Posts Tagged ‘“Fair use”’

The ongoing battle between Google and Apple is more important to us than I think most of us realize. “Apple is suing Samsung for copyright infringement”; so what? Is it really our problem? I think that if we gave it some thought, we would see that this battle is not just about copyrights and market-share, this is a fight that will determine the future of the mobile-web.

The very architecture of the Internet enables a free flow of information without any central hub, every node is equal, and no one is there to decide what we can and cannot do. It is decentralized, and very democratic in its philosophy. With this in mind, I want to go back to Apple and Android (Google) and look at their different ideologies.

The beautiful design of the IPhone, as well as it being very easy to manage has made it a worldwide sensation. Having an IPhone has almost become some sort of trend; a fashion that everyone has become very fond of. One of the many arguments that are used to complement the IPhone is exactly that of it being easy to handle, but this pleasure comes with a price: Centralized computing. Unlike Androids, Apple let’s no one explore and play with their hardware or software, the applications on an IPhone has been approved by Apple, some call this a “walled garden”, others call it a sterile disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers.

Apples’ vision is to be able to control the user, the content, and the platform being used. Although the company offers to the public a brilliant piece of technology, this product grants the Apple company extreme powers. I think the ideology of Apple is one incongruent with the Internet. Instead of being decentralized it is centralized, instead of allowing, it denies, and instead of keeping every node equal, it constructs a hierarchy.

I am personally very happy with my Android, but sometimes I find that things do not work on my phone because it has only been adapted to the IPhone or the IPad. To me, this is a sign of one company’s control and powerful deals made with other companies sharing its’ ideology. I also find Apple’s patent-raid to be a terrifying example of how one company can kill innovation by limiting creativity.

Google’s Android may invite a few viruses from time to time, and in some cases people find it harder to manage, but I value their philosophy enough to learn. Android vision is participation, collective intelligence, and distributed control to all users. As an open source technology it can be liberally extended to incorporate new cutting edge technologies as they emerge. [It will] evolve as the developer community works together to build innovative mobile applications. The way I see it, Android is maintaining the very architecture of the Internet, encouraging creativity and innovation.

So the future of the mobile-web is important to us. We all enjoy the Internet, we all react when we hear of bills like SOPA, PIPA or CISPA which threatens our online freedom, so maybe we should start reacting a little stronger towards Apple and their IPhones as well.

Who would have thought that information and ideas would become so important that it would shape a whole new economy. Given that products and created out of ideas the information becomes a commodity, and of course then the importance of owning the idea and being in control of how it is used is crucial to ensure the economic profit of it. This brings us to the issue of copyright which can be defined as “a bundle of intangible rights granted by statute to the author or originator of certain literary or artistic productions, whereby, for a limited period, the exclusive privilege is given to that person (or to any party to whom he or she transfers ownership) to make copies of the same for publication and sale.”

For a limited time? The first time someone was granted monopoly it was for 14 years, but today it is for 70 years after the author’s death or 120 years after creation if it is a corporate authorship (Mitew 2012), and in some cases e.g. videogames, it appears to be forever! Not so limited anymore.

It is hard to take a stand regarding copyrights. I see that a business/person wants to defend its rights to the commercial part of its own idea, but has it gone too far? When a company argues it has patent on the shape  “rectangular”, I feel we are moving towards a locked and limited society where we put a lid on ideas and enhance control.

With the Internet in mind I fear the war on copyright will exist forever unless they start censoring it, which is not an alternative. Billions of dollars are spent on court-cases to resolve disputes, a real waste of money really. From this perspective the idea of removing copyrights as a whole looks good, at least it would be interesting to see how it would work or if it WOULD work. But I guess I need to do a lot more investigation into that before I make a statement.

Meanwhile I suggest we take a look at the concept of “fair use” which ought to be less strict. Someone I know uploaded a video to YouTube and was asked to remove it because the music which was being played in the background (not provided by the creator of the video, but recorded randomly in the video) was copyrighted. If that is not an example of fair use, then I do not know what is.

Mitew, T 2012, Against the Law: Intellectual Property and Content Control, lecture, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 20 August.

Kirby Ferguson suggests in his blog that “Everything is a Remix“. Collecting material, combining it and transforming it are the same skills or methods that are used even if it is the first, second or fifth time it is produced. When I come to think about it there are really not much originality left in new movies, songs or games that we are introduced to us today. Take for example Michael Jackson’s “Wanna be startin’ something*, have we not heard his phrase in a number of songs now? Akon, Rihanna and Glee have all used it to create either a new remix of the song or created content for a musical. This is not illegal, it is just to demonstrate that remixes are produced all the time and that not much is original anymore. What is worse is when material is produced and claimed to be original when it is not, which I have just learned that Led Zeppelin might be responsible for with a lot of their songs.

There is also the music genre; breakcore, or breakbeat hardcore, which is quite unique when it comes to copying and creativity. Breakcore tends to take use of rearranged breakbeats to create new music. The history of breakcore goes back 40 years and roots in gospel, funk, hip-hop, rave, jungle and d’n’b (Whelan 2012).

A breakbeat is a certain part of a song, often a very popular or exceptionally cool part of a song, which is taken out of its original song and used repeatedly and excessively in another. The song *Amen Brother* by Jester Hairstone (1963) has the most used drum sample in the world (Whelan 2012).

At the same time as breakcore broke out, in the late 90’s, filesharing and mp3’s also spurred and the three of them together made a cooperative team! Between 2002 and 2008 filesharing were responsible for 40-60% of all usage bandwith (Whelan 2012). This is of course a huge problem coming to copyrights. I actually find the whole music genre of breakcore a bit infringing! It is weird that there can be a whole music culture out there, producing music based on other artists music, while other people are being asked to remove their content from for example YouTube because a song is being played in the background, unintentionally. Maybe it is a matter of fair use, but I still find the rules a bit blurry and variable. Another thing I thought of, is if Kirby Furguson is right, that everything is a remix, we really ought to rethink our copyright rules.

Reference:

Whelan, A 2012, Rip/Mix/Burn, lecture, BCM112, Convergent Media Practices, University of Wollongong, delivered 23 April.

As much as I wanted to embed this video it was not possible to get the code from YouTube, but I will provide you with this link so that you can go and enjoy this cheerful and encouraging clip of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”.

It is actually funny that I can’t get a hold of the code, because it is probably related to the issues that I will discuss in this post: Copyright.

Probably you have sung that song, or at least tuned along with the line “always look at the bright side of life”? Do you know that every time you do that you are breaching copyright rules? This was brought to my attention yesterday and I was quite surprised to hear it. How many times haven’t I been singing “Happy birthday to you”?! Little did I know I was commencing a criminal act.

I would say that it is a case of “fair use“, but unless I have some further criticism or comments to the song, or a reason to use it in a news report or for teaching it is not considered as fair use. I have absolutely no rights to sing it.

Today the media conglomerates, like e.g. Disney own several different companies which operate in different fields (movies, TV, music, publishing etc.), this help them build a “consolidation model” (Mitew 2012). For example: They produce one movie and continuously earn money off its production through TV programs, music soundtracks, books, games, commercials and so on. This is also called “economies of scale” and gives the conglomerates a financial security. So they control very much of the flowing content. On top of this they own the copyrights to all of this content which gives them control of how the content is used as well. It also gives us very little left to “play” with.

Their goal is to control all content and users, but one problem has occurred: The internet.

Suddenly we have the power to upload and share all the content we want, and it’s free! So the value that was given to the conglomerates via copyright laws is now no longer valuable, people no longer pay for their productions because they can get them for free on the Internet. Piracy is indeed a crime, but is it correct that it is either that or the conglomerates get total control over content and user?

I think creative commons is a good answer to this issue. Creative commons allow you to share and remix others work as long as you attribute the work as specified by the author. In this manner people, artists, industries and others can choose to be a part of it or not. It opens up for many opportunities and leaves us with a society where we can act more freely. And last but not least, we would not have to be criminals anymore.

References:

Mitew, T 2012, Watch, but don’t touch! Copyright, ownership structures, and industry control, BCM112, Convergent Media Practices, University of Wollongong, delivered 12 March.