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Lesson 2Electronic publishing and intellectual property rights
Objective Define electronic publishing and intellectual property rights.

Electronic Publishing and Intellectual Property Rights

Electronic publishing (EP) is the use of computers rather than traditional print mechanisms to produce and distribute information. With the increased use of EP, intellectual property has become a somewhat controversial topic. Intellectual property includes products such as written materials, musical compositions, trademarks, and other things that are protected by copyright, trademark or patent law. As more products are published through electronic media, issues such as copyright, trademark, and patent infringement often arise.
Because computers quicken the pace of copying, transmitting, and disseminating information, and because it is difficult to assert ownership of something so easily transferable, computers challenge the entire idea of ownership of intellectual property.

Information is Intangible

Some have characterized intellectual property law as an obsolete device suited to protecting tangible goods. To varying degrees, information is intangible, so how can it be protected? Recent legislation has sought to modify existing laws to cover online media and other intangible goods. As these laws are written and applied, considerable ambiguity is expected in defining intellectual property infringements. Once the laws are established and understood uniformly, protection will be more easily granted to the rightful owners.
Intellectual property (IP) is a legal concept which refers to creations of the mind for which exclusive rights are recognized. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs. Common types of intellectual property rights include copyright, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights, trade dress, and in some jurisdictions trade secrets.

Reasons for Obtaining a Patent

There are many reasons a party may wish to obtain patent protection, and the brief discussion presented here is not intended to be all-inclusive. One reason for obtaining a patent is to protect your intellectual property. Thus, the holder of the patent may be able to prevent competition by preventing others from taking advantage of the invention. Others may decide not to compete at all in the particular area, or may decide to spend significant amounts of time and money developing processes or products that do not infringe on your patent. Alternatively, if both sides are willing, the patent holder may license part or all of the patent to another party for a fixed fee, a royalty, or some combination of the two. A license is basically an agreement between a licensor (patent holder) and licensee that the licensor will not sue the licensee for what would otherwise constitute infringement of some or all of the patent claims.
Another reason for obtaining a patent is more defensive. For example, Company B may be reluctant to sue Company A for infringement of Company B's patent, if Company B thinks that Company A may countersue for infringement of Company A's patents. Often, such a situation may result in cross-licensing between the two parties, in which each agrees not to sue the other for infringement of all or part of each other’s patents. Yet another reason for obtaining a patent, especially for start-up companies, is for attracting investment. Investors like to know that there is some value in whatever they are investing in, and the existence of one or more patents (or even pending patent applications) may be an indication of a company’s viability.

Areas of Liability

Areas of liability in electronic publishing can be divided into three categories:
  1. Copyright, trademark, and patent issues
  2. Privacy and confidentiality issues
  3. Jurisdictional issues

These issues apply to university and corporate Web sites. A university or corporation may be liable if one of its members creates a page that offends others. In following lessons, we will look at each of these issues in some detail.

Electronic Publishing:

Electronic Publishing is the process for production of typeset quality documents containing text, graphics, pictures, tables, and equations. Electronic Publishing can be represented as:
EP = Electronic technology + Computer technology + Communication technology + Publishing
Kist defined electronic publishing as "the application by publishers of a computer-aided process, by which they find, capture, store, and update information content using the latest in JavaScript technologies, in order to disseminate it to a chosen audience". Kist pointed out that this definition makes no distinction between the 1) manufacturing process and the 2) disseminating process. Less than a decade ago the term electronic publishing identified an activity that is now referred to as desktop publishing, in which information is stored and formatted electronically, but manufactured and distributed by traditional paper-based methods. Kist claimed that the term electronic publishing (which can include any single aspect digital storage or transmission of a publication) is now so broad that it is usually meaningless.
Brownrigg and Lynch took a very different approach to defining an electronic publication. Their insightful article began by making a clear distinction between electronic production and distribution of information. The authors distinguished between what they called Newtonian (Gutenberg/paper-based) publishing and quantum-mechanical publishing. They concluded that much of what is currently labeled electronic publishing is actually traditional Gutenberg-style publishing carried out by modern methods. Their thesis was that electronic publishing is a delivery medium: that publication is an action and process rather than an artifact. This idea seems to have some merit.

Discussion on EP and areas of liability

The areas of liability described above lead many corporations, universities, and Internet Service Providers to have strict monitoring and usage policies. It's been said that NAPSTER, which lets people exchange music for free, should be allowed to exist unchallenged, and that the steps taken by musicians to protect their intellectual property by shutting NAPSTER down are really selfish. It's also been proposed that all pornography should be banned from the Web, since different countries have different laws on pornography distribution, and the Web crosses all international boundaries, making law enforcement impossible.
Do you agree with either of the above statements? Do you strongly disagree? Join the discussion on electronic publishing, the ownership of intellectual property, and intellectual property rights.
In the next lesson, you will learn about copyright and copyright issues.

Trademarks Liability - Quiz

Click the Quiz link below to complete a quiz on electronic publishing.
Trademarks Liability - Quiz