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The Challenges Posed By Digitalization And The Internet Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 2696 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Perhaps, we all have read this phrase or a similar phrase somewhere at sometime. Similar warnings can be found in the movie credits, covers of music albums and similar other digital works which we can find in the Internet and other digital devices. How many of us have actually paid heed to such warnings? Almost always, nobody does. Everybody uses the Internet as if it is a limitless source of all that we need and want.

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The Internet is one big library. It is made up of numerous computers and devices which are connected together and carry data which can be transmitted to the other computers in the database. It has all the information that everyone virtually needs. Books, music, photos, news and many other kinds of information can be found on the Internet. Some for free and some for a fee. It is one big library without a librarian. And that is where the big problem lies. Nobody actually monitors what information you get from the internet and how you intend to use it. Most of the time, you can save or download any information that you need and do whatever you want to do with it at the click of a button. The Internet not being owned by anyone nor controlled by anyone is thus considered as a public domain. Everybody can have access to digital information which is usually free and available for all.

With the Internet, the privacy of millions is threatened. Is there anything that we can do if a photo we posted online is being reposted by someone unknown in another website? Can we stop another person on the other side of the globe from copying the thoughts that we have posted on the blog? Are there even laws spanning across territories that we can invoke to protect us? Is it even possible to know and pinpoint who the person responsible is? Almost always, the answer to these questions is a big resounding “No.”

This privacy problem is even compounded in areas of Intellectual Property. It refers to those property rights which result from the physical manifestation of original thought (Martin, 2002). Copyright is one of the areas covered by Intellectual Property Laws. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, Copyright refers to that system of legal protection an author enjoys in the form of expression of ideas. This covers protection given to authors with regards to his scientific, educational, literary or other works; musical compositions of a composer; painters and other artists with respect to their work of arts; and many others not limited to such enumeration.

Prior to the era of digitalization and the Internet, these copyrighted materials only exist in printed form, usually on paper or on canvas. These works have specific laws which protect their use from infringement. Any unauthorized reproduction, distribution, display or derivatives can be considered infringement, subject to certain rules and standards set in the laws. However, as we have reached the digital age, these works have been made available through the Internet also. Due to this, the problems have arisen, problems which have not been covered by most Copyright laws. What constitutes reproduction or distribution or display in tangible form does not equate to reproduction, distribution or display over the Internet media. Strictly speaking a work cannot be the subject of an infringement unless there is something tangible which shows such. The same no longer holds true with the digitalization and Internet. The Copyright System and Laws are thus unable to effectively respond to the challenges posed by digitalization and the Internet.

The Challenges Posed by Digitalisation and the Internet

We know that schools, businesses, hospitals and various other institutions have date which can be useful to other organizations. Many of these data can be accessible by digital copies and through online. This resulted to the era of databases which can be accessed by almost everyone in the planet. Some argue that this is an invasion of privacy as well as an infringement of copyright rights. Copyright may be vested in a work closely similar or even identical to an earlier, already patented work, provided that the former is truly original (Martin, 2002). The Internet, as helpful and convenient as it is, has been a cause of a major problem when it comes to intellectual property laws. The Internet has paved way for the unauthorized collection, use or sale of copyrighted materials.

It is not only famous authors or artists which are protected by copyright laws. Davis (1997) once suggested the idea that individual users of the Internet also have property rights. Whatever we write or put on the Internet which are from our own personal thoughts or ideas or works are our own private intellectual property and as such we have the right to protect it and should not be copied by just about anyone online.

Copyright puts a limitation on the volume of information or material that a person can reproduce without getting a license to copy first (Gillespie, 2007). A copyright can also be a limitation on artistic choices as artists cannot even make artistic works which are similar to that which has already been copyrighted (Burrell & Coleman, 2005). This may sound as nothing important for Internet users but for people who are the owners of copyrighted works, this is very important. Many people in fact do not understand the idea of Copyright Laws and how it works.

Let’s examine the case of authors and the books they write. With the digitalization and the Internet, books in paper have been transformed into electronic books and can be easily saved in millions of copies in a device even smaller than a matchbox. Electronic books, otherwise called ebooks are books in electronic form which can be read on the computer or any ebook reader device (Schwabach, 2006). These days, people don’t buy books as often as before. Thanks to the Internet. Or perhaps, no thanks to the Internet? Remember way back ten years or more ago, people buy encyclopedias, almanacs and atlases which come in 20 book sets or more. People buy Bible books for children in sets of 10 or more. Often, these are done in set-ups of monthly installments which in this day and age seem illogical. Why would you need 20 books when you can just Google? Why would you need four feet of space for a set of books and magazines when you can just buy a computer and use two feet of space for information which cannot be contained in even a room full of books? We admit, more and more people are reading ebooks, they are cheaper, they do not take space and they can last a lifetime. Many of these ebooks can be copied online for free and are allowed to be disseminated over the Internet for several reasons, such as when they are already available in the public domain or the author chose to publish it free for all (Schwabach, 2006). However, not all authors are like this. There are also many authors who have placed restrictions in the ebooks and thus do not allow any unauthorized or unpaid copies to be made and distributed. There goes the problem with the Copyright Laws.

Another favorite in the Copyright infringement with this boom of the digital and Internet era is the mass reproduction and dissemination of movies. Movies are cinematographic works of art. Usually, the producer has copyright for purposes of exhibition; for all other purposes, the producer, the author of the scenario, the composer, the film director, the author of the work are the creators and thus have the copyright protection. In this day and age, anyone can download movies through the Internet and store them in memory drives. One downloaded movie can be reproduced a million times, recopied in DVDs, transported to different areas of the globe, and watched in millions of homes countless times. This is very common and not everyone knows that this is actually infringement.

Third scenario, have you ever heard of controversies involving speeches made by people and would later be found to be copied verbatim from a speech made on the other side of the globe and which can be found online? We have heard of these a lot. You can use it as a speech in a remote area and when fortune favors you, nobody would ever know that you copied that piece from an article you read online. No one will ever know and everyone who has listened to such speech will think of how brilliant a speaker you are. Little did they know, you not only plagiarized the speech, you have also broken certain laws. Yes, you are in the eyes of the law, a criminal.

In these scenarios, somewhere, someone has the right to relief and damages for such mass reproduction and dissemination of the movies, for the plagiarized speech, for the ebooks which have been copied and passed hundred of times. The one who is responsible for the infringement exposes himself to criminal liability wherein the law prescribes penalties of imprisonment and fines. This can be easy in the past. But in this world of vast connection of wires all over the globe, how easy is it to catch who is responsible? How can authors, musicians and artists ask for damages when they do not know in the first place who is responsible? And, is there really a clear law which defines infringement of Copyright laws over the Internet?

In the past, it has been clearly laid down what constitutes copyright infringement and which doesn’t. In the past, it has been clearly laid down who is entitled to copyright protection. In the past, it has been clearly laid down who owns the copyright. In the past, it has been clearly laid down what constitutes “Fair use.” The Fair Use Doctrine refers to the fair use of copyrighted work for the purpose of criticism, educational purposes, news reports, research and other similar purposes. Fair Use does not constitute infringement. In this instance, fair use in tangible media and fair use over the digital networks and the Internet seem to be the same.

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In the payment for damages, some laws lay down rules on assessment on the basis of the proof given by the author or artist of sales made by the infringer of the infringing work deducted by whatever costs the infringer may be able to prove (Martin, 2002). With the copyright infringement happening on the Internet, sometimes sales do not even take place, there is but a free for all reproduction of copyrighted works. We can see that in addition to losing protection from infringement, the author or artist also loses any chance of getting any amount of damages for compensation.

Are information found online in this age of the Internet and digitalisation owned absolutely by their authors or artists, or is there some form of joint ownership with all the other users of the Internet? Does the fact that a copyrighted photo is found online give the Internet users the absolute right to use it? If that is so, then it goes to say that we have all become owners of whatever information that we can find on the Internet, right? Wrong.

In some instances, there are owners of copyrighted materials such as music and books which allow specific transfers to internet users without any copyright infringement taking place (Rimmer, 2007). For example, the importation of a copy of a work by an Internet user for solely personal purposes shall be permitted without the authorization of the author of, or other owner of copyright in, the work under certain circumstances as laid down by law.

When copyrighted materials are sold over the internet, there is no tangible medium. It is thus only the right to use which is being passed to the one who is buying the copyrighted digital works (Schwabach, 2006). Thus, technically speaking, a digital work which is sold online may not be sold by the buyer to another. That right to sell only belongs to the real owner of the digital work. The buyer only has the right to use, he can read or listen to the digital work but he does not have the right to sell it. The same analogy goes true when buying a DVD. If you buy a DVD and you copy the contents of the DVD and then sell the copied DVD, you are guilty of infringement.

These are just some of the hundreds of challenges that are faced by the Copyright System and which have to be dealt with to protect artists, authors and others who have created manifestations of their brilliant ideas. It is therefore important to examine and to address the rights associated with the people who are owners of information or media disseminated over the internet (Gillespie, 2007). We, the billions of Internet users in the planet, are not the owners of every thing that we can find on the Internet. There is nothing to prevent you or me from downloading the latest movies, or posting a video of yourself online singing the latest chart-topping song of a music phenomenon, or posting an exceptionally beautiful painting made by your neighbor and claiming it as your own.

A cornerstone in helping the problem with copyright protection is to inform the general public about rights and duties of owners of copyrighted materials and the Internet users (Wolf, 2003). Being socially responsible for whatever we download and use from the Internet may seem like the best possible option at present. Sad to say, but authors and other owners of copyrighted materials do not seem to have any avenue to defend their Copyright protection.

Novel efforts must be made to explore how Intellectual Property Laws on Copyright can be amended and streamlined for the digitalization and Internet use. No matter how good the country’s Intellectual Property Laws are, these are still not designed for the digital and the Internet era. These laws have proved lacking, giving more freedom to Internet users and stripping Copyright owners of the Copyright protection that laws have given them.


What the Internet and digitalization gives away with one hand, it usually takes away with the other. The Internet and digitalization may have opened a whole lot of doors for everyone, but it also creates a very serious problem with regards to the use and abuse of information. Different jurisdictions all over the world have made the recognition that with the boom of digitalization and the Internet, privacy is almost impossible and the laws on copyright are unable to effectively respond to this. Movies, books, music and similar digital works have been the subject of numerous infringement which does not seem to stop anytime soon.

Many challenges are faced by Copyright Laws because of digitalization and the Internet. Among these problems are the inapplicability of present Intellectual Property Laws, the lack of control in the information dissemination of the Internet, the easy access and download of various digital works over the Internet and the seeming lack in social responsibility and awareness of many Internet users, to name a few. A lot of people are actually unaware that not everything that we find on the Internet can be copied and used to our heart’s content. And even if people knew, they either do not understand or do not care. Besides, what would stop them from infringing copyrighted works? The vast interconnection of wires and computers almost makes it virtually impossible to catch someone who is responsible for downloading and copying several copies of a movie, a song, a book, a photograph or similar works.

In conclusion, until a perfect law against infringement of copyrighted digital materials over the internet is made and implemented, or a perfect socially responsible Internet- and digitally-savvy community of users exists, there is no specific and effective solution to help the owners of Copyrighted materials against these challenges that they face in this age of digitalization and the Internet.


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