Doctrine of Fair use in Digital environment and Concept of Digital Rights Management

Digital rights management (DRM) is a term which refers to various technologies that are used by software and hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to control the use of digital content. Digital rights management includes technologies that control the use, modification, and distribution of works, as well as systems within devices that enforce these policies


Copyright holders are allowed to use DRM to safeguard their work being duplicated or utilised by others. However copyright laws across the world allow fair use of the copyrighted work. fair use essentially means using the copyrighted work for as part of or for the purposes of a commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship etc.


The right to Fair Use has therefore played a very important role. It has helped research, education and general intellectual development. The right to Fair Use now stands threatened. With the emergence of WIPO Internet treaties (World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty, and World Intellectual Property Organization Performances and Phonograms Treaty), this right to fair use of digital media protected by DRM is penalised by law, irrespective of taking into consideration if it was a fair use or not.


Consumers have never been as deeply involved in the nuances of copyright law as they are today. The Internet and digital technology have created vast new possibilities for and methods of distribution of popular entertainment such as music and film. The public’s current distribution and exchange practices of copyrighted material on the Internet, which may not be in compliance with the rights of copyright holders, have nonetheless fuelled consumer expectations. And, perhaps more than at any other time, infringement claims are bringing the copyright holder and the end user into closer proximity. Suits against several peer-to-peer file sharing services, such as Napster, for vicarious and contributory copyright infringement may have a direct impact on the global Internet community.


Copyright law is ultimately a commercial law; it protects the creator’s right to financially exploit his or her intellectual property. Digital technology has essentially cut out the middleman, and means of curtailing infringement are more visible and of greater interest to the public. Once unprotected material is transmitted over the Internet then, as a practical matter, the copyright holder can no longer attempt to effectively curb infringement by going after individual infringing distributors. Hence, both the law and copyright holders view prevention as the key to copyright protection. Encryption and other technological measures utilized to protect digital media are referred to as digital rights management (DRM).


Many content users argue that new limitations on access to copyrighted materials impair their right to “fair use.” But the contours of fair use as personal, non-commercial use by end users, i.e., consumers, in a digital environment have not been fully established or articulated by the courts.


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