Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Copyright Law: Can It Exist in Cyberspace?

Copyright Law:
Can It Exist in Cyberspace?

Jantzen Rodriguez
Digital Media Environments
Professor Lance Strate
July 1, 2010

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The term cyberspace represents many things to people, not just computer technology. It is an outlet that provides a whole new world of possibilities for people to express themselves or convey some message, whether it is in the form of a typed message (e-mail), a term paper at a school level, business report at a working level, or a graphic work of art at an entertainment level. For others, it is a form of a “space” created where communication becomes possible between or among individuals who may either know each other or who could be complete strangers. The latter condition is one that seems daunting, to say the least. It is in this “space” where ideas are interchanged, works are completed, interaction occurs, and where commerce is conducted. Cyberspace is also a place where professionals, such as writers, musicians, artists, business people, and the like promote their various works to receive exposure to audiences all over the world, with the hopes of capitalizing on their work. In other words, the more exposure an artist (e.g. author) has on cyberspace, the more likely he/she will be recognized and their works will be considered for purchase, given that the artist’s work receives the promotion it merits and there is a mechanism which allows for purchase of the artist’s work online. At least, this is the ideal case scenario. Similar to our “earthly” world, in traditional ways, professional authors, performers, even artists rely on their work and their intellectual contributions to bring to the people a piece of their passion, thus enabling them to profit from their endeavors. It is these “professionals” that have sacrificed their time, or even their entire lives, to producing work that provides for them a standard of living. For this reason, individuals in any field, whether it is education, business, entertainment, etc. want to assure that their work and their intellectual efforts are protected by law, so that other people (followers) who may be tempted to obtain such work and “profit” off it illegally are prosecuted to the fullest extent. This seems quite simple to understand, at least in a centralized system where law and order work effectively. The scenarios that I have mentioned are examples of what constitutes the need for “copyright law”. It is a way of safeguarding those individuals that rely on their talent or their original ideas and allows for them to benefit monetarily from their inventions or their efforts. But what happens when you decentralize a system such as ours, make the marketplace more competitive, and “pass on” many of these ideas to everyday people who have possession of a machine known as a “computer”?

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We are all connected to cyberspace and are fully aware that we are interacting in a “world” that is fueled by information. Can copyright law function in such an environment where the flow of information runs uncontrollably?
We must consider that practically the entire world is connected to cyberspace. There exists a ridiculous commercialization of every single item there is. Not to mention, there is a terrible commercialization of “intellectual property” even online. Because of this change in the way we operate on a daily basis, copyright law appears to be losing strength, especially when it comes to protecting information that is considered “intellectual property” and that is circulating in cyberspace. Some proponents of preserving copyright law want to extend traditional laws to apply to the Internet. Other skeptics (or those trying to capitalize themselves on the argument of a free cyberspace) feel that copyright law is outdated and must be undermined. Easier said than done, it is an issue that affects us all. Some people complain that copyright law is binding and circumvents the old excuse of denying “opportunities”. On the other hand, those that defend copyright see it as a necessary evil to protect their hard-earned labor. Others, such as myself, sees this as another “fashion or fad” that tries to push the other one out when in fact we could just leave things alone and strengthen current laws. Like the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it!” Ok, I will leave that topic for another paper! To fully understand the issues we face regarding copyright law, it would be helpful to begin by understanding the history of and the original copyright law, its intention, and its limitations. Then we can apply it to the current culture and determine if it is worth revamping, if the law should be eliminated or undermined, or if copyright law can be applied to cyberspace. These are important points to consider, given the “entropy” that we face in our decentralized society, but it is worth our time and our examination especially when the implications of such a law interfere in cases of learning and for personal use. Let’s begin by examining the history of the law and its intended purpose.
According to the Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia, copyright is “the set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of the work, including the right to copy, distribute, and adapt the work” ( These rights can be assigned, licensed, or transferred, and copyright is said to last for a fixed period before it enters the public domain. During the copyright period, the work in question can be exclusively owned by the originator. Copyright laws came about with the advent of the printing press in the middle 15th century, as some form of royal privilege.
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Nevertheless, our copyright laws stem from the “Statute of Anne” (1709), which was an “Act for Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned” ( It was in England where the notion of what was considered “property” was conceived. The law is best explained by the reasoning of the World Intellectual Property Organization, which stated that its purpose was “to encourage a dynamic creative culture, while retaining value to creators so that they can lead a dignified economic existence, and to provide widespread, affordable access to content for the public” (wiki). It is in this quote that we can see the reasoning behind copyright law. Mostly this was affixed to “tangible property”, meaning property that was owned by an individual. Copyright has also been considered under the umbrella term “intellectual property”, along with patent and trademark since the 19th century, and it is by this idea of “intellectual property” that creators have wanted to exercise full control over their work, not to mention the monetary benefits that result from the protection of the law (publishers are guilty of this). Initially, copyright was utilized for books. The Statute of Anne allowed for copyright protection of fourteen years, as opposed to a perpetual term, so this kept the system from becoming a monopoly.
In France, royal privileges were needed to publish a book. This privilege was exclusive and allowed for up to six years. After that, the owner of such privilege could renew indefinitely. Later in around 1777, royal privileges were agreed to for ten years or the life of the author, whichever was longer. The author who purchased the privilege and did not transfer or sell the privilege could publish and sell books himself and pass on the privilege to his heirs, who would enjoy the privileges in perpetuity. It wasn’t until after the French Revolution that this “royal privilege” idea was countered because of a dispute with an art company named Comedie-Francaise for being granted exclusive rights to the public performance of all dramatic works. The argument was that anyone could set up a public theater and that any work, whose author had been deceased for five years, could be placed in the public domain. This abolished the royal privilege, so instead, a new copyright law was placed in 1793, which gave authors, artists, and composers the exclusive right to sell and distribute their works, and extend those rights to their heirs for ten years after the author’s death. This limited copyright allowed for competition and the protection against any monopoly that would result as a consequence. This law was labeled
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“Declaration of the Rights of Genius”. As a condition, copies of work created had to be deposited in the Bibliotheque Nationale. This act was considered “utilitarian”, meaning for the common good of mankind, back in the 19th century.
U.S. copyright law, on the other hand, was not so important for the early colonists because their culture was agrarian. There is record of only three copyright laws being passed before 1783. Two of the laws allowed for a five-year protection, the other lasted for seven. That same year some author’s petitions to the Continental Congress requested that “nothing is more properly a man’s own than the fruit of his study, and the protection and security of literary property would tend to encourage genius and promote useful discoveries” (wiki). However, under the Articles of Confederation, the Continental Congress had no right to issue copyright, but instead passed a resolution allowing the States to “secure to the authors or publishers of any new book not hitherto printed the copyright of such books for a certain time not less than fourteen years from the date of the first publication, and to secure to the said authors, if they survive the first term, the copyright of such books for another term of time no less than fourteen years” (wiki). In a way, this sounds like a renewable contract, but it was estimated that the most a copyright would last was the lifetime of the author. For the most part, early copyright law followed the pattern of the Statue of Anne and the Continental Congress format of fourteen years, while other states enacted a single term of fourteen, twenty, or twenty-one years, with no renewal. Actual copyright law can go as long as 99 years! The first inkling of a copyright law was seen in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention, where James Madison of Virginia and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina made proposals that would grant copyright for a limited amount of time. These are the formations of the Copyright Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which allow for setting copyrights and patents for a limited amount of time to stimulate progress in sciences and the arts, thus serving as a utilitarian function. Initially set out to serve a common good, copyright law has served its purpose over the years, but as media has changed, so have the expectations of the law. It is through these expectations that we experience firsthand conflicts among three parties: the producer of such works, the receiver (namely the consumer of the work), and the government which fabricated the law. For now, we have an understanding of what the origins of the law are. Now let’s look at how this law can be used, abused, and in today’s era of cyberspace, how it can be manipulated to achieve a desired end. Let’s also take
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into consideration those who want to “do away” with copyright law as it is because, according to those skeptics, it doesn’t apply to an information “age”.
We begin by examining what a copyright is all about. To begin, it is “a protection that covers published and unpublished literary, scientific, and artistic works, whatever the form of expression, provided such works are fixed in a tangible or material form” (, 2010). This typically means that if you can see it, hear it, or touch it, it may be protected (ex: essay, play, photograph, song lyrics, sound score, video, dance move, HTML coding that can be placed on paper, recorded on tape, or saved on a hard drive, etc.). Copyright grants the producer or creator exclusive rights to reproduce, prepare related works, distribute, perform, and display or play the work in public. This only allows the creator, not the public, the right to execute any action he/she sees fit with the work in question. Protection of copyright begins when the work created becomes a fixed tangible form, such as when a person writes lyrics to a song on paper, signs on the bottom, and adds the copyright symbol© next to the name. This can be then sealed in an envelope and sent to the U.S. Copyright Office in order to be registered for protection. This also serves as protection for a creator in case someone else copies and redistributes the work without permission. The process applies to digital art and graphics as well. So, if a person produces, uses, copies, or distributes material, for commercial or personal purposes, without written authorization of the creator, the person is committing infringement of copyright and is, therefore, in violation of such. “It doesn’t matter if the person committing the violation is a ‘newbie’; and/or doesn’t know what copyright infringement is about” (, 2010). In other words, ignorance of the law does not make a person exempt from responsibility. The person using such work must exercise due diligence before using the work. No sensible person would allow someone else to sell their personal letters for publication without the creator receiving any kind of profit for it in return. That is the gist of the existence of copyright law.
Keep in mind that originally, copyright was intended for “tangible” property, meaning property that had physical form, such as books. There is another side to the argument of copyright, and that is the notion that property can also be “intangible”, meaning with no physical form, pertaining to the mind. Naturally, any work of art or science is the result of mental capacity which generates such work, for educational purposes or for aesthetic reasons. In our recent times, there has been a stirring debate about applying copyright protection to intangible
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property, meaning ideas and creativity. Some people view it as another way of holding to a monopoly that already exists, as a means of doing business. Others view it the opposite way: it is the protection of a creator’s brain power which helped generate some invaluable work. The debate becomes difficult when two principles collide, according to Clyde Wayne Crews, Jr. and Adam D. Thierer in their article “When Rights Collide: Principles to Guide the Intellectual Property Debate”. Crews and Thierer see two important principles collide: “legal protection for intangible works butts up against free expression and exchange of ideas” (Crews, Thierer, 2001). On one hand, there are the “radical voices” that believe there is no such thing as a right to own intangible ideas and the whole system of limited grants on monopolies is outdated and needs to be tossed aside. On the other, there is some consensus that innovators should be rewarded for their intellectual creations. Crews and Thierer tend to agree that with this limited grant, entrepreneurs are given the incentive to generate important life-enriching products and ideas, thus re-enforcing the common good approach. It’s not just about the capitalization of the work in question but how those unique ideas can benefit all of humanity in their quest for advancement. There does seem to be some agreement by the authors of this article that some people take this issue too far when there is a desire to promote excessive terms of protection, thus undermining motivation for creators when the original creators are already deceased (as in the case of Walt Disney and the famous copyright protection of its line of characters). The article points out that we face a problem of intellectual property on the Internet and in finding a balance of artistic and entrepreneurial incentives with the interests of the larger community of users in a “free, unhindered exchange of products and ideas” (Crews and Thierer, 2001). To this, the authors propose 3 ideas to keep in mind when considering this responsibility that should be exercised: 1) Take the principle “To Promote the Progress of Science and Useful Arts” seriously. Terms set for the amount of time copyright protection are valid and arbitrary. One must keep in mind that any copyright term that is indefinite or very long will provide diminished incentives for creativity. When copyright favors extended periods of time, the question to consider is whether this behavior leads to a monopoly, which only discourages the healthy progress of science and useful arts. 2) Don’t ban new technologies or business models to solve patent or copyright problems. This is the battle between the side of the argument that wants to restrict file-sharing technologies for the sake of reducing copyright control in cyberspace, while the other
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side that shares copyrighted files sometimes ridicules newer technologies that in turn aid the process of copyright protection, technologies that make possible digital watermarking, encryption, and incorporation of digital management into security hardware, to name a few. 3) The last proposal is to remove government barriers to the marketplace’s ability to protect intellectual property. Here, it is important to determine when exaggerated antitrust laws interfere with private efforts to grant licensing of songs (e.g.). In other words, restrictive contracts that antitrust law might regard as suspicious could benefit a consumer by ensuring returns for producers. Some people in the academic world have suggested that antitrust law may force the “need” for more intellectual property law and enforcement than is needed. Overall, the three suggestions contain, as an underlying purpose, the idea that relaxation of copyright law can only benefit those whose “intellectual and tangible properties” are in question, especially when dealing with cyberspace. Yet, when you look at both sides of the issue, both have reasonable defenses to state their case. It is a battle of arriving at a middle ground. Later in this paper, I propose two questions that should be asked when attempting to determine the motives for utilizing a copyrighted work from cyberspace.
Continuing with clarification of copyright law, the three most important topics of this law that merit attention and clarification are: plagiarism of text, infringement of copyright when using photocopying (Xerox) machines, and duplication of web pages and text on the Internet. Ronald Standler, author of the article “Some Observations on Copyright Law”, outlines what constitutes “fair use” of copyrighted material, and he dates this back to the Copyright Act of 1976, which points out where “fair use” can be applied: for the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or for nonprofit educational purposes, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Standler adds: “The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors” (Standler, 2009). In other words, whether the work is published or not, the laws of copyright protection can be applied to defend the work of a creator. According to this article, Standler mentions instances when copyright is being infringed upon when creating a website. For example, finding text or a
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picture, uploading it on a website without any changes is outright copyright violation. The most favorable way of using copyrighted material in such a way is by posting a hyperlink for reference. Finding text, copying with a few changes or additions and uploading to a website is also copyright infringement, but if you take a small piece of text and include it in a quotation in your work, it is legal as long as you make the citation (as would be the case for writing a school paper or a book; it is debated that for educational purposes, the rules are different). One could also consider including a disclaimer on a web page calling to the author of some work to send an email requesting that the material be taken down, and if no answer, it is assumed that the creator of the work agrees with such action. This may be fine, but copyright law misunderstands that, according to Standler. One area of this article that I found most interesting was the section on how photocopying machines promote copyright violation. Examining a specific case, which applies to our educational field, Standler points to Princeton University v. Michigan Document Service, which was a case in which Princeton professors copied chapters from a textbook and submitted to Michigan Document Service to reproduce into custom-made textbooks for students. In light of the fact that no royalties were paid to the producers of the textbooks, the courts regarded this act as copyright infringement, thus sending a message out to all professors to show responsibility in demonstrating a good example for students in giving credit to the textbook authors.
On the Internet, there are many ways of making copies of copyrighted material. Since copyright was intended originally for books, recordings, films, etc., there is a move to extend copyright protection to the Internet, but this direction is quite unclear. Yet, there are still basic rules that apply when downloading or uploading copyrighted material for personal use. To begin, the plain use of viewing a page on the Internet implies that a copy is being made on the spot because the image or text is transferred from the screen to the Random Access Memory of the computer. This act in itself is not considered infringement because “authors post documents on the Internet with the intent of having other people read the documents, so there may be an implied license to copy web pages during the reading of them” (Standler, 2009). In addition, when the computer is turned off, RAM is erased. Web browsers make a second copy of the material, such as Internet Explorer as a cache file, in order to make lookup of the work faster. Retrieving a document from the hard drive is much faster than reading the document from the
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“source machine” and then transmitting the document through the Internet. This process of the copy in cache mode is acceptable by law, given that it is not used for any other purpose. The most practical way of making a copy is by using the Print command and printing your document. Here is where it becomes an issue. The act of printing immediately is considered an infringement of copyright law, or there may be an implied agreement or license for a set number of copies to be made by the author. This is why some web sites do not allow for printing of certain material. The way you know if material cannot be printed is if the article or the image either does not print out or generates multiple blank copies (as was the case when accessing one of the articles I wanted to use for this paper!) or increased slow time on the computer, which will manifest itself as a response to detection of copyright infringement (as in the case with some pictures). Another way of copying is to use the Save As command, which helps store HTML or JPEG files, as an example, on a hard drive.
It appears that copyright law is quite clear when it comes to cyberspace. Apparently, if you know how to dominate the code, copyright can work effectively. It should not be taken as a given that cyberspace is this outlet of “free information” that is uncontrollable. That is not so, and many people will argue that copyright laws can be extended (and they already are extended with much success) to the Internet. The battle among the government, corporations, and the consumer is a classic case which seems to have no end, yet all three are interdependent on each other, whether willing or unwilling. Going back to our USA copyright laws, and just as is the case with the rest of the world, copyright also involves foreign countries. Let’s face it, we are in a global economy and in a state of globalization, and the World Wide Web (as the name implies) is a network that makes the world “interdependent” on each other (countries). There are cases where certain nuances in the laws are different geographically. Let’s look at the moral rights of authors. In the USA, there is no such consideration for moral rights of authors, but in France, this law is important. For the French, they believe that protection of moral rights of authors does not depend on the law of the country of origin of the work. According to Standler, there was a case of actor John Huston’s film “Asphalt Jungle” which was black and white and colorized by Turner Networks. Turner has contracted with a company in France to show the movie in color. In turn, Huston’s heirs sued in a French court claiming that his moral rights had been violated. The court favored Huston’s case, and it was decided that there was violation of his moral rights.
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Sure, this case is clearly representing when entities other than the one you work for become involved in making decisions without the creator’s consent. To some extent, there is a corporate ulterior motive, as is the case with most entities in this corporate-driven country of ours. Needless, to say, the concept of copyright is quite forward and requires no need to misinterpret for the sake of tailoring it to our advantage (only if you have a solid foundation to your case). Continuing with the copyright issue on cyberspace, let’s look at the two sides of the issue, the one side which sees copyright as unnecessary and which “stifles” creativity and the other, which either sees the need for a balance to the copyright issue or ascertains that traditional copyright exists in the digital world, thus defending copyright law.
To begin this examination, one of the prime proponents and advocates of net neutrality and protecting creativity on the web is Lawrence Lessig. A Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and author of the book “Remix”, he is one of the individuals that promotes the idea of abolishing copyright and sees it as some mechanism that is corporate-driven, which stifles amateur creativity. The first video “Where Do Artists Draw the Line on Copyright Law shows Shepard Fairey, the creator of the famous Obama poster “Hope” talking about how copyright affects his work and the issues he faced with the dissemination of his famous poster. Frankly, Fairey is an individual who is quite lax about copyright law but makes it clear that he would only go after “bootleg” operations. Lessig, obviously, expresses that in the “remixing” concept, there is creativity involved and that copyrighters should not “go after” those engaging in this practice because it stifles creativity. He proposes that companies need to ask themselves, to paraphrase him, “How will this affect my business?” Another video of Lessig, “Do Copyright Laws Stifle Creativity?” shows Lessig making a presentation of remixes utilizing copyrighted works, among them using a Superman film strip and videos of people dancing to R&B artists’ music. He puts these issues in front of an audience and implies that such works only allow for creativity to flourish. In other words, copyright laws are “oppressive”, according to Lessig, and Lessig continues to remark that this is “the language” of people today. One point in this video that bothered me was the way Lessig tries to “convince” people that posting YouTube videos and amateur remixes are harmless, especially the part of a mother videotaping her children dancing to music and “copyright owners” asking that the video be taken down. Here is where copyright may go too far, especially if a home video is being produced for entertainment purposes. We
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should be aware that any social scenario typically features music of some artist which we play innocently just to have fun. In a country and an economy where “money matters”, that is just another example where money issues just go too far and making this a serious matter is unwarranted.
The other side of the argument poses the opposite argument: that copyright law is the law and must be regarded, even with cyberspace; however at times, it may want to find balance. Anne Fujita from the University of Florida College of Law wrote an article titled “The Great Internet Panic: How Digitization is Deforming Copyright Law”. In this article, which I consider to be ahead of its time, she states that “the new technology in our present “Information Age” has upset the delicate balance created and maintained by copyright law between the rights of authors, users, and the industries that collect the money” (Fujita, 1996). This statement raises issues of concern, such as fear of authors not being compensated for their efforts, the moral rights of authors, and even the fear of losing their right to read. Fast technology appears, according to the article, to be undermining copyright laws, or as people like to loosely state, “Our world is constantly changing”. She continues to say that the one distinction that is blurred is among the authors, the people that write and create, and the companies that get the works published. The multinational corporations are blamed for the merging of these functions. Not to mention, this is a result of a “global” economy, diluted and blurred. The emphasis on the money issue seems to be the main cause of this blur. Obviously, if you factor the three components mentioned, the author, creator, and the publishing company, you will see that everyone wants a “piece of the pie”, so the fight emerges between those creators and authors that have control of the work they create versus the consumer who wants greater access to the material and for less money. Yet another battle surges when you match up the author, the publisher, and the consumer against one another when the publisher wants to “add information” to the author’s current work and the consumer wants greater access in order to utilize this work for their own to incorporate in some work of their own, usually at an amateur level.
The reality of all of this is that the only ones here that are being affected are the authors themselves because publishers have more power to profit and manipulate any work that is circulating, with the intent of profit. The moral rights issue of authors become of concern. So in a way, copyright law is a necessary evil because it is these publishing houses that make
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information available to the masses for the purposes of a “greater good” for humankind. This may sound practical, but when you look at all of the sides involved, the conflict of interest will be evident, and therefore, some balance must be achieved. Returning to the author’s moral rights claim, we have not made such an issue of it in our country because, according to Fujita, “traditional technology provides a great deal of built-in protection for author’s moral rights. With the current technology, it is very difficult for an ordinary user, a member of the public, to violate an author’s moral rights on a widespread basis” (Fujita, 1996). It is the publishing industry who would ever attempt to violate these rights, so Fujita claims that technology doesn’t cause this to happen. The real issue which affects the copyright issue in cyberspace is the easiness of digitization to copy quickly, cheaply, and easily with no loss in quality, which is then distributed to millions of users in a matter of seconds. Alterations can also be made in the same manner. Even the author’s name can be deleted and your name can be inserted. It is this easiness of the process that many owners of copyright are afraid of: losing money on account of individual users. Yes, we can claim that the copies that are generated by the users are not the same high quality as that of the original, but this is the point that copyright advocates and owners fear: the profit issue in which they can’t capitalize on the fast technology that makes this all possible. Needless to say, the technology still cooperates with copyright law. Encryptions, watermarks, etc. make protection against illegal access possible. To summarize this viewpoint, Fujita mentions that “balance” that should exist. It merely states that “copyright is not a natural right. It is a right created by law”.
Because the new technology affects the balance to such a great extent, in ways never anticipated by the drafters of the Copyright Act, we cannot use the Copyright Act, particularly its specific language, as the starting point in our analysis” (Fujita,1996). These ideas of revamping copyright stem from the Clinton Administration’s Information Infrastructure Task Force, also known as “White Paper” and “Green Paper”, which represent the two sides to the copyright issue. Instead, she proposes that we start by attacking the issue of the moral rights of authors first. It would be a call to enacting a law that would prohibit the falsification, alteration, or removal of copyright management information which includes the name of the author, a law prohibiting the alteration and dissemination of the content of an author’s work, and the author, in turn, should receive notification on a work stating that it has been altered, indicating when the
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original can be accessed. Regardless of whether these measures appear to be barriers to creativity or freedom of speech, Fujita claims that there is a need for a balance. It is about sacrifice in some area. Yes, copyright law in dealing with cyberspace is quite difficult but there needs to be some written “code” which people can abide, consumers and publishers alike.
Her idea of balance is of first amending the current law, which factors in the fair use principle. As mentioned before, fair use means that we take four factors into consideration: the purpose and character of use, such as for profit or intellectual gain, nature of the copyrighted work, amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work in question, and effect of the use upon its market value. While the White Paper side places emphasis on the economic side of the issue and is relentless, the Green Paper has some economic principle to it but is more concerned with the European commerce. More important, how we can disseminate more information in a global system? In the case of moral right, while the White Paper does not say much with regard to author’s moral rights, Green Paper suggests that this is important and could be resolved by requesting some kind of contract signed by the author permitting alteration to his or her work. In other words, if an author agrees to digitization of work, then he or she is bound to the conditions that may arise as a result. This alternative results in being more cooperative as opposed to passing a law requesting such behavior. Green Paper, therefore, offers this alternative. This is part of the balance that is being suggested when it comes to copyright because moral rights take the issue of intellectual property and appreciation for it one step further. The main balance here is a law amended to the copyright law that supports creativity in the sciences and the arts while protecting the dignity and privacy of individuals, rights that are granted to us by our Constitution. In an information age, this balance is the most desirable and perhaps the most complicated to achieve, but given our technology and its capacities, this can all work out with cooperation and responsibility. The key here is communication!
Conversely, there are people who adamantly believe that copyright is the same for regular media as well as digital media. Brad Templeton, author of “10 Big Myths about Copyright Explained” attempts to answer “myths” about copyright and Internet publications. Let me explain them briefly, according to Templeton: 1) If it doesn’t have a copyright notice, it’s not copyrighted. As Templeton states “This was true in the past” and “If it looks copyrighted, you should assume it is” (Templeton, 2008). He discourages people from scanning images from
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magazines and posting them to the web. 2) If I don’t charge for it, it’s not a violation. If the work has no commercial value, it may not be a violation, but if you give some piece of work away, it is still a violation, especially if the action harms the commercial value of it. 3) If it’s posted to Usenet, it’s in the public domain. This is false because it is up to the creator to do so and announce that it is “public”. 4) “My posting was just fair use!” Fair use applies to comments or alternate takes, like parodies, to works already in use, but damaging the commercial value is wrong, and this may be the case when posting some work on the web. 5) “If you don’t defend your copyright you lose it. Somebody has that name copyrighted!” Once again, the copyright has to be explicitly “given away” for this to happen. Otherwise, nothing keeps a person from using a name, such as Pan Am. 6)”If I make up my own stories, but base them on another work, my new work belongs to me.” Such is also false because these derivative works are still property of the originator of the work. 7) “They can’t get me; defendants in court have powerful rights!” Copyright law is a civil matter, not criminal, so the “innocent until proven guilty” adage does not work in this case. 8) “Oh, so copyright violation isn’t a crime or anything?” Depending upon the damage done, it could be considered a felony. 9) “It doesn’t hurt anybody – in fact, it’s free advertising.” This is contingent upon the creator if he/she wants this advertised free of charge. 10) “They e-mailed me a copy, so I can post it.” Any email is copyrighted, but you won’t be able to receive damages if someone posts your email because, due to privacy matters, emails don’t have commercial value. These myths only go to show that we shouldn’t assume that cyberspace is “public domain”. While anything posted online may be easy to copy, paste, etc., all material is still subjective and the owner of such material has the exclusive right to exercise controls on what can or cannot be published. The same rules that apply to standard media, or old media, apply in the new new media sense (to quote Professor Levinson, and I will look at his views on copyright law up next).
The book “New New Media” by Dr. Paul Levinson offers an example of copyright violation on the Internet with the example of YouTube. He posits an example of posting or uploading a video, an amateur creation, using Paul McCartney’s rendition of a George Harrison song. The video is uploaded with an embed from YouTube, people view it, and comments are generated, but within a month, you find out that the video is no longer available on the site because it violated terms of service. This results because “some person or corporation told YouTube that
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the video violated its copyright. The hand of old media enforcement, withered but without power, has just pulled the rug and the fun out from under your new media blog creation” (Levinson, 2009). Although people may argue that creativity has been stifled here, there is no doubt that uploading a video with copyrighted material is a violation of copyright and somehow it would be nice to credit the originator with some compensation for using his/her material. Even Levinson continues that practices, such as downloading YouTube videos for free using special software such as RealPlayer, while legal in theory, could be considered some sort of copyright infringement. The rules may not be clear-cut when it comes to new new media and what is considered legal but, as I mentioned before, it is a law and there is need for recourse to old methods to solve problems in actuality. In addition, Levinson states as his bottom line: “Dissemination of copies of a work, whether an MP3 of a recording of a YouTube clip, is impossible to prevent in the realm of new new media, and probably should not be prevented, unless money is made from the dissemination or the work is plagiarized” (Levinson, 2009). This is the problem with new new media. There are two parts to this issue, and the only thing that can be done right now is to attempt to coexist with both sides of the issue and come to some conclusion. Levinson’s book demonstrates the love and hate relationship with new new media. He is very frank when determining that copyright on the Internet is a reality despite the assumption that it is a public medium and information is everywhere.
So should copyright law be abolished, should there exist a balance, or should we assume that copyright law can be applied to cyberspace? Perhaps we need clarification to bring about a temporary solution, one that is practical and realistic, so there is no further confusion. I am going to resort back to the article “What Is Copyright Protection?” To begin, the Internet is NOT public domain! It may sound unrealistic to think, but let’s look at this argument closely. We may have the “power” to click on the mouse, access a web page, see a graphic photo, click on a hyperlink, copy the image, save it, print it, and yes, the copy is stored in cache mode. We also think that because it is on the web it is public domain, and we can take any work of another author without permission. This is false. To quote my source, “Just because your driveway is not inside of your house, is it in the public domain? Does that give anybody off the street the right to stay on your driveway without your permission?” (, 2010) This principle applies to the Internet, and “material copied on the web may be copied freely if the
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information is created by the 1) federal government, 2) if the copyright has expired, and 3) the copyright has been abandoned” (, 2010). The second point to consider is that any material that you have been granted permission to use, such as images, javascripts, HTML, text, and the like to display on your website should not be a ticket to claiming copyright over it. The third point is that graphic images, such as logos, provided by “free” graphic sites are also not public domain, and even those images that you receive for a fee, are not given to a user in ownership. Fourth, graphics, sound files, cascade-style sheets, and others that are placed in the public domain do not grant a user to claim it as copyright. You can only claim copyright to work that you created yourself and not the public information you are using because other users can utilize a Coca-Cola logo (e.g.) for their work, and you may have done the same. That is not protected under copyright. Fifth, HTML coding, web pages, and blog postings can be copyrighted. Some people assume that they can’t be copyrighted, but if the HTML and the blog postings have been original works, they deserve copyright protection. The only material that is not protected is information that has been copied and pasted from information that is copyrighted. The sixth point is quite practical. If a user takes text or HTML and change it to fit his/her needs, the individual may “own” the new version with the consent of the creator. Otherwise, it is seen as an act of plagiarism. The seventh point relates to translations into another language. Yes, permission is needed to translate material on the Internet into another language while adhering to the desires of the originator of the work (a form of a license). The final point I will mention is the fair use argument. As I mentioned before, fair use allows for “parody, news reporting, research and education about such copyrighted work without the permission of the author” (, 2010).
To summarize the above-mentioned points, copyright laws serve their purpose and were constructed with every possible case scenario in mind. The action that has been done is to take current law and apply it to those cases in cyberspace in order to show people that the assumption of cyberspace being “public” does not give anyone a free pass to take information and misuse it. Even when users take information for entertainment purposes, they should be held accountable, at least to the extent of being knowledgeable or possessing some working knowledge of copyright law. I am not saying that we all have to be experts in copyright law but we have a moral duty, just like we have a moral duty to be civilized, to know our limits. When dealing
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with cyberspace, this “space” that has been constructed has boundaries and territories. We can look at those lines as imaginary light beams that form barriers (as in science fiction movies that fence in a portion of space as exclusive territory).
To return to Lessig for a moment, while a proponent of creativity, Lessig fails to understand the big picture. It is not that creativity on the web is bad. The problem with Lessig’s approach is that it attempts to parallel a decentralized and out-of-control system with a centralized and classic system. He supports amateur works, which are exposed in a medium that also houses or displays the works of professionals. When both interfere, the lines blur (as is the case with most things nowadays, political party lines, copyright issues, gender, etc.), so we can’t tell which is which anymore. Most of those amateurs that display their work on places like YouTube or create their blogs mostly do this for entertainment purposes, or simply don’t have much ideas of their own so they “borrow” from mainstream. The bottom line, according to the way I view the problem, is that most young people are not taught the incentive to work hard and progress as healthy humans. Instead, young people are encouraged to think that the computer can solve their problems because “it is their generation”. This is the result of a lack of responsibility on the part of the caretakers, educational institutions, and, in an indirect form, corporate demands everywhere, whether in education, entertainment, even parents working two or three jobs to satisfy corporate demands. Lessig obviously refuses to look at this side of the argument and proceeds to take it as a given that computers are the “language of our youth”. Sure, after the private sector successfully induced computer technology upon us, using young people as their targets, Lessig “washes his hands” and becomes an activist for amateur creativity. He is fortunate that the system that he defends made him rich! So now he turns around and defames copyright laws. I am quite sure that if someone took a portion of his book “Remix” and used it for his or her personal gain, Lessig would have a holiday in court with that person. Could he turn around and justify the poor soul that tried cracking his shot at fame? Is it possible that copyright laws, even in cyberspace, are placed to truly foster creativity and make people less reliant on the web for inspiration? That is something to really think about, considering that the monster that you create could turn against you!

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Until now, copyright law was a law written by lobbyists for publishers and movie studios, so authors do not have legal protections for their rights. Still, it is the law by which works are protected from illegal use by unauthorized people. One of the proposals is to eliminate copyright law because of the ability to make copies with a photocopying machine or with a computer. Some people see this as a “disguised attempt to further reduce authors’ rights. The fundamental purpose of copyright law is to provide an incentive for authors to create expression, by recognizing that expression as a kind of property” (Standler, 2009). Not to mention, copyright infringement hurts them enough, it is not likely that copyright law is abolished any time soon. Keep in mind that, with regards to cyberspace, the available technology supports protection of an author’s or artist’s work. The balance that has been proposed in Fujita’s paper presents the best possible case scenario when dealing with copyright on the Internet. Yes, it is a fact that it is difficult to control the flow of information when it is no longer tied to “tangible property” (as in the case of books and cassettes) but the information control can be sustained with a new “code” to counteract it or remedy the situation. Right now, copyright law is alive and well in cyberspace. Programs exists which can protect the work or vital information of creators, which create control mechanisms that set conditions over who is authorized to view and/or access material. Creativity is not stifled, but there is a need to “communicate” effectively the needs of both parties. If both can come to some agreement and the agreement generates the “greater good”, then we will see that both can help each other.
In this “digital age”, problems will arise which need our attention, and copyright is one of those important issues which need to be dealt with. Yes, new media remediates old, but we always find ourselves resorting to old media for guidance. A system that has been utilizing a foundation for so many years cannot just “abandon” it and pretend like it doesn’t exist. It is our responsibility to “build” on the foundation and make good use of the opportunities that are available. Defending amateur works and diluting copyright law do not sound like a viable solution. Paralleling old media with new and making some connections is unrealistic. In looking at the consumer/producer concept, if these two could coexist then many years ago, when the first personal recording machines came out, such as recordable records and tapes, people that used these new devices would have had an opportunity to publicize their work and receive exposure. Even so, those who recorded personal works would still look for a talent scout with
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the hopes of receiving an opportunity to attaining fame. Remember, this would be a setting in the old world, which was more centralized and order existed. This is also a system that enforced hard work and dedication. There was no need to debate about copyright because 1) we weren’t “gung ho” over money as we are today and 2) the lines were drawn: professionals did their work and amateurs respected their space. However, in today’s world, the World Wide Web decentralized the system by blending personal entertainment with business, education, hobbies, and the like. Amateurs are on the same playing field with professionals, and this condition, which should serve as an educational experience, becomes a game of “pretend”. Coupled with the money factor, you have a big fight that ensues for control of territory. Cynicism runs rampant; people are being second-guessed about their motives for posting some work on the web because, after all, there are still rules to follow. The media tell us that the Web is this public domain and the “new language” of young people. On the other hand, we must abide by copyright laws that protect those individuals or professionals that post their work online for maximum exposure. Hey, even individuals at an amateur level should have some degree of copyright protection! We just can’t take for granted the adage of a public domain and use it to our advantage, especially when the advantage being sought is negative.
So can copyright law exist in cyberspace? YES! The balance that is being sought is one that allows for “communication and responsibility”. We also need to realize that while the Internet may appear to be public domain, copyright law is alive and well and classic copyright law applies to cyberspace at all times. It is not a matter of accepting current entropy and tailoring our specific needs to the situation, but instead, it is a matter of compromising and sacrificing for a desired end. However, we should begin by stepping back and asking ourselves two important questions before choosing to use copyrighted material: “Is the intent to use copyrighted material for an educational purpose?” or “Is my intent to use copyrighted material for a profit-driven incentive?” Sure, these questions may sound naïve and people may challenge me with a cynical outlook, such as, “You know that anyone can take information and use it!” If you, on the other hand, examine those questions, you will realize that it is a call to exercise responsible behavior and a call to be educated on the issue of copyright law. These questions can also be asked of people when entering cyberspace and people once again can argue if these questions are valid to ask when individual motives and feedback can be subjective. One thing I know and am aware of
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is that ultimately, in an era that is commanded by information and where we face issues regarding the protections we are granted, the factor that can determine what actions we can and cannot take is the manipulation of the code. It is this language which can set us apart from those at a greater advantage. This code can create the new social classes, and it extends far beyond any monetary factor. This will be contingent upon who has the appropriate software to counter irregularities and who is knowledgeable in a program language, more like the computer programmers. It is this condition which will finally bring some order to cyberspace and will once again draw the line between those who take computers for entertainment purposes or those who use computers for serious motives, such as business. Copyright law may just be one of many issues, but if it merits attention, it is because it involves a very valuable asset, which is intellectual ability (property). This goes beyond protection of physical or tangible objects; copyright law is and will always be a “police force” that must enforce the law when it comes to protecting other people’s property. We may as well tie in intellectual property together with moral rights. As for teaching our society’s young people that they have limits, it is up to authority figures like parents and teachers to set an example and not allow some machine to do their thinking for them. Reality awareness, interface awareness, those elements are key to the protection of other people’s “space”, but responsible behavior is priceless, and it must start from the top, with those in positions of authority so we can regain a centralized system. It is all about being educated, something that can only be experienced from human to human, one person at a time.

Works Cited (2010)
Crews, Jr. C.W. and Thierer, A. “When Rights Collide: Principles to Guide the Intellectual Property Debate. (2001)
Standler, R.B. “Some Observations on Copyright Law”. (2009).
Templeton, B. “10 Myths about Copyright Explained”. (2008).
Fujita, A. “The Great Internet Panic: How Digitization is Deforming Copyright Law”. (1996).
Levinson, P. “New New Media”. Allyn & Bacon: New York, 2009.

My Closing Post

I can't believe how fast this class went! It sure has been an intense learning experience for me, and I am sure my other classmates will agree. Reading four books in one month sure sounds Herculean but the important thing is that it is done. This course has taught me many topics that I was unaware of (remember that technology is not my area of expertise) and which made me think of the current operations of the world as we know it. Cyberspace and computer technology have come so far since I sat in a college classroom in the 90s. The idea of interacting with a computer as a medium was one that I am still losing sleep over :-) but I am gradually getting some rest! It is this interactive quality of computers that make it fascinating to users, young and old, the ability to reach out your ideas and even feelings across some "space" that seems endless.

Bolter's book fascinated me with the amounts of interactive technology that were displayed at the technology expo in 2000, exhibits that combined analog with digital, but it was the "experience" that each exhibit produced which was so appealing to the authors of the book. They conveyed their fascination so vividly with us, the readers. Manovich's book made the stunning correlation between film technology and computers, and his explanations made very good sense to me, showing me that film was taken up one step further with computers. It is amazing that we can, at an individual level, take these concepts of filmography and use them on our desktops. The third book co-authored by Professor Strate was probably the most complicated one to read, perhaps because of so many conflicting views by the contributors, but if there was one concept that summarized the compuer's function and purpose for existence, it was Professor Strate's analogy of the clock. This comparison made sense and literally resolved the conflict that existed among the authors. Finally, Professor Levinson's book turned a decentralized society into a centralized one on cyberspace. By explaining every entity on the Internet, such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and MySpace (to name a few), Levinson raised awareness of all the new new media that make that "social" component of cyberspace meaningful. To finalize the course, I took upon myself the task of writing my paper on copyright law and whether or not it can be used in cyberspace. This is a lot of work to do in one month, and I feel the satisfaction of achieving knowledge as a result!

Hopefully, this course will help me look at communications in a different light, although I may be tempted to give my own views, which may not be in total agreement with current vibe. Yet, the purpose for learning, I feel, is not necessarily to agree with everything you are taught and what others think but rather formulating your own insights and opinions and using whatever experience you may have to effect change. So, we can say we have two roads to take: either we learn and become part of the solution or we learn and continue to be part of the problem. I wish everyone a safe and happy remainder of the summer and, thanks Professor Strate for this learning opportunity. Peace out...

Monday, June 28, 2010

My Experiences Of New New Media

After finishing up Paul Levinson’s New New Media, there are a few highlights I would like to share as far as my own experiences with these new new media are concerned.

Myspace is, or was, very addicting for me. That is, until Facebook showed up. Like all forms of new new media, each has its own strengths and weaknesses. As far as Myspace and Facebook are concerned, they are both great formats to communicate among friends, family, and long lost relatives whom you may not have spoken to in years. The convenience of having an inbox, comment section, and the ability to display photos and videos is remarkable. In addition, the virtual games and applications keep kids busy and the ability to make friends with complete strangers keeps lonely people coming back for more. Overall, Facebook more than Myspace is an excellent site for networking and building contacts.

With all that being said, Myspace and Facebook is not without serious flaws. Facebook moreso than Myspace has almost absolutely no privacy. Sure, you can block certain features from being seen, but if you block things for one person, then you’d have to block it for all people. Unlike the old AIM features, you can not turn invisible on Facebook and just talk to who you want to talk to. If you turn invisible to ignore certain people, then no one can see you’re online. That's not fair. In addition, anything you post shows up on everyone’s home pages. You can only imagine how much trouble people could get in or how easy it is to get caught in a lie. Also, the ability to pretend to be someone else or mask your true identity is extremely easy. For example, someone has been posing as my best friend’s sister for months and making statements on Facebook as if he or she were my friend’s sister. This person even went as far as to use her picture. Anyone can steal anybody’s identity as long as they have a legit email and there are people who exist that have nothing better to do with their lives than wreak havoc on others. I know stealing someone’s identity is a crime regardless if it is done online or not. This leads me to my last point. That is, the bullying that occurs on Facebook and Myspace is so extreme sometimes it leads people to suicide, literally. I'm not lying. I've read cases where teens have killed themselves after being bullied on Myspace. I mean, sure, Myspace and Facebook are great ways to present scholarly works, blogs, and network, but leave it to certain individulas of the public to abuse something good. Still think everyone deserves a voice?

At a time when Myspace became too spam infested and all I was receiving was friend requests from porn stars (and I know I’m not that lucky), I discovered Facebook. I thought Facebook was Myspace’s saving grace because at first it was only open to college students and professors. This was great because it weeded out all those immature punks that wreak havoc on others as I mentioned in the previous paragraph (although I understand people can be immature at any age, chances are the younger crowd, who have more time on their hands, would pose as someone they are not rather than college students). Also, as college students, who wants to associate with teenagers? I mean, college students should have a place of their own. Therefore, Facebook used to dominate Myspace in my opinion. Facebook used to be just straight-up messaging and commenting. It was easy to navigate and communicate among my college friends. However, now Facebook is no better than Myspace ever since Facebook opened themselves up to anyone that has an email. This is Facebook’s biggest mistake and I hate them for this. Facebook changes its interface frequently and this change takes some time getting used to. Also, there are so many new options, games, and applications that it has become Myspace all over again. Don’t get me wrong….I still prefer Facebook over Myspace and I check my Facebook daily, but why the addition of all these changes?

I know Levinson is a huge fan of Twitter because he believes in keeping statements as clear and concise as possible … and boy you can not get more concise than Twitter. Twitter is basically Facebook, except without all the applications and games I was just talking about. One can post an update on Twitter and all his friends on his Twitter account can read it. This would seem like a good thing considering how sour I seemed about Facebook’s recent adaptations in the previous paragraph, but the problem is, rarely anyone I know has a Twitter account or uses Twitter frequently. I don’t know if my friends don’t like Twitter, the lack of space available to post updates, or if people have just gotten so used to Facebook that they refuse to switch.

Podcasting is much easier than webcasting because microphones and sound recording programs are cheaper than webcams, usually. In addition, podcasts are available anywhere, from cars to bluetooths. Since my dream job is to work as a radio host, I personally like podcasting. Like blogging and Youtube, podcasts are open for the public so anyone who has a microphone and a sound recording program can make, stream, and store podcasts. If one wishes too, he can write up a script for a podcast before hand, or just stream live and talk as he goes.

One of the last chapters of New New Media discusses the negative side to all these mediums I mentioned and before even reading this section, I already hit upon many of these drawbacks when I talked about things like bullying, flaming, stalking, and spamming. However, I’d like to point out that Levinson makes a great point when he compares new new media to weapons. There are weapons out there, like guns, used to harm people. However, the weapon itself is just an object. Pardon the cliché, but guns don’t kill people. People with guns kill people. It’s how a person uses a weapon that can either be harmful or helpful. For example, if someone uses a gun out of self-defense, then the person using the gun had every right because he was defending himself. I believe anybody who wants to continue living would shoot a gun to preserve his life if he was put in that kind of position. The same goes for new new media and essentially any technology for that matter. There is no technology that is inherently good or evil, but it depends on what people use the technology for. If one uses Facebook to gossip or stalk somebody, then obviously he is using the technology for evil purposes. The more sophisticated our technology has becomes, the greater responsibility we have inherited to do good with that technology. I would argue that the most important technology is the use of mobile media. Aside from the fact that cell phones are like basic computers now, the phone itself can and has saved lives. The ability to call someone when he is lost, in danger, or just to keep track of his kids. However, now that cell phones have been taken a step further, we can acquire information at anyplace and anytime. Even better, if one is lost, he can now bring up a map on his cell phone to guide his way home. Now that’s an example of using technology for good.

Continuing with Levinson

In continuing the reading of Dr. Levinson's book and working on my final paper for class, I can say that his descriptions of the current cyber-issue at hand make the convoluted mess seem more organized, at least in the way he expresses himself. His section on YouTube is perhaps the most interesting one. I admit that You Tube is my resource for all of my favorite clips and music presentations of my favorite artists from the 1970s, as well as old commercials (cigarette commercials especially)! It appears that YouTube is a better media compared to television. I will not take credit away from TV because, after all, it keeps me informed as far as news (even if some news are of poor quality) and a good classic movie, once in a blue moon (I hardly watch TV anymore). However, I do find appealing Dr. Levinson's idea that YouTube is a supplement of television.

His example of President Obama as being called a "cybergenic" President comes to mind. Levinson stated that Obama was successful on YouTube primarily because he looked well on TV. Hey, this sounds like some "remediation" but more than that, it sounds like the old guard is still a benchmark for any success on new new media. There appears to be a blur here because on one hand, we glorify YouTube for being the media it is but we still say, "Hey! Not so fast. You are still accountable to the old man!" The convenience of YouTube is, apparently, that you can watch any video or clip at your own time, and even some news are broadcast almost immediately. But being that YouTube is somewhat an "amateur" medium, the real pros have to "check and balance" the arena. So there is some "gatekeeping" in a way that occurs. YouTube also respects copyright law (which is the topic of my paper) because at times, if copyright infringement occurs, videos are taken off. We may argue that it is not right, but remember, this medium is for the whole world to enjoy, from simple people to famous names, and with all due fairness, it is right to credit those individuals who have works of their art exposed on YouTube. They should have a chance to profit from any work that is taken by an amateur and posted for the public. With regards to "viral videos", the possibilities of becoming famous due to a viral video may be endless, but then again, we are bound to the same luck and chance that would exist in a real-life scenario of a person trying to "make it big" in the entertainment industry. There is so much ground to cover with regards to copyright, what is legal or illegal, and when we need to "draw the line" with regards to creativity. Needless to say, the tools are there: use them to your best advantage!

Wikipedia is another medium that seems to be held in questionable terms. Traditionalists (like myself) prefer to hold a complete encyclopedia set and access information whenever I want, knowing with all certainty that I am looking up "the truth". Yet. sometimes, people would prefer to obtain fast information online, so Wikipedia serves its purpose. I will agree that the information is subjective, and here is where amateur quality needs to be scrutinized. I am not saying that we should deter people from making entries to Wikipedia, but it would belp for those posting to have their facts in line before making an entry, so we don't run into any embarrassing moments of "misinforming the public". If that is the case and this continues, Wikipedia may just as well get "written off" as pure entertainment, like most of our media has done already. In a meidum such as this where commoners are fighting the battle with "real editors or writers", a word to the wise would be to, like a former English teacher of mine back in high school said, "Pretend!" Yes, pretend that you are a pro and "break a leg"! (...unless you want one of your legs broken for giving false info!)

With regards to Twitter, 1) I have never used it and don't see the need to use it, 2) Darn it, I hate when people generalize! If the average age of Twitter users is 37, then how come I am not part of that group? Ok, maybe that is my point: it is not fair to say that everybody gets "hooked" on new new media or that it is a given that one group behaves a certain way. That is the lovefest that our country has with generalizations and statistics, more like a sickness, so to speak! It is one that does not provide a realistic picture of who we are and the true diversity of opinions that exists. I mean, what's the point of sending a "tweet" when you can just get on the telephone and call someone, or even email them? Does anyone ever exercise any more? Yes, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc. bring people together and ideas across, but sometimes this virtual world becomes too real that it becomes easy to dissociate with the "real world" consisting of humans. Frankly, new new media should be regarded strictly as an avenue for learning and not some outlet which attempts to satisfy a fantasy world. We need to draw a line between what is real and what is not. The role of consumer/rpoducer should be established as one in which people decide whether they take this as pure entertainment or as a means of achieving profitable gain. But you can't involve profitable game in everything, even in pure enjoyment. This blurring of the lines nees to be cleared up and a new vision sharpened. Only in this manner will cyberspace claim its rightful place in our society.

Point blank, the idea of consumer/producer, does not sound right to my ears quite well. Like the old saying goes, "You can't have your cake and eat it, too." Let's not take it as a given that we should go ahead and consume and produce everything. We need to seriously examine whether our endeavor is done purely for pleasure or if we want something beneficial to come out of the experience. This is the only way that new new media will ever be taken seriously: if we start screening the bad weeds out and seeking the truth via people who take this seriously. Otherwise, if new new media is another form of entertainment, then we may as well see this as another alternative of passing time or going to see an overpriced and overrated New York Yankee ball game (Let me clarify that I am NOT making fun of Yankee fans!).

New New Media-Part 2

I really have to say that I enjoyed this book. It continued to be very informative and humorous at times. Not only was it an enjoyable read, but I also learned some interesting facts--specifically about Twitter.

Levinson dedicates Chapter 8 to the world of Twitter or rather the "new kid on the media block." (p133) Twitter has become a outlet for users to broadcast to the world as it has become the fastest "growing social medium." This surprised me as I thought Facebook took the lead on this. Levison even writes about a tweet from outer space in 2009. THAT is fascinating to me.

Twitter allows usres to tweet about anything--what you are doing, your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions, etc... Whatever comes to mind you can tweet AND it is a instant publication. However, not only is it instant but it also is instant to all Twitter users. What makes it so instant is that you are only allowed to tweet a max of 140 characters. As you all know, 140 characters is a small amount. Meaning--every word counts. When I first became a Twitter user I was annoyed about the 140 character limitation. However, after using Twitter, I'm glad that this limitation has been put in place because I would not want to nor do I have the time to read a page long tweet. So yes, it makes sense. My favorite part of this section is his shout out to Fordham Road Pizza--Professor Levinson and I had conversations about the pizza in this area in his Targeted Writing class in Fall of 2009. It just made me think back and laugh about it all.

Another good point that is brought up is that you can become someone else as a Twitter user. Your user name can be something different, you can pose as someone else--a celebrity or whoever! This reminded me of our discussion in class last week about "digital self." Twitter allows you to create another you--your digital self. Perhaps we can say that some use it as an escape from reality to be or act as someone else...

Something to think about--are we making ourselves vulnerable on Twitter? This is another point that Levinson brings up. As Twitter keeps growing and as the millions of users keep increasing, I wonder about who is really reading my tweets. Furthermore, there is now an option on Twitter that includes your current location with every Tweet. In one tweet you can tell the world what you are doing and where you are instantly. Twitter puts you in touch with the outside world and has the ability to let them know everything.

Levinson perfectly explains Twitter, Interpersonal + Mass communication=Twitter. Users can send a tweet instantly and the receiver can read the message and immediately tweet back. However, this can be one on one communication and it can also be seen by the mass users (mass communication). As I have studied interpersonal communication and mass communication here at Fordham, it makes perfect sense to me.

Finally, what I found most interesting is that Levinson explains that the average age of Twitter users is 37 years old. WHAT?!? This blew me away. Twitter seems to have become more for the adult user. Which leads me to think--is Twitter appropriate for children? If the adult population is the main Twitter user then perhaps there should be some restrictions or privacy settings for children of a certain age.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New New Media...or Late Late Show

Unlike my colleagues that have takn Dr. Levinson's classes already, I will be experiencing one of his classes, Media and Social Awareness coming up in the Fall. He sounds like a very experienced and quite technical man. His heavy involvement in "new new media" is quite "daunting" and scary at times, the way he describes the plethora of new new media that exist. I will have to agree with Mike that I also think of new new media as anything digital, as in the case of HDTV and the infamous iPod (however I always thought that you could also become creative with the iPod and produce some kind of work with it)...anyhow, never mind me, I am not that technological. As you may already know, my technology goes as far back as Quadraphonic Stereo! But Levinson's descriptions of MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Digg were explained with so much care and consideration you can't help but get to appreciate the art behind these media. They do serve some purpose, and like I always say, they are there to "pick and choose" to your personal needs.

The book appears well written, with the student in mind, unlike the other books I have had to read for this course, which appear to be too technical at times. The idea of being a consumer and producer sounds quite appealing. However, my personal opinion is that the few new new media that I use put me at the consumer's end more than on the producing end. I don't know how to produce a video segment for YouTube, I am not involved in Twitter, have never sent a "tweet" from an iPhone or Blueberry (pun intended, to quote Levinson!), I am lucky to even have a cell phone! What troubles me is that many authorities in education and the media assume that every young person knows how to use new new media, without considering that there are people (like myself) who are just barely learning how to post on a blog. The blog for this course offers great exercise in blogging. At least my theory is that if you have working knowledge of a computer you can virtually pick up all of these new new media nuances in a flash. But does our work on new new media really receive the attention it truly deserves at a grand scale or does it become "written off" as a form of "entertainment" for the masses? How serious are amateur works taken to effectuate real change?

I couldn't help but title my post "New New Media...or Late Late Show! This new new media is a carryover from the original new media, which comprise of the Internet, email, chat rooms, etc. These former are still used by the way, only that new things like Skype, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc. are further adaptations to what was already new media. Coversely, the old media of print, newspapers, and even television have all influenced what we now have come to embrace as alternatives. Just like when watching the Late Show movie at night, the Late Late Show is a carryover of the Late Show, featuring another movie, perhaps more violent or containing graphic content. You may disagree with this comparison, but here is the other side of this comparison: The Late Show is experienced by those still awake around 11:45PM, and so was new media, which was embraced rather quickly by the masses. On the other hand, The Late Late Show is given much later around 2AM and not that many people are awake to watch. New new media, with its interactive consumer/pruducer quality may be open for all to use and there may be lots of blogs about important topics, but the important people to whom the blogs or the amateur works are aimed at are "asleep" and probably don't care to see who is trying to make a difference using these new new media. If you get my point, then you fully understand that new new media receives too much hype and only becomes relegated to pure entertainment offering some false sense of security.

I am quite sure that Dr. Levinson has a great reputation and that anyone who sees his posts, including famous people, will respond with great ease because they know the work Dr. Levinson does and has done, going back to his contact with one of the stars of "Mad Men". It appears to me that no matter how much we are convinced that our amateur work is recognized or even matters, there are certain people who are more educated or "information wealthy" that can receive recognition or even receive contact from a top celebrity. I will give you an example: if you wanted to add Jennifer Love Hewitt as a friend on Facebook, you would be directed to her Fan Club. Let's face it, even if you made some poster or wallpaper with all of Jennifer Love Hewitt's phtos and even if you sent her a comment about her role on "Ghost Whisperer", she would not get back to you personally, especially if you are not some famous wirter or person in the entertainment world, or even someone with some connections. Our interaction with new new media has its limits, and the push for copyright laws to protect artists work is a step in the right direction, especially in cyberspace. Regardless, it is a pleasant idea to know that we can use these "tools" to teach us a lesson in life and even a lesson in creativity. That goes back to my initial premise of the computer, as a "learning tool" which acts as a "medium" but is not fully a medium.

Finally, the money issue always seems to make its appearance, even though personally it is sickening to me to have to hear it mentioned. I KNOW: we all need money and we all need to make a living off of it, but do we have to mention it all the time; it is a given, why waste time talking about the cost factor? Can't we at least talk about the pleasure something gives us or the satisfaction it provides? If we know that new new media usage promotes entertainment, then why do some people have to insist on discussing dollars and cents? If some people can make money off of blogs or uploading YouTube videos, then good for them! Making people believe they are in control of their work when in fact they aren't is not realistic. The corporations that have brainwashed most of the world are to take responsibility and reassess priorities. The buck stops here!

Overall, the book is probably the most enjoyable that I have encountered for a while. Regardless, it presents a grim outlook on education and how the outside world and corporate demands have seeped into the classroom and shattered traditional learning. It is unfortunate that students in a classroom are distracted by new new media and don't pay attention to a professor. Then what is the use of spending so much money (AHA!! Here is where we TRULY must discuss the value of money!) in a college classroom when it is poorly assumed that "kids know more than teachers"? Naturally, I don't buy that argument. If you are in a classroom, you come to learn and to be educated. If you are going to waste time texting and playing your iPod, for the sake of new new media, then don't waste your time in class and leave. Otherwise, two thumbs up for Dr. Levinson!

New New Media

Well, I have to hand it to Professor Levinson. New New Media is very informative, easy to understand and even humorous at times. The book is a great resource of what new, new media is and how new media became new, new media. The book was well-organized with chapters dedicated to blogging, YouTube, Wikipedia, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Podcasting, etc...

It is interesting how new media is now considered to be new, new media. However, it makes sense as it is always advancing and changing.

Overall, I found that Levinson was realistic throughout his book. For instance, I completely understand that in order to understand new media and new, new media--you need to experience it and practice it. This is where the user plays a large role in the creation of new media for the user becomes the creator--the artist--the publisher--the director. New media and new, new media consist of the creations of the user. As they are creating they are fully engaged and are becoming experienced. This all makes sense to me. YouTube is a great example of this.

I found it funny that in his book, Levinson compares YouTube (new, new media) to Television (new media/"old media"). However, for me...I would compare to the actual newspaper. I'm going further back in time as Levinson is compaing new, new media to new media.

Thus far, I really enjoyed the blogging chapter. It was very detailed and it acted as if it was a how-to guide to blogging. From taking past classes with Levinson, I know that he is very involved with blogs and has a lot of experience with them. This goes back to fully understanding new media by engaging yourself with it. I agree that new, new media is something that just can't be read about it--it is something that you need to particpate in for it is a large part of our society and effects us daily. Even-more-so, many enjoy it.

I have not finished the book yet but from what I have read, it seems to be great overview of new, new media. And if you have taken a class with him, he makes sure to let everyone know that he is heavily involved in the new, new media world with this tweets, podcasts, Facebook account and tons of blogs. Therefore, as he is fully engaged he understands new, new media and is knowledgeable enough to write this book.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Highlights Of New New Media

I have taken Paul Levinson’s classes twice in my Fordham career and plan on taking two more classes with him in the upcoming future. There’s just no escaping this guy. I would just like to point out that the preface he wrote was very nice. Knowing that we, the students, have inspired and impacted professors in the way they write, think, and teach makes any class more meaningful and lively and I can certainly see why Communication teachers, like Paul Levinson, would have to change their teaching topics frequently. Unlike other subjects, where two plus two is always four and Columbus sailed to America in 1492, Communication and the technologies involved are always in a state of change. More importantly, the topics in Communications are all relevant and impact the lives of millions even if they are aware of this or not. As students and professors, its our job to bring light to these topics and changes so we can best prepare ourselves and others for the future of Communications.

I feel like this book has a comical, sometimes sarcastic, tone to it, but then again, that’s the kind of guy Levinson is. This book was also intended to be instructional. Levinson is trying to explain to us what the new new media are and how we can best benefit from using them instead of just using this new new media during class while teachers are lecturing.

Its interesting how he didn’t list IPODs and HDTVs as part of his catalog of new new media. I always thought anything digital is considered new new media. However, according to his criteria for new new media, we aren’t producers of IPODs and HDTVs. We only consume them. The fact that we can produce our own media, interact, and receive feedback so fluently, like blogs and Facebook, is the defining characteristic that makes up new new media. In addition, even though new new media comes in various platforms, such as blogging and Youtube videos, we still apply old methods to provide content, such as writing and talking. My question is a concern about whether or not we have allowed ourselves too much power and whether the ability to express ourselves freely is ultimately a good thing.

According to Levinson, the best way for a student to actually learn what new new media is all about is to engage in this media himself. This makes sense on a practical level. I mean, the only way to really learn and absorb anything is through experience and interaction. Its one thing to read about how to operate on a brain, but it’s a whole different experience actually performing the operation. I have great respect for Communication classes in which professors encourage students to do their work in other methods, such as video and audio presentations, blogs, and podcasts, besides a traditional paper. As great as Plato was, these aren’t the Platonic days anymore. This is 2010.

On the surface blogging seems like a wonderful innovation. The ability to have your own free page where you can talk about anything, link up to other blogs, and have them comment on your blogs is great. Even better is the ability to post at whatever time you feel like it and adding pictures, sounds, and video to further make your blog posts stand out. The problems, however, are tremendous. Most people online do not know what they are talking about, are so quick to disagree with others, and a lot of people provide false or misleading information. In addition, a lot of people just flock to those blogs and comments that agree with them. This is what happens when everyone is allowed to have a voice and express it freely; complete chaos. I mean, for all I know there could be people out there reading this who think that what I say is complete nonsense. Even still, I completely agree that it is necessary for everyone to have a voice and express themselves freely. If newspapers have editorial sections where only qualified individuals can be noticed, why can’t those who don’t have connections or are qualified, but not being hired, let out there opinions? As far as making money on your blog is concerned, that doesn’t work well. The support of ads, such as Google, on your blog page makes pennies. If you do manage to make money, certainly don’t expect an income sufficient enough to survive off of it.

Youtube, another form of new new media that Levinson talks about, one ups blogging by allowing videos to be seen on the computer. Videos are tremendously powerful because visuals aid in stimulating emotional responses. Though Youtube hasn’t replaced television, the responses people provide by watching videos on Youtube can sometimes be completely different from the responses those make by watching the same videos on television. Again, because anyone can produce whatever videos they want and put it on Youtube, what you tend to see a lot of on Youtube nowadays are random videos that serve no purpose other than fun or amateurish videos by those desiring to become big in the film industry. I also find people who post old shows from the 90s on Youtube and this really brings me back. In fact, I rarely watch television anymore. The only shows I watch are reruns on Youtube of older shows and cartoons because I miss the 90s that much and shows and cartoons these days can’t top those from the 90s. The problem, however, occurs when certain shows that people put on Youtube get taken off due to copyright infringement. The point is, anyone can be a producer on Youtube and star in his own show, receive feedback from others, and comment on the videos of others, and this is the power that new new media has over older media.

I believe Youtube is direct competition with broadcast television and this argument interests me for various reasons. First, Youtube acts as another outlet for distributing and accessing media which draws eyes away from the television sets. As a result of fewer eyes watching television, rating decline and when ratings decline, advertisers begin to cease paying for broadcasts. This could leave a broadcast network in disarray. In addition, once a user subscribes to You Tube, he can post anything on You Tube he desires for free, whether it is a personal video or a television rerun from years ago, as long as it does not contain extreme indecency (which is purely subjective.) Indeed, every show I looked up on Youtube, whether primitive or recent, I was able to find for free. This endangers broadcast television because this poses the question of why advertisers should have to pay to support shows on the networks when the public is simply posting these shows to be accessed on You Tube for free? The primary reason for the writer’s strike occurred as a result of the writers of broadcast television shows feeling underpaid and wanting to profit from the shows they helped create being aired on outlets like Youtube. This raises issues of how the networks should distribute the money if there is even any money to distribute. Finally, Youtube calls into question the very notion of what broadcasting is. Traditionally, broadcast television has been thought of as the major networks sending content over the air to as many eyes as possible. Youtube is a new type of personal broadcasting and while its not going over the air, the content of Youtube is still reaching as many eyes as
possible. Therefore, Youtube is stealing away those who traditionally sat in front of a television set and broadcast television must learn to somehow adjust and deal with this new form of accessing media or risk losing viewers and advertising in the future.

Wikipedia, another form of new new media that Levinson talks about, is probably the primary example of how easy it is to acquire false information….but is it really? I’ll never forget when a Professor at Fordham told me that the amount of false information reported on Wikipedia is equal to the amount of false information presented in the famous Encyclopedia Britannica. The ability to see just how many times an article has been edited or updated on Wikipedia obviously should lead one to suspect just how legit the information is. Another problem with Wikipedia is that the sources behind the articles are tough to cite, if there are even any sources present in the article to begin with. When I write research papers, I always pick EBSCO over Wikipedia for the simple reason that EBSCO has its articles cited whereas Wikipedia articles are tough to cite. I don’t believe Wikipedia is the reason that libraries are unnecessary because Wikipedia doesn’t contain books in the way a library does. However, ever since I discovered EBSCO and other online journal articles, I have not stepped foot in a library because articles that I need can be easily researched and accessed online from the comfort of my own home.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Communication and Cyberspace-Part 2

The second portion of this book was very thought provoking. The realities of cyberspace are not only extensive but have come to effect many aspects of daily life interaction and communication. Cyberspace has allowed many to communicate 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week. Communication in cyberspace is constant and always evolving. From chat rooms to AIM to Myspace to Facebook to blogs to Twitter--we are constantly connected through many different venues. Not only is communication in cyberspace continuous, it is also instant. A "single keystroke" can connect you immediately. The access is instant.

Of course there are both positives and negatives to this continuous and instant communication. The positives are obvious--you are always connected, it's easy, you are always informed, etc... However, I know frequent users that rather communicate through cyberspace then on the phone or in person or perhaps, they first find themselves sending an email rather then picking up the phone or meeting someone in person. Obviously communication in cyberspace seems easier because it is ALWAYS available. However, has cyberspace caused frequent users to become lazy? Why write a letter when you can send a email in a few minutes...we don't even need to pick up the newspaper from our front stoop anymore because we can read it online...we can even find a date online! Beyond communication, cyberspace has changed many facets of our lives. Yes, cyberspace makes things easier and I love the great conveniency that it brings to my life. However, I'm worried about what the future holds: Will people only rely on online dating? Will newspapers/magazines/CDs/DVDS become extinct? Will conversations over a cup-of-joe not take place? I think we have become addicted to cyberspace and will only get worse.

Another idea that really came to mind while reading this book was that cyberspace communication has completely decreased face to face contact. Furthermore, it gives many a chance for many to form a "digital self." I see it as false personalities. With the lack of face to face interaction, cyberspace allows one to change oneself. Anyone can pretend to be something they are not, change themselves or even portray to be another person. Cyberspace is an adult version of "dress up."

Through reading this book, the realities of cyberspace slapped me right in the face. Of course I think there are great advantages of cyberspace and the constant advancements are fascinating. However, this doesn't mean that I want "old fashioned" communication to disappear. I, like many others, enjoy face to face contact, conversation and real socializing. As Douglas Rushkoff says..."We don't socialize with anyone when we visit a web-site; we read text and look at pictures. This s not interactivity." (p357)