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Has the digital age rendered copyright obsolete? Essay

Whether it is true or false that digital age has rendered copyright obsolete is a matter of debate. Copyright is a legal concept that has been established by various countries. Copyright is a privilege or rights that are exclusively given to the creators of certain pieces of work for limited period.

Copyright laws are “the right to copy” someone’s work while at the same time providing the copyright holder some due rights and credits of having published the wok. It also determines the person eligible to use a certain piece of work, the kind of benefits, and individuals to perform the work.

Copyright is therefore a form of intellectual property. Since these laws were enacted, they have responded to changes in technology in various ways besides affecting copyright holders who include authors, songwriters, filmmakers, musicians, and web page makers (Theberge 1999, p. 12).

The advancement in digital communication networks and technology poses great challenges to the copyright holders. As such, I agree that the digital era has presented a fair deal of challenges to copyright to the extent of making it obsolete.


The inventions of new advanced technologies such as the Internet and personal computers have revolutionised the way people communicate and the way things are done. Nowadays, such digital technologies that are raising many copyright issues relate to those, which store and transmit information. These technologies have various characteristics that pose a threat to the copyright laws.

The current digital age has made it easy and faster to reproduce certain pieces of work on the Internet. The moment a piece of work is transformed or rendered into a digital form such as a music, books, or any other material or work, it can be reproduced with ease, at faster rate, and at a less cost without any compromise on its quality.

This has made it easier for digital users to not only access such information but also transmit it to multiple users making the copyright rules futile.

The alarming advancement in technology has acted as a key booster when it comes to rendering copyright obsolete. Initially, people had to go through long processes while trying to duplicate any required stuff. However, the witnessed innovations that have come with technology have increased the easiness of making duplicates whether for music, and books, diskettes, etc.

Technology has made it possible to reproduce further the copy that is reproduced from the original copy without any loss or comprise of quality. Digital age has therefore made it easy to produce any copies running into millions from a single copy.

A good example of how this technology in this digital age has rendered copyright obsolete is how millions of compact disks containing original versions of music –recorded and played in the early 80s and 90s have been turned into digital forms besides being reproduced in many copies to be sold to millions of music fans (Tricia 1994, p. 23).

The moment an individual is able to gain access to a digital file, be it music, book, or any other piece of work; it can be reproduced without the consent of the copyright holder. The profit that is accrued is not shared to the copyright owner who is also the creator of the work. Instead, it goes to the pockets of other people who have not put any input in the production of the work.

The copyright law was established to ensure that the owner is protected from such users who use their intellectual property without paying for its use. Technology especially digital era has made most owners of intellectual properties incur huge losses as their works are easily reproduced.

The royalties or profits received do not reach most of them (Bennett 1994, p. 34). This stands out as a clear indication that technology is rendering copyright obsolete.

The digital age has also made it easy for digital materials to be disseminated with ease. This has been necessitated by the emergence of global digital networks, which allow quick/rapid worldwide transmission or dissemination of information or various types of work (Vaidhyanathan 2003, p. 14).

These networks have the potential of dissemination information to various people in different points or localities. They further allow every receipt of a digital material to manipulate the material and even send the same to other receipts in various locations. The process is cyclic. This therefore enables various people to gain access to various materials on the Internet, which they have not been paid.

The dissemination and or production of such materials are free. This has made or contributed in making the digital age absolute. Many of musicians’ works and books have found their way to the public or many users without their approval. The digital age has enabled transmission and sharing of information at very high levels of speed.

There is a high possibility of multiplying a single copy of a work into thousands of copies ready to be transmitted across the globe within few hours.

The introduction of high-speed transmission lines such as fibre optic and coaxial cable networks has made the process of transmission faster besides increasing the capacity of transmitting heavy files in a digital form across the globe (Collins 2012, Para.9: Coyle 1996, Para. 4). This therefore hinders them from accessing or gaining some amount of money for their ideas and intellectual properties.

The digital age has also come with the potentiality of storing huge amounts of information. Digital storage is a bit dense. This capacity is improved as years go by. Nowadays, many materials can be stored on an iPod portable music player with a size of a cigarette. Such technologies have replaced those, which existed in the 90s where storage devices included compact disks that could store a maximum of 600 megabytes.

Libraries of sound recordings and computer programs, books, and other important works can be stored in such materials without necessarily having to produce them in hard copies. The changes in technology have influenced negatively on copyright because many people are able to gain access to these files (McDermott 2012, p. 7).

According to Collins (2008), advancement in digital age has resulted to the emergence of web application (Para. 3). The web is mostly flooded with user-generated contents that are generated from the copyrighted materials available on the Internet, as well as other formats such as print books and other sources.

The digital age has made this generation of information easier thus leading to numerous conflicts between the copyrighter holders or owners with the users (Boehm 2009, p. 169). Even as the copyright owners work hard to protect their works from being accessed and reproduced illegally by people, the prosumers or consumers of the materials gain access and even use such materials that are produced from various media for their own benefits.

Therefore, this demonstrates the very big problem that needs to be solved to ensure that the copyright holders have control of their information and other pieces of work to rip a full benefit for their input and investments.

The manifestation of how powerful the digital age is and how it risks rendering copyright obsolete is the raging debate on fairness. The digital age has made it possible for materials and different information to be transmitted, stored, and even disseminated without paying heavily and within few minutes.

This is not perceived to be fair in the view of the copyright owners who feel shortchanged, and that their sweat and investment are not being rewarded (Collins 2008, Para. 3). Such complaints arise due to the fear of the capability of the digital technologies to pose serious threats to the industry.

An example is where a certain piece of song is transmitted to every part of the world, accessed within seconds, and even reproduced in different localities. Such instances have posed serious risks to the copyright holders

Another reason why copyright is becoming obsolete in the digital age era is the increasing rate of digitalising of books that are used in online libraries. It is possible for authors to put their works into a digital format. Authors are paid some fees for the books provided in these libraries even though the users (Collins, 2008, para. 6) access them freely.

Therefore, in this era, many of the copyright laws are obsolete as various authors and libraries are striking such plans. This scenario can be replicated in the music industry and any other area that can be done through the Internet.

For instance, a musician is can upload music on the website with the music being listened around the world. Such initiatives have proved to be cost effective and time saving besides enabling artists to access a wider market hence having a wide edge over its competitors.

However, it is also true that the digital era cannot render copyright obsolete per se. The main reason for this argument is the potentiality of the digital technologies to control their users. As technology advances, likewise, more research and innovations are cropping up aiming at ensuring that materials on the Internet are controlled and only made available to authorised users or users that have paid subscription fees or any other fee agreed.

Some technologies have emerged, which allow the cutting off of a particular user if the user has failed to meet certain prescribed threshold. The capability of digital technologies therefore can be used to resolve such issues in the current world.

For instance, the use of passwords, encryption, and even library databases has made it possible for various individuals and personality to protect their copyrighted materials. They have successful put in place salient mechanisms that have helped to control the level of information accessed in the databases.

Another mechanism that is used to ensure that the Internet users pay for every service they gain access thorough the Internet is through the pay per review strategy (Guan Hong 2010, p. 406). In this arrangement, each viewing is a new transmission.

Therefore, a customer or a user will be expected to pay twice for the two viewings. This aims at ensuring that any person that has gained entrance or accessed a certain piece of information can pay. The reason for doing this is to account for every viewing on the Internet.

According to Obodiac (2009), copyright protection has become challenging in this digital era (p. 155). China is one of the countries that have experienced challenges in ensuring that people follow and respect copyright laws to the later (Obodiac 2009, p. 156).

The digital era has contributed to a loss of revenue and motivation to the creators of contents and works. Users have used this platform to reap colossal sums of money from the creators of the idea, an issue that has continued to raise many concerns.

Another step has been made in most part of the United States. Inefficiencies experienced or associated in the markets have been removed thus helping to greater heights in ensuring that the creators and owners of certain works receive or collect license fees from users of their products.

Such efficiencies are therefore contributing positively to the sustainability of the copyright in the US thus making the digital era have fewer impacts to the people (Marybeth 2008, Para. 5).

Furthermore, there are very clear and stringent copyright laws that have been established in the federal states to ensure that properties of the creators are not used without payment of the fees. These copyright laws have played significant roles in reducing instances of copyrights, as well as building hope and faith in the laws.

A good case, which many commentators have tagged as a history of the US’ copyright law was between the MGM studios and Grokster. In the case, the Supreme Court held that any service provider who provided per-to-peer software was liable for copyright for infringing on someone’s property (Marybeth 2008, Para. 15).

This could happen if evidence suggested that the production of any digital instrument was aimed at infringing on other people’s intellectual property. This law therefore was against individuals using their digital gadgets or platform to infringe on other people. This case therefore suggested that, indeed, even though the level of technology has increased.

It is not right to infringe on someone’s property without the owner’s authority. Anybody who is found infringing on another person’s property without seeking permission is liable to infringement. Another case of copyright with digital technology was between Sony corp. of America v. Universal studios Inc. Universal studios Inc. was the accuser.

It accused Sony corp. of America for manufacturing Betamaxx videocassette recorder, which allowed a time shift where the video could record or stream-life television for viewing later. The Supreme Court ruled that the accused had not violated any copyright rules as long as the products were commercially significant.

It found that most users of the videocassettes were non-infringing. However, it cautioned that the owners of copyright had every right to be protected from any violation of their copyright. These two cases demonstrated that, indeed, the copyright laws could still be applied in protecting the rights of a copyright holder.


In conclusion, the advancement of technology that has resulted into digital communication and technologies has revolutionised copyright environment. Even though the copyright laws have been set up, they have become obsolete of late in the sense that digital era has revolutionised the ways in which the digital work is modified and disseminated across the world.

In the earlier years, the copyright law was operational because it was not easy for people to access printing plants or reproduce copies of intellectual properties. The government was the only institution that had the power and resources to print such works such as books. Therefore, it was difficult. Nowadays, the digital era has enabled the reproduction of copies of someone’s work easier.

It is also very cheap, as information can be relied from one locality to another across the globe. The digital era has indeed transformed the way transactions are carried out. Even though there are some copyright laws that are still adhered strictly by some countries, they are not 100 percent effective.

The copyright owners need to improvise other mechanisms that can help cope up with the digital era. For instance, they should invest in research to come up with parallel digital measures and strategies that will ensure that such works of intellectual property are protected. The innovations and ideas of individuals are not rewarded. This may hinder the spirit of innovation.

The government should therefore work hand in hand or collaborate with such individuals to ensure that the digital era is well researched with an introduction of mechanisms to prevent accessibility of digital materials on the Internet or website without any payment of certain fees.

Even though measures are being taken to come up with appropriate mechanisms to deal with challenges resulting from digital era, it is apparent that, to some level, copyright is being rendered obsolete.


Bennett, S 1994, ‘The copyright challenge: Strengthening the public interest in the digital age’, Library Journal, vol. 119 no. 19, p.34.

Boehm, J 2009, ‘Copyright Reform for the Digital Era: Protecting the Future of Recorded Music through Compulsory Licensing and Proper Judicial Analysis’, Texas Review of Entertainment & Sports Law, vol. 10 no. 2, pp. 169-211.

Collins, S 2012, . Web.

Collins, S 2008, ‘Waveform pirates: sampling, piracy and musical creativity’, Journal on the art of record production ISSN: 1754-9892. Web.

Coyle, K1996, : A talk given at San Francisco Public Library, August 7, 1996. A shorter version of this talk was presented at the 1996 LITA/LAMA conference in Pittsburgh. Web.

Guan Hong, T 2010, ‘Is administrative enforcement the answer? Copyright protection in the digital era: Computer Law and Security Review’, The International Journal of Technology and Practice, vol. 26 no. 4, pp. 406-417.

Marybeth, P 2008, The Challenge of Copyright in the Digital Age: How copyright law should respond to technological change. Web.

McDermott, A 2012, ‘Copyright: Regulation Out of Line with Our Digital Reality?’, Information Technology & Libraries, vol. 31 no. 1, pp. 7-20.

Obodiac, E 2009, ‘The Critical Theory Digital Archive’, International Journal of the Book, vol. 7 no. 1, pp. 155-163.

Theberge, P 1999, Technology, Key Terms in Popular Music and Culture, Blackwell, Oxford.

Tricia, R 1994, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown.

Vaidhyanathan, S 2003, Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity, New York University Press, New York, London.

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