Intellectual Property Online: how copyright laws favor companies over young creatives
charlie dillon || instigator 3 || week 6 || feb 26 2020
In Lawrence Lessig's TED Talk "Laws That Choke Creativity," he speaks about how the Internet has the potential to bring back "read-write" culture to the masses, meaning that the voices publicised and heard worldwide could become more diversified and much less location-based than they have been since the early 1900s.
"I'm talking about people taking and recreating other people's content, using digital technologies to say things differently... The importance is that this technique has been democratized."
Lessig views the Internet as a place for ameatur creatives to show their work, producing media out of love, instead of for money. He draws on YouTube videos of anime music videos and remixed videos of President Bush pieced together to make him look as if he's singing.
Personally, much of the internet's remixing of content is what interested me in sites like YouTube when I was just starting to explore the Internet. It's fun, it gives attention to both the original creators and the producers/remixers, yet it gives money to neither, or at least not to the creator of the content being remixed.
Companies have sought to get remixed versions of their content taken down from sites like YouTube, because it takes away from their own exclusivity and gives away their usually paid content for free. Lessig describes the view of the companies with an analogy:
"Every single use therefore requires permission; without permission, you are a trespasser."
He speaks about these copyright laws as lacking common sense, seeing content on the Internet as fundamentally different from previous applications of copyright laws, and therefore being an incorrect solution to maintaining intellectual property for creators while allowing creativity of Internet creators. Lessig's TED talk is from 2007, dating it somewhat in the fast pace of Internet culture. While Lessig views these uses as generally for "amateurs" who are not paid, much of the creative content on the Internet today either directly or indirectly earns creators money, especially on big sites like YouTube and Instagram where creators make brands out of their creativity. I wonder how Lessig would view remixers who put ads on their videos, earning a fraction of what the original creators did, but still earning a small amount. I think that remixers/Internet creators should not be entirely blocked from making money of their content (if it is not simply reposting of someone else's work), partly because while they make money off someone else's (altered) content, they are bringing attention to the original creator's work, which in turn earns them money. However, YouTube in particular has become more and more strict with their copyright laws as the years have passed, making the genre of remixed content rarer and less popular, and creating demand for both paid and free royalty free music and other less restricted content.
It feels ironic that our generation of Internet creators, which is heavily censored and demonetized online by copyright laws, is also paying (usually through school-bought subscriptions) to put their own intellectual property through plagiarism detection services (PDS) that collect and use our own writings. When we enter our papers into TurnItIn, we "cede control of what might be classified as the largest student writing that has ever been amassed" (Amidon et al.) I think it is also important to consider that these essays and papers we submit to TurnItIn are not in any way equivalent to posting something publicly online, like onto YouTube or Instagram. In my opinion, my academic essays are mine more closely than other content I post online, because they are not intended for a public audience, and by not putting them on a public social media site, in my head they maintain being exclusively my intellectual property. It is terrifying, then, that TurnItIn has a "non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable license" on work I've produced since I was maybe fifteen (Amidon et al.). It is also not simply like this use is restricted to being in their company database for plagiarism, as it can be used to improve the company at large, perhaps being used or mined for information as TurnItIn shifts into a "writing instruction company" (Amidon et al.). While on a lot of social media sites, supporters of the companies could claim that our lack of understanding as users is because we don't read Terms of Service agreements or other public information, in the case of TurnItIn, most users are students who do not have any choice in their use of the site, and many are minors, who may be less reasonably assumed to have read TOS agreements.
While teenagers and young adults are having creative online content being taken down because they used background music from a large record label, their writings are being collected and labelled as a company's intellectual property by a site required to be used in many high schools and colleges. It appears that copyright laws favor companies and established corporations at the expense of the creativity and intellectual property of the younger generation.
is it user's responsibility to know if their writing becomes the intellectual property of a site as outlined it its Terms of Services, even if the user is a minor?
do you think youtube will ever find a middle ground between respecting music companies' intellectual property and allowing remixes or similar content?