Copyright has come to be known as a tool of controlling the use and distribution of certain creative works in today’s society. William Patry discusses how industries’ yearning to control the use of copyrighted works harms innovative progress in society in Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. Terms of services are the apparatus through which the consumer’s rights and protections, as well as limitations, are expressed. Whether satirized in the episode “HumancentiPad” of South Park or seen in Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, terms for use of services often do demonstrate an undertone of control and manipulation.
Patry describes the desire of industries “to control all aspects of production, distribution, and consumption” of their products (6). Such industries express this desire through creating terms of services which define the boundaries of the use of their services/content. In the South Park episode “HumancentiPad,” the character Kyle is kidnapped by Apple Inc. because he unknowingly agrees to it by not reading Apple’s Terms of Service (South Park). Ironically something that is supposed to aid in preventing corrupt things from happening, such as copyright infringement, causes Kyle to be caught in a slick situation. The terms of services creates a situation of control for Apple in which Kyle lacks control of his own; similar to how copyright law “stifle[s] innovation” (Patry 38). Copyright law can become convoluted and overwhelming when trying to create something innovative and creative. But if one actually reads the terms of services, then one begin the process of reform.
Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities may seem to have a tone of control with diction like “you will,” but if read carefully critical information can be drawn from it. Facebook’s statement expresses how one can commit copyright infringement but also provides “tools to help protect your intellectual property rights” (“Statement of Rights and Responsibilities”). If one has read this statement then one could have known how to approach copyright law while using Facebook. Unlike how the episode of South Park portrays terms of services to be deceiving, Facebook’s terms actually are there to inform users of how to deal with copyright as opposed to just tricking users into slippery situations. “Framing is the reference point from which judgments and decisions are made” (Patry 15). Copyright law does not always have to be bad.
Despite the importance of understanding the boundaries of terms of services, a large amount of people still choose not to read the terms. Although copyright law and terms of services are currently widely known as a restrictive red tape that inhibit artistic ability and entrap innovators, it is not meant to be that. Patry describes how copyright law is meant to progress innovation, not confuse and trick people like the character of Kyle in South Park. Terms of services, like Facebook’s, may be lengthy but they are important in understanding the boundaries of copyright for that service. Knowing what one is agreeing with is crucial in reforming copyright law. “Agree” to change copyright by reading first.
Parker, Trey. “Humancentipad.” South Park. N.d. South Park Studios. South Park Studios. Web. 8 Sept. 2012. <http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s15e01-humancentipad>.
Patry, William F. Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.
“Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.” Facebook. Facebook, 8 June 2012. Web. 08 Sept. 2012. <http://www.facebook.com/legal/terms>.