I like this clip, not only because of the great beats and dance moves, but it is quite informative in that it includes the effects that piracy has on the artists/designers etc, as well as the fact that it is illegal. The quality is pretty bad but it’s entertaining!
Like all anti-piracy campaigns however, I’m not sure how effective it would be in deterring people from downloading/copying music, movies and games, as most people know it’s illegal and ‘morally’ wrong, but do it anyway.

The word piracy certainly has a lot of negative connotations associated with it. While many people don’t think much of buying cheap copies of films from a street vendor in Bali, or downloading music without permission from the artist, it is illegal (whether they are caught or not). In his article, ‘Paid in Full’, Arimin Medosch asserts that piracy isn’t entirely a negative act. Despite the fact that it is illegal and mainly carried out for financial gain, it can fulfill ‘culturally important functions’ (Medosch, 81). Piracy gives people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to these ‘cultural goods’ such as films and music, a chance to experience art (Medosch, 81).

Medosch focusses on Asian countries, as this is where the pirate market is largest. There are copies of virtually everything that you can think of on DVD, CD or VCD, and they on sale for a fraction of the regular (legal) retail cost (Medosch, 80). Sellers of pirated films and music aren’t cyber rights heroes, as they are commercially motivated primarily, however they provide cultural goods that people can afford, and this is beneficial (Medosch, 81).
According to the Social Science Research Council‘s website, media goods in countries such as India are priced too high compared to the average person’s income. For example, the legal price of an average CD in the US in about $14.99. When this is compared to the percent of an average person’s annual income in India, this is the equivalent of a CD being $650! Looking at these figures, it’s no wonder that piracy is such a huge industry. Why pay $650 for a CD when you can get it online for free or much cheaper. And why should you have to pay $650? Like Medosch asserts,  developing or poorer countries shouldn’t be denied access to cultural goods just because they cannot afford them. Although the solution that has been presented is illegal, it ‘fulfills an important role’ in providing access to art (81).


PHYSORG.COM

It is not only art that piracy provides access to. In Brazil, many people do not have access to the internet in their homes, so internet cafes (or LAN houses) are popular. The computers in these cafes are usually imported through the black market, and all the software and bandwidth is pirated (Medosch, 81). Although the hardware and software is illegally obtained, poorer Brazilians are able to experience pirated movies and music. At the same time they are able to access services that benefit them; information that helps them to ‘realise their civil rights’ (Medosch, 82). LAN houses can also improve social skills and reading skills.

In this way, it is apparent that in poorer countries such as India and Brazil, pirated goods can be beneficial and a practical solution for those who cannot afford full priced legal goods. However it is still illegal. Perhaps this calls for a change in the price of cultural goods in poorer countries depending on the average nation income. Or maybe piracy and copyright laws should be altered. There is also the question about wealthy countries such as America and Australia: is piracy okay when the full legal price of a CD or DVD is reasonable? The creators of the website The Pirate Bay would have a lot to say about these issues certainly.

References

Fouts, Joshua S. (2009) Brazil’s ‘LAN house revolution’, updated Sep 29 2009, The Imagination Age, consulted 3rd June 2011

Medosch, Armin. (2008) ‘Paid in Full: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’, Deptforth. TV Diaries II: Pirate Strategies,  pp. 98-100

Social Studies Research Centre, Brooklyn USA, (accessed 18th May 2011): http://www.ssrc.org/features/view/media-piracy-in-emerging-economies/

I recently added a Creative Commons (CC) license to my blog.  After reading about CC on the organisation’s website, I found it could be beneficial.

I chose the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. This means I reserve some rights, such as the right for my work to be attributed to me, and for it not to be used for commercial purposes. However, I chose to give others the right to share/adapt my work, without it being necessary for them to license their work under CC. The reason I chose this particular license is because while I don’t want others taking credit for my work, or using it commercially, I don’t mind if my work is shared or quoted. I could have chosen a license with the condition that work derived from mine needed to be licensed under the same terms, however I believe that decision is up to the creator; they may want to use a more or less restrictive license.

Thomas Jefferson believed that the nature of ideas is that they are ‘inexhaustible, uncontrollable, necessarily free’ (Lessig, 353). This is true in most respects, and it is a great way of thinking; ideas should be free and open. However, Lessig argues that cyberspace changes this (354). He says that on the internet, ideas are only free ‘if we make it so’ (Lessig, 354).  It is true that software can be coded so that not everyone can access  the information behind it (except incredible hackers), but I contend that this ‘closed’ software is an expression of an idea, rather than the definition of ideas Thomas Jefferson described. This changes things. While ideas, like Jefferson said, should be free, the expression of them doesn’t necessarily have to be. When one puts hard work into coding software, or writing a song, or making a blog post, why should their work have to be free for anyone to use? As much as I agree that sharing information is a good thing, it is up to the creator as to how they desire their work to be utilised.

On the other hand, all published expressions of ideas are automatically copyrighted (Famighetti, 749), but why should this be? It seems a shame that so many published works are protected strictly by copyright, when in fact, the creators aren’t aware that this is so (I certainly wasn’t). CC is a great way for bloggers to share their work freely (Gunelius, 71), or under a ‘reasonable layer of copyright‘ (Bruns, 85), but many individuals who have work on the internet may not know about this option.

CC gives ‘idea expressionists’ the best of both worlds. They can choose to reserve as few or as many rights as they want, and if they want to reserve all rights, they can choose not to use the service. It would be better if CC was more well-known and widely used, as more expressions of ideas such as blog posts and photographs and art would be able to be shared/adapted on legally. Though perhaps nobody will share any of the work on this blog, I’m glad I’ve made use of CC. As soon as I publish this post it will become automatically copyrighted, so it feels necessary to express that I don’t in fact reserve all rights.

References

Bruns, Axel and Jacobs, Joanne. (2007) Uses of blogs. New York: Peter Lang Publishing

Famighetti, Robert. (1991) The World Almanac and Book of Facts. US: World Almanac Books

Gunelius, Susan. (2010) Blogging All-in-One For Dummies. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing

Lessig, Lawrence. (2005) ‘Open Code and Open Societies’ Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software: p 349

YouTube’s slogan is ‘Broadcast Yourself’, which is exactly what millions of its users do. Ordinary people have the potential to  become ‘famous’ (or infamous) and even make economic revenue (Muller, 131). Burgess and Green assert that YouTube is seen as “literally a way to ‘broadcast yourself’ into fame and fortune” (22). While this is true, it is also true that the majority of people who post things on YouTube do not become known at all. The few who do find fame, and become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Burgess, 23).

Most YouTube users are pleased if their upload receives positive feedback, like comments, likes, and a high number of views. Many users have become well-known ‘stars’ of YouTube, with millions of views, and these stars can be defined by values that aren’t necessarily the same as the ‘dominant’ media’s; YouTube has its own system (Burgess, 24). However celebrity-status success from a YouTube video (as rare as it is) is characterized by not just online popularity, but success offline such as an offer for a recording contract or television pilot (Burgess, 24).

So, what happens when an ordinary person becomes a ‘real life’ celebrity through their efforts on YouTube? As Burgess and Green assert, they remain within a system controlled by the mass media (23). However, the stars of YouTube (who are famous online, but not offline) are bound by these same constraints. Think of celebrities, famous for making music or films. If these stars stop making quality albums or movies, or keep out of the public eye, they usually begin to drop from the A-list to the D-list. Similarly, “ongoing status as a star on YouTube can only be achieved by ongoing participation in YouTube” (Burgess, 24).  YouTube stars are only stars if they put in the effort; they don’t just stay famous for being famous.

While the majority of YouTube users don’t become famous from their videos, it does happen! YouTube can and does “open up possibilities for the commercialization of amateur content, and in some cases turn the producers’ of that content into celebrities” (Burgess 23).
Hate him or love him, you can’t deny that Justin Bieber is incredibly famous and commercially successful. It all began when he was 12, and started posting YouTube videos of himself making music. After a few of his videos received positive feedback, he continued to post more (ongoing participation in YouTube). He received thousands and thousands of views, and his videos were eventually seen by Usher and Justin Timberlake (Pop Star Justin Bieber Is on the Brink of Superstardom). The rest is history.

As you can see, amateur videos like this one, with no huge effects or fancy editing have the ability to make the producer not just a YouTube star, but an offline (as well as online) celebrity.
Here is the story of the discovery of Justin Bieber, told by Justin Bieber.

Justin doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. However, he, like all stars, online or offline, will eventually fade – it’s just the nature of the media.

References

ABC News USA (2009) ‘Pop Star Justin Bieber Is on the Brink of Superstardom’, ABC news online 19 Nov <http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Weekend/teen-pop-star-justin-bieber-discovered-youtube/story?id=9068403>

Burgess, Jean and Green, Joshua. (2009) YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press

Muller, E. (2009) ‘Where Quality Matters: Discourses on the Art of Making a YouTube Video’, The YouTube Reader. pp 126-139

In his article, Alan Lui compares designs of websites to that of more traditional media forms. He argues that using visual metaphors like this naturalizes “the limitations of the new medium by disguising them within those of older media” (228). It is easy to see where Lui is coming from. By designing web pages with influences from old media the limitations of the web page can be explained or covered.

For example, web sites designed like a jukebox console with different buttons corresponding with different functions of the site can work to hide or de-emphasize the fact that there has to be a fixed number of selections (Lui, 228). This is because the novelty or even the familiar form of the representation can distract users from the fact that the site is limited.

If you look at this site (skip the intro), you can see that it is designed to play music through a representation of a jukebox, an old media form. If you click on a playlist you can choose any song from that playlist to play. You also have the option of turning lights and bubbles on and off. The design of the site, and the songs, have a retro feel, which further emphasizes the traditional media form of a jukebox.
Another example of a site using old media representations on web pages is WordPress. This theme can be applied to anyone’s blog, and it likens blog posts to entries in a diary, with links represented on sticky notes. This creates a facade that disguises the limitations and workings of the site by creating the illusion that it’s ok that there is a fixed number of ‘pages’, as everybody knows that a notebook only has a limited amount of pages.

Lui says that pages like these, that “recognise the spatio-temporal disturbances” of the medium but disguise those through visual metaphors to create a “facade” are “cool pages” (Lui, 227). However, the “really cool pages”, according to Lui (228) are those that don’t try to disguise the disturbances; “they make the disturbance their medium”.

References

Lui, A.  (2004) Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

There are varying views on the purpose of weblogs. Lovink would argue that bloggers are creative nihilists’, who ‘only produce noise’, not meaning (22). Lovink also argues that ‘blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self’; that the management of blog communities is not as important as this purpose for self-management (28). While these points are true for many blogs and bloggers, are they generalizations? Or, are the majority of blogs full of the meaningless ‘noise’ of self-absorbed bloggers who use the medium simply because they can?

There are over 100 million blogs worldwide. This number is no surprise, as anyone with basic computer skills can create one (Lovink, 4, 5). People blog to express opinions, recount events, and convey messages (James, 294). Blogs cater for many interests and niches, but the quality of each blog obviously varies. As Lovink states, “Mere empowerment does not automatically lead to worthy content” (3). Furthermore, Carl Truman argues that, “Where everyone has a right to speak, everyone ends up thinking they have a right to be heard” (Lovink, 27). Lovink believes that bloggers are irrelevant, because unlike journalism, anyone can blog, neither hard-work nor research is  put into posts, and anything can be published (8).
While this is true for many blogs, consider the blog post you are reading. Research and labour have been put into this post (and into this whole blog), for the purpose of receiving a satisfactory mark for a university subject. Thus, this blog at least, is not irrelevant or meaningless, as it is being maintained for a purpose, and opinions are backed by research.

Nevertheless, there is no denying that many bloggers do not undertake research before posting. However, many do not need to, such as those whose blogs are more personal. These types of blogs have been described as narcissistic (Lovink, 28), but this can be an overstatement. Due to the sheer number of blogs on the internet, the long tail theory is relevant, as most blogs get a few (or no) views per day (Lovink, 3). If nobody is viewing their posts, are bloggers still narcissistic? Or are there other reasons for blogging? As Lovink states, blogs are used as a tool for self-management (28). In addition, they can be a tool for self-discovery.
Andrew Keen states that, “Blogs… have an obsessive focus on the realization of the self” (Lovink, 34). Blogs are therapeutic; there is a feeling of  liberation in posting thoughts online (Lovink, 13), even if nobody reads them. The blogger can express parts of themself that they couldn’t otherwise realise (Kaminsky, 179). It can be much like writing a diary; getting thoughts off one’s chest and putting them onto paper has been a practised form of therapy for ages. The difference with blogging is that there is the possibility that someone may read it, but as Lovink argues, “youth today are pretty blasé about their privacy” (7).

While it is inevitable that there are nihilistic and narcissistic bloggers, blogs are used for a number of other reasons; primarily for the blogger’s self-management and therapy. There are several purposes for the creation of blogs; while some blogs seem meaningless, the majority aren’t – this one certainly isn’t.

References

James, K. (2010) The Internet: A User’s Guide. New Delhi: PHI Learning Private Limited

 Kaminsky, Michael. (2010) Naked Lens: Video Blogging & Video Journaling to Reclaim the YOU in Youtube. New York: Organik Media Inc.

Lovink, Geert. (2008)  Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge

Here’s the article

Weird Al Yankovic makes his living by making parodies of famous songs. According to Answers.com:

 Under the “fair use” provision of U.S. copyright law, affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, one does not need permission to record a parody.[52] However, as a personal rule, and as a means of maintaining good relationships within the music community, Yankovic has always requested permission from the original artist before recording his parodies.[8] Also, according to Stanford Libraries, fair use is unlikely to justify a parody song that parodies more than a few lines of song lyrics from an existing song.

It is interesting to note that Weird Al used his blog to vent his outrage at Lady Gaga –  it got her attention at least!

Once you have finished reading the article, you will see there is the option to post comments – a good example of produsage. One of the comments there is certainly opinionated; but that’s the beauty (or downside?) of allowing anyone to contribute.


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WordPress – as most other websites do – seems seamless and continuous. Its smooth design allows a ‘pleasurable and fluid experience for the user’ and for this reason web designers purposely ‘mask the database’ (Helmond, 46, 53). Only one layer of the decentralised network is presented to the user, and this not only makes the website easy to use, but also encourages users to believe that they have more control than they do.

A blog is made up of the server, the database, the software and the browser (Helmond, 44). While the browser, or interface, is what is displayed to the user, the majority of the blog’s content – and the connections between content – are stored in the database (Helmond, 50). When one posts on a blog, they are communicating with the database, whether they are aware of it or not (Helmond, 53). As mentioned above, web designers for websites such as WordPress.com want the user to have a pleasurable experience, and this is one of the reasons for the database being hidden. Writing posts on the interface of the site is much easier than directly writing to the database (Helmond, 53). In this way, the blogging experience appears simple and continuous, rather than complex and rigid.

This ease of use attracts the user to the website initially, but it also creates the illusion that the interface is the only component of the network. This positions the user to think they have complete control of their privacy and what they post. In reality, when the user adds information to their WordPress site’s database, they are also feeding search engine’s databases (Helmond, 59). Techniques like RSS and pingback allow search engines such as Google to access data and use it to improve search performance (Helmond, 60). The user is unable to control ‘where their data goes or what is being done with it, and they may not even be aware that their privacy is being breached to an extent (Helmond, 60).

If the user is switched-on enough however, they may discover that WordPress does offer the option to block the search engines (Helmond, 76). While this fixes the problem of privacy and gives the user a little more control, the database still remains hidden, disguising the process WordPress’ database goes through when one uses their blog.

Nevertheless, masking the database is a common process, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world wide web states, “The job of computers and networks is to get out of the way, to not be seen… the technology should be transparent , so we interact with it intuitively” (Helmond, 53). The user just needs to remember that when using WordPress, so much more goes on than what they see on the interface.

References

Helmond, A. (2007) ‘Software-Engine Relations’, Blogging for Engines: Blogs Under the Influence of Software-Engine Relations. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, 44-80

‘When people have control over what they share, they’re comfortable sharing more. When people share more, the world becomes more open and connected, and in a more open world, many of the biggest problems we face together will become easier to solve.’

Mark Zuckerberg raises some interesting, although partly flawed points. Anyone is able to contribute to the large amount of information that is shared online, and in terms of Facebook, Zuckerberg is not wrong in saying that many users feel comfortable ‘sharing more’ (in some cases, more than is necessary).

However, regarding Zuckerberg’s first point, do users really have full control over what they share? As Daniel Solove and Dannah Boyd point out in their articles, a ‘friend’ on Facebook may not necessarily be a close friend, and Facebook doesn’t allow the user to differentiate between close friends and colleagues or acquaintances (Solove: 27; Boyd: 17). In other words everyone the user has added as a ‘friend’ has the ability to see an ‘ashtonishing amount of information’ about the user (Solove: 27). The user can of course choose not to include these details on their profile, but the majority do, with 90.8% of profiles containing images, 87.8% containing the user’s birthdate and 50.8% listing where they live (Solove: 27). So, while privacy settings have improved on Facebook, and most users know how to increase the privacy levels on their photo albums or posts so that only their ‘friends’ can view them, it is more difficult to restrict what people within their ‘friend’ list can see. One alternative for the user is to delete their boss, grandmother and anyone else who isn’t a close friend off their Facebook. Or, the Facebook user can keep their list of five hundred odd friends, but must be careful of what they post, as employers (and Grandmothers) do look at the social network sites of their employees (grandchildren), and will notice, and possibly be offended by, a drunken or explicit status update (Solove: 38).

Zuckerberg most likely isn’t referring to drunken status updates when he talks about information sharing and problem solving, but he can’t deny that a lot of the information shared on Facebook is useless. A more ‘open’ world isn’t always a positive thing when your Facebook news feed is cluttered with ‘friends’ posting about the sandwich they just ate, or that they watching television.

However, in support of Zuckerberg, sharing of information can lead to problem solving; it can be life saving even. In October 2010, a nurse came across a photo of her friend’s toddler while browsing Facebook. The flash of the camera had highlighted a symptom of cancer in the toddler’s eye. The toddler’s mother was notified and the child was found to indeed have cancer (ninemsn). Essentially, this child’s life was saved because her mother was comfortable sharing information on Facebook by posting photos. In this way, sharing on Facebook can result in incredibly positive outcomes. This supports Zuckerberg’s view that creating an open and connected community allows people to come together and solve problems.

While Zuckerberg does have a valid point about the benefits of sharing information online, there is still the issue of user privacy. In Boyd’s words, ‘Information is not private because no one knows it; it is private because the knowing is limited and controlled.’ (Boyd: 18). In the case of Facebook, with news feeds not distinguishing between close friends and acquaintances, it is hard to limit and control what a user shares when they are ‘friends’ with their parents, colleagues and people they met once at a party.

Resources:

Solove, Daniel J. (2007) The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumour and Privacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press

Dannah Boyd (2008) ‘Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck: Exposure, Invasion and Social Convergence’, Convergence: The International Journal into New Media Technologies 14.1: 133-20

ninemsn (2010) ‘Facebook Photos Save Toddler’s Life’, (accessed 31 March 2011) <http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/8106397/facebook-photo-saves-toddlers-life&gt;

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