Thursday's Library Link Of The Day discusses a Canadian website that used to provide an online library of public domain musical scores. The problem here is that for some works, the copyright has expired in Canada but not yet in Europe. In all cases under question, the composer died between 50 and 70 years ago. An Austrian publisher decided to use legal pressure to shut the site down.
The case could set a precedent for online copyright. Would the work automatically fall under the most restrictive copyright law? Would the law of the Country of First Publication be in force?
Another example where copyright law does not reflect reality: Abandonware. Some sites such as Abandonia or Abandonware Utopia (v.f.) specialize in games that are still legally under copyright, but are not being actively marketed. In some cases the copyright holder may be a company that no longer exists. So whereas a user may be stealing the software, he is stealing from no one. I have seen some abandonware sites where they provide free downloads for most games; when they discover that a game is in fact still being marketed by the copyright holder, they provide a link to that company's website instead.
There are other international aspects to copyright law as well. For some of the courses at the community college where I taught last year, the textbook cost more than the tuition. I heard of cases of international students at American colleges ordering their textbooks through their homeland where the price, including two rounds of international shipping, is lower than the bookstore price. In some instances, the graphics are not in full color. Textbooks can get expensive, especially in mathematics books with all the special typesetting needed for equations, graphs, and so forth.
Where I taught last year, we could not officially recommend students use any provider other than the campus bookstore. I did take to providing ISBNs in my syllabi. I recall a case a few years ago at the University of North Dakota where it was decided that although the ISBN for each textbook was not proprietary information of the university bookstore, the collection was. There was a group from the Student government or something like that who wanted to provide a list of ISBNs so students could avoid the monopoly.