When asked in class to determine the primary function of copyright, about half of the class decided that copyright was enacted to protect the rights of authors. However, according to the United States Constitution, the purpose of copyright is “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,” (U.S. Const., art. 1, sec. 8). How can society experience any progress if there is a constant battle between producers and consumers? In Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars, William Patry discusses the power struggle between producers and consumers and emphasizes how copyright can be used as a tool to deceive and manipulate users who blindly agree to certain Terms and Conditions.
Patry makes an excellent point when he writes, “Too many companies in the copyright industries appear oblivious to the very idea that consumers have needs; to them, consumers are passive purchasers of what those companies decide to sell.” This notion of the submissive and careless consumers is evident in the Southpark episode “HumancentiPad”. In this episode, Apple uses its power to blatantly take advantage of its users, especially considering how many young people in society today use Apple. The owners of Apple sneak in a part to their Terms and Conditions to an update that essentially forces people to give up control of their bodies. The owners don’t even think twice about their unethical behavior. They see their customers as purchasers, not as people. After watching this episode, I see my trust in companies slowly diminishing. I am guilty of signing Terms and Conditions after only briefly skimming them. Now, I am beginning to fear the consequences that present themselves when one fails to question the rights they are giving up when they check the “I agree” box.
Being an Apple user myself, I decided to explore Apple’s Terms and Conditions. Sure enough, I found a part which seems unfair:
Apple reserves the right at any time to modify this Agreement and to impose new or additional terms or conditions on your use of the iTunes Service. Such modifications and additional terms and conditions will be effective immediately and incorporated into this Agreement. Your continued use of the iTunes Service will be deemed acceptance thereof.
I think it is absurd that Apple is granting itself the power to change its Terms and Conditions without notifying its users. This clause of Apple’s Terms and Conditions makes me unsure of whether I can trust Apple. I doubt I will ever be forced to submit to the terrible cruelties seen in “HumancentiPad,” but I am curious to know what change Apple would make. Would Apple limit the number of songs people can download? Would Apple start charging people monthly fees? Terms and Conditions should give confidence to both producers and consumers, but the consumers often feel cheated in the end.
The gap between the producers and consumers seems to be widening rapidly. Producers don’t trust consumers to use their services correctly, and consumers don’t trust producers to treat them fairly. We need to adjust copyright laws to accommodate people from all perspectives and end this copyright war.
Patry, William. “How the Copyright Wars are Being Fought and Why.” Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. New York: Oxford, 2009. 1-41. Print.
Parker, Trey. “HumancentiPad.” South Park. Comedy Central: 27 Apr 2011. Television. <http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s15e01-humancentipad>.
“Terms and Conditions.” Apple. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. <http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/us/terms.html#APPS>.