The internet makes possible the super-distribution of music, film and other media.
Each may be downloaded, shared between users and devices. Music and other works have never been more accessible which is great for you and me, but if you are the writer your rights can very easily be disregarded.
Your work can be modified edited, translated and distributed worldwide without your permission and adapted for channels over which you have no control.
With the reality of the internet firmly established a new approach to protecting copyright has emerged. It's called Creative Commons and its aim is to establish a fair middle way between the extremes of copyright control, and the unauthorised exploitation of intellectual property.
The creator-led scheme encourages musicians, writers and artists to give up some of their rights, perhaps the right to distribute work or to control derivative works to the 'commons' of the internet.
This is achieved via a system of off the peg licences that are machine readable.
Its primary tool is the use of a range of copyright licences which are freely available for public use. So, if you want to offer your work online the licences allow you to fine tune control over it to enable as wide a distribution as possible.
You might for example state that you are content for others to use your work for any reason as long as it is not for commercial purposes.
Alternatively you may permit use for commercial purposes.
In this way, ideas can be protected, but you are able to encourage some other uses of your work.
It is in effect a label saying "Some rights reserved" as opposed to the usual copyright protection of "All rights reserved".
The idea is to give the public access to, for example, footage from the different archives so they can use it to create new things, such as making their own music video.
The concept behind Creative Commons is to allow for content to be introduced into the online environment so that it can be shared fully but also protected.
Creative Commons is at an early stage of life, but it has already had some impact on the music industry with some artists being persuaded to release their content under a Creative Commons licence.
There are some for example in the music industry who express concern over Creative Commons fearing that it undermines traditional copyright protection.
They believe songwriters may unwittingly give away their rights irrevocably.
In addition it could result in musicians who sign Creative Commons licences being discounted by a music business hostile to the concept.
In this country Creative Commons is now a Corporation.
It doesn't profit from its role in providing the licence and will not investigate the claims of any writer or user of the licence.
It is not a party to the licence and is not liable for any damage resulting for either party's reliance on it.
So, if you want to offer your artistic efforts online but think you will have little protection, the internet is not quite the wild west it once was.
* Andrew Sparrow is principal lawyer with Lecote Solicitors, the internet, IT and new media law firm.