Digital Rights Management Ethical Dilemmas Research Paper

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Content Creators

There are several people who might fall into the class of people who create intellectual property. First, there are creatives, for example writers, visual artists, or even project managers such as directors or the team who write code for software. All of these are actively involved in the creative process. When they are doing as employees or contractors of a company, then typically the rights flow to the company, as the financier of the project. But someone creating on their own should have full right to distribute as they please, whether or not this involves active digital rights management. There are examples of star acts that have sought to exert greater control over their work, using digital distribution models to bypass record companies. This is an example of a content creator exerting their natural control over how they distribute and control their work (Clemons, Gu, & Lang, 2002-2003). Open source software provides a similar example, except where the content creator specifically denies their intellectual property rights.


The control over production processes often leaves content creators with a fee or set percentage of commission based on sales, with the rights holder actually being the company that financed the venture. These producers – music labels and academic journal publishers being two examples – claim themselves as category a. They are, however, not. Their claim is based on legal precedent, which in turn is based on a capitalist logic that the entity that puts up the capital is taking the most risk, and therefore should receive the greatest share of the reward.

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Other schools of thought, however, such as socialist schools, argue that the control over production should be owned by the people. Even a softer view than what the 19th century communists envisioned would still apply creator rights to actual creators. The royalty would go to the publisher/distributor, paid for their service. It is only disparity of bargaining power between creators and publishers that reverses this arrangement, but there is no ethical or moral reason why differences in bargaining power need to be codified into law. Producers have legal rights because of that codification, but I struggle to find a reasonable ethical argument that they should have such rights, and certainly would struggle to hold that those rights are inalienable and ethical.

End Users

An end user in this case could be someone who enjoys a piece of music and wants to share it on YouTube for others to discover and enjoy. Or it could be an adult, no longer in university, who wishes to continue learning and requires access to the latest scientific research to do so. These individuals would fall into category b, someone who might use devices to bypass restrictions. Such individuals fall into this category when they seek to obtain access to a work that they would otherwise need to pay for. I believe that they fall into the category because there are ethical issues raised when anyone – but especially the poor or otherwise disenfranchised – is denied access to something like knowledge. (I know that example….....

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Clemons, E., Gu, B., & Lang, K. (2003) Newly vulnerable markets in an age of pure information products: An analysis of online music and online news. Journal of Management Information Systems. Vol. 19 (3) 17-41.

Crissinger, S. (2017) Access to research and Sci-Hub: Creating opportunities for campus conversations on open access and ethics. College & Research Libraries News. Vol. 78 (2) Retrieved May 6, 2018 from

Green, L. (2003) Legal obligation and authority. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved May 6, 2018 from

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