Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The TRIPS Agreement led to some substantive changes to U.S. copyright law—such as restoration of U.S. copyright protection for foreign works that had been injected into the public domain as a result of failure to comply with formalities—and subjects the United States, like other members of the WTO to mandatory dispute settlement for domestic copyright provisions, including judicial decisions, that may be deemed inconsistent with treaty obligations.


By the early 1990s, advances in digital technology were beginning to be felt in the major content markets. The traditional content industries believed that widespread availability of technology for making and distributing low-cost, perfect copies of digital media could undermine their ability to enforce their rights. In response, Congress passed several detailed amendments to the Copyright Act aimed at reforming copyright law for the digital age. The Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 regulated the design of now largely obsolete digital audio tape technology and imposed a levy on the sale of devices and blank media to compensate copyright owners for losses from home copying. The Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 afforded owners of sound recordings a basis for earning income on digital streams of their works. The No Electronic Theft (NET) Act of 1996 expanded criminal enforcement for piracy over digital networks. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, implementing two international treaties, afforded copyright owners rights against those who circumvent copy protection technologies subject to several exceptions and limitations, and insulated online service providers from liability for infringing acts of their subscribers. In 1998, Congress also added an additional 20 years to the duration of copyright protection. The Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 significantly increased statutory damages for the infringement of copyright.


Although the copyright and patent laws flow from the same constitutional text and share the same general approach—statutorily created exclusive rights—they reflect very different fields of endeavor. Copyrights are generally easier to secure and last substantially longer than patents, although the scope of protection afforded copyrights is far narrower than that given to patents.

In contrast to patents, the exclusive rights under copyright law are

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