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A Journey Through Copyrights in the Internet Age By: Sarah Crawford Cassaundra Fincke and Claire Hollingsworth

// Posted by Claire on 04/20/2014 (5:15 PM)

For our final project, we are examining copyright laws and infringement to address the question of how far these laws should go before they impede creativity. Mainly, we are interested in the question of whether these laws protect individuals… Read more

For our final project, we are examining copyright laws and infringement to address the question of how far these laws should go before they impede creativity. Mainly, we are interested in the question of whether these laws protect individuals and their ideas, or if they inhibit creativity, new work, and lead to the exploitation of the original idea-holders by large corporations. Given that the only way one can use copyrighted material is under the fair use clause, wherein the user is incorporating the material to make an argument, people violate copyright laws every day whether or not they realize they are doing so. The ability to create new ideas is somewhat dependent on the past in that one must analyze old and current material to create something new, thus making this matter of paramount importance.

In order to highlight the relevance of this topic, I chose to focus on a case study of the Walt Disney Corporation. Specifically, I am interested in why Walt Disney was so successful in remixing many works that came before their Disney equivalent when the same tactic is widely frowned upon today. Through my initial research, I came to understand that Walt Disney is considered to be brilliant because he “took work that was in the public domain and updated it, and made it relevant for our age”(Gaylor). His work “continued the conversation of a culture” (Gaylor). More precisely, we call this “‘Walt Disney creativity’- a form of expression and genius that builds upon the culture around us and makes it something different” (Lessig 24). A main factor that worked in Walt’s favor was timing. Copyright terms used to encompass more reasonable time spans as “From 1790 until 1978, the average copyright term was never more than thirty-two years, meaning that most culture just a generation and a half old was free for anyone to build upon without the permission of anyone else” (Lessig 24-25). In 1928 when Walt began creating, he was free to draw on ideas from the nineteenth century, content that was still relatively new, and make them his own.

Thus, I became interested in further exploring the perspective on remixing from the perspective of the audience/ general public. In the case of Disney, I wanted to explore whether Walt or any Disney pictures received backlash from the public regarding taking the original work of others to achieve the Disney level of success. However, my research attempts on this subject matter rendered little results in terms of academic exploration of this topic, leaving my conclusions up to speculation. Therefore, I decided I wanted to change my specific focus and approach to this case study. As I continued to read Lessig’s book, I found myself reflecting on the parallels of his argument with that of Turner in From Counterculture to Cyberculture. Both books emphasize the fact that it is not necessarily technology, or in this case copyright laws, alone that dictate the positive and negative effects of each, but rather the culture we create surrounding these technologies and laws. For this reason, I shifted my focus to the culture surrounding Disney. I have been exploring multiple sources on topics surrounding Walt Disney as a contributor to American culture, and how that has shaped our perception of the Disney Enterprise. Questions to further explore include: have we elevated Disney products to such a level that we allow Disney to bend copyright rules? Has Disney as a corporation become power-hungry- has what started as creativity become a greedy desire to stifle others who try to do the same thing Walt once did with Disney material? If this is the case, is it possible to loosen Disney’s hold and view on their material?

I chose to focus on the effect that strict copyright laws and regulation are going to have on our society in the future and the effect that is happening right now. At first I was exploring the area of disruptive innovation focusing on many companies Lessig touches on in his book, “Free Culture”, such as Kodak, cable TV, and in a more abstract sense the evolution of copyright law. This evolved throughout my research to seeing the impact of containing disruptive innovation is having on American society. As the U.S is moving away from the industrial society and more towards being a society dependent on intellectual information we need to find a middle ground in the regulation of intellectual property. Lessig discusses in his book “Free Culture” the idea of these regulations killing our cultural environment much in the way that DDT killed pests while not realizing the consequences that encompasses this approach (Lessig 130). I think Lessig says it best when discussing the protection of authors. “The point is that some of the ways in which we might protect authors will have unintended consequences for the cultural environment, much like DDT had for the natural environment” (Lessig 129).

This leads me to want to probe further into these consequences. The questions to be explored further are what are these consequences for society? Also relating back to my original thought what are the consequences for businesses if they choose to continue to support the regulation and the idea of not a free culture? Will this stagnation of culture hurt the entirety of the economy in the long run anyways?

In order to properly explore the topic of copyright and the different effects that these laws have on our society I thought it would be appropriate to explore the history and look into where copyright laws are headed.  Sonny Bono was the major act in the late 90’s that propelled the terms of copyrights twenty more years.  I have found that in the making of this act there existed little opposition.  Corporations, such as Disney, who held valuable copyrights at that time successfully lobbied congressmen while the efforts of law professors and other academics, who believed Sonny Bono would be detrimental to our society, were simply letters to congressmen along with petitions.  The Sonny Bono Act passed with little notice from the public.  Next came the Eldred v. Ashcroft Supreme Court case in which Lessig, a strong proponent against copyright laws, served as Eldred’s lawyer.  This case drew more attention, more support and a greater chance in defeating copyright laws than did Sonny Bono’s opposition however it came to a conclusion with Eldred losing in a 7-2 Supreme Court Vote.

Sonny Bono

http://wfplaw.com/law-news/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Sonny-Bono22.jpg

This is the history of copyright but I believe the future of copyright laws may prove to be more interesting.  With Sonny Bono’s extension only lasting a mere five more years, in 2019 corporations such as Disney will want their precious copyrights protected once again and for a longer amount of time.  However, will the opposition stand stronger this time?  With the Internet serving as a stronger force than ever people may band together in ways they weren’t able to in 1998 or in 2003.  Cases such as SOPA and PIPA in which the Internet, including Wikipedia, Google and more ubiquitous sites, created a huge backlash and successfully stopped Congress from censoring the Internet make me believe that the Internet is capable of big things to come in the fight against copyright.

http://www.tomwbell.com/images/(C)Term&MMCurve.gif

Moving forward, we aim to synthesize each of our individual findings into an overarching thesis to address our initial central question. We feel that each of our three focuses compliment one another in that we address the history, culture, consequences and future of copyright. As our research progresses and we answer more of our research questions outlined in this post we will produce a complete picture on the nature of how copyright law is affecting society and creativity in the U.S.

Below is a Tedtalk by Larry Lessig. It touches upon his arguments against strict regulations on intellectual property, including copy rights.

https://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity#t-1028062

Below is the link to our additional research and project blog:

http://clairehollingsworth.wordpress.com

 

 


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Facebook Where’s Your Loyalty?

// Posted by Claire on 04/14/2014 (2:06 AM)

When reading Wire this weekend I came across an article that talked about the upcoming changes to the Facebook platform, which includes the deletion of Facebook chat from the main frame Facebook. This raises the question of what is Facebook… Read more

When reading Wire this weekend I came across an article that talked about the upcoming changes to the Facebook platform, which includes the deletion of Facebook chat from the main frame Facebook. This raises the question of what is Facebook going to become of in the Future? Facebook is such an integral part of our culture in the U.S today that is seems hard to imagine it becoming obsolete.

http://www.wired.com/2014/04/this-is-the-end-of-facebook-as-we-know-it/

The Wired article suggest that instead of using Facebook as a one stop shop for all your social media is it going to morph into a service of a constellation of wireless apps. This format though seems to contradict pretty much everything we have learned about in class this semester. We have learned that people are moving more towards convenience and one stop shopping in all areas of their lives. This directly contradict Facebooks strategy for changing their platform overall. Kleiner Perkins at iFund states

“When you introduce complexity, it can dilute the overall experience.”

What makes Facebook think they can change the user experience and all of their subscribers will follow mindlessly? With the number of apps and social media platforms popping up all the time this seems like an incredibly risky bet.

Facebook states the reason for the breaking off of their services because of the decrease in the expansion of their user base over the last couple of years. Facebook is looking towards snapchat and Whatsapp and seeing huge growth in their user base and is essentially attempting to gain more users by conforming to their method. This really seems like a cop out from finding a truly new and innovative product. They are not creating anything new they are simply providing the same old service with more inconvenience for its users.

However the Ryan Tate, the author of the article, says this might be what Facebook needs in order to keep its strong hold on the social media environment. The biggest threat to an established technology company is innovation from their competitors. Facebook thinks capitalizing on the social app market is their solution to staying relevant. This does seem like a much better option than techniques other technology firms have made in the past to continue to succeed. Facebook has yet to solicit help from lawmakers and other innovation hampering means.

With Facebook attempting to capitalize on the social media app market you also have to ask yourself the question of why this market is so profitable to begin with? The answer to that at the end of the day is from the use of your information.With other articles on Wired valuing  Tinder at around 5 billion dollars, the app business must be getting more out of it than simply matching up couples to talk. All of these giant tech companies are beginning to see their source of great wealth in the amount of information they can gather from their users. When will this exploitation of its users catch up to the giant app platforms? The breaking off of Facebook chat is purely in the interest of Facebook and their statistics, not in the interest of its loyal users. Where has the spirit of the Internet gone? It use to be about the open creation and sharing of information, now it is simply about how corporations can gather your free and personal thoughts in order to advertise to you better. Data mining at places like Facebook have created a sense of fear on the internet through their facial recognition software, the fear of being caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. Facebook at its onset was about connecting people and allowing them to share their thought openly and freely.

http://www.wired.com/2014/04/tinder-valuation/

            Only time will tell if Facebook will be able to keep up with all of the changing technologies and startups. Either this movement towards a constellation of apps will be deemed a huge success and forward thinking at its best, or it will drive away the already stagnated user based Facebook has acquired.


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Spring loading is Leading the Existence of Dark Pool Markets

// Posted by Claire on 04/06/2014 (6:15 PM)

When looking at the world around us today we use patterns and formulas for most of our activities. From knowing the exact process at a fast food restaurant to checking the weather these formulas have been created and implemented to… Read more

When looking at the world around us today we use patterns and formulas for most of our activities. From knowing the exact process at a fast food restaurant to checking the weather these formulas have been created and implemented to make our lives efficient and more useful. The question that is posed in Rushkoff’s blog Present Shock is, are all these processes and mechanization always right? Isn’t it possible that the algorithms could fail and that we cause more harm than good with the way we have relied on them to such an intense extreme. In Present Shock Rushkoff details an example of this.

“A stock market  driven by algorithms is all fine and well until the market inexplicably loses 1,000 points in a minute thanks to what is now called a flash crash.”

This was exemplifying by using High Frequency Trading and the use of algorithms when predicting future share prices. While HFT trading is a huge source of revenue for companies such as BAT, when it fails it could also cripple the entire industry. These algorithms while they are useful and have predicted a huge number of stock trades many humans could not are still subject to failure and should not be followed blindly. When hearing about HFT stocks in the greater business community, for the most part there are no good things. Even in a clip from CNBC it talks about how HTF ‘s may lead to a misuse of information in a two-lane system of information. NY Attorney General Scheiderman argues that it is not within the law to allow a limited access of information to only those that can afford it. This goes hand in hand with the articles we read a month ago about how technology can only further increase this income gap through the lack of information or lack of access to key technological resources.

http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000264583&play=1

Another result of HFT and algothrithm spring loading are traders moving away from tradition stock forums and moving to the dark pools of Geneva or what has also been deemed dark markets. These markets will only cripple the broader market more and are said to be worse than simply high frequency trading. These dark pool markets reduce transparency and most of these venues lack integrity. This could result in a huge problem for the markets and for traditional traders. In an article from CNBC that say that “We have academic data now that suggest that, yes , in fact there is a point beyond which the level of dark trading for particular securities an really erode market quality.”

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101558398

    Rushkoff states they have resort to a main strategy of avoiding spring loading situations altogether. This cause traders to lose the advantages of HFT’s trades but regain their sense of control over the market and apply their real world knowledge. However as Rushkoff states this as a solution I am also left without many answers and with many more questions. While it is all well and good to suggest avoiding HFT trades and apply your real knowledge what happens when this is unavoidable. It is certainly unavoidable to trade today without the presence of algorithms and future projections. How does Rushcoff legitimately suggest we avoid HFT’s trading short of entering dark markets, which are even more detrimental, then the existence of high frequency trading. These new forms of trading which have become more and more known are only going to strength with the passage of time and the increase in technology. Should we simply accept these forms or should we fight against them, which seems to be what a majority of the business world is doing today. Will we eventually succumb to these methods and accept them? If that happens we still have to be aware of always present risk that they might fail and that human intervention still needs to be at the forefront of our thinking. We cannot simply hand over our markets to these future algorithms and high frequency trading systems.


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Are Cellphones a Good Solution for the Digital Divide?

// Posted by Claire on 03/01/2014 (5:06 PM)

As college students we use technology in almost every aspect of our studying throughout the day. We type our papers on our laptops, read our textbooks on our ipads, and are in constant communication with our professors via email on… Read more

As college students we use technology in almost every aspect of our studying throughout the day. We type our papers on our laptops, read our textbooks on our ipads, and are in constant communication with our professors via email on our smart phones. It seems unimaginable to think of coming to college and not having the basic knowledge of how to use Microsoft Word or even how to send an email. However in the article “The Digital Divide Is Still Leaving Americans Behind” it highlights a significant portion of our population that is still growing up illiterate on the computer. Reflecting back on my experiences not only enrolling in college but also registering in the beginning, not having access to technology and in particular computers would have put me at a significant disadvantage.

The article focuses on whether or not it was a human or civil right for students to have access to technology that is crucial in this day and age. Before learning more about this subject and having a discussion in class I would have never considered providing students with computers or Internet access a human right. However the more and more I think about it, the more I see it disadvantaging the students. It’s similar to not teaching lower income student’s math and then throwing them into a subject in college where math is the lining for all course material. While learning how to send an email is seemingly easier to learn than 12 years of algebra it still creates a huge gap between students. I have yet to encounter someone at the University of Richmond who is not literate on the computer. Is this because those underprivileged students couldn’t attend Richmond because of the lack of access of technology to apply or is it next to impossible to excel at school without the use of a computer.

 

One of the ways that some people were attempting to combat the lack of access to computers and Internet connection was with the introduction of smart phones. In a New York Times article “Industry Makes Pitch That Smartphones Belong in Classroom” it talks about an experiment that gave smartphones to students without computer access and they saw a significant increase in the quality of the students performance. It is important to note though that the study was funding by Qualcomm a maker of cell phone chips for smartphones and who wants to break into to education market. The study also discussed how the students were heavily monitored on their use of smartphones and the scope with which they were allowed to use their phones. Cell phones have always been seen as a huge distraction and I feel this isn’t going to change anytime soon. The New York Times article talked about how 10 states have school wide bans of cell phones for this very reason I feel like cell phones would be significantly harder to monitor without access to the phones activity directly. I also feel it may be frustrating sometimes to do a large amount of schoolwork on my phone. I couldn’t imagine typing out a long research paper on such a small screen and a small keyboard.

 

Whether cell phones are the right answer to weakening the digital divide or making sure every high school student is literate in computers before heading off to college something does need to change in the public education system in regards to access to technology. If we allow this divide to keep growing bigger it is only going to strengthen the income gap between classes because it is impossible to advance in the world today without a basic level of computer knowledge. Whether or not it is a human right or a civil right is still unclear and might remain unclear for years to come but the right to learn should be available to everyone no matter what.

Articles:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/16/technology/16phone.html?_r=2&

http://mashable.com/2013/08/18/digital-divide/


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Response to Tec: The Regulation of the Internet

// Posted by Claire on 02/21/2014 (3:07 PM)


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The U.S invading the ‘Third Space’

// Posted by Claire on 02/09/2014 (9:48 PM)

When reading Poster’s book “Information Please” one idea really stood out for me, the concept of the third space. Poster defines the third space as ‘ the cultural encounter between the colonizer and colonize happens in an ‘indeterminate space of… Read more

When reading Poster’s book “Information Please” one idea really stood out for me, the concept of the third space. Poster defines the third space as ‘ the cultural encounter between the colonizer and colonize happens in an ‘indeterminate space of the subject(s) of enunciation’ (Information Please). This third space is where cultures interact and are exposed to the mannerisms and quirks of the opposing culture. The Internet has allowed us to gain access to an enormous amount of information and in the process opens our eyes to new ways of life.

What Poster seems to be articulating is how this access to other cultures will eventually break down the walls of prejudice and will allow the shock value for different culture, we have never been exposed to, decrease dramatically. The Internet could completely revolutionize the way we interact with other cultures and the way we gather information about relationships and learned interactions.

 

One example brought up through our class discussion was the introduction of relationships through the broadcasting of Sex and the City to other nations outside of the U.S. Many Arab countries are fascinated with the show and the fashion that is portrayed and this obsession exposes them to the American structure of friendship and the ‘single girl lifestyle.’ This exposure could lead to changes in their friendships and how they view their own relationship in their communities.

 

However does this give the U.S a distinctive advantage over the ‘third space’? The U.S has a large control of the media that is being broadcasted worldwide and in return U.S society has the power to use that influence to sway the opinions and actions ofother countries. In a New York Times article it even mentioned how the use of ‘soft power’ through the media was seen as a strategy to gain a better public perspective abroad. While it stated there were no tangible results there is no denying American media is taking over the world. In the article some proof of this was ‘ the televisions program “CSI” is now more popular in France than in the United States.”

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/01/business/media/01soft.html?_r=0

 

Is the sheer amount of power the U.S seems to have going to influence the third space and then in turn the societies the third space is touching? While many Arab countries are broadcasting Sex and the City and being exposed to U.S culture, as Americans what are we getting exposed to? We rarely see the widespread popularity of another nations media in America. We have to seek out other cultures in order to get that exposure and thus weaken our prejudices and reduce our shock value. While the concept of the ‘third space’ does seem accurate, I feel like it might not have as great of an effect on the U.S as it does on other countries around the world. We need to not only diversify our thinking but also diversify our media in order to gain the complete benefits that Poster is explaining in “Information Please.”


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