April 26, 2002

Georgia Harper Discusses Copyrights in Cyberspace

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Georgia Harper, the manager for the Intellectual Property Section of the Office of the General Counsel for the University of Texas, spoke yesterday in Warren Hall in a lecture about “Copyright and Cyberspace.” Harper was invited to speak by the Cornell Computer Policy and Law Program, which is sponsored by the Office of Information Technology, the administrative arm of CIT.

Harper began by explaining the purposes and principles of copyright law. The purpose of the Copyright Act according to the Constitution is “to improve our society through the advancement of knowledge,” quoted Harper. “Copyright law achieves this purpose by balancing interests. It provides rights for owners and rights for users,” Harper said.

In Harper’s overview of “copyright basics,” she explained what copyright laws protect, when this protection begins and ends, and what it means to both the owners and users.

“Copyright only protects unique ways of expressing ideas once the expressions are fixed in a tangible medium,” Harper explained. Therefore, Harper’s explained that copyright laws protected her own power-point presentation.

Harper also discussed how recent copyright laws have created longer terms of copyright protection.

“The changes in this area are strong evidence of a shift in the balance, away from the public interest and toward commercial interests,” said Harper.

Harper further explained the exemptions to copyright law for higher education, including the Fair Use Act, which allows the use of certain copyrighted material for educational purposes without prior permission.

After providing the overview of the basics of copyright law, Harper delved into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was designed to regulate cyberspace and to protect the rights of copyright owners.

“I am concerned that copyright’s basic goal, to improve our society by supporting the development of knowledge is endangered by the erosion of users