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 television 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 that 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 onto my MP3 player? Can the US Federal Bureau of Investigation extradite and punish me (a UK citizen who bought the CD in the UK) if I do? Should I return the CD to the place I bought it from and ask for my money back? Or will I be in trouble only if I distribute copies of the CD to other people? These are all valid concerns that demonstrate some of the problems surrounding the use of copyrighted material.
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 copied media, and making information freely available on the Web, will increasingly put 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)
Can you think of any other problems connected with the growth of digital entertainment?
There are many possibilities. I thought of the fact that the advent of digital television affected even those who didn’t particularly welcome it – across the world, analogue signals are gradually being switched off as new digital signals are introduced. In time, everyone will have to get new digital televisions as the old analogue versions become obsolete – quite an expensive business!
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.