Intellectual Property in the Digital Age: We Need New Reasonable Laws to Abide

Note: Our blog was originally intended for one topic, but as a recent change of plan, the students have been assigned new topics. From now on my blog will focus on ‘Intellectual property in the digital age’. Please still feel free to give me feedbacks on my old topic as I would still love to learn more about data mining and data warehousing, but my responses will probably not come in the form of a text post.

Disclaimer: This post is written by a student who is taking an introductory informatics course in college and who is also still learning about the subject herself. Any suggestions, comments, and corrections are welcome in the form of asking and reblogging. All hypothetical examples used in this post are exactly what is it – hypothetical. 

When we characterize movies, songs, and books as “property,” we evoke visceral metaphors of freedom and independence: “my parcel of land versus your parcel of land.” But the digital explosion is fracturing theses property metaphors. “My parcel of land” might be different from “your parcel of land,” but when both parcels are blown to clouds of bits, the clouds swirl together. The property lines that would separate them vanish in a fog of network packets. 


When thinking about the term ‘intellectual property’, copyrighted materials comes to mind, be it music or movies or softwares. And lawsuits, therefore piracy. These terms we hear on a regular basis, sometimes from the media, and sometimes from our own private conversation. This is how pervasive this issue is. Chances are, among our tech-savvy generation, the majority of us have pirated something at one point or another. Little did we know (or that we know but just don’t care enough to stop), there had been  copyright wars going on heatedly in and out of court rooms. (1)

If the act of illegal downloading is, well, illegal, then why does people still do it? The psyche behind this question is also the motivator of the countless wars: money. 

The minimum damages that the court must award for infringement is $750 per infringing act.


This means the damage a record company can sue an individual for $750 per song downloaded. At a time before the internet technology explosion, “per infringing act” seemed reasonable. Yet nowadays a 20GB iPod, roughly storing four thousand songs, would be “grounds for minimum damages of $3 million”. (1) It seems quite outrageous to me. Technology have been developing and advancing exponentially, and the law is struggling to keep up with it. Many legislative efforts ends up restricting technological and artistic innovations that are made possible by the internet and its sharing property. 

Not all lawmakers understands the new digital frontier, and a lot of times they make decisions and restrictions that are overbroad and therefore jeopardizes the robust and vibrant future of public culture. (2) The laws can be characterized as an overbroad set of restrictions with ridiculous amounts of specific exceptions. The copyright law runs 200+ pages and includes things like:

  1. You can’t make a public performance of a musical work unless you’re an agricultural society at an agricultural fair. 
  2. You can’t freely copy written works, but you can if you’re an association for the blind and you’re making an edition of the work in Braille (but not if the work is a standardized test). 
  3. A radio station can’t broad cast a recording without a license from the music publisher, but it doesn’t need a license from the record company–but that’s only if it’s an analog broadcast. For digital satellite radio, you need licenses from both (but there are exceptions).  (1)

The list goes on and on. Something about these laws needs to be done, and that something is preferably an entire reinvention of even the concepts of copyright laws. According to Wikipedia, “The development of digital media and computer network technologies have prompted reinterpretation of these exceptions, introduced new difficulties in enforcing copyright, and inspired additional challenges to copyright law’s philosophic basis.” (3) 

So where to start?

Steve Jobs had started it for us in February 2007. He wrote an open letter to the recording companies’ executives, in hope that they will “relax” the licensing restrictions. In order to comply to the law, Apples had to install a measure named digital rights management (DRM) on all of its iTunes music. Because of DRM, many things were impossible to do legally, including but not only having the music you bought on iTunes transfer to your other music-playing devices. (4) (To read more about DRM) Although the industry does not agree with Jobs the slightest, a trend started. From Musicload (5) to the British Entertainment Retailers Association (6), many voiced out against DRM, and by next year the majority of the largest music labels (including EMI, Warner, and Universal) were all using Amazon to release their music. (1)

The industry is changing its attitude, slowly but surely, to keep up with the technological trend and the individuals who constitutes the public. What is still an obstruction are the laws that are still in place, protecting copyrighted material in its arcane way, and desperately needs to be adjusted and improved. 


Works Cited:


Online Identity

Nowadays social networking plays a big part in everyday life. It’s rare to meet someone who doesn’t have a Facebook account. It’s even rarer to meet people who have never heard of Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. Some of us are on these social networking sites constantly every single day. But the big deal that comes to this topic is online identity. Who are you? Should we trust you? Are you even a real person? Sometimes those questions pop into our heads as we receive friend requests from people we don’t know. Online identity has become a big deal. Not only does online identity have to do with the identity you personify online, but it also deals with fake identities and stolen identities.

In an article we read for class, it talked about the different personalities we may have online. One person can have multiple identities, and online, one can show off each personality. Each personality can be tweaked up. You can show it off or keep it hidden. The identity can be imaginary or real. These online identities also depend on the environment. If it is role-playing, the online identity you create is imaginary and fantasy-like. On Facebook or Twitter, your identity is pretty close to your real life identity, but sometimes it may be tweaked. You may act differently online than in reality. Various factors play into online identity, but they show off a part of your personality. (

The other part of online identity can get creepy; that is when someone uses fake identities or stolen identities to be someone else. There was a recent article about a girl Jenna who just found her identity was stolen. Another girl (Christine) was using Jenna’s pictures from Facebook to pretend to be another girl, Kelsey Cute. Christine’s first motives to create a fake identity was to spy on her ex-boyfriend, but then it ended up becoming more, and she began an online relationship with a guy named Kurt. They were dating online for four years, but they never met. “Kelsey” would always find an excuse to never meet Kurt.  One day Jenna was going through Facebook and deleted “friends” she didn’t know, one of them actually happened to be Christine. When this happened, Christine broke of Kelsey’s relationship to Kurt. Kurt became curious as to what happened and started to put pieces together. When he looked up Kelsey’s phone number, it was linked to Christine. He put the pieces together and realized that Kelsey was fake and that Christine was using Jenna’s pictures to pretend to be Kelsey. Kurt contacted Jenna and informed her of what happened. Jenna was surprised when she heard the story. ( This story shows different aspects of online identity and the dangers. One person stole pictures from another person to pretend to be someone else. Jenna made the mistake of adding Christine on Facebook without knowing who she really was. You can learn multiple things from this story: don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know and people are not always who they say they are.

In general, online identity is a big deal. Not only can you personify multiple identities on various sites, but you can fall into traps of fake and stolen identities. It is not hard to do either. It usually takes a couple clicks, and then it all begins. Basically you have to be careful when it comes to online identity; you never know what’s going on in the internet.