What is impact of Information Technology on Copyrights?

Copyright law gives an author, composer, or artist several exclusive rights: copy, publish, distribute, perform, make derivative works, etc., depending upon the type of work.

Information technology (especially digitization) has made the process of copying, publishing and distributing digital copies very inexpensive. New forms of media have been created, raising new questions of law: does a user of a computer have additional inherent rights to make copies of software or other files during computer operations?

On the electronic side of IT, microscopic integrated circuit technology became extremely valuable and so-called "mask works" (for creating the functional layers of semiconductors) were found to be not subject to copyright because of their functional nature. A new type of statutory protection was created, outside of copyright, to protect these expensive artworks from illegal copying.

Digital audio tapes (and later media) spawned an entirely new way of making and distributing copies of sound recordings, including copyrighted music. New methods were created for collecting and sharing the royalty revenue, and for protection against bootleg copies. New laws were created to cover digital piracy, copy protection, and the information related to copies (the author, date, owner, license terms, etc).

The rapid spread of the internet, particularly the www protocols in the early 1990s, made nearly everyone with a computer a potential publisher. On the flip side, every "web browser" automatically downloads a copy of a "web page", as part of its normal operation to display the information the author has published, under a newly "implied license" to make copies, at least for personal use. New questions arose regarding the distinctions between having authorized an infinite number of copies and having no protection for what recipients can do with those copies.

A large segment of the population began to confuse or conflate the concepts that "anyone can have one for free" and "public domain."

Trade related intellectual property rights became increasingly important in international relations. New questions arose regarding harmonization of copyright laws, jurisdiction over online copying in "cyberspace", and the issues related to automatic translations and limits on converting copies to new types of storage media.

As faster network speeds became economical and protocols more efficient, the new channels were quickly filled with new media: online music, video, photographs. A new wave of treaties and statutes will attempt to rationalize the royalties with modern copying and distribution means.