In the Irish Constitution, there are many acts that govern how people use digital media. These are some of the most important ones relating to this area:
Copyright and Related Rights Act (2000, 2004)
Data Protection Act (1988, 2003)
Defamation Act (2009)
Consumer Protection Act (2007)
I will be examining each of the areas that these acts cover under their respective headings.
Copyright and Related Rights
Copyright is defined as the following:
A legal concept that is enforced by governments to protect the authors of original work. It originally just applied to books but these days includes film and music too. Copyright means that the author of the work has the right to copy it. For other types of media gives rights in terms of who can perform it, remix it, play it, etc. This ensures that whoever created the song or book in the first place gets paid every time it’s used or sold, and that other people can’t profit off of it if they’re not entitled to.
It is very difficult to enforce copyright in this day and age, as breaches of it happen extremely often. It is considered normal to “torrent” a film or song. Sometimes people are caught and charged millions of euro/dollars for this, but clearly this is one person bearing the brunt for something that a large majority of the population of most first world countries does. When companies can control copyright, for example, on YouTube, they often go overboard, even taking down videos when they clearly fall under Fair Use, which is oft ignored. Clearly a balance must be found.
There are two terms that pretty much sum up this area (definitions from http://www.dataprotection.ie):
A data controller is the individual or the legal person who controls and is responsible for the keeping and use of personal information on computer or in structured manual files. Being a data controller carries with it serious legal responsibilities. Data controllers can be either individuals or “legal persons” such as companies, Government Departments and voluntary organisations.
If you hold or process personal data, but do not exercise responsibility for or control over the personal data, then you are a “data processor”. Examples of data processors include payroll companies, accountants and market research companies, all of which could hold or process personal information on behalf of someone else.
A data controller has the legal obligation to keep all personal information private. They must use it for clearly stated and legal purposes, and make sure that all data is factually correct and up-to-date. Any person can ask any organisation to give them a copy of any data they hold on that individual for a fee not exceeding €6.35 within 40 days of the day of request.
Defamation means to publish untrue remarks about someone that damages their reputation. This is an issue with digital media because it is incredibly easy to spread misinformation using mediums such as the internet. Also, because of the widespread adoption of CCTV and camera phones, it is easier than ever to take a video and completely ruin an individual’s reputation within hours or even minutes. There are laws to deal with this, but at the end of the day, they cannot undo the damage that has been done.
As with buying items in the real world, you are entitled to a certain number of rights when purchasing goods online. In fact, you have more rights when it comes to online shopping when compared to the physical counterpart. Items take a while to be shipped after being bought, so you have an especially long period of time to return them if there’s a problem. If an item isn’t as advertised, you can demand a refund. It is easy to prove that you purchased any goods because the evidence is right there in digital form and is almost impossible to lose, compared to physical forms of proof of purchase, such as receipts. You can always check these quickly and easily to make sure you haven’t been overcharged. In Ireland, the National Consumer Agency is responsible for overseeing these rights
Internet Policy In The Workplace
In addition to the above acts, there are more local rules that affect how we use the internet. We spend what is said to amount to a little over a third of our life at work, and consequentially, it’s also a place where the web is often browsed. Hence nearly all workplaces will have their own policies regarding Internet use. Generally, these policies will not allow people to send personal emails, use social media (unless on a company account as a social media manager) or view obscene material.