#MED104 – Discussion 1.3 – The question of copyright

TUTOR:

Ok, so copyright is a complex beast, and while we are all aware that it exists, many of us ignorant of what it really means and how it works. Some of you might argue that we don’t really need to know the inner workings of copyright law… but in the new media environment, where we are consuming, creating and distributing content across a public arena, can we really avoid it?

This week, you have three very different texts which approach the subject of copyright from different perspectives. I’d like to hear your thoughts on these – which resonated with you? Did you agree/disagree with the position they took?

Finally, have a think about contemporary copyright law(s) AS consumers, producers and distributors of content. Are they fair and reasonable? Are they ‘workable’ in 2014?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

MY RESPONSE:

I do not believe we can readily dismiss copyright law in the current media environment – it would be dangerous to do so. Particularly if one is publishing remediated work on behalf of an employer. Such haphazard pursuits may risk one’s employment and/or create legal problems for the company or organisation one works for. It is possible, however, to avoid such violations thanks to Creative Commons licenses. If one knows where to search for such content, one can reuse, remix and modify content with correct attributions. The good news is that such material and its availability is on the increase, so it is possible to side-step any copyright landmines that lay in wait. This takes time and education around such issues is recommended.

I think the advent of the Creative Commons has opened up the potential for creativity as copyright laws originally intended. Also, if we can alter our mindset about copyright and the “illegal” reuse of someone else’s work, perhaps there are still avenues for making a profit from one’s work. After all, this is what all this boils down to, isn’t it? Not receiving credit for one’s work and not being able to make money from the use/sale of one’s work.

Having watched RiP! A Remix Manifesto in its entirety on YouTube, I paused for thought when Lars Ulrich from Metallica was being interviewed on an American television show. He was fully supportive of using copyright laws to “control” the distribution of the music that Metallica created. Sitting next to him was a member of the hip-hop group, Public Enemy, who was countering his arguments. He believed that not allowing the public to remix and reuse their work was stifling creativity and innovation. I subscribe to the latter. GirlTalk was the perfect example of how music sampling transforms sounds and beats created by others into something completely new and, at times, unrecognisable as another’s work. “The excess of media becomes an authentic experience, not in the sense that it corresponds to an external reality, but rather precisely because it does not feel compelled to refer to anything beyond itself” (Bolter & Grusin, pp. 53-54).

Collins (2008) presents a case for recovering the balance between copyright law and fair use. He explains how, over time, fair use has been eroded by copyright law, shifting it from being about freedom of expression to a law that seeks to punish those who violate copyright. He discusses the history of prosumerism and remediation and that, despite having always existed, have been magnified in the Web 2.0 era. Collins takes a final, positive stance, stating that although others don’t believe the balance can be restored, he doesn’t concur with these opinions. Collins cites two court cases that illustrate that considerations of fair use and creativity are still at the forefront of the laws surrounding copyright. Even though the two cases he presents show positive results in court, I remain less optimistic, as eventually, these legal battles might boil down to who can afford to pursue such avenues and who cannot. Some people cannot afford to take such a fight for their principles into the legal justice system. However, these cases do set precedents that lend more confidence to those who may have paused for thought before embarking upon such a legal crusade.

A Fair(y) Use Tale was making a valid point, albeit annoyingly. I found the repetition of statements from the selected cartoon characters tiresome after the first minute or so. However, it was a novel way to present the concept of copyright to others in the hopes of generating understanding. Copyright is fraught with terminology and legalese that confuses rather than explains at the best of times.

Lessig’s TED Talk resonated with me the most. He makes a great case for the power of innovation, creativity, culture and democracy by showing how copyright can stifle such pursuits. I firmly believe, like Lessig, that the advancement of the human race has been built by remixing and remediation and that “by standing on the shoulders of giants” we are able to see further and build upon our previous knowledge (as Isaac Newton said). It’s sad that others conspire to halt this process in order to capitalise on intellectual property; if it persists, it will ultimately suppress our imaginations entirely.

Copyright law in 2014 can be quite restrictive in some areas. As one who has to consider the laws surrounding copyright on a semi-regular basis in my workplace, I can see the potential for abuse of these laws in the future. It is my understanding that a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is being covertly discussed between nine countries that would require significant changes being made to other countries’ copyright laws. The TPP “raises serious concerns about other countries’ sovereignty and the ability of national governments to set laws and policies to meet their domestic priorities” (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2014).

As we are situated at present, the Creative Commons licenses allow us to share freely whilst maintaining attribution to the copyright holder, which is a good feature. The nature of the way we use, share and consume information evolves so quickly. I imagine that it is difficult for nations’ authorities to police violations thoroughly in order to maintain consistency in the application of copyright laws. When one considers the intended use of the Internet by Berners-Lee, we should live in a society where we can freely remediate information as we have throughout our history. But, I question how such a system can endure in the light of the proposed changes in the TPP agreement currently being sought by the United States. As I have mentioned on a few occasions, I believe in an Orwellian future, where we will lose our right to free speech and such creativity as we conform to the laws of such a society. I hope I am mistaken in foreseeing such expectations.

REFERENCE LIST

66jellona. (2012, September 22). RiP! A Remix Manifesto [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/1lWZLFkmqAE

Bolter, J. D., & Grusin, R. (1999). Remediation: understanding new media. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Collins, S. (2008). Recovering Fair Use. M/C – A Journal of Media and Culture, 11(6), 2-2. Retrieved from http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/105

dangerousnerd. (2007, May 21). A Fair(y) Use Tale [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UycH2HvBRd4

Electronic Frontier Foundation. (n.d.). Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Retrieved from https://www.eff.org/issues/tpp

Lessig, L. (2007, March). Laws that choke creativity [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity

TUTOR’S RESPONSE TO MY POST:

A thorough response as always Maha.
One aspect that stood out for me in your answer is the issue of copyright understanding and education. While you obviously have a good understanding and critical awareness of both the rules and the ways in which you can navigate around content use without breaking copyright law, I would presume that this is not the case for the average person. Do you agree? If so, how and what could be done to increase this awareness?

MY 2ND RESPONSE:

I do agree that the average person might not be able to navigate their way around content use with breaking copyright law. As I mentioned in my post, “Copyright is fraught with terminology and legalese that confuses rather than explains at the best of times.”
I believe that simplifying matters by introducing one to the Creative Commons licences can alleviate some of the confusion surrounding copyright law. For example, trying to find an image or a sound via http://www.creativecommons.org.au can inadvertently educate someone about the reasons for using CC licenced material. Understanding the meaning of the images being used by CC when re-using and/or remixing another’s work can go a long way to help someone understand why such attributions are necessary to sidestep copyright landmines. Here’s an example of the CC images that are used when providing attribution to another’s work:

CC-licenses

As time passes, and the more one refers to CC licenses, one can start to see the differences between Australian copyright restrictions and international laws, which can be dissimilar also. Using the ‘FIND’ feature in the CC web site can also restrict one’s search for “free-to-use and remix” material within popular repositories such as Google Images, Flickr, Wikimedia, ccMixtr, SoundCloud, etc. Eventually, without intending to, some will come to understand copyright law better, and be wary of simply grabbing something and re-using it without permission to do so… unless, one is trying to make a political statement and is an online activist, which is a whole other discussion for another time, I’m sure.

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About Maha @ Uni

Studying online, and want to keep a record of my progress and experiences...
This entry was posted in Copyright, Creative Commons, Digital Media, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fair use, George Orwell, Intellectual Property, Media, Media consumption, Media distribution, Media production, New media, Prosumerism, Refashioning, Remediation, Repurposing, Reuse, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Web 2.0 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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