Definition of intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) refers to inventions, ideas, creations and other products of intellectual capital that can be protected by patents, trademarks and copyright.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), there are two categories of IP:

  • industrial property which includes patents, trademarks and industrial designs;
  • copyright which refers to musical, literary and artistic works such as songs and photographs. [1]

In early 2012, the US Congress staged a fierce argument over two proposed bills – the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and the Protect IP Act (Pipa). According to their opponents, the bills sought to turn search engines and media sites into IP police by preventing them doing business with, linking to or providing internet service for websites selling pirated material. [2]

The Protect IP Act (Pipa) would have allowed media companies to identify overseas websites that are rife with pirated movies, TV shows and music. The US attorney-general could then serve notice to the site, requesting it stop hosting illegal content.

At the same time, a court order could be issued to payment networks, online advertisers and search engines requesting that they stop working with and linking to the site.

Because many sites hosting content are based abroad, they fall beyond the reach of US jurisdiction. But by cutting off the payment processors, advertising networks and search engines that support them, sponsors of PIPA argue that the new law will successfully starve such sites of the money and web traffic needed to survive.

The House version of the law, known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa), includes much of the same language and provisions as Pipa, but was originally more far reaching in its efforts to block infringing sites. [3]

Popular websites including Wikipedia chose to stage an online blackout in protest at the proposed anti-piracy legislation.

However, both bills have both been shelved, for now, after fierce opposition from Google, Facebook and other internet companies.

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