Could Piracy Kill The Music Industry?

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Digital music has become increasingly popular with the availability of music apps and streaming services for mobile devices. Being able to have your music at your fingertips is much more advantageous than having to buy CDs. Downloading that music has also become popular with newer, advanced technology and software making it much easier to do.

So, if digital music apps and streaming services are available, why do people still feel the need to pirate music? This is a question the music industry, recording artists, and law enforcement have been asking for years and still continue to ask. Cost is a huge factor when it comes to people making the decision to download from an illegitimate site or app. P2P file sharing software, such as BitTorrent (and Napster in the 90s) makes it possible for people to upload and download free pirated music. “I do not have money to pay for software.” “It doesn’t hurt anybody when I do this.” “No one has ever told me not to.” These are responses from young people when they’re asked the question, “Why do you download illegal music from the Internet?”

Particularly, the younger generation sees no harm in downloading illegal music. 88% of youth are aware that the music they download are copyrighted, yet over half of them illegally download music anyway. And, it doesn’t stop at music. They upload and download a variety of digital media from books, to games, to movies. It’s not just the young people of today’s generation. I’m sure that many of us that attended college (after the Internet was invented) can relate to partaking in the pastime of downloading music from popular free file sharing software and sharing it with our friends.

Along the way, it has become the norm…the “everyone does it” phenomena. Not to just single out the younger generation, but most people that download free pirated music know that it’s illegal. However, they continue to do so and don’t feel as though they are affecting anyone.

So, what’s the harm? Record labels put out artists’ music for their fans’ entertainment and to make a profit for themselves and the artist. Without a profit, there would be no motivation or finances available for artists to continue to produce music. Can you imagine the world with no music?!? Artists value their music and they don’t appreciate their music being devalued by those who feel as though it’s not worth paying for and choose to download it illegally.

So, how can music pirating be stopped? The answer is that it can’t be completely stopped. It’s almost impossible for law enforcement to track down every person that downloads digital media illegally from the internet. A key component to slowing down the pirating issue will be increased education for our youth on the effects of pirating and online ethical behavior. Streaming services, such as iTunes and Spotify, have helped in some ways with the battle against pirating. Some of these streaming services give users the option of using the service for free or paying a monthly fee. When it comes down to it, although there are some who are willing to pay for the music they want to listen to, there’s still a percentage that would rather not. How do we convince the latter that paying is just the right thing to do?

Angela Martin, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland 

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Pop Art Genius or Thief? Artist appropriates others’ work without consent

More than fifty years ago, Andy Warhol appropriated the image of a Campbell’s Soup can for a painting series, helping launch the pop art movement.

Photo 1 - Warhol

Photo by Wally Gobetz/Flickr Creative Commons

The Campbell Soup Company didn’t bring legal action against the artist when the paintings debuted in 1962, though the company now has a licensing agreement with the Warhol Foundation.

In the decades since Warhol’s commercialism-inspired silkscreens, a proliferation of intellectual property debates have ensued.

Today, one artist is fueling controversies on appropriation—with an added complication: social media content ownership.

Richard Prince is an American painter and photographer whose art is considered re-photography, a style of work which uses appropriation as its own focus. Artists recreate, repurpose, and pull from the works of others and the worlds they depict to create their own work.

Appropriation art isn’t new. Artists have been borrowing and transforming others’ work for centuries, with appropriation art gaining popular traction in the United States in the 1970s and 80s.

The difference between that time and now is that our new digital reality has blurred the lines of ownership, privacy, and protection for intellectual and artistic property.

What’s mine is mine… until it’s yours

Richard Prince’s exhibition at New York’s Frieze Art Gallery in May 2015 featured screenshots of other user’s Instagram photos for which he did not seek permission before recreation, nor did Prince give them advance notification that their content would appear in his exhibition in New York.

The 65-year-old artist is being called a “rip-off artist” and “Instagram hijacker.”

Photo 2 - Prince

Photo by Robert McKeever/Gagasoian

Some of the Instagram pieces, according to CNN, sold for $100,000. None of the artist’s profits were shared with the original curators of the content.

Vulture magazine’s art critic called Prince’s method “genius art trolling,” as it has sparked viral arguments about ethics and legalities in art and the Internet.

“How to Sell Other People’s Instagrams for $100,000 and Get Away With It” reads one headline; another invites you to “Meet the Artist who steals your Instagram photos and sells them for $90,000.”

Instagram says individuals maintain the rights to the photographs uploaded to their site, but according to a company statement, it’s up to content owners to “enforce their legal rights” on their own.

But do users have a valid case?

Fair Use

Jim Astrachan, intellectual property lawyer and author of The Essential Intellectual Property Primers: The Law of Trademark, Copyright and Advertising, says it all comes down to fair use.

“The basis of whether he [Prince] has a right or does not have a right to use the photos of another, regardless of source, is whether the use is a fair use, being an exception to the exclusive rights of a copyright holder to exploit her own works.”

“One of the things a court looks to is whether the new work that is based on the old work is transformative into something new and different in use and purpose from what the photographer created—or whether the new work is merely a replacement for the old, original work and serves the same purpose,” Astrachan explained. “Some hate this artist, an appropriations artist, but you need to decide for yourself whether the new work is transformative, whether it becomes something new and different. If so, it may be a fair use.”

“The idea behind copyright grant of monopoly,” Astrachan added, “is to confer a public benefit by encouraging creation of works on which others can build, thus fair use and transformation.”

Transformation, appropriation, and regulation

But how do we define transformation and appropriation?

The artist’s attempt to make the Instagram works transformative is, at the very least, interesting…

For each photograph, Prince added his own “Instagram comment” to the screenshot. This addition is the basis for his defense for transformation.

It seems like a thin but plausible argument, and it’s also likely that he’s betting few users are willing to take on the costs of a possibly futile legal battle.

Whether Prince is within the means of fair use of others’ content is still up for debate.

Not helping his case is the fact that he has been sued in the past for copyright infringement. As reported by the Washington Post:

In 2008, French photographer Patrick Cariou sued Prince after he re-photographed Cariou’s images of Jamaica’s Rastafarian community. Although Cariou won at first, on appeal, the court ruled that Prince had not committed copyright infringement because his works were “transformative.”

As for the novelty of the legal issues brought on by artists like Prince in the digital world, Astrachan says, “I like to say the issues of law are not new. This might be a map from 250 years ago. The difference perhaps is the technology and the ease by which I can share my intellectual property—and you can appropriate or misappropriate it and manipulate it. Add to that the fact that some people think ‘If it’s online, it’s free.’ But this artist knows better.”

At what point does borrowing without asking permission become stealing?

Perhaps the latest development in this timeworn issue is the pervasiveness of who can be appropriated. As Vulture notes, in the social media age “we’re all as visible as, well, a can of Campbell’s Soup… It just takes an artist with the guts (or amorality) to go for it, like Prince. So as long as we choose to become brands ourselves, through Instagram posts or Facebook updates and tweets, our identities are liable for theft.”

More often than not, users are quick to agree to a site or app’s terms of agreement, though they rarely read the fine print. And most aren’t aware of specific rights to ownership or privacy they have surrendered by use of the platform—that is, until they become aware that their data is being sold or their content is being redistributed.

The grey area of ownership

So, who owns the content we share on the Web: the user or the platform itself?

Once a photograph leaves the storage of a device and is published on the Web via an app like Instagram, is it forever after the property of Instagram, and therefore available to any and all Instagram users to view, comment on, and reproduce without the original photographer’s consent or knowledge?

The extent of content theft and its consequences remain murky, though they are nowhere as dubious as the protection users assume exists for their published content. And to that end, it would seem both parties are at fault.

What’s more, should users be offended or feel violated when someone is so moved by their work that they incorporate it into their own artwork—or should they be flattered?

If the purpose of art is to elicit a feeling, Prince’s work has succeeded in doing just that, as evidenced not only by the attendance of his exhibition, but by the sale of his work and the controversy surrounding it.

Reagan Warfield, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland 

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What does “Net Neutrality” Mean for the Rest of Us?

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So you’ve heard that on June 12 a Federal court denied claims made against the Federal Communication Commission’s net-neutrality, issuing the first step in rolling out the Open Internet Laws and you couldn’t contain your excitement, right? As media nerds we were pretty excited that the FCC was successful in establishing the Internet as a public utility that should be regulated as such. Still trying to make sense of these regulations? Here is everything you need to know about how net-neutrality will impact the rest of us.

  1. How has the ruling changed?On June 12 the FCC won legal rights to assert extra authority over the Internet to establish net neutrality.  “This is a huge victory for Internet consumers and innovators!” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “Starting Friday, there will be a referee on the field to keep the Internet fast, fair and open.” The Federal Communication Commission and its supporters have established that net neutrality is “a necessary check on excessive corporate power, protecting consumers from abusive pricing schemes and data discrimination.”
  2. What exactly is net neutrality?Also referred to as Open Internet interchangeably, net neutrality is like equaling the playing field for Internet speeds and giving consumers un-discriminated access to websites: “no unfair fast or slow lanes, and no blocking of anything that’s legal on your phone, computer or tablet.” This doesn’t mean everyone gets the same level of Internet service —as consumers we pay for different speeds. It does however conclude that key accounts like HBO can’t pay an unregulated amount to networks to provide faster Internet for their
  3. Doesn’t that already exist now? The majority of the time, yes, ISPs negotiations with networks are monitored and dealt with accordingly. In theory nothing should change except the legal interpretation of the ISP’s behavior. Unfortunately, the world as we know it won’t look much different. HBO Go won’t suddenly stream any faster for us. The FCC has just started the process and will have many more uphill battles trying to thwart the discrimination of network providers. You may remember last fall Marriott came under fire for blocking mifi signals and other personal hotspots in their hotels, common areas and convention areas. Similarly, your cable company carrier is now federally regulated to not slow the delivery of a show just because it’s affiliated with a company that competes with a subsidiary of theirs.
  4. Who is in support of net neutrality? Virtually every major Internet company including Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, Vimeo, etc. are in favor of the Open Internet laws. As websites that create the content we read and watch online, they are opposed to a system where network owners could threaten to charge higher fees or slow their sites down.
  5. Who is opposing it?Big provider companies like AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and other Internet service providers (ISPs) don’t want additional regulations. Previous FCC rules had fewer price controls, which companies like Comcast see the Open Internet laws as a potential threat to investments and selling cable subscriptions. Why would anyone pay for cable subscriptions when their shows are becoming easily accessible via the Internet? By leveling the playing field for all ISPs, the Commission is limiting yet another avenue of potential revenue for these big name players.
  6. What did the vote look like?The commission voted 3 to 2 to approve Wheeler’s net neutrality proposal. Democratic commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel voted yes, along with Wheeler, who was appointed by President Obama. Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, both Republicans, voted no.”
  7. Is net neutrality here to stay?Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The recent ruling only decided that the FCC laws are valuable, and require a more detailed review. The aforementioned consortium of telecom companies, including AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, have been suing the government, calling on them to overturn the FCC’s new rules. A more complete hearing is scheduled for later this year, during which a judge could decide to strike down the net neutrality rules. Meanwhile Republicans in Congress are also fighting against net neutrality in an effort to combine language with the crucial spending bill. Burying net neutrality will likely be difficult in the Senate, as President Obama has already made his support of net neutrality clear, and is likely to veto any legislation that overturns the FCC’s rules.

Food for thought: Is the government trying to control the Internet by supporting the FCC’s net-neutrality laws?

Meghan Riley, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland 

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From Luxury to Lifeline

Across the Bronx, where the median household income hovers around $34,000, broadband access to the Internet is a rarity. A 2012 article in the Huffington Post profiled a number of people living and working in the hardscrabble borough, finding themselves on the wrong side of the “digital divide”—“the chasm between those who are connected to technology and those who are not.”

Whether living in poor urban areas or remote rural areas across the country, people generally lack access to high-speed Internet at home because of cost. They—and their children—find themselves disadvantaged when it comes to doing job searches, comparison shopping, or even a night’s homework—each in its own way a vital link to a better way of life. “Being disconnected isn’t just a function of being poor,” reads the article. “These days, it is also a reason some people stay poor.”

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You and I may grumble when our Comcast bill goes up by another two dollars, as it seems to do every few months. We may bemoan the lack of genuine choice among broadband providers. In our upper-middle-class neighborhood, we could leave Comcast and switch to Verizon, but the monthly fees are all about the same, hardly making it worth the effort.

Most Americans would be grateful for such a dilemma. Broadband may have begun as an extravagance, valuable to consumers only for downloading movies or music files, but it has become a lifeline.

Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has spoken out about the disparity in access to broadband, and appears to be doing something about it. Last February, the FCC voted to classify broadband service as a public utility, essentially guaranteeing net neutrality, which is the notion that Internet service providers should enable access to all content without favoring or blocking particular sources at the expense of others. For Wheeler, net neutrality is critical to preserving what he has called the Internet’s role as a “core of free expression and democratic principles.” The ruling itself cites the principle that “America needs more broadband, better broadband, and open broadband networks.”

Wheeler seems intent on making this access a reality for many more Americans. He told NPR recently that 95 percent of households with incomes over $150,000 a year have broadband access, but fewer than half of households making under $25,000 do. In the wake of net neutrality, Wheeler has set his sights on extending the federal Lifeline program, which subsidizes basic phone service for the low-income. The chairman is putting his weight behind an effort to overhaul Lifeline and enable recipients to apply its benefits to pay for broadband service.

Since its inception, the FCC has existed to serve the public interest. In the 1930s, it regulated the radio, telephone, and telegraph industries out of technological necessity to maintain order among the airwaves and protect against monopolies. For example, the commission acted as a sort of traffic cop that granted or denied broadcasting licenses. Later, it expanded its reach into programming, reviewing content and sometimes acting as censor. Past actions may have warranted criticism, particularly in the early 2000s, as the FCC stepped up efforts to enforce indecency on the airwaves. But over 80 years, it has not strayed that far from its essential purpose, that is, to act in the public interest.

Following that model, current efforts to bring broadband into reach for more Americans, particularly those with low to modest incomes, must continue to receive federal attention. In a recent editorial, the New York Times criticized Wheeler’s plan for the Lifeline program as “…too modest. A subsidy of $9.25 a month, though helpful, will not go very far,” the editors wrote. Indeed, the FCC itself has estimated “that the average price for a home Internet connection that can download data at more than 15 megabits per second was $59.40 a month in 2013.”

More funding is clearly necessary. But Wheeler and the FCC also need to push for deeper and more meaningful regulatory changes. Certainly, past decisions resulted in unintended consequences that continue to limit the choice of consumers – whether from consolidation of radio or television networks, or Internet service providers. Under the Bush administration, for example, the FCC exempted cable companies from federal regulations that would have forced them to lease their lines to rivals, saying that such requirements would have lessened their incentives to develop and modernize those lines. The result is that most consumers have only one expensive on-ramp to the Internet.

Until policymakers concentrate their attention on putting public interest ahead of commercial concerns, all those folks in the Bronx and elsewhere will continue to be stuck in the slow lane.

By Paula Moore, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland 

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Anonymous … More Harm than Good?

When I think of a traditional war, I think of one that consists of tanks and ground troops engaged in battle, which usually results in unfortunate and numerous casualties. With the current military campaign being waged against ISIS in Iraq and Syria for its terrorist acts against many Muslims, Christians and other captured hostages, there is yet another type of war being waged against them. A cyber war. The Hacker group known only as “Anonymous” started its campaign against ISIS when an Anonymous-affiliated Twitter account posted that it was declaring a full-scale cyber war on ISIS in response to the Charlie Hebdo shooting massacre in Paris, France.

Dawson Blog PhotoAnonymous has held to this claim, hacking its way into over 800 Twitter accounts, 12 Facebook pages, and more than 50 emails of ISIS terrorist members so far, according to reports. The group has also shut down various social media sites operated or affiliated with ISIS that are used to recruit volunteer fighters from the around the world. I discovered a recent YouTube video by Anonymous in which the group stated, “You [ISIS] will be treated like a virus, and we are the cure. We own the Internet.”

But I wonder about the group actually waging this cyber war. I feel that Anonymous is trying to show the world that they are fighting the battle in their own way, but to benefit their own propaganda strategy. Anonymous has been known to launch cyber-attacks on police departments across the country, one of the most recent being the Ferguson Missouri Police Department, targeted for their aggressive behavior in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown. One fact that surprised and concerned me about this case was that the group was able to hack the Ferguson Chief of Police’s cell phone and use the camera on it to watch the Chief’s son asleep at home. Anonymous has also conducted cyber-attacks on churches and other US government departments that it doesn’t agree with. Ironically, now Anonymous finds itself fighting on what they say is “America’s” side.

I believe that on one hand many would argue that Anonymous is a hero for what it’s doing to bring down ISIS. On the other, I would say that this brings up cause for concern, because not knowing the full potential and ability of Anonymous, which has worked against our government and others before, puts all of us at risk – especially as the group claims to “control the Internet.” If that’s true then the Internet, and the billions who use it, are at the mercy of a hacktivist group, even if it is working with the general public to stop a common enemy at the moment.

By Rufus Dawson, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland

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Spread the Word – Pediatric Cancer Concerns

Childhood CancerWhen a family learns of its child’s diagnosis with cancer, the family begins to contemplate treatment options and plan for patient care while balancing life’s regular demands. Facebook trends show that it has become increasingly popular for families to take these private cases into the public arena by posting updates on personal social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram to share updates with friends and family. While some outlets, like CaringBridge, offer password protection to a patient’s care page, some families have also decided to set up Facebook pages and websites/blogs specifically to support the pediatric patient and update family and friends. These pages often include family photos, treatment updates, travel arrangements, etc.

In theory, these public pages and updates are excellent avenues to support the family and the patient emotionally, spiritually, logistically and financially. By networking through social media, affected families can seek support and learn of new treatment opportunities and studies that could increase the odds of survival for the child. However, what aspects of privacy do these families give up by allowing their family life to be spread across various social media sites? And should these cases be treated with more care as they chronicle the journey of a minor?

In studying various Facebook pages for pediatric cancer patients, I notice a trend in that a number of a family members and friends collaborate to update the pages. And with that, there are numerous shares for various posts on said pages. Are these shares conducted by family members or family friends? And if not, is the family comfortable with the sensitive information being shared by strangers? While these well-intentioned shares could support the cause to end pediatric cancer, they could also spread private information regarding the family such as the family’s names, home address for care packages, and travel plans for treatment.

The family is mostly likely focused on the care of the child, but what considerations should be taken in updating these social media platforms? Sharing information of this nature could be cathartic to some family members, but troublesome to others, and over-sharing of information could ultimately put the family at risk. With Facebook continuing to change its privacy policies, it becomes increasingly important for each Facebook user to understand how posted information can be disseminated and who can access one’s information, whether it is meant to be shared or not.

By Erin Richardson, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University, Maryland

 

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“…There is no substitute for first-hand information…” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

We all know that broadcast media has been the main source of information dissemination for the last 90+ years. However, a fundamental shift in the way news and information are disseminated is rapidly occurring. The increased usage of the internet and social media has presented a unique opportunity for people to have a voice in the way information is being dispersed to the populous.

The evolution of technology and the popularity of social media have spawned a new age of journalism called “citizen journalism” that reports information in real time and offers an unbiased assessment of actual events.

Admittedly, some of the unedited reporting is crude and sometimes even cruel to view, especially in cases of vicious school house fights or police brutality videos that are populating the Internet. However, the bottom-up approach encourages bilateral dialogue, and authentically driven content seems to appeal to the everyday individual.

This is especially true of the millennial generation, who comprise over 35 percent of the United States population. The fact that young people can interact, maintain their anonymity and compare information sources empowers them. Young people’s use of “new media” allows them to create a continuous stream of multiple conversations, often interweaving differing media formats, that gives them a strong sense of community. According to youthnet.org, 45 percent of young people say they felt happiest when they were online; 75 percent claimed they couldn’t live without the internet; and 86 percent reported that they loved how technology afforded them the ability to communicate with people.

Digital media offers an opportunity to create content and make connections that would ordinarily be impossible to nurture. People form both loose and close bonds using Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels where they can establish relationships, build trust and form alliances.

Who in our community can we rely on to tell us the truth? In America today, many feel traditional media has become slow, unreliable, cynical, and untrustworthy. They have become too politically and financially motivated and lack the objectivity of true journalism reporting.

I can only speak for myself when I say that aside from political satirists, I get most of my information and news from the internet and social media. I enjoy reading the comment box at the end of articles where consumers voice their opinions on a specific item – that helps me see everyone’s point of view. I also like reading friends’ and followers’ comments on social media and their perception of news that has been shared or posted.

There is a negative correlation between one-way and two-way information flow platforms. No matter how people receive news, it seems to me that if they are unable to engage, their attention span is relatively low. That, in turn, directly affects their confidence in the news or information being broadcast.

Some data suggest that millennial are weary of traditional news sources and would prefer to curate their own content for public consumption. While the public’s confidence remains low in newspapers, the internet and television alike, the internet has to be given consideration for being a relatively new venue to broadcast news and information.

According to Gallup, engagement remains relatively high on social media sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. It could be that the internet, social media and citizen journalist news is more appealing than traditional news sources. It could be that too much politics is in play with traditional media. Possibly people just want to have a say about what is transpiring in their daily lives. Or maybe they would prefer to create their own content instead of being merely a projection of a sample set in the latest poll that could or couldn’t align with their personal beliefs or views on a particular issue.

Uncertainty remains about whether digital media will permanently overtake traditional media to become the primary source of obtaining news and information, but it is certainly a likely possibility. It is inherent in our genetics that we are inclined to be socially interactive, which makes the internet and social media an ideal platform for expressing ourselves by creating and curating our own content. It has given us the opportunity to engage with each other in a manner that is more aligned with our natural disposition.

By Bobby Sydnor, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland

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