Generation Y: Risks to intellectual property

2008-07-09 00:00

New technology can become disruptive and pose different challenges to businesses. There have been notable developments in Internet technologies.

Broadband technology has favoured business by enhancing significantly the communication networks, which has brought the cost of media distribution down.

This has sparked a new trend of user-generated content described as participatory media, such as YouTube, acquired by Google.

This trend has really taken off and recently we have enjoyed sharing of information through wikis, whereby people can collaborate and share content. New technology has both enabled and revealed a deep desire to work collaboratively — sometimes for altruistic motives, sometimes for the exhibitionist pleasure of doing so. This is also exemplified in the “open source” movement of software development.

This trend has certainly highlighted a number of challenges to businesses. Productivity comes first: either businesses implement strict rules in terms of participation by staff in participatory media or embrace the new craze.

Employees, especially Generation Y, have explicitly embraced these technological developments, sending a clear signal for the business community that this is the future.

As Internet users create more and more rich content for sharing online, there is also a governance issue that companies must pay attention to, notably capacity management. First and foremost, assets of a company must be used and optimised for business purposes. Companies must set clear end-user computing policies governing participatory media.

Generation Y (and X) are enthusiastically downloading music or video remixes and uploading to YouTube, which has been a nightmare for the owners of content. Newspapers and music companies have already been assailed by the ease with which their content can be purloined, and TV companies and studios are next.

All content companies need to have firm policies on intellectual property (IP) management and strategies on how to deal with IP matters — hence a radiating challenge of copyrights and intellectual property.

Wall Street Journal recently reported a lawsuit against Google relating to copyright and intellectual property.

As the workforce gets to understand these technologies more deeply, business alike must pay special attention in ensuring that they are not on the wrong side of the law. Businesses should be aware of the dangers of the ease with which information can be captured and shared.

Mdu Zakwe

Partner & Head: IT Advisory

KPMG KZN

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