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“Enforcement” is the latest buzzword being used to describe efforts to expand intellectual property (IP) rights, undermine the rights of consumers and innovators, and shift the responsibility for protecting private rights—such as copyright and trademark rights—from rights holders to government and private parties such as ISPs. Currently, this frenzy for greater "enforcement" is finding an audience in Washington.
Public Knowledge’s Position
Public Knowledge works to ensure that U.S. intellectual property law and policy reflect the “cultural bargain” intended by the Framers: providing an incentive to creators and innovators while benefiting the public through the free flow of information and ideas.
We want to make sure that enforcement efforts aren’t so broad and indiscriminate that they target fair uses of copyrighted works, or use draconian tactics that will cut off Internet access for those merely accused of infringement. We also want to make sure that changes to enforcement policy and IP law are made in open forums, not in secretive agreements like the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
In light of this, we not only make legal arguments in briefs, filings, and meetings, but we also hold events—like World’s Fair Use Day—to raise awareness and to give the creators and innovators who are most impacted a voice in Washington.
These are some of the specific issues and projects we’re working on right now:
3D printing is technology that can turn digital files into physical reality. Design an object in a free program like Blender or Google Sketchup, or just use a 3D scanner to create a file. Once you have the file, send it to your 3D printer and wait for it to appear.
3D printing has the potential to be a revolutionary, disruptive technology. Because it allows people to create, copy, and modify objects, it will also have a large impact on our existing intellectual property laws. Many will see 3D printing as a threat, and will turn to expanding IP law to cripple this awesome new technology.
Rogue Website Legislation
The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, S.968, or the PROTECT IP Act, also known as PIPA, would allow the Attorney General to require domain name registries to "suspend operation of, and lock, the domain name" of a website the DoJ determines to be “dedicated to infringing activity.”
There are a number of serious issues with the way PIPA tries to tackle the legitimate concern of websites that infringe copyrights and trademarks. Left unresolved, these issues could harm consumers, educational institutions, innovative technologies, economic growth and global Internet freedom.
On October 28, 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) into law. The law provided “safe harbors” for Internet service providers, thereby paving the way for services like YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and the Web as we know it today. At the same time, the DMCA ushered in a set of “anti-circumvention” rules that placed restrictions on a variety of users and innovators.
Public Knowledge supports measures to uphold the “safe harbor” provision of the DMCA, but finds the “anti-circumvention” rules problematic. These rules essentially make limitations on copyright obsolete—if you “circumvent” a digital lock (like DRM) on a copyrighted work for any reason, even if the use itself is protected under fair use, you are still violating federal law. This is the perfect example of a policy that increases IP enforcement without regard for balance.
The fashion industry has thrived in the absence of heavy copyright restrictions, but some want to extend copyright protections to fashion designs. There is a good possibility that such a policy would be detrimental both to the creative process and the profitability of the industry.
Public Knowledge, along with other experts in the field, is against any legislation or policy that would hamper the fast-paced, greatly innovative creative cycle that is part of the fashion ecology.
Because inventors have to make substantial investments to bring their novel ideas to fruition, the government grants them a temporary monopoly for the invented product. The benefits of this are twofold: the inventor reaps monetary benefits from his work and has incentive to make his knowledge public.
Public Knowledge believes that flaws in the patent system are discouraging innovation and that patent holders are abusing these flaws for anticompetitive gain. Patent reform is necessary to enhance patent quality, reduce litigation and make the patent system fair and balanced.
A trademark, or mark, is essentially a name, logo or symbol that distinctively identifies a company as the source of a product or service. Because consumers can rely on this association that ties a mark and a company together, they can generally rest assured that when they buy or use a product with a given name, they will not be confused about who created it.
Public Knowledge is concerned that over-enforcing trademark law could negatively impact free speech, small business commercial speech, and repurpose traditional trademark law to protect business interests over consumers.
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For More Information on IP Enforcement