Can Copyright Issues Derail Cloud Computing?
“If the only way a library can offer an Internet exhibit about the New Deal is to hire a lawyer to clear the rights to every image and sound, then the copyright system is burdening creativity in a way that has never been seen before because there are no formalities.”
– Lawrence Lessig, American academic and political activist.
“Certainly the interest in asserting copyright is a justified one.”
– Johannes Rau (1931-2006), German politician.
Copyright is defined as “a set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work.” For a long time, copyright has been the subject of intense debate amongst various stakeholders. While most agree that some degree of protection is necessary to safeguard the interest of artists and producers, some believe that draconian copyright laws are against consumers’ interests.
In fact, if you do remember the days of Napster, some even argue that the file-sharing service was not in contravention of copyright law. In fact, American lawyer David Boies argued, “Napster’s only alleged liability is for contributory or vicarious infringement. So when Napster’s users engage in noncommercial sharing of music, is that activity copyright infringement? No.”
However, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), the same body that took down Napster years ago, may not be so charitable towards sharing of music, even if it not be for commercial purposes. In what could deal a blow to cloud-based storage, the RIAA has filed legal action against Box.Net, one of the rising stars in this industry (See: Box.net, Amazon Cloud Drive – The Future of Cloud Storage And Sharing… ).
Although Box.net referred to the RIAA action as a “standard DMCA takedown request that was filed in response to an isolated incident involving a single alleged copyright violation”, some proponents of cloud computing fear wider implications of this action. Their fears are not completely unfounded since cloud storage as offered by Box.net and other providers like Dropbox do offer some of the features of file sharing that a recent court ruling found illegal. As you may guess, that ruling was in response to a case filed by the RIAA against a company LimeWire.
All things considered, such action by the RIAA is not entirely unexpected. Legal implications of cloud-based storage have been discussed in a few earlier articles, but there hasn’t been much clarification on the issue.
See: Unlikely Lessons for the Cloud Computing Industry
Box.net has issued the following statement in response:
“We take the confidentiality of our customers’ information very seriously, but just like all other businesses, we are legally required to comply with court orders. Our compliance will be limited to the information the court requires we produce. At Box, we’re primarily focused on powering collaboration and information sharing within businesses, and it’s rare that we run into copyright infringement issues in those instances.”
In conclusion, I believe that consumers should be allowed some degree of freedom in the way they store, copy and transfer content that they have paid for, while providing protection to the record companies against unauthorized copying and distribution. Whether that is possible through current technology is an issue worth exploring. While legal action of this kind may pose some problems to cloud computing, in my opinion, it will not stop its adoption.
By Sourya Biswas