Interactive Media Design – Task 3: Understand legal and ethical constraints

Criteria 2.1 – Legal Constraints


Intellectual Property Rights

These are rights that people have to protect them from any stealing or copying of names of products, brands, designs or any written material. There are different types of intellectual property protection. These include trade marks, copyright, patents and designs.

Intellectual property will belong to an individual or a business and can have more than one owner. Owners of the property rights will have either created it, bought it or previously have owned a trade-mark brand.

Digital designers can own rights to their work that they have created themselves, providing any images used on their graphic work is their own or has been permitted for use. Digital designers must also be aware of any images or material that they have used for their work that other authorities have the intellectual property rights to.

A trademark is a design that is created by an organisation to represent their product/service and overall brand. Trademarks are the main basis of corporate identity. Companies or individuals can apply a trademark for a illustration, slogan or design that they have created or produced.



A libel is a published false statement that causes has a negative affect on an individual or a company’s reputation. This can relate to all forms of work including the digital sector.

There are also some acts that digital designers have to oblige by. Firstly, the race relations act was established to prevent any discrimination on race. This includes an individual’s colour, nationality, and origin. This act was soon repealed by the Equality Act 2010 which covers race, disability, religion, sexual orientation and age.

The Obscene Publications Act has regulated what can and cannot be published in England and Wales. This act protects the law and makes it an offense to publish any content that can be seen or interpreted as obscene – offending against moral principles. This act has an impact on digital designers’ work through the digital content and assets they produce because it limits where they can publish their work as well as restrict the content itself.

The Computer Misuse Act is setup to protect computer users against cyber attacks and theft of information. This includes unauthorised access, hacking and spreading of malware and viruses. In the digital sector, employees may have their information or designs stolen and shared by third parties. This can then be used against the employees and the designs may be wrongfully claimed as somebody else’s if there is no copyright.

The Data Protection Act focuses on the uses of personal information. There are eight principles of the act and these cover lawful processing of data, lawful purposes, adequate and relevant data, accuracy of data and how up to date it is, how long data is kept when necessary and the transferring of data. Digital designers have to oblige by The Data Protection Act by respecting any personal information that they may hold when creating a design or asset. This means using it for lawful purposes and deleting the information after use to prevent any theft.


Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation that focuses on increasing the amount of creative works available for uses by others. A creative commons license is a public copyright license that allows the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work.

There are six main types of licenses offered by Creative Commons when users choose to publish their work. The following licenses apply to work created and shared by the public:

  • Attribution – this license allows others to distribute and make changes to an original creator’s work, providing they give credit. This license allows commercial and non-commercial redistribution.
  • ShareALike – this is a license that lets others copy, distribute and make changes to the original work, providing they distribute any changes they have made or the new pieces of work created.
  • NonCommercial – this license allows others to modify the original creator’s work non-commercially.
  • NoDerivatives – this license lets others copy and distribute the original creator’s work. However, it cannot be modified unless permission is given by the creator of the original piece of work.


Methods of copyright-protecting images

There are other methods of protecting images with copyright. Businesses or individuals can prevent others from copying or using their image without consent by inserting a URL or brand logo into or beside the image. This prevents others from copy the image and claiming it as their own. However, some users may crop the image or fade out the copyright from the original owner.

Creators of images can also use HTML and JavaScript to protect their images. These are programming languages for website design. This can be done by incorporating a table in the website code through the image which puts the image behind and protects it from any copying.

On Flickr, the image hosting website, users can offer their work under the Creative Commons license. Visitors of Flickr can browse or search through images under each license mentioned above. Users can find this by going to the ‘explore’ page of the website and then going to the Creative Commons page.

Users can use Google Images to perform a copyright search. Users will go to the advanced image search option to separate and filter images based on their content license. Under the usage rights in the advanced search, they will choose what kind of license they want their image to have. Options include ‘not filtered by license’, ‘free to use or share’, ‘free to use or share commercially’ or ‘free to use, share or modify’.


Ethical Constraints

There are some ethical constraints with image protection. There can be some issues that occur between a designer of an image and the client.

If nothing is discussed between the designer and the client, the designer owns the right to the image. The majority of the time, the client will have the ownership of the design because of terms and conditions discussed at the start – perhaps in a pre-negotiated contract. However, if a designer is an employee working for the client, then the ownership will belong to the client or the business. It is important for a client to have complete ownership of a logo or image used for their business because it will allow them to use it whenever they desire without having any copyright issues. Ownership can also allow the client to get their brand identity trademarked through Intellectual Property Rights.

At times, a client and the designer may be involved in confrontation or disagreement if terms and conditions are not met, specifically relating to image or logo ownership. Neither the client or designer will want any confrontation, especially not the client because of the fact that they are paying for the service to be completed their preferred way for their own use.

Within a digital designer’s work, there must be a fair and accurate representation of race, gender and religion. These all make the Equality Act 2010. This means that a digital designer or a creator of content in the digital media and marketing sector must present realistic and fair ideologies regarding any subject of race, gender of religion. This includes avoiding the use of any unjust stereotypes in the content of their work. The potential impact of this is a negative reputation on the designer of the content or the organisation they represent or work for.


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