Web applications raise a myriad of ethical and legal issues, especially in cases of user-generated content, as is the case with the FlowTow web application. FlowTow is a web application where users from all over the world can share images and comment about them. Thus, the user-generated content is available to a wide number of users. This has been one of the advantages of the web application. However, the ease of use and access raise problems. The web application can be used for dishonest purposes, especially when the users of the site are anonymous. Even though the site requires the user’s real name during registration, people can still use the wrong information, thus making it hard to control the type of content uploaded on the site. Issues that arise include infringing on copyright laws, uploading content without user consent, distributing false information, and identity theft. These actions lead to various ethical and legal consequences in the FlowTow web application.
The book authored by Safko (2010) is an important resource in explaining the legalities that are applicable for picture-sharing websites, where content come from the users. Dudley, Braman and Vincenti (2012) also explain how photo-sharing companies meet the legal requirements of the countries they establish their services. Guan, He, and Kung (2012) also describe the various web technologies and the ethical, moral, and legal issues that arise from the use of images online. The issues include altering, sharing, and downloading the images. Brooks (2013) analyses the various legal and ethical issues affecting intellectual property. The author looks at the various licenses that cater for intellectual property.
Legal and ethical issues arising from web applications
Legal issues are bound to arise based on the images uploaded by users. Most issues are based on copyright infringement. Therefore, various kinds of licenses have to apply to pictures shared by the unloader. The Creative Commons license is a legal requirement that the site should support. This will be an important legal consideration, as it guides the use of pictures on the web application. The license is able to give users the authority to categorise uploads based on the level of copyright they wish to have. It also allows content generators to sell the licenses of their photographs through the site. Once users upload pictures, they forfeit the rights to those pictures. Therefore, the pictures become the property of the site after. The web application also uses watermarks, so that others will know that they are from the web application when users share pictures from the site (Brooks, 2013).
Legal issues may arise when pictures, especially controversial pictures or pictures that are protected by copyright and not allowed for commercial purposes, are uploaded to the site without the authority of the owner. In this case, the unloader is prone to any suits that may arise. We have established a ‘terms and conditions’ policy that new users of the website have to agree to. It is up to the user to ensure that they have the legal authority to use a picture (Guan, He & Kung, 2012). The users, upon registration, are responsible for the copyright requirements of the company to ease the process of commenting and downloading pictures from the site.
Ethical issues that arise are a result of the content of the pictures shared. In this case, an uploaded picture might be offensive, pornographic, violent, or vilifying. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the FlowTow to ensure that the content uploaded by the users follows the established guidelines for allowed content. The website has established a ‘Not Safe for Work’ (NSFW) section where pictures with semi-nudes, but not pornographic, can be allowed. This section is age specific, such that those under a certain age limit will not have access to the section. Moreover, the web application deletes any picture that goes against the general guidelines for the site, while the user is warned (Safko, 2010).
FlowTow has established a policy whereby users can report pictures that flout our rules on the website. The reported pictures then go through the filtering system and appropriate action is taken. According to Dudley, Braman, and Vincenti (2012), Flickr, a photo-sharing app, had to establish specific age restriction policies in Germany because the region had different requirements and harsh penalties for those who violated the law. Therefore, the company established restrictions based on individual countries and age. This is the same case with FlowTow. Such restrictions will ensure the web application meets the legal requirements in the countries it is established.
Many legal and ethical issues face the FlowTow web application, especially where content for the web application comes from registered users. This report analysed the various legal and ethical issues that FlowTow will face during the launch and management of the company. It also focused on the solutions to the issues, based on various resources and examples from companies running a similar web application. The issues include legal concerns related to copyright of the content created by the site. It is vital for the company to acquire the Creative Commons license to ensure any copyright issues are avoided. The company also has to deal with ethical issues by developing a policy to guide the use of inappropriate content on the web application. For instance, the site can use age and regional restrictions in controlling access to materials.
Brooks, EC 2013, Legal and ethical issues for the IBCLC, 1st edn, Jones & Bartlett Learning, Burlington, MA.
Dudley, A, Braman, J & Vincenti, G 2012, Investigating cyber law and cyber ethics: Issues, impacts and practices, 1st edn, Information Science Reference, Hershey, PA.
Guan, L, He, Y & Kung, S 2012, Multimedia image and video processing, 2nd edn, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.
Safko, L 2010, The social media bubble: tactics, tools, ad strategies for business success, 2nd edn, Wiley, Hoboken, NJ.