Monthly Archives: March 2009

Testing it out

I’m going to take advantage of our nifty new buttons and start the embeding. These are all gems that weren’t able to go viral because they don’t fit in with the limited types of videos that the youtube community acknowledges. I realize there are videos with even less views than these, but I still think they are very under appreciated.




Back to the Future 2

Just an observation:

I was watching Back to the Future II the other day, and realized that was not high presence of computer-related things in the movie.   For those of you who are not familiar with the Back to the Future trilogy, the majority of the story in Back to the Future II takes place in 2015.   The film was released in 1989, which to me seems like a year far enough into the age of computers that computers would seem to be extremely relavant to the future.   However, instead of focusing on computer technology, the film depicts 2015 as a place with your typical space-like cars, ridiculous styles (more ridiculous than any style we’ve ever seen), and the hover board.   I think this depiction of the future is very different than the 2015 that we are going to experience.   Their was an appearance of an old Apple Macintosh in an antique store; however, I was just disappointed by the technology that the movie predicted, especially since computer were and are so innovational.   I guess that Back to the Future really isn’t a serious movie at all though, so perhaps they were just going for a completely outrageous future.


“Napter and Online Piracy” by Shane Ham and Robert D. Atkinson talks about the some of the troubles that have come with the invention of Napster.   While they recognize that Napster is very beneficial for artists that may want to share their music for free, they declare that the way users used Napster was detrimental to the music industry.   They also briefly allude to what technologies like Napster in the digitized age could mean for the future (now past perhaps?) of the book and movies.
Some people claim that artists shouldn’t worry about the illegal sharing that goes on because most of their revenue is gained from shows, and actually being a performer.   Even before the digitized age, mainstream musicians were making the majority of their money from concerts; however, in this pre-digitized era, they were concerned about revenue from both sources.   Why should it be different now?   I think that it was beneficial to compare this logic to Barnes and Nobles and their book sales because the ability of sharing material through the Internet has not only had an effect on the music industry, but on many other industries as well.

I wonder how much revenue the Internet has cut into from the movie industry.   A lot of profit is made from people actually going to see the film in the theater, but a lot is also from DVD (formerly VHS) sales.   The Internet negatively affects both sales.   Personally, I no longer buy or rent DVDs because of the accessibility of free movies found on campus.   Before I came to Pomona I would go to the movies on average about once a month.   Now that I’m here and am able to access the Network, I haven’t gone to the movies since August.

Just as Ham and Atkinson argue, intellectual property must be protected.   To do this, we must find a way to stay ahead of technology and educate policy-makers (since as the article states, teenagers are often more knowledgeable than adults).   It seems to me that it would also be very beneficial to change the mindset of those downloading illegally.   Theaters and films have run ads that try to guilt people about piracy; however, these ads are ineffective.   This is because the culture surrounding illegal downloading no longer carries any guilt.   I know I never feel guilty.   To get things to change, we definitely need to change the thinking and reasoning behind illegal sharing.


On a slightly side note, I wanted to post a link to the problems the site wikileaks is having. Wikileaks is a site that posts and exhibits leaked information about corporations, governments and various other institutions. Recently, they came upon Australia’s secret list of sites that are blacklisted. Not only are there things like child pornography, which the law is ostensibly for, but the Wikileaks site itself, fringe religions, gambling sites, and euthanasia activists, among others.

I don’t have anywhere in particular that I’m going with this, but it’s an interesting example of censorship on the internet from governments that we tend to view as Western, liberal and free. Here’s the link to read more.

A Difference of Tone

I think that the biggest thing I noticed in the reading was the dynamic difference in tone the two articles had. The Wu article really felt like it was dealing with how youtube is redefining (or simply defining) the practice of fair use. The Seitz essay seemed to lament the loss of creative freedom through youtube. Wu’s outlook is very upbeat. Seitz’s, a little more bleak.

The thing that I noticed was that the Seitz article was written January, 2009, while Wu’s comes from 2006. Personally, I’ve definitely noticed a huge difference in the content of youtube and how the site functions. It’s not unusual for a blog I stumble upon to link to old videos that don’t work anymore. Things feel much less exciting and much more confined.

To bring it back to Seitz, his point about corporations dictating culture seems to tie back to the net neutrality concept we briefly talked about today. Both are about corporations limiting the culture of internet users for capitalistic reasons. I wonder how much one bleeds into the other. I know a lot of the arguments for non-net neutrality is that ISP providers could directly block sites that are sharing files or providing illegal services, so they’re obviously connected. And it seems that corporations dictating culture is a fairly easy extension from non-net neutrality.

The Future of Journalism?

Apropos of last week’s discussion, this announcement at the Huffington Post caught my attention. In fact, Jay Rosen, whose article we read, is a senior advisor to this project. It’ll be interesting to watch how it develops.

Does stricter copyright really equal digital dystopia?

In his essay “Strong Copyright + DRM + Weak Net Neutrality = Digital Dystopia?“, Bailey said outlined the change that copyright laws have undergone from 1790 to what they are today. In 1790 Bailey shows how copyright laws were extremely lax with less rules and little to no effects of copyrights on the average citizen. He then covers how copyrights have evolved to become stricter, with creative works staying for longer and longer periods out of the public domain, and how such protection of creative works can contribute to a stifling of culture.

A problem with this thinking though is that looking at the culture and accessibility of media now versus 1790, it is quite obvious that we are much more surrounded by creative works and culture than in 1790. Just sitting at home we can listen to practically any song, watch any movie, view a digital version of almost any painting, and read many articles and quite a few books.

So looking at all this, has the increasing strength of copyrights really stifled our creative works, or is it just as likely that with the introduction of copyright laws came an increase in the backlash of copyrights and easier distribution of creative works.

The reason napster started may stem from a dissatisfaction the purchase of cds and the copyrights restriction of widespread free media use. So ironically, the way things have played out, it looks like an increase in copyright is somehow related to an increase in its antithesis – easily-accessible media.

Economics of Napster

The Napster problem–a now seemingly ages-old dilemma involving the unpleasant-for-the-industry use of peer to peer networks for illegal uses–is a beautiful example of how the digital world should force us to rethink some antiquated ideas (fresh as they may appear on a timeline). Specifically, simple supply and demand economics–in a world of free downloading–can no longer suffice to give an accurate picture of the way things work. In a massive irony, the Real World-based system of Smith becomes merely theoretical when faced with the realities of the virtual sphere. However, what’s really fascinating about network file sharing is that that practice, perhaps more than any other computer-based practice, brings to the forefront a pre-existing issue and forces its criminalization simply due to its ubiquity. The practice in question here is just a matter of sharing music: my CD collection is full of mix tapes and borrowed discs, and it seems every time I check, there’s a new album I’ve never seen before. The issue of sharing music–either with friends, family, random acquaintances, or some guy you met on a bus–has never been something worthy of “societal problem” status. And yet, thanks to improved technology, a phenomenon that has always and surely will always exist has been deemed criminal thanks to a backwards way of thinking.

But I don’t want to harp too much on the flawed logic of a governmental model that criminalizes a socially acceptable act. Ham and Atkinson’s article is fraught with deeper problems, specifically because their business model is clearly not based in the real world. The “What’s at Stake?” section of this article is a beautiful insight into the mind of a thinker rooted in the past. The innovations that should drive a change in the industry are present in Napster, yet a refusal to understand this fact can only lead to a flawed conclusion. It may be illegitimate to steal intellectual property, but to say that that theft is capable of forever stymieing the flow of intellectual material is ludicrous and borderline insulting. The simplistic S & D curves can not account for the fact that music is an art form, and an art form that people will and should want to produce regardless of the compensation they receive for it.

With programs like Napster and Kazaa, music has finally begun moving back to its roots as a populist art form. Multimillion dollar industries are all well and good, but the loss of a few of these conglomerates has no ability to worsen the quality of the music itself. In fact, the digital age, rather than making the music label obsolete, has increased the ability of small companies to put out their own products. Technology has thankfully also improved digital editing techniques to the point where large, high-tech studios are no longer necessary to record albums. Napster has, thankfully, changed music for the better. Now we just have to wait for everyone to figure that fact out.

Napster and online piracy

Napster was a program that revolutionized the music industry. Although there was much objection to Napster because music was being pirated, it also was able to show the industry a new way of distributing music. Clearly, the artists and labels were not going to like their music being distributed for free, so it is not surprising that Napster faced many legal issues, including lawsuits from Metallica and Dr. Dre.

At the time of Napster’s emergence, music was controlled by labels and distributed in the form of CD. Napster was a window into the future where CD’s are less common and getting single tracks from the internet and iTunes is the norm. I do not think that our current system would be possible without Napster. Napster made people  think that the internet would turn the music industry into anarchy. However, today it is possible to get free music, but it is more difficult. Service providers such as Amazon and iTunes sell music downloads. As more time passes, I think it is likely that there will be  more and more control of music downloads.  It only took a decade for itunes and  Amazon to take some amount of control. Imagine what is possible in the future.

Many people are opposed to more control over music. They believe that they should be able to get their music at no cost  to themselves on the grounds that music is an intellectual property and should be shared. I am part of the opposition to this belief. To create even just a single track takes immense work from an artist. I would argue that if they create it, then they own it. It is only fair that if they choose to share it they should profit.  If  people did not contribute to the art in some way, they do not deserve ownership of it without compensation. It would be as if an artist painted a painting and let people put it in there house for a time without pay. This sounds absurd, and so is pirating music.

A popular argument for free music is that record companies make enough money as it is and should just let listeners have their music. For me, success doesn’t mean that  one is not deserving to profit anymore, it simply means that the artist has a knack and makes a quality product. This argument is akin to saying we are not going to renew LeBron James’s contract on the grounds that he has been too good.

In conclusion, I believe that the music industry is making steps to create a good system that will make everyone happy. I also believe that we are some time away.

The two articles this week seem to have opposite viewpoints. Ham and Atkinson’s article addressed the fact that technologies are created faster than the laws that govern them, which has been a common theme in our recent readings. With amendments to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, they assert that the market for music can indeed be a market again, instead of the anarchy that napster presented. The two guys who wrote the piece assert that creator’s rights to their creative property gives people incentive to create. This makes sense- if your work will just be pirated you have less incentive to create.

But Bailey’s article says kind of the opposite- that when more works are in the public domain (and they’re easily accessable), they enrich our culture. This also makes sense to me, because it does seem like big media is manipulating the law to earn more money and to increase their control over media distribution.

I’m not sure what stance I’d like to take on this issue. I enjoy getting free stuff from the network, but I also don’t like stealing. I have indeed grown up with the belief that “consumers should not have to pay for music at all, that the very concept of intellectual property should go the way of the horse and buggy.” But in the end, for the good of myself and for the good of the long-run state of the internet, we should err on putting more content in the public domain, imposing less controls over content, and generally giving more rights to users.

I don’t like the dangers of stronger copyright, DRM, and weak net neutrality. The internet is still an untouched, virgin landscape, and I see big business trying to put up ugly, confining structures and consume all its resources on their road to profits. I feel we do live in a decisive time where if politicians are swayed sufficiently by media companies, we could all experience a dearth of (legal and illegal) free content, which we have grown so used to and which we have based our fascination of the internet upon.

There is an argument that net neutrality could be a good thing. We all use google anyway, and if the ISP’s give special preference to google then it could even serve us better. The same may be true for youtube or any other number of popular sites that everyone uses anyway. In the long run, however, I don’t think this is good for the advancement of the internet and our culture. New, innovative services or websites that could become very popular or useful would not be able to find success if the bandwith of the internet was taken up by a few giants. If weak net neutrality were to happen, we would be resigning control of the internet, this beautiful, unlimited frontier, to a few giants, and then they alone would be responsible for defining and addressing the needs of internet users. I find that quite dangerous; akin to publishers holding such a strong influence over defining the sphere of legitimate debate during the era of newspapers. The problems would be what they defined them as, and we would have to use their solutions or their applications, even though they may not be the best ones or the ones that we need the most. With more lax copyright policies, perhaps freeware would be a more democratic way of seeing what software people need and then addressing that need through peer to peer creation.

So we need file sharing services, because there are plenty of legimate and even essential uses for them. I hope lawmakers recognize this, as well as the need for an increased public domain, so that users can keep their power over the internet.