|As Viacom prepares to square off against Google in its lawsuit over the use of copyrighted material on YouTube, the provisions of The Digital Millennium Copyright Act [DMCA] are being widely discussed and are sure to be hotly debated. When the law was passed in 1998, Internet and technology companies got a clause inserted that relieves them of liability for being just innocent conduits.
What that really means, and how it will be applied in this watershed case, remains to be seen.
U.S. copyright protection began in 1790 when George Washington signed the first copyright law. For the next two centuries, changes in the law were infrequent, driven usually by revolutionary advances in technology. Under the umbrella of intellectual property, a bevy of protections encourages innovation and equitably compensates inventors and creators for their efforts. Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan got to the core of the issue when he said, “the economic product of the United States has become predominantly conceptual.”
The facts support his observation. Today, 75% of the value of publicly traded U.S. companies comes from intangible assets such as intellectual property. In the U.S., licensing revenue amounts to about $45 billion annually. Worldwide, the figure approaches $100 billion.
New technologies require creative approaches to intellectual property. In the early 1990s, innovations in production, distribution, and access to copyright materials led dominant players in the entertainment and information industries to collaborate on redrafting the copyright law to protect their substantial investments in creative content.
The result was The Digital Millennium Copyright Act [DMCA] of 1998, designed to prevent the use of current technology, including the Internet, to duplicate or distribute copyrighted material such as music, movies, and literature.
Intellectual asset management is a strategic business issue because business today is competitive, global, and fueled by information transmitted instantly 24/7.
No company understands this global battlefield better than Microsoft. An army of lawyers files hundreds of legal actions annually to protect the billions it spends on research and development. They also do battle in the court of public opinion. In March 2007, for example, Microsoft launched an offensive against Google and its intention to scan every copyrighted book into a database.
If you don’t have Microsoft’s millions to defend your creative content and intellectual property, here are four straightforward steps you can take:
1. Tell and sell. The same story you tell in court is the same story you should be selling to the media.
2. Remember that if you’re instituting the action, you’re on the offense and that the defense is usually constrained from commenting on a case. Exploit this natural advantage with the media.
3. Watch your back. So-called advocates and adversaries are usually motivated by their own agenda.
4. You must know the rules of the game. Every situation is unique. If you don’t have relevant experience or expertise, hire the best talent you can find.
Honored as Crisis Agency of the Year by The Holmes Report in 2005, Levick Strategic Communications protects brands and reputations during high-stakes litigation with comprehensive campaigns on behalf of clients on litigation communications. Visit http://www.levick.com to find other helpful articles, books, and newsletters.