When I think of copyright laws I think of patents, protecting a brand, logo, product or idea. I wonder what Alexander Graham Bell would be thinking right now if he lived in today’s world- far removed from those instruments he invented to help the deaf hear again. His 18 patents ensured that his work was protected from those who might copy his inventions and profit off the back of his hard work and ideas (Bio True Story, 2013).
Today, the same holds true in the manufacturing industry. The company Crocs, for a modern-day example, has the material that they make their line of shoes out of, protected so that another company cannot produce a competitive product. When you see a person wearing Crocs, it is reasonable to assume that that person bought Crocs, and Crocs knows that their shoes will be worn anywhere in the world.
The thought about the parameters of online content however raises a different set of issues that requires a different discussion process. Online, there are many different platforms and outlets for both professional and amateur producer-consumers to express themselves and display their pieces of work, thoughts, advice, instruction, experiences and forecasts. For example there are social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter as well as YouTube, Vimeo and Blogs. The accessibility to these resources and the increase in producer consumer’s production of content has raised concerns and re-evaluation of copyright laws, as the content produced online does not pay recognition or credit to the original source, and does not ask permission for the use of specific content to produce a new piece of work.
This situation has brought to the forefront the following question: How can online communities of “producer-consumers” literate in new media work toward building a robust and freely accessible cultural commons in the face of restrictive copyright laws?
To answer this question we need to define cultural commons. Lessig, (2001, pp. 19-20) states “cultural commons is a resource in which anyone within the relevant community has a right without obtaining permission of anyone else.” Therefore in the face of restrictive copyright laws, producer consumers need to find ways to “influence the direction that our culture takes (Jenkins, 2004)”. In Canada, I believe this can be accomplished through the statutes of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in regards to the Freedom of Expression. “Section 2(b) of the Charter states that “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: … freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication (Joseph Magnet, 2002).”
Freedom of expression allows producer- consumers to provide an outlook or perspective and additional knowledge within the common culture of the online world. It allows a photograph of a naked, dancing present-day prince to be seen by anyone and everyone who chooses to view not only the actual photograph, but also comment on, blog about, spoof the nature of and share with countless others- all while the prince stands by, unable to control the flurry of social media exposure. Celebrity, Politicians, Leaders of countries, athletes, everyday people, and those with all the money in the world, still fall victim to the total lack of ability to copyright their image, thoughts, expressions and experiences online.
Posted on YouTube- suddenly, a stream of single words used by the President of the United States in a serious address about serious issues becomes a music video as he “sings” Call Me Maybe by Carley Rae Jepsen. Surely, if the President of the United States wanted to be seen singing, he would have done so himself. Luckily, the video is light-hearted and entertaining to most, however, it could be done with malicious or ill-willed intent as well, and there is where the lack of copyright becomes a much bigger issue.
Manovich (2008) talks about how producing information online stimulates conversation whether it be through comments on a video or image or a blog about a topic. In BennetsBlog (2013) he states “basically everyone who had a phone and an internet connection could upload their videos to YouTube and share it with the world”. In Chadaglae’s Blog What’s going on today? he states “media is everywhere”.
There is no opportunity for producer-consumers to achieve any level of ownership or copyright ability once they post something online. Restrictive copyright laws will never be able to keep up to the dynamic fast-paced world of social media. The producer-consumer must be ever- cognoscente of this fact, and realize that whatever they share online can and may be used by countless others for their own use, without permission, guidance or thought about the original source. It may and will take on a life of its own once the originator lets go of it online. A producer-consumer, who is starting a new business or testing an idea for a new product, would be wise to never provide any of the resources or plans online, as they can be easily copied and remixed. I would imagine that FORD Motor Company keeps plans and discussions on their latest line of vehicles far away from social media, just as sure as I would imagine that their competitors are monitoring all social media for clues and hints as to what may be included and excluded from the next line of FORD vehicle releases.
Media is everywhere and is easily accessible by anyone at any time. In order to produce anything online or verbally, the idea or concept is influenced by another piece of work. Using the online world, “cultural commons” to gain knowledge and share ideas and opinions is essential to growing our knowledge as a civilization as a whole. If we don’t allow each other to gain access to material or create an opinion on an idea, then how will we learn? Ferguson (n.a) states that in order to produce something new we must copy, transform, and then combine. This idea enforces the fact that restrictive copyright will never be achieved online.
Therefore my conclusion is that as consumers, we can gather and exchange information on the online world however must take precaution as to what information we choose to share. The accessibility of this information is up to the discretion of the producer as to whether they allow this information online.
(2013) Bio True Story, Alexander Graham Bell. Retrieved from http://www.biography.com/people/alexander-graham-bell-9205497.
Jenkins, H. (2004) The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence International Journal of Cultural Studies March 2004 7: 33-43
Manovich, l. (2008) The Practice of Everyday (Media) Life: From Mass Consumption to Mass Cultural Production?
Everything is a Remix from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.
BennetsBlog (2013). Engaging in the online community. Retrived from http://bennetsblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/engaging-in-the-online-community/.
Chadgaleblog (2013) What’s going on today? Retrived from http://chadgaleblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/whats-going-on-today/.