Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property, Copyright and Trademark and Patents

Article Snapshot

Author(s)

Jason Mazzone

Source

Stanford Law Books, 2011

Summary

This book explains the opposing interests of copyright holders and users, and proposes a compromise.

Policy Relevance

By clarifying the lines between what is legal use and what is protected, both copyright holders and users of copyrighted materials can benefit without needing to either expand or contract the scope of copyrights and trademarks.

Main Points

  • There is a great deal of literature criticizing the current state of patent, copyright, and trademark law in the United States. However there is little consensus on what the problem, and the solution, actually is.


  • At present, patent holders are given the right to control the use of certain intellectual property or information for a limited period of time. Holders and users both suggest different ways of reforming the current system.

    • Patent holders (holders) complain that there is not enough incentive to innovate and suggest stronger patent rights for longer periods of time.


    • Individual users of protected works (users) complain that patents are too broad in both scope and time and suggest limited rights for shorter periods of time.

  • However, at present, incentives for patent holders already exist, as do strict limitations on the scope and duration of those patents. Thus, instead of either strengthening or weakening present law, the current boundaries between what is protected by a patent and what is open for public use should be clarified.


  • One example of unclear boundary areas exists in the field of “fair use.” The legal doctrine of “fair use” allows limited use of protected works under specific conditions. For example, using and reproducing protected material for educational purpose is permitted on a limited scale without the consent of the holder.


  • The amount of “fair use” that the public engages in has decreased because of the threat of litigation, often unfounded threats, made by holders. However, holders’ fear of uncontrolled use under the guise of “fair use” has also created problems.


  • As holders have attempted to defend against expansion of “fair use” and avoid the uncertainty of the current US system, they have turned to creating individual contracts governing the relationship between holders and users. These contracts undermine the system by working outside it and allowing too much control by the holders.


  • What is needed is a new set of laws clearly defining the boundaries between what is protected and what is available for public use in conjunction with stricter penalties for violations of those boundaries.  In this way, both users and owners of intellectual property can benefit from a system that can easily be created from the foundation of current intellectual property law.

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