Copyright & Multimedia

Intellectual property rights in the multimedia environment are going to be a major problem. Technologies are changing, market practices are still evolving, the size of the market is unknown and the relationship of multimedia markets to traditional markets is undefined or ambiguous. To create the perception of choice in multimedia requires much more material than linear media. IBM invested millions of dollars in its Multimedia Developers Program and committed millions more to establishing standards.

It may be to the developer's advantage to produce all program components rather than try to deal with an evolving industry. Acquiring intellectual property is costly and problematic. Sometimes the developer finds that the content owners do not own the rights to the content they are licensing. Multimedia developers want licensing to give them the ability to buy and use existing intellectual property rather than create it themselves. However, it is not clear what rights they will need. Content owners are equally puzzled by which rights they should sell.

Today multimedia developers use primarily stand alone storage-based publishing devices. When wideband transmission is easily available publishing via wide area networks may be commonplace. This is already the emerging model in higher education. Per copy licensing does not work for network-based publishing. Per-use licensing does not work well for storage-based publishing even though it looks fair and it has worked well for the on-line database industry. Usage-based pricing normally requires a networked system with considerable technological and marketing overhead. It discourages new users and the experimentation and exploration that is needed to stimulate and build demand. Nobody likes to hear a meter ticking. Education networks are increasingly ubiquitous and there is a great resistance to metered information. The preferred payment method is a fixed cost which can be budgeted.

"Transclusion" is one solution - once you pay to access something in the system you have permanent personal access to it. Transclusion attempts to make network access more like buying a product.

In concurrent-use licensing, a flat fee is charged based on the number of users who can access the service at the same time.

Once standards are set and distribution systems are in place, multimedia will become a preferred communications vehicle for education. Authoring tools will allow multimedia producers without computer science backgrounds to write programs. Easy access by multimedia creators to libraries of program content will be a key feature of Kaleida.

The Commerce Department has released recommendations for rewriting copyright law to protect the creators of books, recordings, movies and other forms of information in the digital age. Existing copyright law does not make it clear that it is a violation of the copyright owner's rights to distribute a protected work over the Internet.

Without this, some copyright owners will not use the Internet or the NII. Digital equipment which converts text, pictures and sound into a series of zeroes and ones that are read by a computer, can be used to easily reproduce works ranging from sound recordings to database indexes, making copies that are virtually identical to the original.

The changes in the draft copy of the recommendations are fairly minimal, but would afford copyright owners a solid legal basis to pursue violators through civil lawsuits. Although it would be virtually impossible to stop individual bootleg copies of material from being transmitted electronically, the goal is to create a legal deterrent. The fair-use privilege contained in an informal set of guidelines, now provides for the unauthorized use of copyright material in cases involving comment and criticism, news reporting and classroom teaching.

from "A Technical Guide to Teleconferencing and Distance Learning," 3rd edition