Digital media is at risk to copyright infringement. The requirement for certain documents to be put in national or research libraries is called a legal deposit, and there is no law in the US that requires digital media to be deposited (Seadle, 2001). To get a copyright, there has to be an original work, and then the “holder” of the copyright is the only one who can make changes to the work (Stefanac, 1996). The copyright law we have now allows people fair use of any work that has been copyrighted. Fair use allows people to make copies of copyrighted work to use for either inspiration or educational purposes, such as making copies of an article for a class. Fair use was not always in the copyright law, so it is proven that the law can be adapted to fit with the changing times (Long, 2006). The problem is that it is very simple to make copies of digital work, and on top of being simple, the copies are exactly the same as the original. Also, since access to the Internet is worldwide, one’s work is subject to change depending on what copyright laws are in other countries (Stefanac, 1996). Because of the access people have to the World Wide Web, it is easy for them to grab a photo or video online and post it anywhere they would like, without having to give credit to where credit is due.
Digital Media is not Fully Protected by the Copyright Laws
The World Wide Web holds a massive amount of digital media, which includes documents, pictures, video, audio, etc. All of these files that are available on the internet allow people all over the world to look at them and download them (Memon & Wong, 1998). Technology today makes it very simple to make copies of digital work. On top of being simple, the copies are exactly the same as the original, and since access to the Internet is worldwide, one’s work is subject to change depending on what copyright laws are in other countries (Stefanac, 1996). Because of the fast rate that technology is changing, it is becoming an issue by challenging the current legal establishments. These new technologies in this digital era bring up the pressing issue of effective management and organized distribution, and it does not help that the Internet is still being governed by an outdated Intellectual property law. Since digital media is not fully protected by the copyright law, copyright owners of digital work are at risk of losing control of their products on a daily basis and constantly having to find different tools to keep control of their work (Ahmad, 2009).
One reason digital media is constantly at risk of copyright infringement is because there is no law in the United States that requires digital media to be deposited. A legal deposit is the requirement for certain documents to be put in national or research libraries (Seadle, 2001). On top of not having to be deposited, the copyright law, for the most part, has not been changed in 200 years. The Copyright Act of 1976 tried to guess how media might change over the years, but new media has almost pushed the law to its limits. To get a copyright, there has to be an original work, and then, the “holder” of the copyright is the only one who can make changes to the work. Unfortunately, there are more questions than answers on how to make copyright work for digital work. An example would be, could there be fair use on digital media, or would it have to be illegal to make copies of the work for educational purposes (Stefanac, 1996)?
The Purpose of Copyright
Copyright is defined in many ways, but overall, it means the same thing. It is a protection and an exclusive right that is given to an author. This means that an author’s property, or original work, is theirs to decide if they want to publish, copy it, have it performed, etc., and to keep others from gaining from the author’s ideas (Dames, 2010). There are five areas of the intellectual property law, and copyright is one of them. This law protects works from literary to musical works to films, but it doesn’t protect someone’s ideas. Copyright protects an author’s rights to their work and the honesty of the author. Certain exceptions to copyright include the use of materials in libraries and loaning them and educational uses of materials (Harris, 2012).
In order for a piece of work to be protected, it needs to be original and fixed. First, for a piece of work to be original, it has to stand on its own, apart from another’s work and does not copy their work. Copying another’s ideas is not the purpose of the copyright law, because the copyright law is only there to protect the author’s original fixed work. Second, in order to fix a piece of work, it just needs to be visible either in the form of some type of computer storage or in traditional forms like books and tapes (Dames, 2010).
There are three main reasons, or theories, as to why copyright is needed: incentive, natural rights, and property. The incentive theory claims that copyright laws give authors the push they need to create new work. Without the incentive of exclusive ownership and the ability to earn money off of the work, authors would not make new work simply because people would be able to easily duplicate it. The natural rights theory claims that copyright is needed because it gives authors a “reward” for all their hard work to accomplish a piece of art. The property theory is about the highly debated topic of considering copyright to be property. By claiming that copyrighted work is property, it can lead to the idea of “piracy”, which leads to the stealing of copyrighted work (Dames, 2010).
Conflicts with Digital Media, Copyright Laws and Fair Use
The copyright law we have now allows people fair use of any work that has been copyrighted. Fair use lets people make copies of copyrighted work to use for either inspiration or educational purposes, such as making copies of an article for a class. Fair use was not always in the copyright law though, so it is proven that the law can be adapted to fit with the changing times. One issue with changing the copyright law to work with the digital world is that it conflicts with educational needs. Lisa Marie Smith, an assistant librarian, pointed out that with a new law, teachers would no longer be able to make copies of articles or show videos in class, and libraries would not be allowed to loan out anything (Long, 2006). If fair use could be added into the copyright law, then there has to be some way to incorporate digital media into the law.
Watermarking and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
One step towards protecting digital media is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that was signed into law in 1998. The goal of the act is to protect works that have been copyrighted from technology since technology, such as the internet, makes it possible for people to copy copyrighted work without permission. It limits some of the copyright issues, and fair use makes it possible for nonprofit libraries and schools to allow people to try out the technology but not actually own it (Milone 1999).
Since copyright laws, as they are right now, are not sufficient when it comes to digital media, digital watermarking is being considered. A watermark is a signal that can be added to images, videos or audio. This signal can later be found on the files and give information on the content. The information can show the ownership, who has had access, whether the content is authentic or not, usage control, and protection of the content (Memon & Wong, 1998).
Although there are steps being taken to protect digital work, there is still a big issue with digital media not being completely protected. Until the law takes in ways to make the Internet more secure for digital work and changes the copyright law, there will always be an issue with protecting video, audio, art, documents, and any other type of digital work that is easily accessible online. The purpose of copyright may be to protect the author’s ideas and not the work, but according to the three theories of copyright, if it does not protect the ideas of authors of digital work, then they will not be encouraged to create new work, have a sense of a “reward” or accomplishment, and have rights to their “property”. Adding digital media into the copyright law may cause conflicts with fair use, but fair use proves that the law can adapt to changes that are needed: a change for digital media is needed. Changes are being attempted to protect digital work, but until there is a definite way to protect digital media from copyright infringement, author’s original ideas will continue to be defenseless to the world on a daily basis.
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Dames, K. M. (2010). Three basic copyright questions answered. Information Today, 27(5), 18-19. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.er.lib.k- state.edu/docview/214825869?accountid=11789
Harris, L. E. (2012). Copyright law: A refresher. Information Outlook, 16(3), 24-25. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.er.lib.k- state.edu/docview/1024588583?accountid=11789
Long, S. A. (2006). US copyright law: The challenge of protection in the digital age. New Library World, 107(9), 450-452. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/03074800610702633
Memon, N., & Wong, P. W. (1998). Protecting digital media content. Association for Computing Machinery.Communications of the ACM, 41(7), 34-43. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.er.lib.k-state.edu/docview/237077059?accountid=11789
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Seadle, M. (2001). Copyright in the networked world: Digital legal deposit. Library Hi Tech, 19(3), 299-303. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.er.lib.k- state.edu/docview/200679299?accountid=11789
Stefanac, S. (1996). Copyright ain’t dead…yet. Macworld, 13, 137. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.er.lib.k-state.edu/docview/199239575?accountid=11789