Web 2.0 Copy Protection

Content providers of all types, including music and video production companies, eBook publishers, and software developers use copy protection to secure their intellectual property from theft or copyright infringement. This policy, however, has its critics, as purchasers of DVDs, CDs, webapps, eBooks and software feel that once they purchase a product, it is their property. Debate and even court cases have arisen regarding this issue, but have yet to solve the problem of copyright infringement.

In today’s digital world, users share all kinds of media through blogs, social networking and peer to peer software. Some of these media are not the property of the person doing the sharing, and are considered copyright infringement. With the availability of software that defeats the copy protections used by publishers, many companies find the investment in expensive copy protection software useless. CD and DVD ripping software are easy to find online, sometimes for free even. Web 2.0 is a term that refers to the communities that have arisen online through these blogs and social networks.

Even before DVD copy protections, there were copy protections placed on VHS tapes. Their usage was unpopular, though, as picture and sound quality suffered. DVD producers use CSS, a form of copy protection to encrypt DVDs, making them harder to reproduce.

One example of social networking where copyright has become an issue is Youtube. Youtube’s user generated content has led to many situations where copyrights have been infringed, as users upload videos from TV shows, or DVDs or use music for their videos that has not been properly licensed. This has led to problems for Google, Youtube’s owner. The site has become much more vigilant in ensuring that videos uploaded are the property of the users who are uploading them.

Since the Web 2.0 model involves sharing so heavily, companies may feel that they are being robbed blindly, right and left, as users share music, movies, and other content freely. This does not have to be the case. Users have consistently demonstrated the willingness to pay for subscription services, and pay per use channels like iTunes have had great success. Consumers are willing to pay for products, as long as they are convenient and easy to use. Customers don’t want to be limited as to where they can watch their movie or listen to their song. Amazon and iTunes have given consumers the tools to make these products portable without having to pirate them.

For products like software and webapps, copy protection can harm the overall product by slowing it down or even making it unusable. With user reviews so important to the success of software, including copy protections that hurt usage can be a big mistake. This can lead to frustration on the part of software developers who fear that their product will be stolen or pirated. Companies that offer quality products, however, find that consumers are more likely to pay for a legitimate copy of a product that is guaranteed to work than downloading a shoddy imitation that may or may not accomplish what they need.

Overall, copy protection in a Web 2.0 world is a contentious issue, with reasonable arguments found on both sides of the issue. Even many artists themselves have come out against copy protections. Offering a quality product and making it convenient to use seems to be the best protection from copyright infringement, rather than including copy protections that alienate customers and make the product difficult to use.

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