Page 4 - Minnesota Vol 8 No 6
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Z. PETER SAWICKI AND JAMES L. YOUNG | Intellectual Property The Internet and Copyright
Copyright law existed way be- fore the internet. In fact, an international copyright treaty
called the Berne Convention has gov- erned copyright law amongst nations since 1886 (except the United States, which did not ratify this treaty until 1988).
 e underlying precept of copy- right law is that making an unauthor- ized copy of a copyrighted work is infringement. Before the internet this rule was fairly understood, mostly because copies were made on paper, canvas or other “hard” surfaces.  e Berne Convention was enacted before the existence of radio communication and electronic data transmission as it exists today.
When electronic transmission (ra- dio and television) became popular methods of communication, the con- cept of copyright infringement be- came a little more complicated. Cop- ies could now be made on mediums other than hard surfaces.
So, what constituted making a copy? Was playing a vinyl record on a jukebox considered making a copy? Did copying occur when a song was transmitted via radio waves? How about showing a copyrighted paint-
ing on a television screen?  e answer to whether copyright infringement exists can be both philosophical and technical in nature.
If you take anything away from this article, remember there is no such thing as a common law copyright. Common law copyright was laid to rest by the Copyright Act of 1976.  e Act of 1976 and its subsequent numer- ous amendments establish the de ni- tions and rules for copyright infringe- ment including electronic transmis- sions, exemptions to infringement and, in some situations, set forth roy- alty collection and payment mecha- nisms and reasonable royalty rates.  e complexities of these issues and the statutes that govern them can be realized by reviewing 17 USC 110 et seq.  ese statutes give the federal tax code a run for its money.
For the most part, these federal statutes helped make some peace in copyright disputes. But then came the internet, a method of electronic com- munication that was initially between individuals but eventually morphed into a world-wide information broad-
casting and sharing mechanism. What started as a way for academics to communicate became a way for
“When electronic transmission (radio
and television) became popular
methods of communication, the concept
of copyright infringement
became a little more complicated.
Copies could now be made on mediums
other than hard surfaces.”
any person to search for information and then the realization by commer- cial entities that this electronic con- nectivity could become a matrix for buying and selling goods and services.
 e popularity of the internet did not come suddenly, although it devel- oped rapidly. At the start, copyright was not a concern, as the develop-
Mr. Sawicki and Mr. James L. Young are shareholders at Westman, Champlin & Koehler. Pete and Jim both have over 30 years of experience obtaining, licensing, evaluating and enforcing patents. Each has also developed an extensive practice regarding the clear- ance, registration, licensing and enforcement of trademarks. They work closely with clients to understand their values and business plans and provide customized and ef- fective strategies for intellectual property asset procurement, growth, management and protection. To contact Z. Peter Sawicki, call (612) 330-0581 or call James L. Young at (612) 330-0495. Please email them directly at either [email protected] or [email protected]

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