In the last ten years, with the arrival of social-networking sites like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, the public has been able to share photographs with ease and without much regard to copyright.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) recognized a need to indemnify themselves from the wild popularity of social media and its capacity to distribute and redistribute copyrighted materials with a click of the mouse. Strong lobbying in the United States resulted with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA for short). In most countries “Fair Dealing” provides for limited reproduction without license from the owner of the copyright.
Regardless of DMCA indemnification to ISPs, the bottom line remains that, according to the Copyright Act of Canada, with only a very few exceptions, provides: “s13. (1) Subject to this Act, the author of a work shall be the first owner of the copyright therein.” In short, in almost all cases, it is illegal to re-distribute a photograph from one website URL to another website page without first having the authorization and license to do so.
A relatively new term is “Creative Commons” licensing, an initiative is to see works placed on the internet with pre-authorized authority of the copyright owner for distribution and re-distribution providing author attribution is provided. There are six levels of Creative Commons licenses that “provide tools that work in the all rights granted space of the public domain”, according to the Creative Commons website.
If the United States, European Union, and other countries can indemnify the ISPs from copyright lawsuits, should these same governments not also be protecting the intellectual property of the copyright holders? Is it time for legislators to revisit the DMCA, and parallel legislation in other countries, to also ensure the person posting or re-posting that photograph has the authority and license to do so from the copyright owner?
Is it possible to create legislation to engage the social media networks to ensure, by reasonable measure, the person posting or re-posting a copyrighted work has the license to do so?
Perhaps Creative Commons licensing is the correct step to identifying public domain property. But how, and by whom, is this licensing model going to be monitored and policed?
One thing is certain: the current complacency regarding copyright on the internet has seriously undermined the intellectual property of creators.
Has copyright really lost its meaning and value? Have the very laws that are in place to protect creators lost their teeth?