Posts Tagged ‘second life’

“I Fought The Law and The Law Won”

July 13, 2009


I don’t buy newspapers very often these days. But back in May I happened to get the Observer on a day when it was publishing its Music monthly supplement.

I was very interested in the “Walking The Plank” feature inside it (see picture above). I wasn’t able to find this feature on the Observer’s website so I’ve reproduced it above (which is an irony in itself).

“Walking The Plank” looks at the history of five music file sharing sites. In case you can’t read the text above here’s what it says in the final box at the bottom of each column.

Napster: Shut down by courts. Bought by Bertlesmann for $8 million and relaunched as legal, subscription based service…

Limewire: One year after opening a store allowing people to pay fro tracks, the now legits site claims 70 million unique users per month.

Grokster: Shuts down five months after the Supreme Court rules it can be sued for misuse of its file sharing software.

Pirate Bay: Convicted of promnoting copyright infringement. The founders and their buisness partners aare sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay £2.4 milllion…

Oink’s Pink: Alan Ellis was due to appear at Teeside crown court on charges of conspiracy to defraud…

Like a lot of people when I first came across ideas around digital media and how it was changing notions of copyright I got rather excited (the link is to my internal BBC blog of the time so you won’t be able to read it unless you’re inside the BBC firewall). Reading that post again now makes me realise how naive I was. Particularly in the light of what’s actually happened in the past three years.

When Pirate Bay lost their court case there was a lot of bold rhetoric about them fighting the system (“we can’t pay”). But from the look of this story they’ve gone legal, and may have to pay.

Things have value as long as human beings are prepared to assign value to them and pay for them. As long as they are prepared to pay for things, laws around ownership of those things will still exist. And it doesn’t matter if you disagree with a law, if it’s the law then in the end you have to obey it or face the consequences.

These days I am pretty sceptical of statements like “data wants to be free”. This is an example of what I was taught at school as “the pathetic fallacy” – the tendency of human beings to think that inanimate objects and other living things have the same “feelings” as human beings do. Human beings may or may not want to be “free” (whatever that means), but code doesn’t have feelings or aspirations.

It is true that the nature of digital media means that its easier for some people to do certain things (like copying). But just because they can, doesn’t make those things right or even useful.

Virtual world Second Life was the centre of a copyright dispute. None of Second Life is “real”. Yet people felt ownership of the things they made there and objected to other people “ripping them off”.

People make rules, then break them, then make them again. And it’s the rule makers who have the power. In cyberspace as much as anywhere else.

Users, Twits and Cameramen Under Fire

November 16, 2008

Three recent articles/blog posts which I thought had something in common.

1. This amusing attack on media twitterers from the Register, including a little unfairly, Rory Cellan Jones who is a very nice man, a shrewd BBC journalist and someone who has helped me at work.

But the more of themselves media people reveal, the more the public sees them as clueless, self-referential and narcissistic bunch so many of them are. And the more time the BBC spends on peripheral New Media wankery, the more people wonder why they’re paying a licence fee

2. Tom Scott on the money as always politely but firmly refuting the concept of “User Generated Content”.

As I sit here writing this post am I a user? If I am I have no idea what I’m using other than WordPress, and if I am then so must journalists be users of their CMS. I know one thing for sure, I don’t think of myself as a user of someone’s site and I don’t create content for them

3.This story from the Guardian.

I have been shot more times than I have been credited by the BBC,” he said. “In fact, I was shot once while filming with the BBC. The shooting, of course, made up a significant part of the news report. I was referred to as ‘our cameraman’, as if I was some damaged bit of equipment.”

He added: “We are all journalists who strive to be fair and accurate; it’s not an exclusive club. We are not second-class journalists because we choose to fund our own journalism.”

The idea that only a professional class of elite creatives can make content is looking shaky. And so is the notion that everyone else is either anonymously servicing their needs (like a cameraman) or just a passive “user” who might try and make something but could never come up to their high standards.

If this was ever true it’s less and less true now.

Now everyone can be creative. Not unreasonably they are asking both to be visible and to get credit (even if they don’t get paid) and respect.

I’ve always intensely disliked the phrase “user generated content”. For a start “user” always seems to suggest a drug addict. And in my cynical experience “UGC” is a phrase only used by media executives who use it for reassurance when they’ve never made any web content or participated in anything themselves.

We don’t think less of Olympic athletes just because they are amateurs.

Andrew Orlowski is right that media types can too easily get trapped in navel gazing.

It’s easy to dismiss social media as something that has no impact outside the media itself. The media probably do over estimate the importance of social media, and they certainly over estimate their own importance.

But this doesn’t mean that twitter is pointless. Simply that the media types who use it should get out more (or get more “friends” outside their usual groups).

But in a world where a couple got divorced because of something that happened in second life, there’s definitely something happening (the people involved are not digital media execs or Nathan Barleys).

Look beyond the tools at the human behaviour. People have desires and dream of perfect versions of themselves. People are driven by beliefs and ideals. If they are doing something they and the world sees as worthwhile, they should be given respect, not dismissed.