Issues

Intellectual Property Rights

Defining the Issue

Background

Cisco’s Position

Additional Resources

Defining the Issue

The age of digital media has dramatically changed intellectual property rights (IPR). The proliferation of technologies that enable mass-market digital copying and analog/digital conversion, combined with file-sharing software and peer-to-peer networks that are easily accessible via high-speed Internet connections, have led to increased concerns about distribution of unauthorized copies of copyrighted media. In particular, the movie and music industries continue to search for technical and regulatory solutions to combat digital piracy.

Background

The music and movie industries have long been troubled by the growing trade in pirated media. High-speed digital copying hardware and broadband Internet connections enable mass production of pirated content with no degradation in quality from the original. A significant amount of trafficking of unauthorized copyrighted material occurs via peer-to-peer networks that enable large-scale file sharing among multiple users.

A variety of technical options for protecting digital content (known as digital rights managements systems, or DRMs) are available, including copy control; file access control (limiting the number or length of views); restrictions on altering, sharing, saving, or printing; encrypting files for use only by authorized users; and electronic watermarking, flagging, or tagging to signal to a device that the media is copy-protected. These technologies may be imbedded within the media itself or contained in the operating system, program software, or hardware of a device. In addition, the music and movie industries are promoting the use of special “piracy filters” by Internet service providers (ISPs) that enable them to screen their broadband traffic and identify and contain pirated digital content.

Technology companies are concerned that legislation requiring the inclusion of specific intellectual property protection technologies poses serious threats to privacy, technical innovation, open source software development, and the fair use of copyrighted content. ISPs feel the costs of filtering network traffic will be a burden to them and their customers, and consumers and advocacy groups aren’t expected to embrace the restrictions. In addition, past efforts to limit copyright piracy using mandatory technology have often been ultimately unsuccessful as technical progress made the solutions obsolete.

Cisco’s Position

  • Protection of intellectual property is critical to Cisco’s success and is fundamental to the development of democratic societies and economic systems. Cisco believes that copyright laws promote innovation, should be enforced, and should protect all forms of digital content.
  • We respect the needs of digital content industries to protect their product, including using DRMs and other technological protection measures. However, governments should not impose mandatory technical standards or legislation as a solution for achieving this successfully.
  • If technology standards are mandated to prevent media piracy, the government will essentially be selecting technology winners and losers. History has shown that the best technology is technology that is developed and tested by the marketplace.
  • Mandatory technical standards could result in user-unfriendly products and services and unfairly impact ISPs. Development of such products and services is a costly long-term process that negatively impacts content providers, consumers, the technology industry, and ISPs.
  • The private sector should work on its own to solve the issue of protecting digital intellectual property. Many companies are developing competing products and services that prevent the transfer of pirated media without making it difficult to use the Internet for legitimate activities.
  • Any solution to this issue must carefully balance the needs of the content industry with the preservation of technological innovation, consumer choice, and the preservation of e-commerce.

Additional Resources

ITI Statement on Digital Rights Management

European Commission: Digital Rights Management