Internet and Intellectual Property Rights Discussion Questions –

Internet and Intellectual Property Rights Discussion Questions –

Business Finance –

Marketing has been forever changed with the advent of social media. Approximately 65 percent of adults claim to use some form of social media. Marketers are well aware of the strong presence on these sites. On average, 60 percent of their time is committed toward digital media activities. The top three social networks used by business-to-business marketers are LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Additionally, platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, and YouTube, which reach the ideal marketing age group of 18–34-year-olds, are a perfect venues for marketers. Starbucks, for example, perpetuates brand awareness by posting images of its products and logo on Instagram, a photo-sharing application. Walmart utilizes YouTube to host its “Associate Stories Video Series,” which is a series of interviews with Walmart employees around the globe. These types of activities seem to generate relationships and loyalty.

However, with the growing popularity of digital media also comes the growing tendency to violate the intellectual property of other people. Intellectual property (IP) refers to any creation that is both tangible and intangible and used in commerce. Media such as videos, artwork, music, movies, and writings are often copyrighted, or protected from being used except by the owner’s permission. Similarly, trademarks are used to protect brand names and marks from being used by others without permission.

It did not take long for the Internet to impact intellectual property rights. In 1999, the music industry recorded an all-time high in sales with $14.6 billion. A decade later their revenues from music sales totaled $6.3 billion. File-sharing websites such as Pirate Bay provide a platform for people to pirate, or illegally download, music and movies. The music industry has taken a much larger hit from file sharing because of the simplicity of downloading a 5-minute song compared to a video or movie.

It might seem relatively simple for an organization’s marketers to ensure that employees do not place content on social media sites that violate another’s copyright or trademark. However, the interactive nature of the Internet complicates this issue. For instance, a direct selling firm with thousands of independent distributors remains responsible for what their distributors post concerning its brand or business. If an independent direct seller unknowingly posts content that is copyrighted or trademarked, the company can be held responsible.

Additionally, many digital marketing campaigns make use of user-generated content, such as videos or postings. This provides a significant advantage to marketers as content developed by other users is generally considered more trustworthy than corporate marketing initiatives. However, marketers must also be careful that users do not post content that infringes on another’s intellectual property. For instance, if a user posts something to a popular blog that violates intellectual property law, the blogging company must take down the post immediately or risk being sued.

YouTube has had particular trouble with user-generated content violating copyrights. Millions of consumer-generated videos are uploaded to YouTube, and Google (who owns the site) is hard-pressed to monitor all content to makecertain it is original. Viacom, the English Premier League, German performance rights organization GEMA, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West have all filed lawsuits against YouTube for intellectual property violations (with differing outcomes). Although YouTube is protected somewhat by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it must have controls in place to detect potentially copyrighted material and remove any copyrighted material it discovers without permission. A system called Content ID allows rights holders to run it against user uploads on YouTube to detect possible copyrighted materials. Still, as long as illegal uploads and downloads continue, YouTube and other digital media sites are likely to face lawsuits from rights holders who feel their intellectual property has been violated. Most copyright holders tend to sue web platforms and websites that host copyrighted content rather than against users who download the content because suing individual users would not be feasible.

One way companies can protect themselves is through browse wrap agreements, which is the part of the website that informs users about the conditions of using the site. These agreements should have clear policies regarding intellectual property violations. This demonstrates to outside parties that the organization is committed to warning users against violating intellectual property. However, penalties are not often enforced when users violate the agreement because courts have determined that many of the links for these agreements are not conspicuous enough for users to notice. Recommendations are being made to create a standardized and transparent method for websites to display these browse wrap agreements so they meet all relevant conditions. These recommendations could have significant implications for global public policy on intellectual property over the Internet.

  1. How has Internet piracy impacted organizations?
  2. Why is it hard for firms to monitor and protect against intellectual property violations over the Internet?
  3. What are some ways organizations can guard against intellectual property violations on their websites?