Copyright & New Technology: Can an Old Dog Like Copyright Law Learn New Tricks?
Presented by the Beverly Hills Bar Association's Intellectual Property, Internet & New Media Section
Since the major overhaul of copyright law in 1976, and the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1996, there has not been much change in Title 17 of United States Code. There have been attempts to pass legislation (such as the Section 115 Reform Act of 2006 ["SIRA" or "S1RA"], the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act ["SOPA"] and Protect Intellectual Property Act ["PIPA"]). New proposals continue to be raised (such as the so-called "Music Modernization Act"), but these have not yet gathered much traction. The most significant change in copyright law, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, passed in 1998, did nothing to address new technological developments.
Copyright law nevertheless continues to evolve through case law, even without any new statutes enacted in more than 20 years to rapidly changing systems of distributing content. Recent cases, however, often apply well-established doctrines to address problems raised by new technologies, some of which purport to exploit loopholes in existing copyright statutes. These attempts to push the boundaries of copyright protection meet with varying degrees of success, and raise additional questions.