CIRCA:Alina Ng's "When Users are Authors: Authorship in the Age of Digital Media.”


Jump to: navigation, search

Ng, Alina. “When Users are Authors: Authorship in the Age of Digital Media.” Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment And Technology Law 12.4 (2010): 853-888. Academic Search Complete.

In her article Ng focuses on the new function of the copyright system in the digital world, as opposed to how it functioned in the analog world. This new function, Ng argues, is sustainability; copyright law in the digital age exists to sustain the production of literary and creative works, by ensuring individual authorial rights over social welfare. Conversely, in the analog world, copyright law was an economic or commercial incentive for authors to create since the analog medium made denying access to non-paying users rather simple. Ng structures her argument in five compact parts. First, she discusses (conventional) authorship within the analog world; she then explores how authorship has changed with digital media and the “networked economy” (861); third, Ng surmises how to “protect property rights” – balancing “integrity,” “creativity,” and “responsibility” (862); fourth, she argues that law should ensure the rights of the authors in order to “ensure the sustained production of creative works” (862); the fifth component of her argument is a defense of the copyright system as it sustains “individual creativity and authentic forms of authorship” (862). Unlike some of her contemporaries who perceive copyright law as curtailing creativity, Ng argues that it is “an institution that aims to provide the best route to the future” (883). The fact that users of literary and creative works are “no longer passive consumers of content” (855) as they predominantly were in the analog world, excites Ng. She celebrates the “remix culture” (865) of the digital age. Sensitive to the anxiety surrounding the manipulable nature of the digital medium, Ng advocates for “a mark of authorial identification” where the author receives “recognition” for their “contribution” (868). She also envisions this authorial mark as flagging for users (new authors) that they would need to gain permission from the original author to use their “raw material” (869). Who would police this permission-seeking, however, remains unknown. Furthermore, Ng’s classification of original literary and creative works as “raw material” is problematic – especially considering the sensitive content of many oral histories as well as the generational knowledge of remote and/or private communities. The last sections of Ng’s article specify various codified documents and legal practices, such as the Copyright Act of 1979, Fair Use Doctrine, the [Lockean] labour theory of property rights, and the three-tenet-test” (879-80), to illustrate the need for a different kind of balance in the copyright system. For Ng, copyright law must ultimately fulfill two objectives: protect the author from undesirable and unauthorized alterations made to their work, and ensure that society has enough information to verify the veracity of literary and creative work (888).
Personal tools