Intellectual Property


With the first printing presses, authors began to worry that their work could be copied without their permission. In what ways is it fair for one to use another's intellectual property, and in what ways is it unfair? Each advance in reproduction technology has encountered these issues, but the digital age challenges the old ideas about intellectual property in new and difficult ways.

Digital technology allows many types of media to be cheaply stored, flawlessly reproduced, and easily shared. Any intellectual property that exists as binary code, music, books, movies, games, and the software that allows it all to be played, can be duplicated perfectly, and transmitted easily. It is now much more difficult to stop people from copying all sorts of intellectual property without permission.

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A Roundtable Discussion

One response to this problem has been to try to tighten existing intellectual property laws to also cover new digital media. This is the position taken by the music companies that seek to shut down the likes of Napster and MP3.com. They hold that copyright law should be applied to all forms of digital media.


Another faction says that information wants to be free, and therefore, we should not hinder digital transferal and duplication of media. Many (not just the record companies) are concerned about what this sort of laxity might lead to, and fear a decline in fields like art, music and writing if the people can not be certain of getting compensated for their intellectual property.

Opinions on Digital Music!

On New York Times online.