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Friday, 9 March 2012

Copyright battle turns into an all-out war against your right to create and share your own home-made content

The content industry: attempting to
uninvent the internet piece by piece.
 Microsoft's website as it appeared in 1994
Digital locker services. For many they represent convenience now that much of our digital output is getting too big to send via ordinary email.

Not, however, in the eyes of the big publishers and film studios.  Digital locker services are nothing but leeches cashing-in on their content.

Granted the convenience of digital locker services coupled with a cash reward system used by some could incentivise piracy and is causing a headache for legitimate rights-holders.

It's one thing for investors in creative content to assert their rightful claim over content they own.

But it's truly shocking that they now, in their war on data convenience, seem to be asserting we the general public have no need or right to be creating and distributing our own content.

The BBC today reports legal pressure mounting on Hotfile, in the light of rival Megaupload's closure and arrest of its executives in January.

In the report, Mark Mulligan - a music industry blogger and author of the brand new Media Industry Blog and well-established Music Industry Blog goes to war on our right to host our own content, saying that all uploaded content should be presumed "illegal" until verified:
"If the service providers are serious about wanting to heed the industry's concerns then instead of assuming that all of the content is legitimate until found otherwise, they should actually assume that most of the content is illegal and take action.
He then goes on to ask who creates large high definition video files anyway? (Except, of course, the established professional studios):
"Much of the content on these service is very high quality video files - how many consumers genuinely create large high definition videos of their own and upload them?"
Is he really saying we as ordinary citizens have no right to go out and shoot our own movies in HD and share them with our friends?

This assertion by Mulligan exemplifies how an industry is attempting to wrench control of the data sharing tools not just to protect their own lawful monopoly over their own copyrighted content but to preserve their stranglehold on all audiovisual entertainment.

Why on earth would anyone but one of the three/four established film distributors ever want to distribute a film?!

Maybe my friend and film-maker Obhi Chatterjee, whose studio offers the first film in their Tagore Indian dance trilogy, Shyama, as a free download and under a Creative Commons license so you are free to re-share however you see fit? How very dare they.

How dare I use my phone, which comes with a HD video camera and, thanks to cheap storage, 40GB total capacity, to record my son eating his first solid food - the entire event - and send it to his grandparents?

This war isn't about copyright, it's about technology and how it allows us all to share so much of our everyday experiences with others; creating shared experiences and bringing us closer or helping educate and come to a common understanding.

It feels like the creative industry is trying to uninvent each and every technological advancement in the name of content protection. In fact a House of Lords committee even suggested that super-fast broadband might not be such a good idea as it will allow more copyright infringement.

I can't help feel if copyright owners had got in on the act from day 1, web servers would today - 20 years later - still be unable to display image files.

After all, back when a digital scanner cost a small fortune and cameras still required a film, how many consumers genuinely create photographic content of their own?!

UPDATE 10/03:

Mark has responded and asked me to post the following clarifying his view:
Just to be clear I at no stage questioned anyone's right to create digital content (I myself have a recording studio and create lots of my own music). My point was simply that the vast majority of us do not create feature length high definition videos and that the vast majority of the content on Hotfile is not UGC, rather unlicensed professional content. Just run a google advanced search on the hotfile domain and enter the name of any movie and you'll find it there - normally multiple different versions. 
My comments were entirely and squarely aimed at the site, not users. It is disingenuous to suggest that Hotfile's prime purpose is to support sharing of personal UCG. It simply is not. 
The correct position to assume with Hotfile is that the vast majority of the content there is unlicensed copyrighted content. 
I have never suggested, nor would support the position, that some one's personal content is anything other than their own. Furthermore, I believe that major revisions in copyright law need to happen to pull copyright into the 21st century. 
And the media industries need to do a MUCH better job of getting better services in front of consumers. The reason these sites exist is because their is a consumer demand vacuum that they quickly fill. 
But none of that justifies the existence of cynical businesses that have the explicit raison d'etre of making money from illegal content, and then hiding behind the facade of free speech on the web. 
It is companies like Hotfile that weaken the credibility of the Safe Harbour argument. Because every time one of these sites hides behind 'Safe Harbour' it allows content owners to play that card when the argument is used legitimately. 
If you want to see more about my views on this take a look at my post Sopa highlights media industry strategic failings


Bootnote: had web servers never displayed images it's entirely feasible that digital camera technology would not have advanced so quickly, since one of the drivers towards digital production was the ability to easily share the results on websites.


  1. This. Makes. Me. Angry.

    The Media and Music Industry do NOT own the internet and they do NOT own my own personal digital content. How DARE they suggest that my own PERSONAL digital content is ILLEGAL.

    So if I take a HD video or pictures of me and my friends (with my iPhone4) and share (via my website or other social media platforms) with my friends and family who are scattered all over the world this should by DEFAULT be deemed as ILLEGAL until it is VERIFIED??

    By WHO? Who the HELL do these industries think they are? What RIGHT have they got over MY digital content that *I* host, to determine whether or not it is "legal" as determined by their own standards?


    I mean. SERIOUSLY??

    Using the force of the law to prop up old and ailing dysfunctional business models is morally wrong. This INSANITY has to stop.

    It breaks my heart to see one of the greatest inventions from the last 20 years being systematically attacked from all corners of the world in an attempt to assert control and conformity, to put the internet into a straight jacket, in a box, padlocked, chained and put in a safe, buried deep underground because god forbid that the ordinary human being may want to actually connect up and communicate with other ordinary human beings and share content.

    God forbid if we attempted to copyright evolution. The human race would still be amoebas, denied the right to reproduce by copying and splitting cells as this would be determined as breaching the copyright of the original amoeba cell.....

    I'm too angry to write anymore.

    Wake me up when the world has come to it's senses.

  2. I buy all media secondhand except for a very few exceptions, mostly games. Notably the XBOX 720 is purported to have no optical drive so in the next console iteration I assume the secondhand games market will be obliterated.

    With music & movies, though, secondhand is effectively first-hand as there's no tempting redemption codes for addons & goodies.

    A secondhand sale is (for now) still legal and keeps the money away from these greed-fuelled lunatics.

  3. I remember the days when Sinclair announced a 1kb RAM expansion pack for the ZX80 home computer, and some commentators queried why a home user would ever need that sort of increased memory.

  4. The vast majority of us do not have a recording studio and do not create their own music. Therefore, we must assume that people like Mark Mulligan are not actually producing user generated content but, at best, remixing copyrighted material and claiming it is user generated content. A simple check on You Tube can find loads of remixes which backs this claim. We should, therefore, conclude that Mulligan isn't an artist at all and assume that all his content is poorly remixed copyrighted material until and unless he can prove to our satisfaction that he did actually create the content and that it is not illegal.

    After all, the vast majority of us aren't artists.


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