The world of entertainment is constantly evolving as new ways of creating and distributing the media we watch and listen to are developed. Digital broadcasting has changed the way we experience TV and radio, with increasingly interactive and participative programmes. Digital cameras, printers and scanners, together with desktop publishing and photo-editing software, enable greater numbers of people to experiment with image production, while online image- and video-sharing sites allow anyone with access to a relatively basic mobile phone or digital camera to share photos and videos with the rest of the online world. New digital technologies have also been at the forefront of changes in the production and distribution of music, and computer gaming has developed hand-in-hand with the evolution of graphical interfaces.
However, our increased exposure to digital entertainment has resulted in increased conflict between the rights of the consumer and the rights of the producer of the media. It is now much easier for the products of the media industries established during the twentieth century – film, music, and so on – to be illegally copied and distributed in a form that is indistinguishable from the original. Copyright holders are taking steps to prevent this by developing a range of digital rights management (DRM) techniques that make it much harder to create copies, as well as by trying to persuade users of the benefits of the original product.
Such attempts at persuasion can look very threatening, as I noticed on a recently purchased CD which has the following printed on the back cover:
FBI Anti-piracy Warning:
Unauthorized copying is punishable under federal law.
Several questions came to mind when I read this. Does that mean I can’t legally put the music on my MP3 player? Copying from one format to another is legal in the USA but, although the law is under review, it is not legal in the UK at present (although people in the UK are not deterred from doing it). Will I be in trouble only if I distribute copies of the CD to other people? Making copies and distributing them to friends is illegal on both sides of the Atlantic. These are all valid concerns that demonstrate some of the problems surrounding the use of copyrighted material.
Copyright is very much a ‘live’ issue in the UK, the EU and the USA at present and is discussed in Section 3.3. There are many other issues arising from this, and it is very easy to make the digital future sound bleak. You have probably heard predictions to the effect that illegally copying media and making information freely available on the web puts whole businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the established media industries at risk. However, as in other areas of the digital world, there are also opportunities for these businesses if they can adapt to the new environment and modify their business models to survive and grow in different directions.
Activity 5 (exploratory) Issues around the growth of digital entertainment
Can you think of any other problems connected with the growth of digital entertainment?
There are many possibilities. For example, the advent of digital television affected even people who didn’t particularly welcome it. Around the world, analogue signals are gradually being switched off as new digital signals are introduced, as happened in the UK. This meant that people had to buy new digital televisions as the old analogue versions became obsolete – quite an expensive business! At the time of writing, the UK government plans to switch off analogue radio at some stage, which means that people may need to upgrade to DAB (digital audio broadcasting) radio equipment.
You might also have thought of more technical problems, such as how to transmit the large quantities of digital data required for some forms of entertainment – video, for example – in an acceptable time and retaining acceptable quality.