iCloud, youPirate

Just a quickie.

Check this article published today on the The Age website:

(http://www.theage.com.au/digital-life/mp3s/apple-icloud-legitimises-music-pirates-20110607-1fq76.html)

I’ve posted before about the new copyright/piracy debate sparked by the recent releases of several cloud music services.

Time for an update.

Apple just announced their new iCloud service, complete with iTunes Match, a $25 annual subscription that allows you to store and share all your non-iTunes bought music (read: pirated music) online.

But here’s the kicker: if iTunes sells any of those songs that you didn’t buy (read: stole), then “all the music iTunes matches plays back at 256-Kbps iTunes Plus quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality”. (Source: iTunes website)

Great for pirates (if you’ve got $25 to spare). Not so great for copyright.

What do you think, is Apple legitimizing piracy? Or simply giving the people what they want?

In any case, it seems if you can’t beat them…

Twitter: Can trillions of Tweeting Twits be wrong?

I’ll be honest. I’ve never understood Twitter. It seems dumb.

I admit, I’ve got one, (making me dumb by association?) but it was for Uni. That’s right, Media made me get it, I swear.

I first signed up to see what all the fuss was about, and so I could understand my lectures. I followed a few things: CNN, the UN, Coldplay. All the important stuff. And then, I began to get followers. Complete randoms who would add me, and then, after realising I didn’t actually tweet, would quietly delete me. Weird. (I often get mistaken for Matthew Perry, no biggy.)

Since then I’ve managed to cut Twitter out of my password memory. But recently I’ve started again. For Net Comm, just to help stick my blog out there in the big World Wide Web. And while I’m still not a fan, I can’t help but wonder at how popular, and (apparently) useful, it’s become.

For one, look at the recent social media revolutions. Take the Iran election protests. Then the recent Arab Spring. Both instances where people have been using Twitter, amongst other social media, to circumvent government censorship of traditional media to great success. It seems the ‘140-characters-including-spaces’ is truly mightier than the sword.

Of course, being mindless and popular, it’s no surprise celebrities have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. In fact, celebrities are the biggest twits of all; from Charlie Sheen, who hires someone to tweet for him (he’s probably too busy ‘winning’ with all his coke and pornstars), to Shaquille O’Neal, who recently announced his retirement from the NBA on Twitter.

That’s right, Shaq: 4 time NBA Championship winner, one of the greatest basketballers of his generation. A man loved by millions for his both his post-ups and his personality, and he retires with a measly 11 character tweet. He didn’t even use all of his precious 140. Arrogant.

And so it made me think. If you’re breaking news, you usually want people to hear about it. As many people as possible. Thus, for Shaq to tweet his retirement first; he’s either being a clown, or someone very smart and well paid told him to do so. In the latter more likely case, Twitter’s reach must not only be incredibly widespread, but in fact considered even more so than that of the mainstream media.

Could it be possible? If everyone is not only tweeting, but checking other people’s tweets, then I guess so. It’s a more succinct (and clearly effective) version of Facebook.

I’ve always thought Twitter was for Twits. But the world is changing. And if everyone is a Twit, then maybe it’s time to start Tweeting?

(Still confused as to why it’s so popular? Check this out)

A changing media landscape

Just wanted to post this interesting video. It’s a slick insight into how net communications, and in particular social media, has changed over the past few years.

For those playing at home, it’s one of the many spin offs based on the original “Did You Know” video that does the rounds of the Media and Communications department. I’ll post that one as well for those who haven’t seen it.

Enjoy.

So much net, so little time.

We can’t live without the Internet. It’s on phones, on laptops and, if you’re lucky enough, on your fridge. But how much net is too much? And what are we really using it for?

At the moment I, like thousands of Uni students around the state, am on SWOTVAC. That’s “Study With Out Teachers VACation” for those playing at home. I had big plans, in fact since week 3 I’ve been putting aside stuff to do, just waiting for one glorious week of 24/7 study …. that’s so far just turned out to be a three day YouTube and “Damn You Auto Correct” binge. Drat.

As my wrists begin to burn from my (apparently poorly ventilated) keyboard, I thought it best to consider what I was actually doing. After all, my excuse of Net Comm research can only last for so long.

The Internet has evolved from its original, and arguably more important and useful, purpose as a decentralized communications network capable of surviving a nuclear attack, into an online library of time wasting videos and blogs. Oh, and porn. Delightful.

Media scholars have long touted, and probably will continue to for a while, the potential of the Internet as the new public sphere. Promoting its ability to facilitate instant, international and truly democratic discussion; benefiting society through the development of brilliant ideas. With its lack of censorship, ease of use and global access, expectations of the Internet are by no means too lofty, and yet they have no where near been realised.

Is it the fault of society? It can hardly be the technology, since computers are just a bunch of circuits and ones & zeros at the end of the day. So it must be us, the users. With such a great tool at our disposal, why are we wasting it on “Keyboard Cat” and Perez Hilton. In this image conscious age, does anyone really care about democracy, the public sphere, or intellectual debate anymore? It would seem not. You only need to pick up a mainstream newspaper to see that sex and crime sell, that politics is only popular when it involves sex and crime, and that the only social issues discussed are, well, sex and crime. While revolutions and uprisings spring up trying to achieve democracy overseas, it seems that western democracies just want to read gossip on their iPads.

And the real question is how will we ever become interested in the more important things, when we’re too busy watching stupid (but brilliant) stuff like this?

(The first and one of the best videos from The Lonely Island. First aired on SNL.

HINT: It’s mirrored to avoid copyright infringement. Sneaky.)

Liberal democracy is resting on its laurels, we’re in a perpetual Lazy Sunday. Yet, ultimately it’s up to us. With so much to solve and so much at our disposal, maybe it’s time to log off YouTube and get back to work. A digital detox. For Uni and the world. For ourselves, and for our futures.

(But hey, while you’re here, check out this from the same guys. One of my favourites. Over 100 millions views. Well done democracy!)

Will working for free ever work?

Lawrence Lessig hates copyright. Or at least that’s the impression I get from reading his work and listening to his lectures. He believes that it’s unnecessary, that it stifles creativity, and that remix culture is not only the way of the future, but it has actually been the way all along. We just haven’t realised it.

To his credit, he co-founded Creative Commons (CC) to fix this. Providing an alternative to copyright for people who believe that sharing is caring, or rather that sharing is creating. There’s no denying Creative Commons is useful. If I want to put an image in a slideshow for my school project, or share it on my personal blog, why should I have to ring up some faceless corporation in Hollywood to make sure they won’t come knocking my door down over 10 cents.

That said, however, whether CC and other general licensing schemes such as GNU or FLOSS, can be viable alternatives to copyright in the long term, remains to be seen. At the end of the day, CC and others rely fundamentally on the belief that people are happy to have their works distributed and remixed, (usually) for free. While this may be fine for those who, as Medosch puts it are “still very young and live in a squat or have very rich parents or both”, whether the creative professional, the struggling musician, or the fledgling artist can live with this (and more precisely live off this) seems unlikely.

Personally, I think it is naive to believe that in a capitalist society, such a model can become the viable alternative to the current, even if extreme, model of copyright.

But it sure would be nice.

One day...

AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Toban Black

References:

Medosch, Armin. ‘Paid in Full’: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’. in Deptforth. TV Dairies II: Pirate Stratagies, London: Deptforth TV, 2008. pp. 73-97.

Plundering Pirates or Digital Robin Hoods?

Pirates are thieves. Plain and simple. From Disney to Digital Rights Management, this is what we’ve been taught. Pirates steal the hard work of artists and distribute it for free, leaving them penniless and powerless in the face of an online epidemic.

But are we taking it too seriously?

There is a problem with depriving artists of remuneration for their hard work. Undoubtedly. And I in no way condone the theft of someone else’s work. Yet, often the losses of artists and corporations are exaggerated, and more importantly, it is undeniable that piracy does have its  benefits both for the wider community and the individual user.

Piracy is ultimately motivated by money (or more precisely, the lack of money), however, it also plays a much more important role in society. In fact, piracy forms an integral part of contemporary culture, or more precisely, the distribution and development of culture. Without pirates, many, if not the majority, of society would go largely unexposed to art, music and technology. All over something as trivial as money. Does this seem fair?

The extent to which someone can learn and participate in their culture shouldn’t be based on how much they are able to pay. In any case, isn’t educating the human collective more important than deepening the pockets of greedy celebs and corporations?

South Park sure thinks so. And I tend to agree.

After all, piracy’s not that bad is it?

Piracy's not stealing, it's piracy!

[Image: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Travelin’ Librarian]

YouTube on the news: (main)streaming the margins?

In a previous post I talked about YouTube. About it becoming another branch of the mainstream media. About its promotion of certain videos over others. And about how this combination undermines the formation and nurture of online communities. Especially marginal ones.

But wait. There may still be hope yet. I’ve got some good news, from watching the news.

The mass media is realising the power and popularity of posting on YouTube, but it’s also working in reverse. YouTube videos are increasingly being shown on the mass media. It’s in this partnership that lies a glimmer of hope for some (definitely NOT mainstream) communities.

Chat show hosts like Ellen De Generes and David Letterman are inspiring video trawling copycats around the world. In Australia, Channel 7’s ‘The Morning Show’ has been at it for a while, and now the evening news programmes are getting on board.

Allow me to elaborate.

I first saw this clip on the Channel 10 news.

Amazed, I immediately started researching “parachute skiing”. Hardly the type of thing you can read about in the sport section of the local newspaper. Though maybe it should be.

**UPDATE: I recently found this little gem. Yeah, I’m hooked.**

Initially I was shocked, but delighted, to see something like this on the news. Though it’s not even a new trend. In fact, the mainstream media has long been a handy way to discover some of the more obscure, yet interesting (they have to be to get a gig during prime time) things in life. You just need to know where to look.

For instance, I saw this on 60 minutes a long time ago:

From which I discovered

And now I’m seriously considering booking tickets to Norway. Well, in my dreams at least.

Yet, wicked videos aside, this does show the power of mainstream and alternative media working together. As mainstream content moves onto YouTube, (arguably) alternative content is also moving onto mainstream media. And, if they are lucky enough, some of these more obscure communities will undoubtedly benefit from the widespread exposure in the mass media. Hopefully helping to promote and develop these communities on a scale that they probably never predicted.

It can be so simple, yet effective. I see one video, I show a friend, he shows someone else, they put it on Facebook and bam! Thousands of new wingsuit BASE jumping enthusiasts are born, just like that.

**UPDATE: One more recent example. Planking. The social media phenomenon that began with a bang. It popped up all over Facebook, jumped into the mass media spotlight (and the police’s for that matter) and is now a dinner table, or perhaps bar stool, topic of conversation around the world. Not bad for a sport that consists of lying down, well, anywhere.**

Whether parachuting avalanche-starting skiiers, or grown men lying on the floor, the line between the mainstream media and (what has typically been considered) alternative media continues to blur. Hopefully, this can breathe new life into the many marginal communities that are just waiting for some good news, and more views.

(On a brief, but slightly related tangent. YouTube recently announced a YouTube Live service; where, according to their blog, you will soon be able to watch “the most compelling live events happening on YouTube”. Could this be another way for marginal communities to get exposure? Here’s hoping that this is more than just computer TV, and we get to see some new, interesting stuff!)

Creative Commons Licence

Week 10:

Following week 10 tutorial’s exercise, explain why you chose the Creative Commons license that you added to your blog and discuss the relevance (or not) of adding the license.

Like all original works, this blog is protected by copyright from the moment I press ‘Publish’. It’s automatic. It’s free. It’s comprehensive.

In fact, copyright is so thorough that it can often stifle the creativity of new artists, authors and musicians. In this digital age, the extent of copyright can reach far beyond the physical copy of a book on your bookshelf, or paper in your photocopier. New technologies are now working, often without our knowledge, to protect copyright in ways few actually understand. (Take DRM technology: everyone knows it stops copied music, just no-one knows how). While this is all done in the name of reserving an author’s rights, often such measures end up going too far.

If copyright is too protective, then we need an alternative. A different system by which an author’s rights are respected without leaving them open to misuse and abuse. Cue Creative Commons.

Creative Commons

[Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by jorgeandresem]

Co-founded by anti-copyright campaigner and lawyer, Lawrence Lessig, Creative Commons (CC) licences provide a (legal) alternative to copyright. As its website puts it, Creative Commons seeks to create “a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.”

I’ve chosen to licence this blog with Creative Commons because I believe that, at least for certain things (like a Uni blog), copyright is far too strict. So go ahead. Rip off all my stuff. Do what you will with it. (Conditions apply)

Wait. Conditions? What conditions? Isn’t CC just anti-copyright?

No. Not at all. A common mistake.

Creative Commons does not and was not designed to replace copyright, it just turns down the level of control over a work to a more acceptable and practical one. All Creative Commons licences allow people to re-distribute someone else’s work, unmodified, for free. But within the CC licences there is still room for variation. In fact, there are six possible licences, founded on four fundamental conditions:

1. Attribution (BY) – you must attribute the work to its author.

2. Share Alike (SA) – you can make derivative works, as long as they have the same or a similar CC licence.

3. Non-Commercial (NC) – you can’t make any money from someone else’s work.

4. No Derivative Works (ND) – you can’t make any derivative works based on someone else’s work.

From these conditions I have chosen the BY-NC-SA (version 3.0) licence.

Allow me to elaborate:

1. Attribution: If you acknowledge that it’s mine, then I’m fine with you sharing my work with others. Besides, you have to do this anyway, copyright or CC, so get used to it. (Unless you are a plagiarizer, in which case, carry on.)

2. Share Alike: Again, if you attribute the original work to me and acknowledge that your work is based on mine, then great. Good on you. Go for your life. I won’t be suing anybody today.

3: Non-Commercial: Ahh, now we have something. I’ve chosen the NC condition for my CC licence because, well frankly, if you happen to find a way of making money from something that I’ve created, then I want some too. This may sound selfish, and beyond unlikely, but I don’t care. I’m a Uni student. I have $20 in my wallet, and $50.78 in my bank account, so if you’re making money off my ideas, then I had better be as well.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s easy to advocate the idealistic principles of culture sharing and remix culture, but in practice its much harder to defend. I doubt Lawrence Lessig goes home to a one-bedroom share house, full of guitars and trashed manuscripts in between his lectures at Harvard. Not that I do either, but you get the idea.

In any case, that is the licence I’ve chosen. I’m not sure how relevant it will be, since I doubt anyone wants to remix my posts. But, on the off-chance that it is, now you know how you can use, copy, distribute, edit, remix and build upon it, all without going to jail.

Thanks, Creative Commons Man.

Creative Commons Man

[Image: AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Mickipedia]

Cloudy Copyright

You wouldn’t steal a car. You wouldn’t steal a handbag. You wouldn’t…”

Blah, blah, blah. We get it.

You know how it goes. Copyright, piracy, free. They’re all words we’re familiar with, and frankly sick of.

Are you a pirate?

[Image: courtesy Broken TV]

Yet, the recent announcements of various ‘cloud’ music services raise some interesting new points in the copyright debate.

Google recently announced their “Music Beta service“, following in the footsteps of Amazon a few months ago. Apple is expected to follow suit in June.

Both Google and Amazon, however, have released their cloud music services without backing from the four major record labels (EMI, Sony, Warner and Universal). Both companies have refused to impose any copyright conditions on their services. They’re working off the principle that you don’t, and shouldn’t, need permission to store something you already own  somewhere else. All obtained legally, of course.

Fair enough. After all, a ‘cloud’ is just a like a big hard drive, except online. (What is a cloud, you ask? Watch this. Or look outside.)

Yet, Google have also said that it will take action against pirated content. Just what kind of action this will be remains to be seen. (I’m assuming something similar to how it treats pirated YouTube content.) But it’s a precarious balance. Will Google dob in pirates? Will people be too scared to use the Google service at all? And what will Apple do?

The copyright fat cats are used to getting what they want, but then again so is Google. It’s an interesting time for the online-music-technology-copyright world in general. I’m excited.

**UPDATE: Apple have just announced their own iCloud service. With the backing of (soon to be all 4) major record labels.

As expected, Apple is running a very slick operation, both technologically and practically. It looks great, plus iPhones, iPods and iTunes libraries are all ready to be sent to the cloud in a click. The record deals also make things much quicker and easier (online copy matching means no time wasting library uploads) . Plus, it’s legal. (Yay, no jail!) The catch, you have to pay an annual fee to store non-iTunes bought music. (Read: pirated music.)

(For more details check my latest post)

What this will mean for the popularity of Google and Amazon will be interesting to see. One things for sure, copyright’s not dead just yet.**

YouTube celebrity: Fickle fame or superstar stepping-stone?

Week 9:

A) Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269).

YouTube is the fairy godmother of the 21st century, turning ordinary people into celebrities overnight. But what happens to Cinderella at midnight? Can YouTube really bring lasting fame and fortune?

We’ve all heard (or rather seen) the amazing success stories of people like Justin Bieber and Andy Samberg. The lucky few who’ve become legitimate celebrities after being discovered on YouTube. But in reality, stories like these are rare. Very rare. For the majority of YouTube sensations, their online popularity never amounts to anything in the real world.

YouTube has been “mythologized as literally a way to ‘broadcast yourself’ into fame and fortune” (Burgess and Green, 2009: 22). Burgess and Green, however, argue that ordinary people who become celebrities through their own efforts still “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (2009: 23). They argue that to become a true celebrity, you have to transcend YouTube and become popular in the mainstream media.

I couldn’t agree more.

YouTube is ‘new media’. One part of the social media revolution currently underway. Yet, due to its popularity, YouTube is now, “however begrudgingly accepted, of the mainstream media landscape” (Burgess and Green, 2009: 15). As such, the true success of any ‘YouTuber’ must be measured “not only by their online popularity but by their subsequent ability to pass through the gate-keeping mechanisms of old media” (Burgess and Green, 2009).

Success is still defined by “the recording contract…the television pilot, the advertising deal” (Burgess and Green, 2009: 24). It is this “transfer of media power” (Burgess and Green, 2009: 23) out of YouTube and into the real world that signifies a celebrity. In contrast, the continuing popularity of most YouTube sensations relies solely on their “ongoing participation in YouTube” (Burgess and Green, 2009: 24).

True celebrities are also able to profit from their fame. Turner argues that “celebrities are developed to make money” (2004: 34). A celebrity develops “their public persona as a commercial asset” (Turner, 2004: 35) to become a “celebrity-commodity” (Turner, 2004: 35). Signing contracts thus not only brings recognition for talent, but also monetary reward. Something that YouTube sensations struggle to do.

Finally, let’s actually define what a celebrity is. The dictionary offers “a famous person“, yet I think that is too simple. For me, a celebrity is a famous person that other people want to be. Think about it, there are plenty of YouTube sensations out there: NumaNuma, the Starwars kid, Tay Zonda. But would you want to be any of them? No. Not. At. All.

(Neither do the guys at Hungry Beast)

The very nature of YouTube as a democratic, user-generated content sharing space, means that it will inevitably promote and celebrate “values that don’t necessarily match up neatly with those of the ‘dominant’ media” (Burgess and Green, 2009: 24). As such, celebrity status, in the traditional sense, can’t be achieved purely by ‘views’ or ‘likes’. In fact, since many YouTube stars are simply “famous for being notorious, obnoxious, or annoying” (Burgess and Green, 2009: 24), it is ridiculous to call them celebrities at all.

Take Chris Crocker. With over 38 million views, he is a YouTube hit. But is he a celebrity? No. He’s a freak.

The simplest argument, however, is to look at the few who have succeeded. Arguably, the most successful of which has been ‘The Beibs’.

From this:

To the most watched YouTube video ever:

To Forbes. It seems the whole world has caught ‘Beiber Fever’. Not just YouTube.

I guess ‘The Beibs’ is right. You(Tube) should never say never.

Words: 542

References:

Burgess, J. & Green, J. (2009) ‘YouTube and the Mainstream Media’ pp. 15-37 in J. Burgess and J. Green (eds.) in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Turner, G. (2004) Understanding celebrity. London: SAGE, pp 34-35