The topic chosen for research in this paper is “Recent copyright battles for music and movies.” The aim in this research will be to look at the various methods that companies in the entertainment industry use to combat the copyright infringement of their products. The specific focus of this research will be on the music and movie industries. The paper will look at the legal, technological and business strategies that the companies in the two industries have used in this struggle.

The first section of the paper will look at copyright laws, how they are defined and the different parameters and dynamics that surround these laws. An analysis of these laws will help the reader understand the different strategies that the production industries are using to fight piracy. One of the sources that will be used for this analysis is a 2005 report by the Lawyers for the Creative Arts called Legal issues involved in the music industry. The second part will look at the actual strategies that the companies use to combat piracy. In this section, the research will mainly be sourced from news articles, reports from websites and data from official website of relevant companies.

The third and fourth sections of the paper will analyze the information revealed in the second part. The third section will look at the effectiveness of these methods and any ethical issues surrounding them. The effectiveness will mainly be judged using the result of the strategies while the paper will evaluate ethical issues by looking at the concerns that different parties have raised on the strategies. The fourth part will investigate any controversies that have engulfed recent copyright battles that the arts industry has been fighting.










Copyright in music and movies













Recent copyright battles for music and movies


Over the past half century, the American entertainment industry has grown to become one of the most important sectors within the country’s economy. Productions from the music and movie industries generate millions of dollars while the creators of these productions are currently some of the best paid professionals in the world. As of 2010, there were ninety-five thousand movie companies registered with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) with the companies creating 2.4 million jobs in the country. Adding the number of people employed in the music industry more than doubles this figure.[1] Copyright laws play an important role in protecting the players in the arts industry from both insiders and outsiders. Through copyright laws, the intellectual property that these individuals develop is protected from abuse and theft. Despite the threat posed by piracy, the actions that companies in the arts industry are taking are proving to be largely ineffectual.

Defining Copyright Laws

To understand the steps being taken to win recent copyright battles, it is important that there be an analysis of the relevant laws. According to the Lawyers for the Creative Arts, copyright is a special type of legal protection that is issued to different kinds of intellectual property such as songs, poems, novels, movies, television programs and software.[2] There are certain criteria that a piece of work must satisfy before it can be protected under copyright laws. This criterion decides the content that can and cannot be protected and is in some cases dependant on the passage of time and the actual content being protected.

The first criteria determining copyright protection is originality. The property being protected must be original, in the sense that the owner created the item himself or herself and did not borrow it from another source[3]. If the owner borrowed the content from another source without accrediting the source, then they might have infringed on the rights of the original owners. The second criterion states that the item must be “fixed in a tangible medium of expression”. This means that it must be available in an enduring format that makes it possible to recognize and recreate.[4] For instance, recorded music is normally stored in compact discs. A person cannot copyright an idea that is still in their head. The third condition is that the item must contain a minimal degree of creativity. Only creative works can be copyrighted because they can be accredited to specific owners. Articles that cannot be copyrighted include facts, laws and works of different governments.[5] There are circumstances in which artists cannot copyright their works. For instance, if an item’s copyright term expires, the creators cannot renew it. Additionally, creators cannot copyright articles that they had previously submitted to the public domain for free access.

Strategies used to prevent Unauthorized Copying

Legal Strategies

The legal scene has been one of the most important fronts in the fight against piracy and copyright infringement. One legal strategy that the music industry has applied is the filing of legal suits against people caught with pirated music. Between 2003 and 2008, the RIAA sued 18,000 people for possession of pirated music as a way of discouraging people from downloading music from file-sharing sites. One famous case that recently made the news was that of a Minnesota woman called Thomas-Rasset. In 2006, the RIAA stood in for six record labels and sued Thomas-Rasset for illegally downloading over twenty-four songs. The court ordered Thomas-Rasset to pay $222,000, charging her $9,250 per song. The case against Thomas-Rasset involved four trials with two juries instructing that she pay $1.5 million in damages. However, successive appeal saw the figures reduced to $54,000 then reinstated to the original figure of $222,000.[6]

IP industries have come together to combat piracy internationally by launching legal cases against internet companies. In 2012, 34 international movie companies launched a case against an Australian internet service provider (ISP) claiming that the company authorized its clients to access and download content from the internet illegally. In the case, the companies, which included American firms such as Warner Bros and Disney, claimed that the company had the power to prevent the infringement of their copyrights by issuing clients with warnings or suspending and terminating their services. However, the courts claimed that the ISP had no power to prevent such usage of its services. Hollywood studios also launched a case of a similar nature in Britain. The studios made the claim that BT Group, a British ISP, should have blocked access to specific website that allowed unauthorized access to copyrighted content. The courts awarded the studios a victory in this case making this a landmark trial in the fight against internet piracy. The studios’ victory in this case laid the foundation for similar suits against other ISPs.[7]

Another legal course of action taken to fight piracy is the push for stricter laws to fight internet piracy. In 2011, the US House of Representatives, with support from various players in the arts industry, proposed a bill called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) that would allow the Department of Justice to use court orders to stop advertising companies and other organizations from paying websites that are facing accusations of copyright infringement.[8] Unlike the other two legal incidents, SOPA attracted a lot of attention from the internet community due to its scope. If implemented the law would have affected a large number of internet users in different ways, with many of them suffering from a loss of important revenue. Various organizations voiced their strong opposition to SOPA and launched coordinated campaigns trying to stop the bill from being passed. These companies included yahoo, Google, Facebook, Twitter and the Human Rights Watch.[9]




Technological Strategies

            As companies launch legal battles against piracy, there have also been technological measures taken to stop the practice. Different tactics have been used to track illegal downloads, find internet users uploading or downloading copyrighted data and prevent the unauthorized copying of media files. One of the technological methods used to fight piracy is the installation of anti-copying software. Anti-copying software works by limiting the ability of music to be copied to different media. The most popular form of this technology is the DRM (Digital Rights Management). DRM is a term describing any form of special technology that institutes copying and playing restrictions on digital media. Companies usually embed this technology in legally purchased media to bar the consumers from using it in unlawful ways. The DRM licenses work in different ways with some limiting the number of devices on which the media can be transferred while others restrict the used from transferring the data into special formats that can then be distributed. DRM technologies were mainly used in music files, but most companies have stopped distributing media that contains them.[10]

Digital fingerprinting is another strategy that production companies have used to stop the infringement of their copyrights. In this case, the companies fix a unique identification code into each of the copies of their item that they issue. In the event that a leak is detected, the digital fingerprint is used to narrow down the sourced and pinpoint the person or buyer who is responsible for the reproduction and redistribution of the work. The fingerprints are usually stored on a database for comparison with those retrieved from media that are being investigated.[11] The process of fingerprinting is very fragile as an error within a single bit of the fingerprint is enough to change the whole dataset and completely hamper the process. On the bright side, the system that experts apply to create these fingerprints uses very small sets of data meaning that they do not change the actual work in any way.[12]

Business Strategies

The third arena on which IP industries have fought piracy is the business dimension. Here, the companies have formulated strategies aimed at increasing the marketing and sales of their products. One business strategy has been to make the media available online. The internet has revolutionized the arts industry by making media easily accessible and marketable while also providing an avenue for people to distribute it illegally. To fight piracy, IP industries have made it possible for consumers to access their content online and download it for future use. To encourage people to buy this media, companies have taken measures to make it cheaper.[13] For instance, some firms have made it possible for users to download DRM free music, which makes it possible for the downloader to use it on different devices. This makes the music cheaper by removing the need for the user to download the same copy of a song several times. The IP industries are also teaming up with network providers, ISPs and device manufacturers to help distribute their content.[14] These partnerships present a win-win situation for the companies involved as well as the clients.

Players in the arts industries have also started to provide streaming services. Since 2009, streaming sites have been on the increase on the internet. These companies are offering the streaming as a part of their cloud storage services.[15] Even though most consumers prefer to download their media from the internet, increased internet connectivity in the future will make it more convenient for the users to subscribe and use streaming sites. Streaming sites offer other benefits to the productions companies as they are able to study the patterns of their consumers and know the different kinds of music and movies they like and the artists that they prefer. Studies in the UK have shown that given the option of affordable streaming sites users prefer to access legal media rather than download illegal content.[16] Examples of popular streaming websites include Lala, Spotify (both music streaming sites) and Netflix (a movie streaming site).

Effectiveness and ethics of the strategies

            The fact that the entertainment industry is still struggling with piracy suggests that the strategies above have not been very effective. Different strategies have been applied in many sectors to varying degrees of efficiency. One legal strategy that proved to be effective was the legal suit launched against the British IP company. The victory of the Hollywood studios in that case proved to be a turning point as it opened the door for similar suits in Europe and perhaps even in the United States.[17] However, other legal strategies have not been very effective. The cases that the companies have filed against the individuals have also been helpful but this does not mean that the plan can work. Millions of internet users download illegally produced content every year and it would be logistically impossible to file cases against every one of them. The few thousand cases filed against individuals in America were supposed to be a deterrent but that did not seem to work either.

SOPA proved to be a particularly interesting course of action for the IP industries to take. The House of Representatives drafted the bill under intense lobbying from companies working in the arts industries.[18] What made the bill interesting is the amount of furor it drew from the public. The bill faced a barrage of critics who claimed that it would provide an avenue for different parties to crackdown on the freedom of speech and place a huge burden on firms such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook, which in some ways act as gateways to the internet. The irony behind SOPA is that the bill was so radical that it completely failed to work. The American legislature shelved the bill for future “review” under the mounting criticism that it was facing and this turned out to be yet another failed attempt by the IP industries to crack down on piracy.

Technological strategies have not proved to be any better at combating piracy. DRM technologies were at one point seen to be the future for the music industry but other technological advances soon rendered them useless. Limitations on the number of times that a person can copy their music soon proved to be a large inconvenience as it made it impossible for the consumers to use their music on multiple devices. This and other inconveniences forced music distribution companies to remove DRM technologies from their content. Digital fingerprinting has proven to be more practical than DRM but it has its own disadvantages. Hackers have found ways of removing the IDs from the media files making it impossible to track the sources of leaks. Because of this, the fingerprinting technique has proven to be largely unproductive.[19]

Business strategies have turned out to be the most effective in the copyright battles that the music and movie industries are fighting. In the implementation of these strategies, the companies have elected to look at piracy as competition against their own products. Companies have made business decisions to match the legal and technological attempts to stop copyright infringement. The choices made have seen the firms come up with competitive ways of dealing with the problem of copyright infringement by providing reasonable alternatives to the illegally reproduced content. Internet streaming appears to be a good solution to the problem so far and with the right amount of planning, the IP industries may finally be able to win this war.

Current controversies

            The battle to end copyright infringement continues to rage in the United States and several issues have generated a large amount of controversy in the recent past. SOPA has been one of those controversial issues, with its critics arguing that its implementation will damage the fabric of the internet as a host of sites and domains risk being blacklisted for various reasons. Another controversy surrounding copyright battles involves the economic damage of piracy. The MPAA has constantly been accused of inflating figures concerning the losses that the movie industry suffers from piracy as a way of garnering support.[20]



            Copyright infringement is a worrying issue for parties involved in the arts and entertainment industry. Since the world entered the internet age, the IP industries have been losing millions of dollars yearly to piracy and other infringements of their intellectual property rights. Different parties are fighting the battle against copyright infringement on various arenas but these combined efforts are still proving to be futile. Technological and legal avenues appear to have failed and the business strategies implemented seem to be a concession of defeat. The most important thing now is for the companies to plot out a strong plan for the future and for the US government to grant them full support before an industry worth billions of dollars is lost.




[1] Brad Plumer, “SOPA: How much does online piracy really cost the economy?” The Washington Post, last modified 5 January, 2012,

[2] Lawyers for the Creative Arts, “Legal issues involved in the music industry,” Lawyers for the Creative Arts, 2005,

[3] Lawyers for the Creative Arts, “Legal issues involved in the music industry,” Lawyers for the Creative Arts, 2005,

[4] Lawyers for the Creative Arts, “Legal issues involved in the music industry,” Lawyers for the Creative Arts, 2005,

[5] Lawyers for the Creative Arts, “Legal issues involved in the music industry,” Lawyers for the Creative Arts, 2005,

[6]“Minnesota woman ordered to pay $222,000 in music piracy case,” Rolling Stone News, last modified 12 September, 2012,

[7] Erik Larson, “Hollywood studios win U.K. case against BT over piracy site,”, last modified 28 July, 2011,

[8] Brad Plumer, “SOPA: How much does online piracy really cost the economy?” The Washington Post, last modified 5 January, 2012,

[9] Brad Plumer, “SOPA: How much does online piracy really cost the economy?” The Washington Post, last modified 5 January, 2012,

[10] Michael Miller, “The ultimate digital music guide: [the best way to store, organize, and play digital music],” Indianapolis, Ind: Que, 76.

[11] “Digital fingerprinting,” Civolution, 2013,

[12] “Digital fingerprinting,” Civolution, 2013,

[13] Mohit Agrawal, “Business models to fight music piracy,” Telecom Circle, last modified 21 February, 2010,

[14] Mohit Agrawal, “Business models to fight music piracy,” Telecom Circle, last modified 21 February, 2010,

[15] Mohit Agrawal, “Business models to fight music piracy,” Telecom Circle, last modified 21 February, 2010,

[16] Ibid.

[17] “Minnesota woman ordered to pay $222,000 in music piracy case,” Rolling Stone News, last modified 12 September, 2012,

[18] Brad Plumer, “SOPA: How much does online piracy really cost the economy?” The Washington Post, last modified 5 January, 2012,

[19] “Digital fingerprinting,” Civolution, 2013,

[20] Brad Plumer, “SOPA: How much does online piracy really cost the economy?” The Washington Post, last modified 5 January, 2012,










Agrawahal, Mohit. “Business models to fight music piracy.” Telecom Circle. Last modified 21 February, 2010.

This article looks at the various business strategies that the players in the music industry have applied in their fight against copyright infringement. Apart from investigating these strategies, the researcher also examines the attitudes of the consumers and attempts to establish the reasons why they would prefer to buy music rather than access it free.

“Digital fingerprinting.” Civolution. 2013.

The document defines digital fingerprinting and examines the different dynamics that surround it. Specifically, it delves into the technicalities behind the technology, its advantages, disadvantages and the methods that hackers are using to bypass the technology.

Larson, Erik. “Hollywood studios win U.K. case against BT over piracy site.” Last modified 28 July, 2011.

Larson’s article reviews the landmark case that Hollywood studios filed against BT Company in the United Kingdom accusing the company of complicity in the unauthorized distribution of intellectual property on the internet. Larson establishes that the studios’ victory in the case set the standard and opened the doors for similar cases in future.

Lawyers for the Creative Arts. “Legal issues involved in the music industry.” Lawyers for the Creative Arts. 2005.

This article defines the copyright laws of the United States as stipulated by the Copyright Act of 1978. The descriptions look at the scope of items that are protected under the law, the conditions surrounding their protection and the length of time for which the government safeguards them.

Miller, Michael. “The ultimate digital music guide: [the best way to store, organize, and play digital music].” Indianapolis, Ind: Que.

Miller’s book assesses the different ways in which music is accessed, used and played in the digital age. The main idea presented in his work is that the internet age has revolutionized the way music is handled and that the trends being started in this digital age will set the bar for the future. His analysis offers insight into various new concepts such as file sharing, peer to peer networks, DRM technology and portable music devices and the effects that these innovations will have on the music industry.

“Minnesota woman ordered to pay $222,000 in music piracy case.” Rolling Stone News. Last modified 12 September, 2012.

This article covers the civil suits that the RIAA filed against a Minnesota woman for illegally downloading music from the internet. It covers the four cases filed against her in brief, while also looking at their background story and the key arguments that legal teams made in court

Plumer, Brad. “SOPA: How much does online piracy really cost the economy?” The Washington Post. Last modified 5 January, 2012.

The news article looks at the controversial proposed SOPA bill and the different reasons why critics have bashed it. The article argues that the bill is structured in a manner that allows people to use it to attack the freedom of speech and to shut down specific domains and websites. Another key argument made in the article is that the claims of losses made by the MPAA are largely inconclusive, mainly because accurate research into the field is very difficult to conduct.










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