Intellectual Property and Copyright in the Digital Age

In discussions with students in the computer classes that I teach for the seven Community Education programs that I am involved with, the subject comes up all the time whether copying content from the web isn’t “stealing.”  This is a long discussion, but my point always is this:  the Internet changes everything.  The Internet levels the playing field so anyone can be a published author, musician, or artist, or own a software company, or a birdhouse factory, or whatever.  The Internet also changes the basis on which a lot of our property laws are based, especially when it comes to intellectual property, and most especially when we are discussing digital versions of intellectual property.

When a thing can be duplicated exactly, bit by bit or pixel by pixel, and there is no way to prevent it, traditional property “rights” under the old construct of physical media just simply don’t work.  The old ways are zealously guarded by those entrenched former powers whose vested interests are being threatened by the new reality.  Instead of adapting to the new reality, they litigate and throw money at Congress to get stupid laws passed that are no better than the old ones at stopping the changing reality than the old ones were.

A couple of comments here from Mike Masnick at TechDirt

I can buy a used CD from Amazon and have it mailed to me for less than it costs to download the album. The artist gets nothing, and I can resell the CD if I don’t like it. Let’s talk about the ethics of that.

The U.S. Government sponsors it’s own legal Pirate Bay where I get hundreds of CDs for just a few bucks a year, as well as all the books and movies I could ever consume. It’s called the public library. Let’s talk about the ethics of that.

An artist records a song in 1930 and has been dead for 50 years, but it’s still under copyright even though nobody knows or can prove who exactly owns the copyright. Let’s talk about the ethics of that.

A radio station can broadcast a song for free over the airwaves, but can’t broadcast the same thing online without paying enormous fees. Let’s talk about the ethics of that.

Disney gets to sit down at a table with lawmakers and draft new laws that benefit Disney and rob legitimate culture from the public. Let’s talk about the ethics of that.

Some of the most profitable movies in history have still not shown a profit according to Hollywood. Let’s talk about the ethics of that.

This issue is not nearly as black and white as you might like it to be.  So…is it legal to “share” music or “borrow” other content?  The answer is – it depends.  And the answer is continuing to evolve.  Hopefully, our elected officials will think of us once in a while when be flogged by the studio and music labels for laws that do not benefit artists or consumers, but only the companies.


About the Author:

I am a cybersecurity and IT instructor, cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. I am an owner of the WyzCo Group Inc. In addition to consulting on security products and services, I also conduct security audits, compliance audits, vulnerability assessments and penetration tests. I also teach Cybersecurity Awareness Training classes. I work as an information technology and cybersecurity instructor for several training and certification organizations. I have worked in corporate, military, government, and workforce development training environments I am a frequent speaker at professional conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, the (ISC)2 World Congress 2016, and the ISSA International Conference 2017, and many local community organizations, including Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2006 at

Add a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.