In an era ubiquitously marked by art-dominated culture and unrestricted outlets for self-expression, an ongoing struggle for personal recognition and monetary satisfaction wages between copyrighters and consumers. An industry once forged by passion and creativity seems to have taken a moral and ethical shift, now myopically focusing on the financial aspects of art rather than its original purpose of enhancing and celebrating American culture. In his thought-provoking novel, Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars, William Patry bluntly addresses the profound disconnect between media producers and consumers, and questions the intentions of both parties. Copyright owners are “continually looking for a magic and safe solution that will permit them to control consumers and therefore control growth,” Patry explains, demonstrating the seemingly adversarial relationship between both groups (24). Today, copyright litigation is a billion-dollar industry that is largely commandeered by threatened copyrighters seeking out entitled credit for the works they release to their consumers. Recent technology makes copyrighted media more accessible than ever before, and many established producers are hesitant to accept more recent and alternative modes of creation and publication. Consumers now have the perpetual ability to create original songs and images or remix pre-existing art forms by using certain easily accessible technologies. This concept may instill fear within the content’s original owner, and motivate their decision to take drastic measure towards securing their rights.
The notion of copyrighters taking advantage of their consumers is hyperbolically illustrated in a South Park episode entitled, “The Human CentiPad,” where consumers unknowingly submit themselves to tortuous human experimentation after failing to fully read an application’s “Terms of Service” agreement (Parker 2011). Clearly, the show’s protagonist was remiss by not reading the terms he agreed to; however, Patry’s theory of copyrighters extorting consumers is indicated by the company’s gruesome consequences, which serve no purpose other than to antagonize the consumer. While this superlative theme is wildly exaggerated in the South Park episode, it is not a fictitious phenomenon. For example, the social networking website, “Facebook,” clearly highlights that they “reserve all rights not expressly granted to you” in their “Statement of Rights and Responsibility” section (Statement 2012). This statement fosters a gray area of uncertainty and leaves users feeling unsure of their rights. Additionally, they warn users to “use it at your own risk” because they will “not guarantee that Facebook will always be safe” (Statement 2012). Like the character from South Park, the average consumer might make certain assumptions based on the website’s worldwide popularity that would lead them to sign up without any concerns regarding their own personal safety or security.
In closing, the epitomized central message supported by both William Patry and the South Park episode ultimately boils down to a one-sided feeling of respect many consumers experience in their ongoing relationship with the copyrighted world. While Patry goes as far as to label “enforcement actions by corporate copyright owners as an assault on consumers,” there is clearly an underlying air of overstepped boundaries on behalf of the copyrighters (1). Even though copyrighters should expect a certain degree of credit and recognition, it often seems as though they are too eager to exercise or abuse their power over consumers and lose sight of the intended purpose and meaning in the copyrighted work at hand.
“Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” Facebook. Web. 07 Sept. 2012.
Parker, Trey. “The Human CentiPad.” South Park. Viacom Media Networks.
27 Apr. 2011. Television. Transcript.
Patry, William F. Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. New York: Oxford UP,