technology meets copyright

Technology seems to be, by its nature, a democratising influence. As new advancements are made, capabilities that were once in the hands of an elite few are unlocked for anyone who wants them. In recent times the interplay between this increasing of ability and the way that copyright has traditionally worked has come to the fore.

In modern times, copyright theft is easy to achieve

The way that technology develops is usually uneven, often surprising us with the way that the landscape is changed. Essentially, some things become easier more rapidly than others. One of the most prominent examples in the creative fields has been the ease with which works can be duplicated.

For a long time, copyright (the right to copy) was enforceable mostly simply through the relative difficulty of creating copies of a work. When films had to be printed onto actual film, specialised equipment was needed.

When VCRs first arrived on the scene, some know how and two machines were required. Now, all that is needed to create duplicates is a regular computer – even a notebook will do. The same is true for images, books, software – practically everything to which copyright applies.

The spread of the ability to reproduce works is by no means a bad thing for creators. For instance, it allows many who could not previously get their work out there without distribution deals or printing equipmen to have the kind of ability to reach an audience that was previously very hard to get to. However, the tools for protecting original works have not kept pace with the tools for duplicating them.

New factors are involved in protecting your copyright

Part of the reason for this is that protecting works is a process – it’s not an action that is taken once, and then remains done, but involves several factors – proving ownership, keeping track of assigned rights, finding infringers, and taking the correct legal steps. Much of the technology influencing copyright has been about actions – authoring or copying a work. Recently however, process focussed innovations have been gaining popularity.

When creating, we realised that solving the problem of proving ownership of a work without necessarily always being able to use the official copyright process was only part of the problem facing creators. Providing evidence of ownership and date of creation was obviously of primary importance. Just as important though, if not more so, was the process of keeping track of works and permissions and following the correct steps when infringing content was discovered. In this way we could provide not only a starting point, but also steps toward a favourable solution.

The change created by technology is a constant force – however, with the right tools, we can ensure that it works to our advantage as creatives by continuing to benefit from the positives, and protect ourselves from the negatives.