The way forward

Individuals want access whilst retaining privacy; businesses want custom whilst protecting profits; creative rights owners want to earn a living from their work. Creative rights owners want access to an audience.

The consumer versus big business and ownership versus privacy seem to be the established arguments, but are these positions now becoming entrenched, or is this just a false dichotomy established by the media? What ways can you see to resolve these conflicts – what is the way forward for digital rights issues? And do we as consumers have responsibilities?

Look back at the internet rights you created and printed out earlier in the Digital Entitlement section.

Now think of three responsibilities you have as a digital user.

Compare your answers with others and try to come up with a Top Three Rights And Responsibilities.


Sharing creative outputs: consultation and review

Legal regulation of printing came into existence in the first place as a way of controlling the supply of information, but with the introduction of copyright for authors the law came to provide a basis for individuals and businesses to earn a living from the creation of original work. Nowadays, copyright is an important concern across an extensive range of creative works: from the visual arts, through film, television and music to computing and the internet. But how has existing legislation relating to copyright kept up with the current technological climate, where the possibilities for production and reproduction keep advancing?

Alternatives to copyright?

Not everyone agrees on issues of copyright and intellectual property: in this section, you can view some of the suggested alternatives to traditional copyright and think about the reasons behind some of these contrasting ideas. Your thinking here will be especially useful for approaching the tasks at the end of this booklet.

Open Rights Group: protecting ‘digital rights’?openrightsgroup
This group is a NGO – non-governmental organisation – set up in 2005, which comprised about 3,000 members at the time of going to press. Anyone can subscribe to ORG (for a fee), and the group post their objectives and current campaigns on their website, http://www.openrightsgroup.org. Read the following information taken from their site and answer the questions below:

About ORG

Politicians and the media don’t always understand new technologies, but comment and legislate anyway. The result can be ill-informed journalism and dangerous laws.

The Open Rights Group is a grassroots technology organisation which exists to protect civil liberties wherever they are threatened by the poor implementation and regulation of digital technology. We call these rights our ‘digital rights’.

1. Comment on the language used in this short extract of text. We have highlighted some words which you might want to think about. What effects do you think the choices of language are designed to have on readers?

2. How does this compare to the viewpoints of groups set up by, or in association with, the creative industries?

3. Who do you think might be the target audience for this group? Visiting their website and considering their campaigns and activities will help you to answer this question.

Open Source

opensourceAnother movement concerned with opening up possibilities is the Open Source Initiative. Source code is the nuts and bolts of software – it is the string of instructions for a piece of software (or computer game or application for a social networking site such as Facebook). Open Source licensing enables computer users to download other people’s software for free, and to make any adjustments to it they want, without having to pay, or ask permission of the code’s original author.

This is in contrast to commercial software source codes, which are not available for free, or to adapt and adjust. Users must pay for licenses to use commercial software, usually including upgrades to improve functionality or iron out any problems remaining when the software was published.
The license to use the software does not usually grant access to the source code and therefore prevents the user from making any changes.

Read this information from the website for the Open Source Initiative:
Open Source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a non-profit corporation formed to educate about and advocate for the benefits of open source and to build bridges among different constituencies in the open-source community.

1. Is this a purposeful way forward for the software industry, or do you think commercial software is better than that designed by individuals?

2. Should commercial software manufacturers have to change the way they license their materials or maybe change their pricing structures instead?

It is possible for open source software creators to protect their rights over the work they create, and many choose to do this through a process known as Creative Commons licensing.

Creative Commons

This is a flexible system for the licensing of creative works, and setting conditions as to how that work can be used by other people. It allows those producing creative works to share them whilst protecting their ideas from being exploited. Creative Commons licenses can be accessed online and are free of charge to users. Read the following information taken from the official Creative Commons UK website:
Some good reasons to use Creative Commons licenses and content
Share, reuse, and remix — legally.

Creative Commons Licences

Creative Commons provides free tools for authors, artists, and educators to mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. Our tools change ‘All Rights Reserved’ into ‘Some Rights Reserved’ — as the creator chooses. We are a non-profit organisation. Everything we do — including the software we create — is free.

Users can choose from a range of licenses to apply to their work, controlling the extent to which other people can use or adapt it, and stipulating whether or not they are credited for their work. Creative Commons licenses are of course based on copyright, but the system makes it easy for authors to give broad permission for the use of their works.

1. Creative Commons was officially founded in 2001. What digital advances can you think of that have happened since that time? Do you think that, in ten years’ time, this could still work as a solution – is it future proof?

2. Do you think that technology and legislation are going to provide the answer to questions of creative rights and digital responsibilities, or do you believe that a balance has to be struck by modification of attitudes, or by education?