In the previous blog, the central topic was focused around the emergence of consumer-producers. There is a whole fleet of amateur directors, composers, musicians, songwriters etc, that have begun to solidify a place for themselves within the online world. Social media sites, specifically YouTube, clearly cater to the needs of aspiring producers and creators. There is now a domain, where there never was before, that allows users to create the content that is shared within an online community. The main problem with this is that, of course, nothing is original.
I found part 3 of Kirby Ferguson’s ‘Everything’s a Remix’ to be really enlightening. The basis of his argument lies within the reality that human creativity can really be chalked up to the act of copying. We try and emulate what we see in the world around us. There may of course be an element of some sort of divine inspiration, a moment of profound thought, but for the most part, what we call originality is truly building off previously existing ideas. Even ideas that have seemed to propel humanity and society to its greatest potential (the printing press, the lightbulb) all come from a combination of ideas. Social media sites like Wikipedia, are an online translation of Ferguson’s analysis. A forum for collaboration and contribution to one idea. However, who owns all this material if its always coming from someone or somewhere else?
A website that exemplifies this idea perfectly is www.hitrecord.org. This is an online collaborative production company that focuses on creating ‘original work’. For instance, if a user uploaded a poem, another user could take that content and put music to it, then another user could take that content and put it to moving images etc. It is a free flow environment of content that can be modified and altered by any user. The material has to be ‘original’ though because finished products have the potential to be monetized. This is where copyright comes into play. Content that is produced my ‘big media moguls’ is totally off the table. But to me, anything thats on the internet should be fair game. Its almost like there are too many hands stirring the pot anyway, why does everything have to come down to profit all the time?
(HitRecord homepage. Launched by Joesph Gordon Levitt in 2010. Learn more at http://www.hitrecord.org/aboutus)
Garrett Potter notes, “the Internet is seemingly overrun with copyrighted material in the hopes of making capital gain rather than spreading free information as it was intended.” The internet is a completely commercialized entity and I think it affects the way we interact with it. Illegal downloading and streaming is one way we deal with the boundaries placed on copyrighted material. I’m sure many of us have done this because quite frankly the excuse usually is that you don’t want to pay to have to see it or hear it. My brother did a cover of a Green Day song called Oh Love, off their more recent album ‘Uno’. He didn’t film himself playing the song only uploaded the recording onto YouTube and placed an image of the band’s album cover. Within a few hours the video was flagged because of copyright laws. He wasn’t allowed to use the image and claim the song was his, even though technically he did an acoustic version. Copyright laws such as this promote ownership of intellectual property in such a grey area.
The bottom line is we don’t really know what we want in terms of content. Sometimes we give in to the commercialized product because of better quality and ultimately are adhering to copyright laws, but other times we want to be free to use whatever we want whenever we want. There is a desire to take something and re-create it, or re-mix it because every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end (Closing Time- Semisonic). I guess that would be a breach of copyright if I didn’t give credit to the right people!