What is a Digital Copyright?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 February 2020
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A digital copyright is an extension of any other type of copyright that protects a creative work into various digital media. This is typically utilized to ensure that work that exists in a digital form is protected much like work that exists in a physical form. This has become increasingly important with the proliferation of computers and digital media. Such protection also typically involves the way in which a work might be protected from copying, such as digital rights management (DRM) software. A digital copyright is established on any original, creative work that exists in a digital medium.

Much like other types of copyrights, a digital copyright comes into existence and grants protection for a work as soon as that work is created. This means that someone who types a story or essay of original work into a computer has a copyright on that work as soon as it is typed. Such protection does not extend to ideas a person may have, but can only be used to protect works that are actually created, even if only in a digital form. As more media has become solely digital, without a physical copy, the establishment and extension of digital copyright protection has become increasingly important.


One of the most common methods used to protect a digital copyright, referred to as DRM, is also often included in references to such copyrights. DRM typically refers to software that protects digital media from copying, playback, or access without the proper credentials to establish ownership or licensing of a product. Computer games, for example, are often protected by DRM that require an Internet connection or other certification to allow a person to access the game. This type of digital copyright protection can be part of the copyright itself, and circumventing or disabling the DRM on digital media can potentially qualify as copyright violation.

A digital copyright is also an important aspect of copyright infringement involving digital piracy. Arguments have been made by those involved in such piracy that no form of theft occurs through such piracy, since piracy often involves only copying a type of media and not necessarily transferring a physical copy of that media. A digital copyright on a particular item, however, makes that item, and all copies of it, the legal property of the copyright holder. Copies can be transferred legally through sale or permission of the owner, but unauthorized copies violate the copyright and therefore can be considered a theft of intellectual property.


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