The Idea/Expression Dichotomy in Cyberspace: Comparative Study of Web-Page Copyrights in the United States and in China
European Intellectual Property Review, Vol. 25, p. 504, November 2003
11 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2011 Last revised: 15 Apr 2014
Date Written: November 1, 2003
Digital technology poses an enormous impact to the creation and dissemination of works of authorship. First of all, all kinds of information, including text, sound, graphics, and motion pictures, etc., are capable of being stored in a unitary digital format (i.e. translated into a sequence of binary digits), and with several clicks on the mouse being replicated and disseminated to every corner of the world suffering nearly no quality degeneration. In addition to improving physical media in which works of authorship subsist, digital technology also gives rise to new modes of intellectual creation, of which the most typical are multimedia works. While Chinese courts hasten to extend copyright protection to new forms of digital works in cyberspace, one of the major challenges to them is how to preserve the dedicate balance of traditional copyright law between providing incentives to intellectual creation and securing the public interest in free flow of information.
This article will examine to what extent the traditional notion of "the idea/expression dichotomy" may work to maintain a balanced copyright system in the digital environment, taking as example copyright controversies with respect to the most common type of multimedia, i.e. web-pages. This article suggests that courts fully take into account network effects of the computer and Internet industries in drawing the line between unprotectable ideas and protectable expressions.
By comparing related copyright regimes in the United States and in China, Section II and III will introduce the notion of the idea/expression dichotomy and its chaotic applications to copyright cases regarding computer and Internet technologies. In Section IV, this article will explore the unique market phenomenon, namely network effects, in computer and Internet industries and propose how China should draw the line between ideas and expressions in the context of computer and Internet industries featured with network effects. Section V will conclude the main points of this article and try to invoke some further policy considerations, though beyond the scope of this article, yet entailing even more serious attention from Chinese copyright profession.
Keywords: Copyright, idea, expression, webpage, Internet
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