A Digital Ownership Tug-of-War
How much control can a corporation claim over a digitally generated product for which it has the license? It’s a debated question, but the digital rights movement—a burgeoning worldwide critical mass of hackers, digital activists, and creative professionals who seek broader rights for media consumers—is trying its best to make sure that the answer favors the consumer public, according to Hector Postigo, Temple University mass media and communications professor. In The Digital Rights Movement, he profiles the issues and actors behind the movement and the huge ramifications that it may hold for media consumers everywhere.
Privacy, free speech, technological innovation, first sale—digital-rights activists are involved in these and many other issues relevant to media users, Postigo explains. Globally, they resist what they deem to be overly exclusive media-copyright protections on software programs, ebooks, digitally generated art and music, and other creative digital content. They strive for new participatory rights that grant consumers not only more access to the products, but also the freedom to become active co-creators of them.
Postigo details the movement’s historical development, seminal technological applications such as iTunes hacking programs and BitTorrents, and the landmark legal cases that won international attention and popular support for the cause. He also describes numerous groups and individuals involved in advancing digital rights, such as the consumer-rights nonprofit Electronic Freedom Foundation; Web entrepreneur Dmitri Sklyarov, who was arrested by the U.S. government for patenting and selling a program that circumvented access-protection measures on ebooks; and “hacker” Eric Corley, operator of the Web site The Hacker Quarterly.
Digital ownership is a subject with room for many points of view. Postigo comes across as highly sympathetic to the digital-rights activists and hackers’ point of view. His account, however, is thoroughly factual and detailed, and is worthy reading for students and experts of software law and technology alike.—Rick Docksai
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