Towards a free and fair internet

In a world that’s increasingly mediated by online interactions, how do we ensure that intellectual property functions well?

An stock image of the internet

This is one of the big questions posed in a new book co-edited by Professor Susy Frankel from Victoria University of Wellington’s Faculty of Law, Intellectual Property and the Regulation of the Internet (Victoria University Press).

The project began with a workshop funded by Internet NZ and has resulted in the book, which covers topics including the net neutrality debate, the availability of DNA sequencing online, branding and trade marks in the age of the internet, and how technology affects happiness.

Professor Frankel says one of the motivations for the book was to help elucidate a complex area of the law that affects a lot of people.

“One of the problems of intellectual property and the internet is that we’re confronted with broad and challenging questions, such as how do you enforce copyright and keep the internet free? And is the internet ever really free, or do we pay through the ‘advertising culture’ that has arisen around the consumption of cultural content?

“Public debate around these big questions is important, but often figuring out the detail gets left to the technical experts. This book is designed to help people get to grips with some of those issues by drawing together contributors from different areas of expertise to give a variety of perspectives.”

Professor Frankel says there are myriad issues that arise at the interface of intellectual property and the internet, and while not all of them are easily solved, the book aims to arm readers with a more nuanced understanding of some of them.

“We all want the internet to be free, but we also know that it can cause a lot of problems with intellectual property.

“Take the issue of music or film piracy online. Ultimately if no one gets paid, how will songwriters or filmmakers make money? Content creators can’t survive on nothing, but the old-style copyright regime hasn’t been working. The book probes this and other copyright issues by asking what is copyright’s role.”

Professor Frankel says the book is written in a non-technical style that everyday readers will be able to understand.

“What this book gives the layperson is a way to start to unpack the debate around intellectual property and regulating the internet—to understand certain aspects and how they can be improved.

“At the end of the day, the solution to these issues is not going to be a one-size-fits-all mechanism. Essentially what the book is trying to do is address these issues in a way that’s more accessible for people.”

Intellectual Property and the Regulation of the Internet is available in hard copy and can also be downloaded for free through the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection—Te Pūhikotuhi o Aotearoa.