We have defined copyright as a means of an incentive for creativity, which adds to public knowledge and culture by protecting the ownership of works under law. We have also examined the model whereby copyright is owned not by the author of a creation but by third parties those who have the means of exploitation. Creativity is therefore incentivised by a third parties idea of worth within a current business model.
It is clear that digital technology, by facilitating copying and distribution, is changing the way that copyright is used. It is allowing artists to interact with existing artwork in new ways, creating new genres of art and allowing them to be distributed directly by the Author. Consumers are in the middle and need to be aware of the shifting legal sands. Whether individuals agree with the traditional model of protectionism and exploitation vs. education, or a new model of free culture, they need to understand where their rights actually are.
It is clear that copyright can be misused, but courts seem to be taking a dim view of these. It is also clear that there are examples of copyright infringement which are acceptable to the mainstream of society. There is a clear need to differentiate between types of copyright infringements. While Commercial copying is still an issue, new forms of use have emerged due to digital copying that are redefining basic assumptions on which the industry is built. Research needs to be conducted to ascertain the level of harm of private copying and amateur creation.
Due to the global nature of the copyright industry and the concentration of rights held by a small number of copyright owners, there is a global convergence of law. This is potentially blocking further developments due to the inflexibility of large business models. If new business models are to emerge, they will emerge form inside the Digital community. We have already seen some of these begin to emerge, from music artists to the use of Creative Commons. Culture is defined by society, not industry.
A paradigm shift is needed. Copyright is currently treated as a property, yet it acts more and more like a service. There is a new generation coming to build on this work, just as previous artists have built on existing work. There is a change in attitudes as to acceptable behaviour towards copyright fuelled by technological possibilities. We have much to learn about the full effects of digital technology. It will be a better idea to allow models to evolve from the current situation rather than forcing it from the outside.