Legal Issues with Digital Media
Digital media refers to the trending use of technological devices such as Computers and Phones to convert media. Digital media is a frontier that has numerous opportunities as well as risks most especially to the young people. The Digital media technologies comprises a number of creative modes of information and communication where people participate in a wide range of activities including social networking on the likes of Facebook and Twitter, blogging, vlogging, gaming, chatting and instant messaging, downloading contents such as music, uploading and sharing their own creations. With approximately 2.3 billion consumers, the Internet has become an element of the everyday life of a considerable proportion of the universe. This has largely increased the scope of collaborations among individuals, organizations and businesses in various ways. With increasing uptake of the digital media platform, states are formulating guidelines for the protection of human rights online under global laws. Internet service providers on the other hand, are also charged with legal and corporate social responsibility of supporting the legitimate law enforcing agencies to reduce online malpractices such as fraud (Daniel, 2011).
The rising threat to individuals has drawn notable attention in various countries around the world. So far, many nations have formulated regulations to govern communication and Media operations. These laws however, might not be enforceable on the digital media. This means, that businesses and governments must rely exclusively on technical measures to protect themselves from false information, information theft, denied access and/or even destruction of valuable data valuable. This technical protection alone is not adequate to make cyberspace a safe business platform. Order should be enforced as well. Countries with insufficient legal tributes may in the long run become gradually less capable to participate in the new digital market. As cyber crime progressively more transgresses national borders, nations perceived as harbors continue to run the risk of having their electronic communications blocked by the network. States should study their existing legislative acts to establish their sufficiency in combating these criminal activities (Chan & Camp, 2002).
With the fast growing computer technology, it is important to understand computer global social, ethical and legal issues associated to security, privacy issues, and major negative effects of Information Technology. Through this, Nation would be able to develop relevant effective strategies to address the rapidly growing number of global ethical and legal questions resulting from the cyberspace malpractices.
New digital medium can build a mass of impending legal webs for the prospective technology users. Several countries have intensified their adoption of guidelines as statutory laws entirely or as part to regulate on content and matters arising from the consumption of digital media. Most of the laws are pertaining to the privacy that directly affects individuals, organizations, corporations or governments directly dealing with the general internet data access. These legal establishments concerning digital media revolve around the basic rights in most nations’ constitutions including freedom of speech, search and seizure, rights to privacy and denial of due process among others (Daniel, 2011).
Copyright, is the most widely addressed issue in the modern technology media as it directly touches on the economic advantage of nations around the world. It specifically concerns copying content such as music, videos or other creative work from the internet without bothering to seek permission. Many individuals have the perception that most internet content is there to be used by everyone and no rights need to be obtained in using the material. This clearly exhibits violation of copyright of the original owners of the creative work (Jenkins, 2006).
Copyrighted contents in the digital platform have the potential to flawlessly and cheaply be reproduced and instantaneously distributed globally. This in turn may lead to possible economic decline of the original producer. For different reasons, online tenure and paternity are less apparent than their off-line editions. Technology grants users room to duplicate and paste secured material. With the pervasive availability of pay-for use versions and free of charge Internet content, softwares, and files, it is rather confusing to determine what use is free and what is not. This confusion may be followed by users’ primitive belief that as long as something is downloadable, then it can be utilized by everyone for free (Jenkins, 2006).
Unlawful copyrighting may results in unlawful and/ or social liability. To curb the copyright menace, there is developed anti-fraud laws among various nations to prohibit the use of counterfeit material. For example, the treble damages and attorney fees under the United States Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. Section 101, et. Seq (Daniel, 2011). Simultaneously, the protection laws presently apply to a rising number of productions. While most outstanding resists over digital copyright usually concern recorded music and movies, copyright regulations also enforces directly to other digital products, like softwares and programs. Some software producers have reacted to the technical improvements by proposing new types of product certifications in order to protect and extend their commercial interests. In contrast to offline legal restrictions, attempts to regulate online intellectual property rights and copyright through Digital Rights Management and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 have proven futile. These copyright protection laws however should be carefully deliberated as the availability of creative work on digital platforms also enhances growth of other industries such as the computer hardware (Jenkins, 2006).
A further legal issue is in regard to personal privacy. Most information posted or sent through email and inbox chats are usually for private communication. Digital media tools offer an instant means of communicating with the entire online community. Using these tools in a rush could lead to unintended and perhaps even grievous results. Confidentiality pertains to how personal records and information are handled in the digital contexts. Offline, privacy virtually means the preservation or concealment of an individual’s personal information. The right to confidentiality is frequently raised to protect sensitive information such as financial, medical history or intimate relationships from the public (Dinev et al., 2008).
Social networking sites vary extensively in their policies and practices and there is no clear or “True” deletion of contents once posted on the digital platform. In some cases, law enforcement agencies have access to the digital information, infringing on the privacy of individuals (Dinev et al., 2008). On the other hand, legal matters and lawsuits arise from individual disclosure of other people’s privacy, usually termed as defamation. These online denigration cases are invariably treated in the same manner as the physical offline insult cases. In this respect, individuals need to take extra precaution on the content they post across the digital media. Beyond defamation, the online content could also form basis for claims such as intentional imposing of emotional distress or intrusive into one’s advantageous economic associations. These “Cyberbullying” incidences are rapidly on the rise and can also form ground for criminal charges (Daniel, 2011).
Certain employment laws have been violated through the digital media contents. Many employers have made adverse decisions over employees considering the information gathered on the digital media platforms such as Facebook or any other social network. Some employees post personal information on their social network profiles but fail to disclose them to the employers due to various personal or professional reasons. The use of this information in hiring or firing decisions by employers could portray discrimination which some laws prohibit. It is not legally acceptable for employers to pose as other individuals in order to access their employees’ personal information on the digital media. To some extent the information on Social media profiles usually do not reflect the truth about individuals (Jenkins, 2006).
With these, the other most adverse legal issue concerning the digital media is criminal activities such as fraud and terrorism. Many individuals take advantage of the rising consumption of the digital technology and indulge extortion and other malpractices. Various law enforcing agencies have established principles that prohibit the exploitation of digital media in a manner that may result in damage to other users. Several techniques have been put in place as models to counter these rapidly rising criminal events (Daniel, 2011). Among the models is the technological encryption of the online info. This entails use of mathematical technique where information is encoded into unreadable formats. Recipients of the information however, decrypt the information using secret codes to convert it back to its readable state. This form of protection is widely used in online banking and shopping activities to prevent the rising trend of fraudulent activities The United States Government for instance has recently adopted a more advanced encryption technique which uses lesser memory and provides a defense against a number of attacks (Kubo, 1999). This is particularly vital when data passes through shared systems or insecure network segments where many people may have access to the information. Another protection method from digital crime is referred to as firewalls. In this system, access between computers networks are controlled thus prevents entry of external users as well as information transfer from inside networks to the outside (Kubo, 1999).
The research findings of a study conducted among Japanese companies to establish the level of technical malpractices in the year 1999 established that the online criminal activities are on a rapid rise. The study evaluated three major unethical practices that were considered most common among internet users. These included Information Fraud, Privacy and civil rights violation. This study conducted among 25 companies was a sample reflecting the trends within the digital platforms. The results were as follows;
|Aspect||Percentage of Response|
|Civil Rights Violation||48.5%|
|Notes: The percentage scores indicate the number of individuals responding per every hundred|
Source: Kubo, T. (1999). Internet Revolution & Japanese IT Industry. Symposium on Development of Information Industry in the Asia-Pacific Region, 5 (8), 2190-2193.
This study determines the rate of at which various respondents felt their digital rights had been infringed. A significant portion of the respondents felt their information and their Privacy had been intruded into a significant other felt their civil rights were violated. For this reason various service providers have developed intrusion detection systems. These systems are intended to reduce to reduce the level of information fraud and other related crimes (Kubo, 1999).
Digital media tools can be outstanding models for the creation and sustainability of relationships among the online community. They have the potential to increase communication and enhance affiliations among various people, organization, businesses and even nations around the globe. At the same time, the openness of Digital media presents the potential for ethically and legally challenging confrontations when unethical malpractices arise. Authorities need to take certain measures to safeguard members of the general public from these unforeseen criminal events. The general public ought to be informed of this vital information and their repercussions. This Understanding of the issues may prevent negative incidents related to Digital Media (Kubo, 1999).
Many companies enter the Digital market without assessing the legal systems and practices. These assessments should help them develop systems that conform to the international human rights law requirements. They should ensure they possess clear understanding of government regulations about these laws and wherever possible, they should agree to specific points as well as suggest amendments to suit their product marketing. This is because; States have special duties of protecting the rights of individuals such as against crime and terrorism. They also have the right and duty to some extent of restricting certain operations that may seem as infringing on individual rights in order to protect other people. Some of the most concerning rights as freedom of expression, privacy information and related rights are the basic rights that can sometimes be limited ordinarily, and even further limited in times if emergencies, although with certain legal parameters (Kubo, 1999).
Due to the rising trend of legal issue pertaining to digital media, governments and law enforcing agencies across the globe require internet and telecommunication service providers to enable the lawful interception of communications and supply communications statistics such as subscriber records, senders and recipient of information n case of threatening situation or investigation purposes (Kubo, 1999).
In the global legal setup, agencies such as the Global Network Initiative have been formulated to provide guidance and control on the recommended standards of the Digital Media Consumption. These agencies have issued principles on the rights and freedoms such as of expression besides privacy and a set of execution guides on the principles. They have established governance, accountability and learning frameworks to guide companies and other stakeholders in the Information and Communication Technology industry to respect and uphold these rights and freedoms. Some governments have demanded that surveillance mechanisms are directly employed within the communication systems in the Digital Media in order to enable authorities to access information flowing within the ICT system (Dinev et al., 2008). .
The main challenge engulfing these laws is that the human rights laws in particular, are not easily applicable in the digital environment. Several laws are still formulated majorly for environments with clearly defined territorial jurisdictions, of which the digital platform has not. On the other hand, majority of the internet operations lies in the hands of private investments whereas traditional human rights and freedom laws are entirely focused on the governments. It is therefore complex enforcing the said laws. This provides loopholes for the increased rates of violations without adequate remedies. It is however the duty of the state to establish models for enforcing these laws to enhance protection and also strengthen the market establishments (Dinev et al., 2008).
Digital Media is a very important tool for marketing and social interactions but can be a legal landmine for individuals with no sense of precaution. The Modern world of Digital Media with global networks and cyberspace has inevitably generated numerous societal, political, legal and ethical issues, most of which are in relation to human relationships and the community as a whole. It is apparent that most of the human activities in this digital word are carried out in the cyberspace and risk of violations is literally unavoidable. Some basic ethical issues on the use of Digital Media on global networks comprise personal privacy, data access rights, and other harmful actions on the Internet.
Most authorities around the world have attempted to solve these basic issues, though partially using technological approaches, such as encryption technique, and computer firewalls. Besides these protection technologies, certain legal laws have been put in place to offer guidelines on the consumption of the Digital Media, however, more laws are still also required to address hundreds of countries, which are incorporated into the same global network. Guidelines and strategies should be applied so that universal information can be tapped in a collectively and ethically sensitive manner for the future benefit and development. Apparently these ethical issues desperately need the attention of authorities, business enterprises, academic institutions, and every individual globally. Socially responsible investors should commit to stipulated guiding principles to prevent violation of human rights. They should seek continuous assessment and surveillance from the government in order to control and reduce the level of legal issues emanating from the digital crimes. Their systems should be developed in such a way that the Standard operating procedures are taken into consideration.
Chan, S. & Jean L. C. (2002). Law Enforcement Surveillance in the Network Society, IEEE Technology and Society, 21 (2), page 22-30
Daniel J. (2011) Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff between Privacy and Security. New York: Yale University Press.
Dinev, T. et al. (2008). Internet Privacy Concerns and Beliefs about Government Surveillance: An Empirical Investigation. Journal of strategic information systems, 17 (3), 214-233.
Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Media Consumers in a Digital Age. New York: New York University Press
Kubo T. (1999). Internet Revolution & Japanese IT Industry. Journal of the Symposium on Development of Information Industry in the Asia-Pacific Region, 5 (8), 2190-2193.