“Producer-Consumer” Freedom and Copyright Law

In this stage of the information age, the internet has become the main resource for new media for the vast majority of the population. Taking a quote from Hana’s Blog;

“I cut costs by not having cable so I rely on the internet to watch TV shows and provide me entertainment.”

Acts such as this are becoming more and more common. People are abandoning other media sources for the internet as it provides all that they require and are interested in, in one convenient package. This is just a testament to how the internet is changing all of our lives. However, with this advancement and freedom that comes with the internet, new issues with respect to copyright laws have come into play as well.

Online communities of “producer-consumers” have become prevalent throughout the constantly expanding world of the internet. These “producer-consumers” become so involved within the realm of whatever their specific interest is online, that they feel compelled to develop their own content and submit it to online mediums such as YouTube. This is where copyright issues come into play. A quote from Lev Manovich’s “The Practise of Everyday (Media) Life” explains how the issue started;

“As De Certeau ponts out, in modern societies most of the objects which people use in their everyday life are mass produced goods; these goods are the expressions of strategies of designers, producers, and marketers. People build their worlds and identities out of these readily available objects by using different tactics: bricolage, assembly, customization, and – to use the term which was not a part of De Certeau’s vocabulary but which has become important today – remix.”

Although it seems that in this context physical objects were being referred to, digital objects can follow under the same rules. The majority of digital content people come across and develop and interest in is mass produced. Through this mass produced digital content, people will often pull different aspects to put into their own creations, or “remix” them. In the eyes of many companies, this use of their material is seen as infringing on their copyright. This has become a major issue in today’s world. In a quote taken from Henry Jenkin’s “The cultural logic of media convergence”, the question is asked;

“(There) has been a heightened grassroots awareness of the issue of media ownership. Will public dissatisfaction with corporate media be a driving political issue in the coming years?”

From the time this question was asked this has already happened. Major companies have pushed for bills such as “SOPA” and PIPA” to be passed to limit the content people are able to use in their own creations. This has caused a major backlash from “produced-consumers” and even just the general populous of internet communities around the world who view their ability to produce their own content with elements off of this mass produced products to be extremely important. Although not a producer of any major online content myself, even I was a part of the uprising to prevent the success of these bills, which were ultimately dropped.

I believe the outlook taken by certain game companies outlined in Henry Jenkin’s “The cultural logic of media convergence”, is the most beneficial option to all parties;

“In the games industry, the major successes have come within franchises that have courted feedback from consumers during the product development process, endorsed grassroots appropriation of their content and technology and that have showcased the best user-generated content. Game companies have seen the value of constructing, rather than shutting down, fan communities around their products and building long-term relationships with their consumers.”

Through this method of looking towards “producer-consumers” for assistance and promoting user-generated content, game companies are not only gaining free publicity for their product, they’re gaining valuable feedback and development for their titles. This aspect seems to be grossly overlooked by many major companies. When “producer-consumers” are using their content in “remixes” its free publicity for them. It’s expanding their product to a range of viewers who may not have ever come into contact with it otherwise. The public image of the company will also be viewed much more positively. Look at game companies Valve and Electronic Arts as examples. Both produce quality games people love to play. However, valve is very community based and open to user created content, where Electronic Arts was one of the biggest supporters of “SOPA” and will enforce their copyrights in anyway they think they can. If you were to go onto a popular internet community such as “Reddit” and ask users about the two, Valve has an overwhelmingly positive image, where Electronic Arts has an overwhelmingly negative image.

To conclude, I believe Raymond’s Blog makes a very important point;

“It does not matter what you do, there will always be restrictive copyright laws. These laws cannot be avoided because it is necessary for protection. If any person can go around claiming that he or she was the original composer without consequences, the world would be a chaotic place.”

Although I agree with this entirely, I think we have to carefully consider how far we let these copyrights go. I believe that over the next few years arguments regarding the subject will become more and more intense, and I can only hope that in the end “producer-consumers” still have the freedom to produce the content they love to make.Image

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