Netizens need to learn about copyright, producer says

Friday, December 1, 2000

ARLINGTON, Va. — Disputes over freedom of speech and copyright
law will continue to cause legal friction on the Web because of the Internet
culture’s ignorance of and lack of interest in the law, an independent
television producer said yesterday.

“The culture that started on the Internet has no respect for
copyright,” said Meryl Marshall Daniels, chairman of the board and chief
executive officer at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, at a panel
discussion on “Surveying the Digital Future.” The conference was co-sponsored
by UCLA and The Freedom Forum.

“We as a society have done a terrible job at creating an understanding
of copyright,” she said. “If we intend to maintain (the value of copyright law
then) it needs to be a cultural value taught at a very, very young age so
(children understand) the concept of theft.”

The copyright cases regarding MP3 music files have been bringing this
issue to the forefront, but people are too used to everything on the Internet
being free and aren’t concerned about the law, Alan Wurtzel, executive vice
president at NBC Television, said.

“At the beginning of the Internet we taught society that they only had
to pay for access,” with few exceptions, he said. “Even if Napster began
charging small amounts of money for (music) downloads people will still ask,
‘Why should I pay for music (at Napster) if I can go to Gnutella and get it for

Because of the difficulty of protecting copyright on the Internet,
certain high-tech firms have made a business out of scouring the Net looking
for violators, said David Poltrack, executive vice president of CBS Television.
This kind of crackdown, he said, reduces one of the most popular
characteristics of the Internet — options.

“Now that I’m empowered (by the freedom of the Internet), I have other
options to turn to if I’m not getting [the content] I want” from a particular
program, newscast or Web site, Poltrack said. It’s important for networks and
Web sites to realize that “people are becoming more selective in how they use
their time.”

Low-quality content is no longer acceptable, he said.

In addition to having the power to select information on the Web, U.S.
users are used to having unlimited freedom of speech.

“The Internet has grown up as an uncontrolled medium and freedom of
expression is inherent” to the technology, Daniels said. “People use the
Internet to express ideas that aren’t regulated by the government or filtered
by media organizations.”

But in France, such freedom is not guaranteed, George Vradenburg III,
senior vice president for global and strategic policy at American Online

“France and Yahoo are (in) a mini war” over
France’s effort to restrict
Yahoo! from allowing neo-Nazi content on its site, he said. “By trying in
one country to suppress speech … we are certainly not going to get a
result that is satisfactory” to everyone because it makes information
unavailable to people in other countries.

The future of the Internet lies in policy making by a global community
of businesses, social groups and citizens. “We are now going to see a more
complex policy process,” Vradenburg said. “We need to collaborate as a society
to try and understand each other’s perspectives” and protect the economic,
cultural and social benefits of the Internet.

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