Archive for the ‘Internet Culture’ Category

Lessig and Anderson on the Rise and Fall of the Blockbuster

Friday, September 29th, 2006

Luis Villa has a writeup of a debate between Lawrence Lessig and Chris Anderson (or, as Villa puts it, ‘Mr Free Culture‘ and ‘Mr Long Tail‘) at the New York Public Library. It seems to be a pretty interesting discussion about the interersection between Anderson’s argument about the long tail (i.e. that internet distribution renders the blockbuster obsolete and creates instead a mass of niche markets) and the IP issues that interest Lessig.

It’s a shame there’s not (yet?) audio or a transcript of the debate. Some of these NYPL talks do appear to be available online so maybe it will turn up one day.

De-Scribed on User-Generated Content

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

De-Scribed has an interesting post on the question of whether User-Generated Content, (as visible on Myspace, Youtube etc) really represents a new media paradigm:

The fact is that the new media paradigm wouldn’t be possible without an already existant brand-saturated culture. In other words, the vast majority of user-generated content – the volume with which YouTube, MySpace, etc depend upon to maintain some future – is built up around the “branding” of the people involved. Reviews, comments, demonstrations, novelty sneak-peeks, even “what I like” lists… We define ourselves according to what we buy, what we watch and what we listen to, and so our communications, and our “social indicators” (i.e. things that say “who will like me?”) reflect this utterly.

Up to a point I would have to agree with this scepticism, in the sense that a large amount of user-generated content could be as derivative from ‘old media’ content. However I can think of two responses to this. The first, an old media studies argument, is that it doesn’t necessarily follow from the basically parasitic nature of ‘fan culture’ that nothing interesting, creative or original is going on there . Bands and brands (or bands as brands) can be seen as providing contexts for conversations that are not solely defined or limited by those contexts.

The second response is that the fact that user-generated content is both coexisting and interacting with ‘big’ media doesn’t necessarily stop it from representing a genuinely new form of media: new media forms often seem to sit alongside old media forms without entirely replacing them. If the criterion for a form of media to be recognised as radical or a new paradigm is that it be a total break with existing cultural forms and conventions then we could be waiting for a very long time….

British Academy on Copyright

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

It seems that the British Academy, a major funder of UK research, is finally waking up to the risk that the erosion of copyright fair use represents for academic work:

The Academy is concerned that recent developments in technology, legislation and practice have meant that the various copyright exemptions, which enable creative and scholarly work to advance, are not always achieving the intended purpose.


All creative activity builds on the creative activity that has gone before … A regime which is unduly protective of the interest of existing rights holders may therefore inhibit, or even stifle, the development of original material.

Can this really be true?

Friday, April 28th, 2006

Buried deep in this news article about Intel’s struggle with AMD is the following

Interestingly, Google (Research) is probably the most important of the white box makers today. According to some industry experts, Google is now assembling so many of its own servers that it may be the third or fourth-largest server maker in the world.

Can this really be true? I wonder how ‘some industry experts’ have worked this out.

Creative Commons wins

Monday, March 20th, 2006

Two wins for the Creative Commons. Firstly, the Open University have decided to release course materials under a Creative Commons license. It’s not yet clear which license they will use but this is a very positive move and, hopefully, will be followed by more U.K. universities.

The other piece of good news is that the Creative Commons license has been upheld by a Dutch court. Actually the news here is less unambiguously positive. Copyleft licenses (such as the CC licenses) use the letter of copyright law against the spirit of intellectual property: in other words they encourage the sharing and copying of ideas and creative works rather than discouraging them. But some CC licenses in fact place certain restrictions on the otherwise-free distribution of the works they cover. In this case the photographs in question were under an attribution-noncommercial-sharealike license. Essentially this means they can be freely used except in a commercial context, the original photographer has to be credited, and if you modify them you have to make your modified version freely available as well. So in this case the court has upheld the first two restrictive aspects of the particular license being used and not the copyleft aspect. From the restrictive point of view the CC license looks no different from any other copyright license. The ‘win’ here is simply that the restrictions of the CC license have been recognised as valid. I guess it would be more interesting if the ‘copyleft’ aspects such as the ‘share-alike’ requirement had been upheld.

SCMS 2006

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

view of vancouver from conference hotel

I’ve been at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) 2006 conference in Vancouver for the last week. The conference was quite large: about 600 papers altogether with 15+ parallel strands so it wasn’t possible to get to everything and there were lots of hard choices to be made. However, if the number of conference attendees is anything to go by, media and film studies are booming in North America.

I gave a paper in the “Media Studies and Recent Developments in Critical Theory” organised by Richard Cante. From what I can tell there is considerable interest in finding different theoretical approaches to media and film, which is encouraging. I saw papers on everything from Levinas to Agamben.

Probably one of the most intesting sessions I attended was the Intellectual Property Workshop. It seems as if SCMS is exploring the creation of a policy statement on intellectual property defending “fair use“. Academics in the field are waking up to the worry that draconian extensions to intellectual property law and the implementation of DRM (Digital Rights Management) in media technology are eroding both the de jure and de facto rights of copyright fair use. These developments obviously have particularly bad implications for the study of media and film, making it difficult to include stills and clips in academic work and teaching materials. In the U.S. the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) is of particular concern since it effectively criminalizes all sorts of behaviour that would normally fall under fair use. In particular it makes it illegal to circumvent a “copyright protection device”. This leads to some bizarre outcomes for people studying TV and film. For example it turns out that if you extract still images from a DVD — even though this is trivial to do using readily available software — you are illegally circumventing the DVD’s primitive copyright-protection measures. On the other hand, if you take a picture of your TV screen while it is playing the DVD that is fine and falls under existing fair-use provisions in copyright law.

There were two broad schools of thought in evidence at the workshop. The first is a sort of pragmatic approach that views copyright law as a necessity but seeks to protect “fair use” and lobby for legal changes to do so. The second is a more critical approach which sees copyright law (and intellectual property in general) as serving largely corporate and industrial interests and as having very little to do with protecting creativity. I thought that Mark Poster gave a particularly eloquent exposition of this second position.

Another interesting point that came up was that if you believe your use of a copyright work falls under “fair use” then you are better off from a legal point of view not contacting the copyright holder.