The severity of copyright laws has never really been translated into real terms for me. I was always aware of the faint possibility that someday my generation would be persecuted for sharing content innocently through YouTube or downloading an Mp3 through Napster (Jenkins 2006), Limewire or a BitTorrent client. But never before have I been so aware of copyright and how confining for most and ‘beneficial for some ‘ its ‘protection’ really is, until recently.
The most significant notion that struck me today is the notion that copyright, a long, long time ago, did not exist. As a Gen Y woman, I have been raised in a world where the ownership of ‘ideas’ is not the preposterous notion that it, when one really thinks about it, should be. Since the first instance of copyright law swept through Great Britain in 1710 under the Statute of Queen Anne, giving owners of intellectual property a 14 year monopoly after publication, the world has become a very different place, where this time span has gone from 14 years, to, 70 years in the US, or under corporate ownership, 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication (Mitew 2012). Some say that these laws are out-dated and will become extremely restrictive as we increasingly transfer our media from analogue to digital media, and I agree.
And if these laws aren’t already imposing enough, I find the monopoly that the big four (Viacom, Disney, Time Warner and News Corp) have on intellectual property incredibly frightening. They have used these laws to create giant empires that have become untouchable and vastly intimidating. A great example of their power throughout the media is their capacity to perpetuate profits after the release of a blockbuster movie; through DVD sales, monopolisation of TV advertising space, game development, merchandise production, and music sales, they can capture an entire market… And this is just for one movie (Cucco 2009). The copyright that they place upon every little detail of this process ensures that their investment, no matter its success, is iron-clad and untouchable, and in this digital age, represents ‘olde world’ thinking that has become extremely restrictive and inappropriate for the digital market, a market that now expects more freedom, on the net particularly.
So how can we possibly comfortably share creative content nowadays without halting at every step of the way?
Well Creative Commons might just be the answer to that question (Mitew 2012). It embodies both the freedom of the web and artistic licence, and reflects the 21st century that has begun to butt heads with these old copyright laws. Now we’ve just got to wait for the power players to catch on.
Cucco, M 2009 ‘ The promise is great: the blockbuster and the Hollywood economy’, Media Culture and Society, 31/2- 215-230, accessed 11/03/12. Can be found here.
Mitew, T 2012 Watch, but don’t touch! Copyright, ownership structures, and industry control, lecture, BCM112, University of Wollongong, delivered 12/03/12.