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Copyright is a set of exclusive rights granted to the author or the creator of an original work. Those rights include the right to copy, distribute, and adapt the protected work.

There have been debates raging in Congress, on the Internet, on social media, and across the world about the proper scope of copyright protection—debates which led to passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and several controversial proposals relating to the Stop Online Piracy Act. In theory, copyright laws should balance the need to safeguard the interests of the artists and producers of copyrighted works and the “if it’s on the Internet, it’s free for me to use” culture that leads to amazing creations that include TV-show mashups and video remixes.

But how do we offer adequate protection to the creators without significantly stifling further innovation through use (authorized and unauthorized) of creative works? For years, Larry Lessig, a law professor and copyright activist, has been discussing the surprising influence of art, media, and arcane copyright laws on our culture:

 

This protection balancing issue also arises with cloud computing technologies. Cloud computing has made it possible for us to share, collaborate, and connect with others around the world in ways we couldn’t have imagined a decade ago. Over a billion people have Facebook accounts now, which many use to share information that is protected by copyright laws in ways that are authorized, questionable, or illegal. Imagine, over 1/7th of the world’s population is plugged into this social media site and loading copyrighted works for others to see and benefit from every day.

Facebook’s growth was due, in part, to cloud technologies. And YouTube, Box.net, and other video and file sharing sites house many copyrighted works. But there’s little case law guidance for companies that provide services or products involving cloud technology, or their users, who want to avoid copyright issues.

There’s room for creative solutions in this space. Should we have a special set of rules for cloud technologies given their purpose and the way they are used to distribute computing in a manner that makes it difficult to police copyright violations?

Photo credit: MikeBlogs on Flickr.

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