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Date of Award

8-2003

Author's School

School of Law

Degree Name

Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD)

Degree Type

Dissertation

Abstract

As the influence of the Internet in global information gains significance, it gives rise to tremendous legal challenges that have no precedent in history. One aspect of the Internet that arouses controversies is determining the proper path of copyright in the Internet Age. It is foreseeable that this technological evolution may make the traditional copyright law obsolete in the Internet Age. Without a suitable legal system to adapt to the Internet environment, copyright holders' economic interests may not be properly protected and recouped. However, in addition to the protection of copyright holders' interests, it is important to achieve a reasonable balance between the copyright laws' attempt to protect the copyright holders' interests while adequately serving general users' need to utilize the copyrighted material via the Internet. In order to recover the substantial economic harm done to the copyright holders caused by the Internet and deal with the licensing of computer information goods that is not covered by the existing laws, copyright holders have developed effective measures, including contractual and electronic security measures, to reacquire the power to market their computer information goods without entirely relying on copyright law. However, if both security measures are implemented, a situation would arise where a de facto copyright law can be unilaterally and unconscionsably imposed, favorable to the copyright holder. This could nullify the original intent of establishing a balance between private copyright holders' interests and public access to the material. Copyright law represents a system of protection that is designed primarily to serve the public interest in the creation and dissemination of creative works and not the private interests of those who create and disseminate such works. To facilitate computer information transactions in cyberspace, Congress may amend the Copyright Act to make clear that shrink-wrap and click-wrap licenses generally are or are not enforceable, but the public policies contained in copyright law, such as fair use, reverse engineering rights, or other rights key to copyright law's careful balance, must be preserved. Courts and legislatures should not only facilitate and reinforce the combination of electronic and contractual security measures, but should also require copyright holders to abide by restrictions designed to protect the public interest. Only when copyright's delicate balance is respected, will copyright holders, users, and society at large all be winners.

Chair and Committee

Charles R. McManis, Supervising Professor; Michael M. Greenfield, Examining Professor; John Owen Haley, Examining Professor.

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