Subject: Intellectual property in the Information Age (P/R)
There is growing concern that the current legal system cannot keep pace with the rapid
advances being made in technology. Advances in biotechnology, software development,
computer technology and the information superhighway are creating problems for intellectual property laws which govern patents, copyrights, trademarks , and trade secrets.
These laws are used to ascertain whether an idea is patentable and thus should provide
for the dispersion of profits to the creator(s); technology is growing too quickly for these laws to keep up.
In the 1980s the Supreme Court ruled, after much contention, that scientific discoveries were inventions
and that new life forms can be patented; furthermore patent protection was extended
to include genetically altered animals. The Internet is currently in a situation similar to that of biotechnology in the 80s. Rather than concern over patents,
however, the emphasis is more on copyright. The issue revolves around the question
of fair use and copyright violations. "How do you erect toll booths at various electronic gateways to the Internet while still ensuring continued public access," is a question
causing much consternation among government agencies, as well as users and producers
of electronic materials.
The current proposal made by a task force created by the Clinton administration says
"any digital transmission of copyrighted work should be considered infringement."
However, opponents say this proposal is obsolete because it is based on tangible
objects rather than intellectual property and furthermore gives the power to the publishers.
Increasing enforcement will not protect copyright on the Net, argue opponents.
Developing a method to give compensation where it is due while at the same time not
interfering with public access is critical. It may be years before the laws catch
up with the technology and reasonable mechanisms are devised to protect intellectual
Marsa, Linda. (1996, winter). Whose ideas are they anyway? Omni, 17,
There are numerous stakeholders involved in the intellectual property rights battle,
including government policymakers, artists, writers, musicians, librarians, and consumer
watchdogs. Many educators, who are already lagging behind in simply learning how
to use the technology available, are not cognizant that there even exist legal implications
involved with the use of technology. Not keeping abreast of the legalities involved
with technology could cause major problems for educators, one of which could very easily be the ethical use of the Internet.