Public Policy

February 1, 2010

Will New Law Block Many Slash, Anime, Manga Sites in Australia?

The following guest blog post came about as a result of some e-mail correspondence with Australian researcher Mark McLelland, who described to me some significant shifts in media policy in his home country, Australia, which we both felt should be better understood not only by fans there but around the world. Certainly, the issues around this new internet filter policy have cropped up in many other parts of the world and serve as a helpful reminder that fans need to understand how local, national, and international laws may impact their fan writing practices -- especially those writing and circulating controversial or risky stories. The issues raised here are important ones, especially in the context of an increasingly globalized fan culture.

(Mark McLelland's article continues after the jump.)

Continue reading "Will New Law Block Many Slash, Anime, Manga Sites in Australia?" »

January 14, 2010

China: The First Geographical Walled Garden and What It Means for the Future of the Internet

It's hard to ignore all of the discourse that has occurred online in the past few days regarding Google's un-censorship in China. If you don't know the basics of the situation, take a look at the recent New York Times article (Google, Citing Cyber Attack, Threatens to Exit China) or simply read through the post that started this conversation over at Google's blog (A new approach to China). You can also look at the Twitter trending hashtag #GoogleCN here, which is sure to provide a lot of quick commentary and updated links.

Law professor Jonathan Zittrain explains that Google's website has been censored from access in China in the past, before Google agreed to set up its address and filter content. However, as Zittrain also points out, most users attempt to circumvent filtering through anonymity networks and proxy servers.

Not that has been used frequently in the past. Search competitor currently owns more than a 60% share of the market, perhaps because the website's search results tap into and reflect local Chinese culture much better than Google's algorithm. Whether or not Baidu finds the most relevant information, though, might not matter, as according to Rebecca MacKinnon's personal experience, might actually censor less information.

The pressing issue, therefore, is whether or not Google's potential withdrawal from China will make a profound (or, really, any) impact on the local Chinese Internet culture. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out on Tuesday (12 January), even though a large majority of English-speaking users voted that they wanted to remain in China, a majority of Chinese-speaking users wanted the company to leave:

At last look on, the main, English-language Web site, 80%, or 361 votes, said a resounding Yes. However, on, the Chinese-language version, asked the same question in Chinese, 72% of a total 934 voters said No. The number of votes, just a couple hours of the announcement, was well above what similar questions have drawn in the past, and was growing.

Conversely, since Google is not just a search provider, but offers its many services to Chinese users, many people are upset about losing access to their data (link in Chinese).

The Blawgdog blog marks out the current websites that are already blocked in China:

  • blocked.
  • blocked;
  • it's Chinese website has been acquired by Alibaba, a Chinese company;
  • Windows Live, still can be accessed in China, but some blogs are blocked.
  • Wikipedia: blocked.
  • blocked several times.
  • still can be accessed from China.
  • still can be accessed from China
  • China's top IM provider and the top news website now.
  • Google India, it will be blocked because Google's search engine is uniformed.
  • Twitter: blocked.
  • Myspace: blocked sometime;
  • It will die soon if Google keeps its promise.
  • will also be blocked soon.
  • Some of it's S3 Servers in America is blocked; it's Chinese version still works.
  • has been blocked for a long time.
  • it is alive.

  • More blocked website not in the top 20 include but not limit to (the largest BBS in Hong Kong), (the most reliable newspaper in Hong Kong),, (the biggest Chinese forum out of China),, etc. Yes,  flickr. So one may know why yahoo sold its Chinese site. The fact is: for each new application that can not be controlled by the Chinese gov, if the operator does not restrict itself, it will be blocked. This is surely not an environment that Google can endure.

    Now, that this article points out that "if the operator does not restrict itself, it will be blocked," China is creating a politically-induced walled garden. Just like literal walled gardens, which are service providers that control content on their platform and restrict access to other platforms, the Chinese government is creating a national walled garden by slowly carving off websites that don't agree with the government's political philosophies.

    Of course, I have written before (Practical Geographies: Understanding How Cultural Practices Shape Social Media Usage)about how the Internet really isn't a linguistically-unified structure anyway, and the Google-China split will re-enforce the language divide. But as the Blawgdog also explains, while it would be detrimental to the general idea of the Internet as a unified structure if the Chinese Internet and English Internet split, the fact that non-skilled users will not be able to access any information they wish (skilled users though will continue to bypass restrictions, re: Zittrain above).

    A further division between skilled and amateur users of the Internet would throw Internet culture in China into further chaos, which might affect how citizens deal with and understand human rights, political activism, and communication policies. Thus, Google's split from China marks the first major instance of the direct political influence on digital appropriation. If the Chinese government continues to restrict access to certain websites, digital appropriation will move in two directions, resulting in either a highly-educated, unified user base or a split between current users and the next generation that are mediated by walled garden tactics.

    The Chinese government has already issued a response: "China's Internet is open," said Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry spokeswoman. "China welcomes international Internet enterprises to conduct business in China according to law." While "open" seems to describe if businesses can operate within the digital space, it appears that the government is not willing to bend on the censorship issue. And if Chinese netizens must learn to operate within this policed Internet ecosystem, then we may see a lot of interesting user innovation (with probable violent consequences) in the near future.

    January 8, 2010

    Three Converging Presentations: Digital Migrants, Western Otaku, and Our Google-ized World

    At the end of the autumn semester, the Comparative Media Studies department hosted a set of colloquia called Comparative Media Insights. Three of these presentations focused heavily on digital culture and fit neatly into our interests here at the Consortium, so I want to share them (especially since I'm sure all of you are still recovering from the holiday and wouldn't mind a couple intellectual, mid-day breaks).

    The first talk is by Lisa Nakamura, a professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. Her presentation, entitled Race, Rights, and Virtual Worlds: Digital Games as Spaces of Labor Migration, focuses on digital migrants, workers who labor in virtual worlds for other virtual world users. A lot of the work is done across transnational networks, such as gold farming in World of Warcraft performed by laborers in China for users in the United States. Lisa argues that in relation to these workers a type of "transnational working class" is being created, and she wishes to point out that these communities of workers provide a different perspective to the cosmopolitan, global, or converged Internet.

    You can listen to a podcast of Lisa Nakamura's talk by clicking here or using the embedded player below:

    As ICT's become available to new groups of users, notably those from the global South, new social formations of virtual labor, race, nation, and gender are being born. And if virtual world users' claims to citizenship and sovereignty within them are to be taken seriously, so too must the question of "gray collar" or semi-legal virtual laborers and their social relations and cultural identity in these spaces. Just as labor migrants around the globe struggle to access a sense of belonging in alien territories, so too do virtual laborers, many of whom are East and South Asian, confront hostility and xenophobia in popular gaming worlds and virtual "workshops" such as World of Warcraft and Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Do these users have the right to have rights? This presentation considers the affective investments and cultural identities of these workers within the virtual worlds where they labor.

    Lisa Nakamura is the Director of the Asian American Studies Program, Professor in the Institute of Communication Research and Media Studies Program and Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. She is the author of Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (Routledge, 2002) and a co-editor of Race in Cyberspace (Routledge, 2000). She has published articles in Critical Studies in Media Communication, PMLA, Cinema Journal, The Women's Review of Books, Camera Obscura, and the Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies. She is editing a collection with Peter Chow-White entitled Digital Race: An Anthology (Routledge, forthcoming) and is working on a new monograph on Massively Multiplayer Online Role playing games, the transnational racialized labor, and avatarial capital in a "postracial" world.

    The second presentation is given by Mia Consalvo, a professor at Ohio University and also a visiting professor at MIT. Her talk, Western Otaku: Games Crossing Cultures, examines digital games -- particularly MMORPGs -- as spaces of transnational cultural exchange, places of hybridity formed by cross-cultural contact. She is particularly interested in the relationship between Japanese and American gamers, both in how the industry impacts transnational reception and in how players interact with each other across languages.

    Mia's talk comes in convenient video podcast form below:

    But you can also listen to the audio-only version of the podcast here:

    Or download it!

    From Nintendo's first Famicom system, Japanese consoles and videogames have played a central role in the development and expansion of the digital game industry. Players globally have consumed and enjoyed Japanese games for many reasons, and in a variety of contexts. This study examines one particular subset of videogame players, for whom the consumption of Japanese videogames in particular is of great value, in addition to their related activities consuming anime and manga from Japan. Through in-depth interviews with such players, this study investigates how transnation fandom operates in the realm of videogame culture, and how a particular group of videogames players interprets their gameplay experience in terms of a global, if hybrid, industry.

    Mia Consalvo is a visiting associate professor in the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT. She is the author of Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames and is co-editor of the forthcoming Blackwell Handbook of Internet Studies.

    The final presentation (and my favorite of the bunch) is given by Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor at the University of Virginia. He talks about The Googlization of Everything, a point in the convergence of real and digital culture by one company: Google. Phrased in one of William Uricchio's questions during the Q&A, in its attempt to "informationize" the world, Google has had to face "the pushback of culture." As I wrote earlier this week, Siva argues that on top of being its users, we act as Google's product. Our concerns over privacy (Google Maps' problems photographing Japan), property (Google Book Search scanning), and pride (transforming ourselves into Google's "data") therefore conflict with our understanding of ourselves as the customer versus the product.

    Listen to his podcast below, or download it here.

    Google seems omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. It also claims to be benevolent. It's no surprise that we hold the company to almost deific levels of awe and respect. But what are we really gaining and losing by inviting Google to be the lens through which we view the world? This talk will describe Siva Vaidhyanathan's own apostasy and suggest ways we might live better with Google once we see it as a mere company rather than as a force for good and enlightenment in the world.

    Siva Vaidhyanathan, cultural historian and media scholar, is currently associate professor of media studies and law at the University of Virginia.

    October 24, 2008

    Looking at Distribution in The Americas (Part II)

    The way governments are involved in the promotion of national film industries in Ibero-America, as opposed to the US's market driven strategy, set the tone for the First Ibero-American Culture Conference. The conference was organized by the Mexican government with support from the Spanish government and Ibermedia, the Ibero-American film fund. The objective of this meeting was not quite clear, but the attendee list was impressive. Everybody was there, from intellectuals like Nestor García Canclini and Carlos Monsivais to filmmakers like Antonio Banderas and Lucrecia Martel, as well as policy makers from all over the region. What IFP lacked in global awareness, Mexico had in abundance. Cultural policy integration and co-productions were some of the main issues being discussed.

    Continue reading "Looking at Distribution in The Americas (Part II)" »

    October 23, 2008

    Looking at Distribution in The Americas (Part I)

    We seem to be in an indie cinema kick over at C3 (see posts here , here and here); can't say I'm one to complain. With the appropriation of emerging technologies and an increasingly participatory audience, independent film is uniquely positioned to ask itself hard questions and come up with innovative answers. It's no wonder that in studying convergence culture we'd be inclined to look towards that field.

    For me this past month has been unusually filled with conferences, first the Independent Feature Project Conference in New York, then I headed south to Mexico for the First Ibero-American Culture Conference (dedicated to film), and at last I arrived in Cambridge just in time to present our spreadability research over at DIY DAYS Boston with Xiaochang. I took these events to listen and think about the evolving film distribution landscape.

    Continue reading "Looking at Distribution in The Americas (Part I)" »

    February 28, 2008

    Stopping the Signal: Another Look at China's "Great Firewall"

    With the Beijing 2008 Olympics fast approaching and the recent announcement by the International Olympics Committee to allow athletes to post personal blogs during the games, so long as they follow fairly limiting content guidelines, talk is buzzing again around China's so-called "Great Firewall," now with the addition of the "Golden Shield" -- an elaborate filtering system that prevents undesirable internet content from being viewed.

    According to a great article by James Fallows at The Atlantic, plans are in place to open up a range of IP addresses that the government expects to cater to foreign visitors for the length of the games.

    The move comes as no surprise to anyone who's been inside a high-end Chinese hotel where the extravagant lobbies give way to mediocre rooms where the curtains don't hang right: China has been notoriously good at putting on a show for western visitors (and potential investors).

    Continue reading "Stopping the Signal: Another Look at China's "Great Firewall"" »

    February 24, 2008

    FCC Hearing on the Future of the Internet

    For anyone here in the Boston area, I wanted to put it on your radar to attend the Boston FCC hearing on the future of the Internet, which will be taking place tomorrow, Monday, Feb. 25, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. in the Ames Courtroom at Austin Hall in Harvard Law School. The hearing will not include an open microphone for the public at large to voice their opinion as part of the event, but activist group "SaveTheInternet" will be videotaping the comments of those in attendance and submitting them to the FCC.

    A wide variety of speakers will be present as part of the event, which will revolve around two 1.5-hour panels. The first will feature Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benlker, author of The Wealth of Networks, as well as a variety of other law professors, a general counsel for Free Press, Massachusetts State Representative Daniel E. Bosley, and Comcast EVP David L. Cohen.

    The second panel will focus on technology and include the Chief Technology Officer of BitTorrent, a network architect, SVP of Networks & Systems Architecture for Sony Electronics, and three MIT speakers.

    Continue reading "FCC Hearing on the Future of the Internet" »

    February 18, 2008

    UK ISPs and Piracy Monitoring

    The latest in continuing controversy about the role of Internet service providers in monitoring or having any responsibility or culpability in the actions of its customers comes from the United Kingdom, where Mark Ward from the BBC reports on governmental pressure directed toward ISPs to reject net access to those who use their Internet service for pirating copyrighted content.

    Ward writes about a new consultation document that has been circulated in the UK this week, advising the government that ISPs should be brought into "the fight against piracy." However, the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) has come out in staunch opposition to the suggestion, pointing out that "the 2002 E-Commerce Regulations defined net firms as 'mere conduits' and not responsible for the contents of the traffic flowing across their networks.

    Continue reading "UK ISPs and Piracy Monitoring" »

    September 17, 2007

    Privacy and Information Ownership: The Rapleaf Controversy

    The past few weeks, I've been following the controversy around Rapleaf, a company that got some attention in early 2006 as an expanded, more powerful version of Ebay's feedback system, which would allow people to build and look up the "reputations" of other by entering an email address. Profiles on Rapleaf can include everything from your age to your political affiliations to what books you want to buy, as well as testimonials from people who have done business with you (though it's unclear how Rapleaf verifies that these testimonials are legitimate). In short, Rapleaf billed itself as a way to find out what you were getting into before entering a business transaction.

    That proposition quickly became rather ironic once controversy surrounding the company started picking up speed in late August 2007, when some bloggers received email notifications from Rapleaf informing them that they had been searched.
    While some of the backlash was directed at the "spam" factor of receiving annoying email invitations to Rapleaf, the most vocal outrage was over the potential invasion of privacy.

    Continue reading "Privacy and Information Ownership: The Rapleaf Controversy" »

    September 13, 2007

    Catching Up: Net Neutrality, Online Video Ads, and Nielsen

    In my efforts to play a little catchup tonight with a week that has largely gotten away from me, I wanted to catch up on a few developments on stories the Consortium has followed quite regularly here on the blog.

    First, there is network neutrality. The latest comes from the Justice Department, which has written to the Federal Communications Commission with official comments opposing net neutrality. While, at the time Ira Teinowitz wrote her piece for TelevisionWeek, the FCC had received almost 28,000 comments on the issue, most of which supported net neutrality being upheld, the Justice Department said that neutrality "could in fact prevent, rather than promote, optimal investment and innovation in the Internet." The comments have sparked some controversy, and it's not yet clear whether the pressure from the Justice Department will have a significant effect on the FCC's decision-making process.

    Continue reading "Catching Up: Net Neutrality, Online Video Ads, and Nielsen" »

    August 23, 2007

    Free Market and Copyright

    Another piece that I wanted to make it a point to respond to in my flurry of blog updates today comes from Steven Lipscomb. For those of you not familiar with Lipscomb, he is the founder, CEO, and Director of the World Poker Tour, whose content my friend John Morris is addicted to, including buying it on PPV.

    Lipscomb wrote a recent commentary on the TelevisionWeek blog, pointing out how China demonstrates the future of capitalism because it enforces the rules of the market better than the United States.

    The paragraph that caught my eye in particular? "Free market advocates should agree with this proposition. Either we abandon things like copyright ownership entirely... or we enforce it. Today we have a system that rewards the cheaters and discourages ethical behavior. That simply cannot be the capitalist system we desire."

    Continue reading "Free Market and Copyright" »

    Moving Forward in Preparing for Digital Deadline

    Looks like we've made one step forward in the planned digital deadline, the switch from analog broadcasting signals to digital television broadcasting in February 2009. That comes with the recent naming of IBM as the outsourced group in control of the coupon program the federal government will institute to help pay for converter boxes which will translate digital signals to be read by the analog televisions.

    According to Ira Teinowitz's recent report on the decision, the National Telecommunications Information Administration awarded "IBM a contract worth up to $120 million. IBM will design a Web site, phone center and fulfillment procedures to track the issuing and redemption of the $40 coupons the government is offering to households without cable."

    The converter boxes are expected to cost a maximum of $70, while the coupons will be for $40 off.

    Continue reading "Moving Forward in Preparing for Digital Deadline" »

    August 6, 2007

    FCC Preparing to Educate Public on Digital Deadline

    The FCC is moving forward on finding ways to educate the public about the coming digital deadline, the Feb. 17, 2009, date when over-the-air analog broadcasts will be replaced by digital. For a number of Americans who only have analog television sets and no cable or satellite subscription, this will be a pivotal date without a digital-to-analog converter box or a new digital television, since they will no longer be able to watch TV.

    Of course, this only comes after a wide variety of folks have criticized the government and the industry for not doing enough to inform Americans about such a big change being well under two years away. In response, the FCC has finally laid out a number of ideas, including public service announcements, notices that come with new television sets, and inserts in cable bills. However, although a digital deadline has been discussed for some time, a great number of Americans don't seem to know about the digital deadline.

    Continue reading "FCC Preparing to Educate Public on Digital Deadline" »

    July 31, 2007

    Followups on Coverage of Gambling, Viacom, Decency, and Fairness

    I wanted to spend a few minutes this afternoon going through some recent news that provides updates for issues I have written about continually here on the blog. These include the Second Life gambling issues, the Viacom/YouTube case, and the indecency and Fairness Doctrine bills currently making their way through Congress.

    1.) Gambling in Second Life. Word has officially been released that Second Life has shut down gambling inside the virtual world. I found out about it from Raph Koster's blog, as the new policy was released through the Second Life blog. The blog's Robin Linden writes that, even though there is no official gambling service in Second Life, they are still required to operate under governmental laws that regulate online gambling.

    Users on Raph's blog debate issues such as whether poker is a game of chance, whether Second Life is better off or not with the gambling gone, and what this might mean for SL longterm, especially if the door for government intrusion stays open.

    Continue reading "Followups on Coverage of Gambling, Viacom, Decency, and Fairness" »

    July 25, 2007

    Realities of the Digital Divide

    I mentioned earlier today that the rate of technological change is often misunderstood. There are a group of people who want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that everything is going to remain the same, to be sure, but there are likewise plenty of folks who want to believe that every change is revolutionary, will become widespread very quickly, and will completely overtake the outdated technologies and modes of the past and transform the world into a fundamentally democratic utopia.

    However, the world can't be explained by such technological determinism, whether it be utopian or dystopian. And that includes remaining aware that, for all the discussions we have about the way the Internet is a primary driver in fundamentally changing the ways in which consumers interact with producers, fans interact with media properties and brands, readers interact with authors, and people simply interact with one another, we cannot pretend that there still does not exist a great digital divide among socioeconomic classes in individual countries and, even more sharply contrasted, between various peoples around the world.

    Continue reading "Realities of the Digital Divide" »

    July 17, 2007

    The Digital Deadline, Inefficient Preparation, and a New Digital Divide?

    Not that long ago, I ran into Prof. Nolan Bowie, who teaches at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University down the road. I took a class with him on public policy issues surrounding new media last year, and I was intrigued to know that he would be writing a series of commentaries for The Boston Globe since, if nothing else, Nolan is always provocative.

    What caught my eye when looking back over the articles I missed was his piece from last month on Bridging the TV Gap.

    Those of you who follow the C3 blog fairly regularly may know that I've been quite concerned with the upcoming digital deadline, although also aware that the deadline could very well be moved again before all is said and done. The plan for analog television signals to be a think of the past by February 2009 is quite understandable when one understands the potential benefits for freeing the spectrum for more efficient uses, but the way in which the public has been informed, and plans have been made for such a digital deadline, has been...well...something less than efficient.

    Nolan writes about the great benefits of the digital conversion but also about the dangers for low-income families, the need to follow this up with an emphasis on better and universally available high-speed broadband Internet connection, and concerns about what will happen with ownership rules with the proliferation of channels allowed by a completely digital media environment, as well as the substantial concern about the disposal of analog televisions. He warns, "Many poor and low income working poor families may not be able to afford new digital TV sets or suitable substitutes, thus creating a new kind of digital divide in addition to the expanding gaps associated with Internet access."

    Continue reading "The Digital Deadline, Inefficient Preparation, and a New Digital Divide?" »

    July 12, 2007

    Congress Talking Censorship, Fairness Doctrine

    Two major congressional movements continue to pose potential major repercussions for the media industry and particularly for television.

    The first is continued discussion about indecency enforcement, as Kansas Senator and Republican presidential hopeful Sam Brownback continues to make noise about "fleeting indecency" enforcement for the Federal Communications Commission and giving the FCC powers over violent programming. After courts questioned the definition of indecency in FCC decisions recently, Brownback is pushing for new legislation to be pushed through Congress to make these changes.

    The discussion is to give FCC the authority for fining for "fleeting expletives" and the ability to fine networks for "excessively violent content."

    John Eggerton with Broadcasting & Cable points out that the Parents Television Council is already hard at work trying to drum up support for the bill.

    Continue reading "Congress Talking Censorship, Fairness Doctrine" »

    June 29, 2006

    Congress Making Its Rounds

    It's election year, so Congress is making its political rounds to make sure that it connects with social conservatives, concerned parents, and anyone else who can be swayed by similar arguments. Already this political season, Congress has seen fit to raise the indecency fines at the behest of The Parents Television Council and other censorship-minded organizations.

    And now they have moved on to find yet another way to attack the First Amendment in order to score more votes in November--in addition to trying to bring back up banning flag burning...

    That's right...Congress' favorite activity is back...talking about video games. The FTC presented to a Congressional subcommittee a couple of weeks ago about regulating video games. Here is the FTC's official report of that presentation. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has signed into law a statute banning the sale of violent video games to minors.

    For those of you who caught The Daily Show with Jon Stewart earlier this week, you may have seen some excerpts from the latest Congressional hearing where Congressmen attempt to scare a generation of voters who don't know anything about video games while, in actuality, probably planning to do nothing but increase its votes.

    Stewart was pretty well able to let the Congressmen speak for themselves to make fun of them, as Fred Upton from Michigan claims his own ties to video game culture because of his love of Pong, followed by Rep. Joseph Pitts' admission that middle-class kids could handle video games while poor kids in rough neighborhoods might get confused because the environment on violent games is like what they live in every day.

    Stewart said it appears "the House of Representatives is full of insane jackasses." Well, we can at least say that they are people who have their minds on re-election, which makes the bi-partisan discussion of video games on election coming right now about as sincere as...well...a politician. But, for those of us who are interested in an environment that encourages a "convergence culture," rhetoric about eroding First Amendment rights in order to gain a few extra votes is no laughing matter.

    Cory Doctorow has a transcript of Stewart's segment on Boing Boing.

    June 25, 2006

    Further Reflections on YouTube vs. RIAA

    Henry Jenkins wrote this followup post to the piece reprinted here yesterday regarding YouTube and the RIAA on his blog:

    University of Chicago law professor Randy Picker was nice enough to pass along a link to what he has written -- from a legal perspective -- about the potential threat which the RIAA may pose to those folks who want to post lip-sync or karaoke songvids on YouTube:

    For the music industry, this is a not-so-golden oldie and the conflict illustrates the persistent gap between actual law and the public's knowledge of that law and, frequently, perceptions of fairness. On these facts, far from being crazy or somehow a misuse of copyright, I think that music copyright holders have a straight-forward action against YouTube.... this is how we pay for music in the real world: different uses, different prices, and until we change the law and come up with a better way to pay for music, you should assume that the music industry is going to show up one day and knock on YouTube's door.

    I don't pretend to be a lawyer so my views on the law should be taken with a grain of salt. I am pretty sure though that Picker is correct that the RIAA is almost certainly well within its legal rights to take action to shut down this use of its music via YouTube.

    That said, I feel that we should be paying closer attention to that "persistent gap between actual law and the public's knowledge of that law and frequently, perceptions of fairness." True, ignorance of the law is no excuse but a democratic state should always be concerned if the gap between the law and the public's perception of fairness grows too great. (And I would suggest that gap is growing hourly at the present moment).

    Continue reading "Further Reflections on YouTube vs. RIAA" »

    June 24, 2006

    YouTube vs. The RIAA

    Here's another post Henry Jenkins asked that I port over from his blog because of its relevance to media convergence and YouTube which we've blogged about several times:

    This is another in a series of posts highlighting trends which threaten our rights to participate in our culture.

    According to a report published in the Boston Phoenix this week, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) may soon take aim at the amateur lip syncing and Karaoke videos which circulate on YouTube. Spokespeople from the RIAA, which has never been slow to assert the broadest possible claims on intellectual property, have so far not confirmed the claims that they will be using their power to force YouTube to take down such videos.

    Participatory Culture's Most Powerful Distribution System
    YouTube represents perhaps the most powerful distribution channel so far for amateur media content. More than 6 million visitors watch a total of 40 million clips per day and upload another 50,000 more, according to the Phoenix. Some of that traffic is no doubt generated by content grabbed from commercial media -- including a fair number of commercials which are virally circulated, music videos and segments from late night comedy shows, strange clips from reality television, and the like. But a good deal of the content is user generated and this content is generating wide interest.

    Many people will have seen the footage of the guy who went a little extreme with his Christmas tree lights last year or, in regards to this current issue, some of the videos of pasty-faced and overweight people singing off key versions of their favorite pop songs -- often with demonstrably limited comprehension of the lyrics. Many of us had argued that earlier file-sharing services such as Napster provided an infrastructure for garage bands and the like to get their music into broader circulation but there, the illegal content swamped the legal and made it hard to support this case. With YouTube, there is no question that some of the most interesting content comes from grassroots creators. Via YouTube, what were once home movies are finding a public -- some coming to appreciate real creativity, some there to gawk.

    Continue reading "YouTube vs. The RIAA" »

    June 16, 2006

    The Greatest Five Mintues of L. Brent Bozell's Year

    The Book of Job reminds us all that bad things often happen to very good people. And, if that's the case, it must be conversely true that, very often, great things happen to pretty crummy people.

    And that's the case this week for the pit bull attacking the leg of free speech, The Parents Television Council, when our heralded leader President George W. Bush signed into law the raising of fines for television indecency from $32,500 to $325,000.

    For those of you who want to know more, never fear--the PTC has included a complete transcript of what President Bush said for those five minutes when he signed the bill into law. And, for anyone who can't read, they also provide video. Hey, the PTC may not be fans of almost everything about what we call "convergence culture," since they consider shows like According to Jim to be heavily offensive to moral sensibilities (learned that one from Stephen Colbert)...But they sure do know how to be pretty media savvy. And, surprise! The video they show comes from Fox News Network.

    Go look around the PTC Web site. They have difinitive proof about how free speech on television is destroying our country. Watching MTV for an hour makes kids more lkely to approve of pre-marital sex (just imagine what watching every day might do!) I guess we should be ashamed of our partners here at C3. And, in their press release celebrating victory, Bozell said this, which has been quoted in numerous news articles about the story, "They (the public) are fed up with the sexually raunchy and gratuitously violent content that's broadcast over the public airwaves, particularly during hours when millions of children are in the viewing audience."

    In a subsequent online column about this issue, Bozell asks, "How can our media elite find so much pessimism in our society about our future in Iraq, or our future planetary health, or our future economic success, and totally ignore the public's pessimism about how Hollywood -- that is to say, they -- are polluting the culture?" This shows how powerful rhetoric can be when you turn a whole industry of creative people into one mass evil body..."they." More a propos to the "they" are groups like the PTC who directly tell people what they think, send out form letters to be mailed to people, and then claim how many people have spoken.

    This site is dedicated to the vibrant possibilities that a new media landscape affords to us through convergence culture, but censorship initiatives like this endanger public expression by lumping everyone in the media industry into a "they" seeking to corrupt children...and, of course, anytime a group wants to attack an industry, the "children" line is always the infallible answer.

    Bozell concludes with the point that "the four largest networks and 800 oftheir affiliates quietly have gone to court demanding the right to air the F-word and the S-word on the public airwaves any time and anywhere they wish, no matter how many children are watching."

    And this is a guy who is consistently quoted in newspapers as an expert. An expert in rhetoric and distortion, maybe. Sure, there are plenty of things on television that I think is just done for sex, violence, or language's sake that is too "shock TV' in nature. And I wish every program had quality writing and imagination, but that isn't the way creativity get a lot of bad stuff when you let people be free, but you also get a lot of quality.

    In short, I believe that there's nothing more dangerous to American values than L. Brent Bozell, and continued initiatives like this can dampen the spirit of convergence culture like nothing else...

    June 15, 2006

    My Thoughts on "The Word"

    Last night, I set my DVR (gasp!) to record The Colbert Report to my hard drive. I watched it a few hours ago and was surprised when his popular "The Word" segment featured a current Congressional debate that was the topic of one of my posts here last week: the push to raise indecency fines for television broadcasters by adding a zero to the end.

    For those who haven't seen Colbert's "The Word" segment, he goes through a verbal diatribe while a graphic beside him displays one-liners that either contradict or further illustrates points that he's making. On this particular episode, he was discussing the current drive by conservative Christian "family" groups like the Parents Television Council to define what's indecent on television.

    Colbert mocked how the group's encouragement of free speech and citizen voice was really nothing more than ventriloquism, as a recent drive to protest the show Without a Trace containing a scene simulating an orgy resulted in a massive numbers of form letters computer-generated by members of a group like this through their Web site.

    Colbert's main complaint with this proposal is both that this type of encouragement of censorship is outside the purview of what our government should be doing in the first place, which I wholeheartedly agree with, but also that raising the fees will cause networks to become more and more gun shy of airing any new or potentially controversial types of programming, lest the PTC have its sensibilities offended. That's the point that I made in my blog post last week, that these initiatives could greatly hinder the autonomy of show creators and writers to create meaningful, interesting, artistic, and challenging content. In other words, censorship is hardly ever a good thing.

    On Colbert's "snippet" preview of his show on The Daily Show, he spoofed product placement by bringing us his pre-show, sponsored by Coca-Cola, in which he did nothing but drink a Coke and then advertise his post-show, sponsored by Budweiser, with a huge Budweiser graphic. This coincides with the drive we've had since this blog's beginning toward understanding the difference between product placement and product integration, which I posted about a couple of weeks ago.

    But, could these be coincidences? Maybe Mr. Colbert is reading this blog every night after his show airs. If so, Stephen Colbert deserves a "tip of the hat."

    (By the way, if you're interested in watching this particular episode of The Colbert Report, it's available on iTunes).

    June 7, 2006

    The Debate Over Network Neutrality

    This week, the debate over network neutrality has taken the blogosphere by storm. And, of course, such debates are key for communication that takes place over the net in the first place, considering how important current congressional debates are to the way the Internet works.

    The House will decide today whether to allow debate on the floor about abandoning the principle of network neutrality in favor of allowing access providers the chance to favor some sites over others. The rhetoric is strong on this side, led by phone companies, who argue that certain sites use up more bandwidth and that they currently have to treat all types of sites similarly, or neutral, which is an unfair burden on their ability to conduct business.

    For those who haven't followed the debate closely, The Washington Post provides an illuminating piece entitled "The Coming Tug of War Over the Internet".

    Some are making a deregulationist argument on grounds of true capitalism to support the phone companies, saying that companies should be allowed to get a piece of the action when it comes to providing access to one site over another.

    For someone with a fairly strong libertarian bent, the argument would be appealing if it weren't so obvious how heavily this line of thinking encroaches on the content providers that drive the Internet. After all, the phone companies and cable companies that provide everyone internet access would not have much of a business if it weren't for iTunes and Google and the other forces that cause people to want to surf the net in the first place. Obviously, content providers have a lot to lose if bidding begins for access providers to begin giving more bandwidth to some sites to another, and consumer rights groups are lobbying Congress as well.

    When something termed "deregulation" instead leads to barriers for a free market, we get into dangerous territory. Net neutrality, as it stands, has allowed a free market to flourish online and has fueled new industry giants and new forms of competition that are unparalleled. All of our debates about transmedia, the power of new providers like iTunes and Urge, and the move toward BitTorrent are all dependent on a neutral battling ground. And it's not like access providers are hurting at this point.

    But where does this leave media giants like Time-Warner who are simultaneously involved in both distribution and content? I referenced Erick Schonfeld's recommendations for Time-Warner in a previous blog post. Schonfeld recommends that Time-Warner step into a role solely as content provider and out of a mindset of access provider or distributor, particularly in the AOL branch.

    With the divide between Internet access providers and Internet content providers growing greater over this current "network neutrality debate," his words may be growing even more appropriate.

    If the proposals make it to the House floor, a vote could come by the end of this week.

    December 10, 2005

    Europe Proposes Terrible IP Precedent

    (Via Atrios)

    The New York Times reports that European lawmakers are proposing legislation that would criminalize patent violation and impose prison time on patent violators.

    Tim Frain, director of intellectual property at Nokia, called the inclusion of patents within the scope of a European law "ludicrous." Mr. Frain, who is based outside London, advises managers at Nokia on the risks of infringing existing patents when they develop new functions for mobile phones.

    Mr. Frain indicated that patent holders wanted protection, but not penalties of imprisonment as they test the boundaries of other patents.

    "It's never black and white," he said of patents. "Sometimes third-party patents are so weak that I advise managers to go ahead and innovate because after making a risk analysis we feel we can safely challenge the existing patent."

    He added, "But with this law, even if I'm certain the existing patent is no good, the manager involved would be criminally liable."

    What he said. This move would absolutely have a chilling effect on innovation, especially given how poorly vetted most technological or conceptual/business practice patents are. Mandating prison time for accidentally trampling on a pre-existing patent (which may well be flawed) is an absolutely terrible idea.

    December 8, 2005


    Another interesting Jenkins, the Holman W. Jenkins Jr. of Political Diary fame, had an insightful commentary in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal entitled "Decency Is Overrated."

    For those of you who haven't followed the FCC's recent comments regarding the cable industry, the government body's new interest is in promoting the right for customers to pick and choose which channels they want without having to buy whole packages.

    Jenkins feels that the problem is in this argument being fueled by concerns of decency and that this governmental decision will end up driving several small networks out of business and move the options back down from the diversity that a mandatory subscription rate currently sustains.

    Jenkins claims that such a battle is "for the future of TV."

    What do you all think? Is the business model for allowing customers to choose just the channels they want detrimental to providing true variety and quality?

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