Assessment 3: Digital Technology & Law & Ethics

{1100 Words}

Privacy; Government access; International regulations;

In recent years, ethics and law regarding privacy has been put in jeopardy. This is because of issues such as the News of The World hacking scandal, which sent journalism into a frenzy as the Leveson Inquiry was launched. As well as the emergence of Wiki-leaks, who published a number of confidential documents online, without permission.

Wikileaks releases uncovered information on finance, security and conflict, previously secret information, and as a consequence have a great influence on how media operates and how audiences receive and distribute information. Their releases have publicised information not created for mass audiences and consequently have been the pivotal point for a number of political, cultural and economic conflicts.

However Khan (2010) does not believe Wikileaks is all bad, ‘I feel passionately that democracy need a strong and free media. It’s the only way governments are honest and remain accountable.’ He believes some good has come out of the new journalism style created by Wikileaks. He believes such sites have helped keep audiences informed and reduced the amount of information held by those in power, helping us as a society to make more decisions regarding our own welfare.

In 2011 it was revealed that News of the World had been hacking voicemails etc. to illegally gain information. This was clearly a breach of human rights, as victims did not grant the journalists permission. This led to the arrest of almost a dozen people including four editors. The credibility and ethics of UK journalism was put in the spot light, many began to question were NOTW the only publication to use this means of gaining information. This led to the initiation of the Leveson Enquiry, an enquiry investigating the culture, practices and ethics of the British press, chaired by Lord Justice Leveson.

Lord Leveson inquiry looked into how the platform of the British Press was regulated. He made proposals for press regulation agreed by the main political parties, however many newspapers refused to cooperate with these new guidelines. The proposals made by Leveson include the following as outlined by the BBC (2012):

  • Newspapers continue to be self-regulated – and government have no power over  content.
  • A New press standards body backed by legislation.
  • Provide the public with confidence complaints would be taken seriously.

However, this is specific to the UK. The regulation of every country varies, with some countries being more/less lenient than others.

This regulation is carried out by individual bodies depending on the area in; examples of UK regulation bodies include OFCOM and ASA. These bodies and guidelines set out to protect vulnerable elements within society who may be ‘victim’ to passive consumption.’

 One example of where regulation was needed in the UK was the release of Miley Cyrus videoWe Can’t Stop,’ where the content was deemed ‘too raunchy’ and a censored version was aired on UK screens. However, the regulation of media in the US is much more lenient as they allowed the same video to air without censorship!

MIS; information, access and power; copying and distributing

In recent years the way information can be accessed and distributed has changed.  New legislation such as SOPA and PIPA have been proposed to combat the problem of piracy as well crackdown on hacking, following major breeches of misconduct at Sony.

Many organisations hold data about customers. It’s important to keep this information safe, and prevent unauthorised access. However, there have been some instances where security has lapsed and hackers have gained access to this precious information. One such instance was by Sony.

In 2011 users learned that Sony had been the target of a data hack and information such as addresses etc. had been taken and user’s security had been compromised. In this instance Sony lost power. The information was no longer in their hands, and could be distributed in whatever way the hackers wanted for example by means of identity fraud.

Recent years has seen a huge crack-down in piracy problems, with file sharing sites such as Megaupload being taken offline due to their part in copyright infringements, and the proposal of new policies such as SOPA and PIPA.

These Acts were introduced in 2011 and granted authorities permission to take action against sites dedicated to infringing activity. These new legislations propose that anyone guilty of streaming copyrighted content 10+ times within a six month period may face jail time!Their aim is to reduce the amount of copyrighted material. It’s for this reasons that these acts link strongly with the copyright vs. copyleft debate, as well as the issues surrounding freedom of speech.

 Copyleft’/FLOSS; Copyright versus free speech

 Icelandic programmer, Smari McCarthy claimed that before Wikileaks, ‘…we were in an information famine.’ He along with Assange (Wikileaks developer) proposed a new law protecting free speech and freedom of information. This therefore supported the side of copyleft in the debate.

Copyleft allows for software or documentation to be modified and redistributed, provided it remains free and the origins of copyleft licenses can be traced back as far as the 1970s. This is therefore the opposite of copyright.

Copyright restricts the way media can be distributed. Copyright laws play a huge part in what appears online, for example on YouTube.  The site is known for being regulated with copyrighted content being removed instantly and continued offences leading to deleted accounts.

MistMediaGroup (2013) state 48 hours of video is uploaded every second, making it difficult for content to be regulated and offences detected. It’s obvious there are a number of policies and procedures in place to regulate the internet. Due to the vast amount of media uploaded every second, it’s unlikely that the media will ever be completely regulated, and for this reason the problem of copyright and piracy will only get worse.

To conclude, Iegal and ethical constraints have had a massive effect on the use of digital technology for media products. Media producers must be much wearier when creating products and they must be more considerate towards legislation as well as sensitive topics. As well as this, laws have made the distribution of media products much more difficult due to different regulatory bodies and their guidelines on what can and cannot be published, as well as where and when it can be published.


Berry & McCillian, D & M (2005) ‘Copyleft and copyright’ Eye Magazine [Online], Available at (8th Dec 2013) [Online], Available at (9th Dec 2013)

Herman, B. (2013) The Fight Over Digital Rights: The Politics of Copyright and Technology, New York, Cambridge

Hintz, A. (2007) ‘What Does WikiLeaks tell us about the future of media,Media Policy [Online], Available at (Accessed 6th Dec 2013)

Humphries, M. (2011) ‘Sony Hacker Has Stolen PSN User Account Data,’ Geek [Online], Available at (7th Dec 2013)

Leigh & Harding, D. L. (2011) WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, Great Britain, The Guardian

McDougall, J. (2012) Media Studies: The Basics, Oxon, Routledge (Accessed 6th Dec 2013)

Miller, R. (2012) Contemporary Regulation of the Media,’ MediaEdu [Online], Available at (6th Dec 2013)

N/A. (2012) ‘Sopa and Pipa anti-piracy bills controversy explained’ BBC News [Online], Available at (7th Dec 2013)

N/A. (2013) ‘Legal Files Snared Megaupload Shutdown,’ RT [Online], Available at (7th Dec 2013)

N/A. (2013) Q&A: Press Regulation, BBC News [Online], Available at (6th Dec 2013)

N/A. (N/A) Copyright vs. Copyleft, GNU[Online], Available at (8 Dec 2013)

 Social and Digital Media Revolution Statistics 2013 (19 Feb 2013) YouTube video, added by MistMediaGroup [Online], Available at URL (8th December 2013)

Tenore, M. (2011) ‘Explainer: Your 5-minute guide to the News Corp. phone hacking scandal’, Poynter [Online], Available at ( (Accessed 6th Dec 2013 )

WENN (2013) ‘Miley Cyrus Saucy New Video Censored in the UK’ Contact Music [Online], Available at (7th Dec 2013)


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