Sharing is caring, right? In the copyrighting world, the answer is – not quite! Just ask the site owners of Megaupload.com; who certainly seem to have had their fair share of the US Justice Department’s attention when the internet realm was set a buzz with recent shut downs in their file sharing activity.

Mega..who?

Megaupload Limited is a Hong Kong based online company which hosts file sharing, storage and viewing between users. The site, rated as the 13th most visited site on the internet, is being held accountable by the US Justice Department for conscious copyright infringement.

But what does copyrighting infringement really mean and what can I copyright?

Exactly what sort of work has copyright potential? Follow the flow chart to see if your work is eligible for protection by copyright law.

When is it ok to share such information via online sites? Once copyrighted, the rights to your work essentially belong to you alone and no one else can reproduce or create work deriving from yours without your permission. UK law does not require copyrights to be registered. The only time the copyright of a work you created does not belong to you, is when, as an employee, you create your work in the course of the employment. Copyright periods last between 25 and 70 years depending on the work.

What does this mean for me as the owner and/or user of a file sharing site? How can I protect my site/work from copyright infringement?

Megauploads’ defence includes claims that rightsholders could remove content infringing their copyrights – but is this enough to free the site owner’s from liability? Interestingly, the UK’s Digital Economy Act  would suggest so, as it places a large amount of responsibility on the rightsholder to monitor and report potential infringement and on Internet Service Providers to monitor infringers. UK antipiracy laws have however; come under a large amount of criticism in their lag behind EU and US laws. US copyright law  provides a safe harbour for sites which remove content infringing copyrights from their sites, but this in no way extends to site owners who ignore known infringements.

UK users of file sharing sites should be aware of what copyrighted works include to avoid downloading or sharing infringing content.  Infringers can expect their usage to be monitored if reported and potentially have their internet access restricted if after a year they are still infringing copyrights.

Similar file hosting sites to Megaupload.com, have reacted to recent events by restricting access to shared files and blocking US based IP addresses. As a site owner, you probably don’t want to inconvenience your users by disabling valid features, so another option may be to ‘police’ your site and actively remove infringing content. Either way, the issues surrounding the Megaupload scenario have necessitated the need for file host regulation to deter from copyright infringement. This is big news for site owners and users alike, and is sure to set the path for future infringement cases.

*See next week’s article on your rights as an anonymous artist to artwork and sculptures; with examples of current artists such as Banksy and the mysterious Scottish sculptor.

For more information or advice on copyrighting your work, give us a call on 0203 086 8110. Venture Proof also offers ‘Pro’ and ‘Web’ packages which include Copyright advice from our Patent Attorneys.

By Ghabiba Weston


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