Copyright in the Digital Age

The ideological underpinning of  intellectual property framework is that it is a means of encouraging the creativity of any qualifying person of any country by conferring a proprietary right in the end result of the creative process and as a consequence of their personal investment, the right to control the way in which that work is exploited. However, in addition to the continued debate on the value of copyright, new concerns have been expressed in relation to the application of copyright in the digital age and how it is perceived in society. And here we are confronted with the at least ostensible contradiction that copyright is considered by some to be in crisis whilst simultaneously underpinning the creative industry. In truth, this apparent paradox is a product of the ‘digital shift’. It reflects differing views on the function of copyright and an on-going process of change with regards to law, policy, business models and the way technology is employed to make copyright operate more efficiently online.

It is useful to consider how other areas of the creative industry are responding to the issue of copyright infringement. Streaming has established itself as a free source of musical content. Spotify for example, launched a few years ago, was ad-funded which allowed the creators to provide access free of charge. Upon establishing its reputation and in their users’ lifestyle, it started charging for unlimited access and mobile use. This would suggest that consumers are shifting from “owning” to a “having access to” behaviour which ultimately may result in fewer cases of file sharing.

As we negotiate the continued transition in to digital, content control is becoming increasingly important given the ease of access to copyrighted material and technology which allows for illegal activity. Reacting effectively to piracy and copyright infringement is an ongoing challenge, with the digital environment developing on a regular basis as a result of new technologies and emerging markets. One of the recommendations outlined in the Hargreaves review of the intellectual property framework was the development of a Digital Copyright Exchange, whereby content rights could be traded freely with digital rapidity and across global markets. This would result in markets becoming more accessible, which in turn could improve market signals for buyers, sellers and investors. In addition amendments to copyright laws with regards to exemptions appear to be expanding to allow for maximum access of digital content. It is anticipated that the exemption of data analysis will bring the UK more in line with the reality of common digital activities such as data and text, so as to provide thorough support to research organisations.



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