Monday, February 7, 2011

Read-Write Culture...What do you think?

     I had an interesting week.  In my Computer Literacy class, we are discussing copryrights, mashups and such.  When are artists being overtaken by the 'free sharing' culture of the Internet?  Are they losing money?  What is really happening out here in cyberspace?  Well, this was my discussion this week.  We will see what responses I get from my fellow classmates.  Meanwhile, put your two cents in.  What do you think about this issue?

    Creative expression is our culture and has been for many years. Lawrence Lessig, an author and Professor of Law at Harvard University certainly thinks so. In his video, Larry Lessig on laws that choke creativity, he uses a few humorous and very true stories about John Philip Souza, Lord Blackwell and the broadcasting industry to illustrate that our culture has gone from Read-Write to Read Only. (Leesig, 2007). Check it out!

Larry Leesing - Laws that Choke Creativity

     This is important in today’s world, because in the 21st century we are trying to return (due to the Internet) to a Read Write culture. User generated content is everywhere with the click of a mouse. You Tube, UStream, Flickr, Renderosity, Vimeo, and so many more rely on user generated content or sharing as it were. We were taught as children to share and share alike and oddly, this concept has extended now to border-line (if not completely) pirated copies of mash-ups and copyright violations that exploded all over the Internet for the past six or more years. The laws are definite about it. Copyrights protect artists from losing their rights to their property, legally. However, the users don’t seem to care about that little law anymore. It is now called Creative Commons and copyrights are being updated to fit our newer read write culture. I personally like the idea of Creative Commons and protecting creative expression. Quite a conundrum, I’ll admit, but it is necessary to find a way that people, all people, can express their creativity (without profit) and provide entertainment to others. So, in conclusion, yes, yes, yes, we should have read write culture and creative expression without the threat of law suits.

     Moving into a read write culture however will not be easy for companies and artists who want to (and should) make money for their creations. Demand and supply is our capitalist culture and has been for many decades. I remember when I was growing up and showing a song from my new record to a friend was very exciting. I would even dream up ways for the song to mean something to the characters I created in my head and added lyrics to it also. Not to mention, once we could record those songs, I gave them to others and recorded them myself from others. Was I pirating? Yes, of course I was and so were my friends. Back in the 1980s when we were doing this, though, it wasn’t on a global scale. It was in a house and we knew about it. We didn’t worry that the record companies would knock on our door and demand money for that music. As a matter of fact, I can honestly say I never even thought about it. It was sharing – like we had been taught by our parents. They always said: ‘Share your toys with your friends.’ We just shared our new toys and today the kids are sharing theirs. Is it bad for the artists and the companies? Maybe, but again I harken back to those sharing days of ‘old and one thing rings true. I listened to an album or song by an artist my friend showed me, I recorded it, and yes, I even went out and bought the next album sometimes because I didn’t want to wait. This type of sharing today opens up big worlds of trouble to those artists, since I can download a song, do a mash-up with a video to it and put it up on You Tube. Now, I’m a pirate. Believe me, if I had recorded a song back in the 80s and did the same things (using unbelievable slow means to do so), I would still have been pirating. It didn’t change, now we know everyone does it and with better, faster, more efficient software. Here’s the real question: If I started to like that artist because someone shared a song with me, is that good or bad for the artist?

     Of course, it isn’t that simple. Mash-ups are changing the intellectual property rights in a very real way. We are in a user generated content culture or ‘read write’ whether the law has caught up or not. The craze is not ending and people are not stopping. It seems to be the law now that needs to refine its thinking, not the users. We haven’t rethought it since I was a kid. I think we are in the midst of a revolution with creativity, imagination, good or bad driven by the user. The channels have been opened and a flood of material just keeps coming. Creative Commons Licensing has introduced a way to protective our creativity and our work, but it isn’t the only solution. Digital Right Management (DRM) seems to have been the answer for movie and music companies for the past few years, but it, too, doesn’t seem to be a solution. Itunes announced back in 2009 that it is DRM free and will upload older songs as such, as well as provide those songs at a discount for people who have previously downloaded them. (Breen, 2009). This is an enormous break-down of the system for DRM. It also brings up the question posed here in this discussion to us: Should DRM’s be utilized? In my opinion, simply no. Again, it is not a simple issue. However when researching DRM technology and what is happening in the world today it was very interesting what I found out. DRM is installed on OS platforms, such as Vista to run Blu-Ray and HDTV technology. I don’t know how extensive Microsoft has placed DRM into Vista, however I do know that DRM is being ignored and overwritten. There are cracks available easily online (and illegally), as well as YouTube videos which actually explain how to convert DRM music into MP3’s (just as illegal).

     The revolution online is very large and very involved within our society today. It seems not many think twice about sharing a file, song, video, or doing mash-ups. DRM should be eliminated and it should be accepted that we have (and have been for a few years) a Read-Write culture. The Internet and software applications are the tools, but the people have made it into an ever-growing, changing, communicating, global platform for creativity, imagination and sharing. If the companies are waiting for this revolution to go backwards, I think they will be extremely disappointed and in turn, will be guilty of what happened with ASCAP in 1945 when they lost the battle with broadcasting. (Leesig, 2007). The people already revolted. I challenge everyone to look at this revolution of creativity as an opportunity instead of something lawyers, courts, and corporations can attack.

     I have to say that these discussions could spark a deep, even heated, debate if anyone wants to get involved. Creative Commons is here, so the read write culture has won one battle. Interestingly enough, this argument comes up when the ones on YouTube that become ‘celebrities’, make money and go on national talk shows promoting their material, which is obviously infringing on the artist’s copyright.

Breen, C. (2009, Apr 7). DRM-free ITunes: What it means for you. PC World. Retrieved from

TED (Producers). (2007, Mar). Larry Lessig on laws that choke creativity [Videorecording]. Retrieved from

Until next time...

1 comment:

  1. Fantastically written, you blow my mind with your mad skill. Yes CC yes to mash ups and thelikes