Ever since 1985, when the digital media was still in its inception stage, the warnings about its potential of rendering copyright obsolete had already started surfacing. The instance of how claiming copyright on creative photography was becoming undermined with the phenomenon like “electronic-computer darkroom”, (Bossen, H. 985, Summer), was soon to transform pictures to such power and believability that no one would make out that it is a just a digital art and lesser of a real photography. It ushered the creative photography to mere smart and largely forged manipulations. Digital manipulation overcame norms of photojournalists in no time (Gross, L, Katz, J.S., and Ruby, J. 2003). Similarly, in other creative and intellectual works also the digital intervention made it difficult to find out who the real author of the work was.


In this article I am making an argument that the digital age has considerably damaged and undermined copyright privilege however, the copyright law has also largely evolved to cope with the challenges that technology has been posing in the past. I must make a mention of the term, “Orphan works” here, which was coined in the United States, and used for the works whose authors were either unknown or unreachable (Davison, M.J., Monotto, A.L., and Wiseman, L. 2012). A large number of people are creating music, pictures, content, running them on web, which are for more reasons than just money. However, by far, it is contended that there exists no system to ratify the creativity or protect the work from being destroyed in order to preserve the other (Shannon, V. 2007) quoted Lessig, lawyer with Google for Copyright, as stating.  File sharing and piracy of digital content has become uncontrollable across the world, nevertheless, the Australian Copyright Law, like in every other country, is constantly being reviewed to test the boundaries of the copyright law (Sharwood, S. 2012). I propose to make an understanding that it is not the digital age entirely, which is rendering copyright obsolete, but it is the highly ignorant masses about copyright law. Although, the digital age largely contributes to rapidly growing copyright infringement due to technology like peer-to-peer sharing and downloading facilities etc, it is also increasing the popularity and scope of intellectual property and creative content owners to reach more and more audiences. The trend is rather increasing the scope of copyright, which can actually be capitalized for much more profit and exclusivity.


I have supported my argument with evidences like digital era has increased the importance of intellectual property and led to the rise of more efficient copyright. I have referred to scholarly works that study the economics of copyright in the digital economy. The motivation behind the article is to improve awareness that with improved copyright law in the digital era, the authors, scholars and intellectuals can capitalize their work more than ever before.



Evolving Copyright in the Digital Age

It is true and well exploited statement that technical evolution has led to new and challenging ways of protecting original work, which requires constant reviewing of copyright regulations. The rapid development of technology has surpassed the conventional copyright law and its implications. Accessing, creating and disseminating information has become extremely easy and speedy as well. This has posed quite a few loop holes and complexities in regulating content with copyright laws in Australia and many other parts of the world. One major reason which has handicapped copyright regulations in controlling piracy and content theft is lack of knowledge of copyright law among the general public. The lack of copyright knowledge was not that much a concern two before the digital age as right to intellectual and creative property was only the concern of a few people. However, today the evolution of digital content has made it to the reach of the masses. The creation, sharing and dissemination of information have become too rapid and strayed that it has called for stronger regulations (Palfrey, J., and et al. 2009).


Although technological copyright protection does exist, now for over 20 years, the extent of digital piracy has led further additions to the laws and regulations in the copyright protection like anticircumvention laws (Hollis, R. 2007). The laws provide copyright owners substantial protection and help them earn adequate price of their work by making it widely available (Graham, J. 2002).


Most people in developed countries, and so in Australia as well, make widespread use of digital technologies to create and disseminate content for worldwide audiences. Besides, the ability of peer-to-peer file sharing of digitally stored information enables people to share and consume copyrighted content without having to pay any compensation to the owner of the work. The digital culture increased the urgency of reforming the copyright law, in order to promote free culture of creating and remaking cultural works, (Lawrence, L. 2005). Eventually, seeing the threats and economic potential of owning copyrights has led to strengthen the current copyright, which provides for imposing higher restrictions and controls for breaking the law (Palfrey, J, et al., 2009). In Australia, a low level of creativity and originality of digital work is also eligible for copyright protection. Under the Copyright Act, the databases can be protected as literary works (Yadav, A.K. n.d).


In February this year, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon asserted that it is important for the copyright law to keep pace with digital age copyright demands and thus the law will undergo an inquiry to introduce the necessary reforms. Australia signed ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement, along with several other countries to ensure that it will hold civil and criminal proceedings against copyright infringement breaches. The treaty in intended to address copyright and IP issues on international level and covers the digital environment besides goods and generic medicines (McDonald, S. 2012).



Lack of Awareness about Copyright


Researchers have concluded that lack of copyright among general people, youth in particular, is one of the prime reasons that there is a contention that the digital age is undermining the role of copyright. According to Graham, J. 2002 the young digital media users are highly confused whether it is lawful to use, download, stream or recreate/remix digital content. And, if it is unlawful then to what extent it is just subjected to social norms and legal rules. People are well aware about latest technology that allows peer-to-peer-sharing, but they do not know about the law. Nevertheless, research studies show that despite lack of copyright knowledge a large number of youngsters respect the interests of the content owners and care about their interests (Palfrey, al, 2009). The research study found that the consideration and respect for the content owner or the artists is quite present among the youth, as compared to the aspect of complying with the law.


The Palfrey, al, 2009, does highlight a trend that undermines the importance of holding a copyright, as most of the young respondents of their study justified their illegal downloading by stating that the artists make too much profit from these downloads, which otherwise they might be denied. Furthermore, the same research showed that students stick to legal downloading more out of respect for the artist’s interest and not because of legalities. Besides, the concept of fair use is almost non-existent among digital content users according to the Palfrey, al, 2009, so most of the people are ignorant of the fact that reusing content leads to infringing copyright of the owner of the content. The research finding lead us to understand that people think it is fair to use someone else’s content in their creation as long as they are making any financial gains out of it.


The research gives a useful direction to determine the cause of gap between copyright and digital age. It suggests that there is need not just to harden the legal copyright norms but educate young population, which is highly digitally active, about creative content and the copyright law and regulations. The research also makes a positive indication that people do have respect for artist’s interests and rights. Therefore, instead of further litigations, education could prove to be great way to protect copyright in the digital age among the consumers of the digital content Palfrey, J. and Gasser, U. 2008.



Undermining Copyright Through Digital Media Will Reduce the Production of Creative Work in the Long Run

It is very easy to copy, reuse of reproduce digital content that too to a wider audience, which may not have been even enjoyed by the original creator. The peer networks have made sharing and reproducing extremely fast and easy for digital content. The copied or pirated content becomes cheap substitute to the original work, which could be as good as the original sometimes, thanks to the technology, thus it discourages the consumers to pay the price for the original authorized content. Besides, the pirated material and content is available for free over the internet. Copied copies significantly hamper the demand for the original content, thereby dropping the revenues of artists and creators. This results into a sort of vicious circle where original authors do not get their due credit and incentive to produce creative work, there is reduced distribution, reduces flow of revenues and production, therefore it leads to loss to the digital economy as a whole in the long run. These unhealthy prospects forces to bring in strong copyright protection measures which are low in cost and more strict enforcement.  Therefore, after measuring the impact of infringing and undermining copyright in the term of economic consequences, the digital age can never reduce the importance and implication of the copyright (Barker, G.R., 2010).



Economics of Copyright Cannot let it Go Obsolete

Copyright is extremely essential to support creativity, as it is the means of giving great incentives to individuals and creative industries for producing and distributing the creative and intellectual work for public entertainment or welfare. The virtue of copyright of rendering ownership of a tradable right is the best way to secure financial gains on the copyrighted work (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 2008: p.145). Barker, G.R., 2010 has given an economical angle to conclude that copyright is essential for the development and growth of digital economy. Protecting the interest and property of creators through copyright has more bearing than just protecting the authenticity of content. Copyright gives incentives to the artists, intellectuals and creators to enter in the market to compete against the existing leaders with the exclusivity, creativity or novelty, thus it increases the intellectual and creative competition. On the other side, copyright also limits the right of the copyright owner to indulge in excessive rent-seeking (Barker, G.R., 2010).

In the context of digital age, the dissemination of copyrightable content over internet or through any other physical format poses significant threat to ownership right to the extent that it has every capability of even eliminating the right entirely. Moreover, if there is no security of property rights functioning of both market and non-market economy at both industrial and individual levels cannot just operate (Watt, R. and Liebowitz, S. 2006).

Although many scholars being inconsiderate of the economics of copyright claim that in the digital age, copyright has become obsolete; the new business models declare it as a myth (Barker, G.R., 2010). The Barker’s thesis concludes that internet intervention cannot change the basics that drive the functioning of the economies. It makes a quite valid point that no economy can flourish or even operate without protecting or exercising property rights. Owing to the economic functioning, it is practically impossible that the world can continue engaging in free riding and breach of contract because of the influence of the rapid digital development, if the copyright becomes obsolete.

Importance of Copyright in Enhancing Intellectual Property in Digital Age

For developing and maintaining any culture, diversity and identity the role of Intellectual Property plays an extremely important role. This importance cannot be weakened by any technological development, because, as we have also discussed in the prior paragraphs, Intellectual Property and Copyright are crucial for nation’s economic development. (Stokkmo, O. 2009) puts that Copyright and IP are essential for economic development of all the countries irrespective of GDP per capita. Hence, the IP law must be strengthened with increased importance and implication of copyright. In order to sustain the value of creative and intellectual works to keep contributing to the national economic and cultural development, copyright must be given priority in the digital age. Digital markets are equally crucial for global dissemination of the creative works, but these cannot be left to progress without effective copyright protection and speedy licensing.



Copyright might have been largely ignored, and infringed due to rapid development of the digital age, but there has been no reduction in its importance and implications. Considering the implication of copyright in sustaining the market and production of creative and intellectual works, which is crucial not only for the digital economy but for the entire national economy as a whole. In the digital age, the importance of copyright increases even more because, there is increased competition in the creative and intellectual works and copyright gives adequate incentives to the authors and creators to produce information, intellectual property and creative works.




Barker, G.R., 2010. Copyright and The Digital Economy. Centre for Law and Economics. Australian National University. June 2010


Bossen, H. 985, Summer. Zone V: Photojournalism, ethics, and the electronic age. Studies in Visual Communication, 30.


Davison, M.J., Monotto, A.L., and Wiseman, L. 2012. Australian Intellectual Property Law. Cambridge University Press, Melbourne. Australia.


Graham, J. 2002. Preserving the Aftermarket in Copyrighted Works: Adapting the First Sale Doctrine to the Emerging Technological Landscape. 2002 STAN. TECH. L. REV. 1


Gross, L, Katz, J.S., and Ruby, J. 2003. Image Ethics In The Digital Age. University of Minnesota Press.


Hollis, R. 2007. An Impotent Aegis: An economic analysis of the effectiveness of Australia’s anti‐circumvention laws.


Lawrence, L. 2005. Free culture: The nature and future of creativity. New York: Penguin.


McDonald, S. 2012. Copyright in the digital age: Australia, ACTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Techworld Australia. Published on 13 April, 2012.


Palfrey, J. and Gasser, U. 2008. Born digital: Understanding the first generation of digital natives. New York: Basic Books.


Palfrey, J., Grasser, U., Simun, M., and Barnes R.F. 2009. Youth, Creativity, and Copyright in the Digital Age. Digital Access to Scholarship t Harvard. Int’l J. Learning & Media, Spring 2009, at 79.


Watt, R. and Liebowitz, S. 2006. “How To Best Ensure Remuneration for Creators In the Market for Music? Copyright and Its Alternatives”, 20(4) Journal of Economic Surveys , P.525.



Shannon, V. 2007. Does digital file sharing render copyright obsolete? New York Times:  June 3, 2007.


Sharwood, S. 2012. Oz to review copyright law for digital age. The Register. April 2, 2012. available at


Stokkmo, O. 2009. Enhancing the Culture of Reading and Books in the Digital Age. The importance of Copyright to Creativity. IFRRO. Frankfurt. Germany.


United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 2008. Creative Economy: Report 2008, p.145.


Yadav, A.K. n.d. Copyright in Digital Era.


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