to merit enforcement. Digital reproduction and network distribution enable much broader circulation of higher-quality reproductions at the same expense of money and effort and thus have very different economic consequences and implications.

Finally, digitally stored information can be altered with relative ease. The same technology that enables perfect reproduction also allows changes to be introduced in reproductions with relative ease. A few keystrokes can modify an electronic document; absent the use of technology to guarantee that no changes have been made, such changes are undetectable.16 For example, digital photographs can be modified to show scenes that never existed, and the viewer will never know that they have been modified. Coupled with the ability to send anonymous or pseudonymous transmissions, the potential to alter information in largely undetectable ways raises new concerns and reinforces old ones about maintaining the integrity of information and protecting the rights of the creators of such information.

16  

Technology is now available that can authenticate the integrity of digital data. It is possible to digitally "sign" a given bit stream (file) in such a way that any modification to the file while in transit, on a bulletin board, and so forth can be detected with very high confidence. However, it is also true that digital signature technology is not widely used today.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement