Thursday, 4 November 2010

Assignment 2 – Who owns information?

(hand-in 4pm 15 Nov)

For the second assignment, you should write a report on the way digital technologies are challenging traditional notions of privacy and ownership of information.

You can choose to focus on one of two areas
  1. One concerns issues of copyright and 'digital rights management'. How do works stored digitally differ from works embodied in media such as books or CDs? How do rights of 'fair use' fare in the face of digital rights management? Should you be able to lend items from your digital library to friends, just as you can lend embodied media? How can society best encourage creativity in the production of 'digital assets'? How can we ensure that future generations will have access to works being produced today?
  2. The second issue concerns personal data. How and why do entities such as Google and Facebook collect data? What are the personal risks and benefits of this activity? What are the risks and benefits for society? How can the risks be mitigated and the benefits enjoyed? To what extent is it desirable or practical for government to limit such activities? Is government also collecting such data – if so, why and how?
Whichever focus you choose, your report should address the following issues:
  • What is the value of the information in question? How will it be used? Who benefits financially? Who enjoys other benefits of ownership or use?
  • What is the cost of the information in question? What efforts contribute to its production, and how are they stimulated or funded?
  • What new risks and opportunities are created by the use of digital technologies to store, process and communicate this information.
  • You should also include a list of references you have consulted in the preparation of your report.
The following Wikipedia articles may be useful as background reading, but you should use the web to find original sources to inform your report.


Your report should be between two and three-thousand words in length. The School's standard guidelines on plagiarism apply.

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