Intellectual property- Copyscape for everything?
When Copyscape came on the scene to combat plagiarism, it was a very positive move. It was also perhaps the first really workable and usable methodology ever created to provide clear comparisons of intellectual property, (IP) which is one of the hottest legal issues on Earth.
The fact is that international treaties and national laws didn’t really make much of an impact on plagiarism. Copyscape did. Instant identification of copied materials has made a huge difference to the internet and writing as a profession, very much for the better.
However- There’s still no easily accessible method to compare music, artworks, or things like logos and trademarks available to people engaged in creating these things. Something is desperately needed.
Copyright law isn’t simple and nor are copyright infringements. In some IP cases, only part of the IP is infringed, and often unknowingly. It is quite possible to innocently infringe on copyright, and it’s often because there’s simply no way of being aware of the existence of the other work, or even knowing when it was created.
That situation causes most of the problems. In theory, the owner of a previously existing copyright has prior claim to the IP content. In practice, it’s often like figuring out which bits of a jigsaw puzzle were first created by whom. Hardly efficient, and guaranteed to create lawsuits. Given that copyright persists during the lifetime of the IP creator and for 50 years after death, it’s basically a way of breeding lawyers.
The current IP culture- Unhealthy, expensive and unproductive
The present IP culture is largely accusative. It’s almost totally negative. Record industries sue people for ridiculous amounts of money for a few bucks worth of materials. Ridiculous, easily evaded copy protection software is included like some sort of Stone Age tribal ritual, ignoring the obvious fact that there are multiple ways of copying anything. The result is vast expense on semi-effective methods which usually don’t deliver much more than token results.
Artists, writers and musicians are in an equally unenviable position. Creative people don’t willingly infringe on the copyright of others. They’re far too conscious of the issues. That said, they’re furious when someone infringes on their own materials. They feel, often with some justification, that it’s literally taking the food out of their mouths.
Realistically, courts and lawmakers can only do so much with this very inadequate state of affairs. On a case by case basis, it’s possible to develop working principles, but with the sheer volume of modern creative media, the legal avenues are like using a few buckets to move the Pacific Ocean. Law can only work on principles, not specific practices, which again have to be translated into case law.
Copyscape for everything
The best approach is to create functional tools like Copyscape to create a working rule book and get accurate measures of the IP elements in all creative media. Positive identification of exact matches in any type of creative media are theoretically possible with digital technology. Even colors and forms can be analyzed using comparatively basic software. (Vector drawing, for example, would be useful for analyzing artworks and designs, and digital music is very easy to read.) This could work basically like a search engine, and could be equally advanced, using similar parameters to SEO.
It’d also be useful for defining public domain better than it now is, which is usually a rather sloppy, unverifiable assumption that materials are “out of copyright”, which often isn’t the case. Ownership of IP can be transferred, and often is. You simply can’t assume that an old work is out of copyright. Creative commons could also be better defined, and accredited as such as a search category. A lot of unintentional abuse of copyright is based as much on ignorance as anything else.
The fact is that vague, outdated methodologies are choking creative media in two directions- Original works can’t be well defined on a sufficiently basic level, and infringements can’t be quantified quickly and accurately enough to make effective responses to plagiarism efficient.
Copyscape for industrial design would be another valuable option. Designers are often lumbered with patents as the sole source of information about design IP. In the modern design environment, that’s like working with parchment scrolls, and about as efficient. CAD design easily translates into measurable design elements. It wouldn’t be difficult to create a Copyscape equivalent for these designs.
Something has to be done, because the present methods don’t work at all. A lot of unnecessary trouble is caused simply by having no method of accurately defining IP materials. The sooner working methods are put in place, the better.