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Interactivity’ and digital works: How legal rules are restricting our ability to use digital works as a communications medium

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Copyright law has traditionally granted a negative right to authors to prevent others making a copy of a protected work. However, there is an increasing trend for right holders to treat it as a positive right that controls the use of a work. This is invariably achieved through the use of digital rights management’ ( DRM’) mechanisms. Pre-digital works, such as books, were not necessarily easy to copy because of their physical characteristics. Photocopying an entire book could, for instance, take considerable time, effort and money. However, digital technology enables works to be easily copied an almost limitless number of times. Right holders are therefore keen to restrict the ability of individuals to copy their works. They do this by creating digital walls’ with DRM mechanisms. However, this could lead to a restriction in the uses to which digital works may be put. Over time, the use of works generally has been increasingly interactive’. As they have become more interactive’, they have been more reliant on copies being made of the original works. Such interaction’, it may be said, has led to new forms of communication. Today, edited versions of original works are often to be found. Nonetheless, some of these interactive uses of works are restricted by DRM mechanisms. The author suggests that some of these uses should be permitted, so to as not unduly restrict new forms of communication.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 2006

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