more familiar with the laws that govern multimedia on the Internet, review this Guide to Multimedia Law. One of the many resources available in our legal studies library, this resource is a reference tool for researchers, lawyers, and students alike.
Overview of Multimedia Law
Multimedia law pertains to content on the Internet, and is comprised of issues related to intellectual property, copyright, and patents. An ever-expanding and changing medium, the Internet challenges lawmakers and those who study law. Policies and legislation must find a balance between stifling free speech and achieving an optimal environment for Internet users. The following resources should establish what multimedia law is, and highlight common issues in this area of law.
- Intellectual Property Law Primer for Multimedia Developers – TimeStream offers this guide that is aimed at multimedia developers which explores legal issues surrounding intellectual property. Detailing copyright as it pertains to multimedia, and times where you do not need a license, this resource is a good starting place.
- The Citizen Media Law Project informs users of legal rights and responsibilities for all who use the Internet to publish media. It is possible to search for specific keywords, browse legal issues by state, or subject area.
- Online Media Law – Poynter provides “Online Media Law: The Basics for Bloggers and Other publishers” in order to educate Internet users of multimedia law. Taking the format of a self-directed course, this resource primarily focuses on defamation, invasion of privacy, and copyright infringement.
- Legally Use Stock Photos Online is a FAQ which responds to misunderstandings surrounding online copyright laws and the use of stock images. Beyond copyright, legal protection of property, image licenses, and creative commons are discussed with respect to images.
- Copyright, Fair Use and the Struggle Against Online Image Misappropriation – A discussion of the abuse of image copyrights found all over the Internet, and explanations of current laws in place to prevent this. Further, defenses for certain appropriations of media online are explained.
- Copyright in an Electronic Environment – Guidelines for proper usage of intellectual property found on the Internet intended for students and educators. Some general guidelines are provided as well as more specific media focused regulations.
- The Harvard Cyber Law Clinic is an online pro-bono legal service that advises individuals, small companies, and non-profit organizations on issues pertaining to the Internet and intellectual property. This service provides many in need with high quality legal support, while allowing students to enhance their legal abilities.
Online Patent Resources
A patent is a government grant of exclusive rights. With a patent, a creator is given a set amount of time to make, use and sell a specific invention. Applying for a patent requires that an invention displays characteristics that are unique, new, or useful. It is also important to note, that in order to be effective, a patent should not be preceded by a similar patent. In order to be certain that your invention does not already have a patent, many tools are available online. These tools include databases, search engines, and listings of approved patents.
- Google Patent Search – In conjunction with the USPTO, Google offers this patent specific search engine that is currently in beta testing stages. Drawing from a database of over 7,000,000 patents, Google patents operates around converted image databases.
- Espacenet offers this advanced patent search engine that houses a collection of published patent applications from around the world. An especially large collection of European patents with full text can be searched as well.
- Pat2pdf.org is a patent database that allows users to download full versions of patents in PDF files. The search function operates around patent numbers and number codes.
- McKinney Engineering Library Patent Tutorial – Especially aimed at students, inventors and researchers, this tutorial educates users on how to effectively search for patents. Topics include index searching, classification codes, and the role of reviewing existing patents in inventing original material.
- Free Patents Online allows users to search through patents using advanced search techniques. Individual patents are also viewable by topical category and popular patenting companies.
- Intellectual Property Law – Hosted by the American Bar Association, this website provides pro bono intellectual property law resources. A variety of media are presented here; podcasts on patents and copyright, documents on recent legislation and links to ABA produced YouTube videos.
Multimedia and Entertainment Law Sites
Websites dedicated to multimedia law in general and as it pertains to the entertainment industry have been included in this section. Some of the provided resources are ongoing projects dedicated to specific multimedia or entertainment related causes. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, for instance, is an advocacy group devoted to protecting the rights of Internet users and businesses. Simultaneously, associations such as the Recording Industry Association of America are interested in protecting intellectual property and preventing what it sees as infringements to the copyright law. Other groups included in this section are law firms, academic centers and websites focused on providing information regarding multimedia law.
- Harris Tulchin & Associates is a leading global entertainment and intellectual property law firm that advises businesses on all stages of development for multimedia. Though this firm deals highly with the motion picture industry, they have helped clients in nearly all mediums.
- Berkman Center for Internet and Society – Maintained by Harvard University, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society works to understand the Internet, its development, and its operation, while assessing the pertinence of laws in place. Beyond studying the Internet, this center actively works to develop and pioneer beneficial technologies.
- Technology and Marketing Law Blog – Run by Eric Goldman, the Technology and Marketing Law Blog discusses current legal issues surrounding the Internet and multimedia. Covering the effects of recent legislation and rulings in important court cases, this blog is frequently updated and remains relevant
- Legal Threats Database – Containing lawsuits, subpoenas, and cease and desist letters, the Legal Threats Database documents legal threats aimed at members of the online community. An advanced search option allows for specifying threat, content, and court type as well as legal claims, publication medium, and location of threat.
- The Recording Industry Association of America, also known as the RIAA, represents the recording industry and is said to create and distribute approximately 85% of all recordings produced and sold in the U.S. A leading association in the prosecution of copyright infringement and piracy, the RIAA is highly involved in legal issues surrounding multimedia and the Internet.
- Broadcast Music, Inc. collects license fees and distributes royalties for recording artists. Additionally, this organization is a major player in the apprehension of Internet music piracy.
- The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is a large collaborative effort aimed at protecting intellectual property associated with the music industry. Run by those involved in the industry, this organization licenses and distributes royalties for copyrighted works.
- Stanford Center for Internet and Society – Formed in response to emerging legal doctrine pertaining to the Internet and online multimedia, the Stanford Center for Internet and Society examines the relationships between the Internet, society and the law. The Stanford CIS offers educational resources and analyses of legislation and policies pertaining to multimedia law.
- Electronic Frontier Foundation – An advocacy group dedicated to protecting the civil liberties and rights of individuals on the Internet. Especially concerned with free speech and privacy, the EFF works to ensure that causes for the public interest are maintained.
- Podcasting Legal Guide – Creative Commons offers the “Podcasting Legal Guide” that considers legal issues surrounding the medium of podcasts. Intended for those in the United States, this guide discusses copyright, publicity rights, fair use and trademark issues for scenarios common in podcasting.
Government provided resources contain much information that is reliable and in the general public’s best interest. Due to the fact that governments control patents, they tend to provide related educational resources. Further, the role of governments in passing legislation pertaining to multimedia law and the Internet creates the need for additional publicly available services. Official government patent and trademark offices are valuable tools for better understanding the patent and trademark systems.
- United States Patent and Trademark Office – The official government website of the USPTO offers a patents process page as well as a trademark process page which educate users about the necessary steps for securing patents and trademarks. A number of services are also provided online, allowing for easy filing, status checking, and online payment.
- Japan Patent Office – The official patent office website of Japan provides an overview of property rights, and procedures for obtaining patents. The Japanese Patent Office hosts a digital industrial property library that lists patents, trademarks, and related data.
- United States Patent Laws and Regulations – PDFs of patent rules and patent laws are consolidated and available for download here. Other related laws such as the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999 have been included.
- Stopfakes.gov is a government program that focuses on preventing intellectual property piracy. This service is especially interested in protecting small companies and individual inventors. Toolkits created for specific countries explain laws and regulations, and explain where to register intellectual property.
Publications and Documents
Comprised of primary legal documents and thorough investigations of multimedia law, this section hosts resources dealing directly with online legal matters. Major pieces of legislation such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act can be found here. Other provided resources summarize these documents or analyze the significance and implications of specific regulations.
- The Internet Law Treatise is an elaborate and detailed representation of Internet law including sections on: defamation, content and speech regulation, copyright, trademark, misappropriation, electronic contracts, privacy, marketing issues, and jurisdiction. Significant legislation has been summarized, analyzed and contextualized.
- The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 is available in its summary form at copyright.gov. Though this is not the official document, this summary covers the most significant aspects of the DMCA.
- The Defamation of Choice-of-Law in Cyberspace argues against the choice-of-law legislation governing defamation on the Internet. Due to the intangible nature of the Internet, such laws are inappropriate for effectively addressing legal issues.
- Law and Internet – Regulating Cyberspace – A detailed examination of legal practices as it adheres to defamation on the Internet. Specifically, this text considers two leading points: why instances of online defamation are higher than in other environments, and what issues complicate compensation for these instances.
- Internet Law Library – Archiving articles, statutes, legal cases, and providing additional legal resources, the Internet Law Library discusses some significant aspects of multimedia law. Statutes dictating spam, communication decency, and Cybersquatting can be found here.
- Title 18 Part 1 Chapter 47 § 1030 – Also known as “fraud and related activity in connection with computers”, this is the original text of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Cornell Law Library provides this text along with some annotations.
- The Children’s Internet Protection Act limits access to offensive content over the Internet via school and library networks. Placing requirements on public organizations which receive government funding for Internet access, the CIPA attempts to protect children from content that is potentially damaging.
- The National Conference of State Legislatures gives this collection of state cyberstalking, cyberharrassment, and cyberbullying laws in the United States. Basic definitions for each are given, while laws are presented in a table that includes links to legal documents.
- The Cyberlaw Encyclopedia is a searchable encyclopedia dedicated to documenting Internet and multimedia laws as well as court cases. Major categories are displayed for browsing and range from Advertising and Promotion to Web Site Hosting.