Course blog for CSP 11 (Fall 2012) @ Occidental College

Tag Archives: Copyright Wars

From fellow Oxy instructor Edmond Johnson on Facebook (where I stumbled across this link):

Paul Zukofsky is a violinist, conductor, and former UCLA professor whose father (Louis Zukofsky, 1904-1978) was a semi-obscure objectivist poet. The son inherited his fathers copyrights and is now openly hostile toward any grad student or scholar who dares to write about his father’s works. Check out the extraordinary copyright notice he’s posted on his website…

You can read Zukofsky’s post here.  It’s especially interesting, after all of our talk about the copyright industries, to consider the case of an individual rights owner who is taking this stance, and one that is especially hostile towards academics doing scholarly work.  I wonder what Aufderheide and Jaszi would have to say about this, especially an excerpt like this:

Despite what you may have been told, you may not use LZ’s words as you see fit, as if you owned them, while you hide behind the rubric of “fair use”. “Fair use” is a very-broadly defined doctrine, of which I take a very narrow interpretation, and I expect my views to be respected. We can therefore either more or less amicably work out the fees that I demand; you can remove all quotation; or we can turn the matter over to lawyers, this last solution being the worst of the three, but one which I will use if I need to enforce my rights.

In general, as a matter of principle, and for your own well-being, I urge you to not work on Louis Zukofsky, and prefer that you do not. Working on LZ will be far more trouble than it is worth. You will be far more appreciated working on some author whose copyright holder(s) will actually cherish you, and/or your work. I do not, and no one should work under those conditions. However, if you have no choice in the matter, here are the procedures that I insist upon, and what you must do if you wish to spare yourself as much grief as possible.

1– people who want to do their dissertation on LZ, or want to quote from him in their diss., must, if only as a common courtesy, inform me of their desire to use this material, and obtain my permission to do so. If you do that, and if I agree, the permission will be only for the purposes of the diss. and there will be no charge for limited use within the diss. You will not be allowed to distribute the diss. publicly. Distribution via on-line publication is not allowed. I urge you to keep quotation to a minimum, as the more quotation, the less likely I am to grant permission.

2– people who quote Louis Zukofsky in their dissertations without having had the courtesy to request my permission, and who do so without having obtained my permission to quote LZ, do not have permission to use LZ quotations, and will, in the future, be refused all permission to quote any and all LZ in their future publications, and I promise to do my utmost to hamper, hinder, and preferably prevent all such quotation.

And, finally, here is an interesting analysis of the post.


Just as the HumancentiPad was incapable of acknowledging what it was reading, so are the media industries incapable of reading into the modernization of copyright laws and the ways in which consumers obtain what they need. While these industries assume that acts of piracy are what is ruining their almighty regime of media, the reality is that their denial of, and inability to adapt to, new technologies are what is hurting them.

The record industry, for example, is constantly hesitating to accept the Digital Age of music and respect the consumers’ desire to make music more accessible online. They claim that such progression leads to more piracy and, subsequently, less sales. Artists such as David Byrne and Bono have discredited this claim, saying “Major labels aren’t doing well because they put out terrible records for years and years and kept raising the price of those terrible records and finally people were like, “Screw you.”” (Patry 18).  What the record industries have difficulty understanding is the logic behind such acts of piracy. The majority of the people who are illegally downloading music are still doing so in the best interest of the artist. While this “best interest” may not be the same “best interest” that the industries are familiar with, it is an interest that benefits the artist in the long run. If someone decides to illegally download one song by an artist, he may be doing this for one of many reasons. He may be waiting until he has enough money to buy the entire album legally. Moreover, he might be unsure about said artist, but once this single song grows on him, he will purchase the album and even attend a concert or two, as well as buy merchandise sold by the artist.

This lack of trust that the media industries have in their consumers is verging on irrational, considering the amount of trust that consumers have in the industries. The HumancentiPad episode of South Park provides a well thought-out analysis of the relationship between consumer and industry. Kyle Broflovski, the protagonist of the episode, is taken hostage by Apple because he fails to read the Terms and Conditions (“HUMANCENTiPAD”).  His struggles throughout the episode are relatable to almost every person in the audience. Consumers encounter Terms and Services, Terms and Conditions, and the like, every time they decide to download a program for their computer, a song from iTunes, or register for a social networking website. The percentage of people who instinctively hit the ‘Accept’ button is incredibly high. What does this represent? It represents a trust that the consumers have in the companies they are downloading from/registering for/etc. Just as Kyle did not expect Apple to betray him, the typical consumer of digital products expects the terms and conditions to lay out what he already knows. There is no fear that Apple, Netflix, Facebook, or Twitter will terminate an account for no reason or revoke any sort of rights. However, if one were to closely examine the “Use of Information Submitted” section of Netflix’s Terms of Use, he/she would discover that in “submitting Feedback to [them], or in responding to questionnaires, [he/she grants Netflix] a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free irrevocable license” that allows Netflix to reproduce his/her opinions and comments in any media form (“Terms of Use”).  While a person cannot copyright his/her own comments on a website as easily as an author can copyright a book, the comments made are solely that individual’s and Netflix’s reproduction of them should be looked upon as taking someone else’s creative property and using it as their own.

William Patry believes that copyright laws need to be reformed in a way that promotes creativity, and to do this we need effective laws (Patry 38).  Progress cannot be made while copyright acts as a utilitarian system of government. Copyright must be regulated, but not so much that it halts man’s creativity. After reading but one Terms of Use, I am more aware of the kinds of things the companies I put my trust into can do to me, and my incentive to speak my mind in an open forum has lowered. If my mundane comments on a movie-watching website are free for use, who knows what else I have freely given to the world?

 Works Cited

“HUMANCENTiPAD.” South Park. Dir. Trey Parker. Comedy Central. 27 April 2011. Television. 9 September 2012.

 

Patry, William. Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

 

“Terms of Use.” Netflix. 7 March 2012. Web. 9 September 2012. <https://account.netflix.com/TermsOfUse&gt;


As a consumer of media and technology I frequently come across Terms and Conditions or Terms of Services that I agree to in order to use these Services or technologies. Do I accept these Terms? Always. Do I actually read the Terms and Conditions that I’m agreeing to? Absolutely not. Trey Parker’s South Park episode “HUMANCENTiPAD” satirizes the average consumer’s actions regarding technology including not reading Terms and Conditions before agreeing to them as well as how consumers respond to companies such as Apple.

I watched “HUMANCENTiPAD” in the context of the first chapter of William Patry’s book Moral Panics and Copyright Wars titled “How the Copyright Wars Are Being Fought and Why.” While the observations and subsequent statements that Patry forms about the Copyright Wars are mostly in regard to companies as copyright owners, there are direct comparisons to be made to Apple’s business strategies.

Patry opens up his chapter with the concept that industries, such as the music industry, have “gone to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted” (Patry 1). The theme of the industry’s control of consumers is one that particularly interested me when considering themes of “HUMANCENTiPAD.” A premise “HUMANCENTiPAD” is the control that Apple gains by having customers agree to Terms and Conditions (which no one actually reads because it’s “like eight pages long and they send you a new one every three weeks” (Parker)). In this episode, characters blindly agree to the Terms and Conditions and subsequently turn into a rather vulgar new type of iPad which is part-human part-centipede part-iPad, a parody of the horror film Human Centipede.

I decided to peruse the 17 page-long Terms and Conditions of iTunes and, as of the version last updated May 23, 2012, Apple does not have acceptors of the agreement agree to become any sort of HUMANCENTiPAD. However, the Terms and Conditions does contain some language which put Apple in control of monitoring compliance with Terms and Conditions and “enforcement and/or verify compliance with any part of [the] Agreement” (Apple). The South Park episode doesn’t necessarily criticize or bring to light specific content of the Terms and Conditions of iTunes, however, questions the actual control Apple products and other similar technologies have over consumers. For instance, Cartman throws a complete fit in Best Buy because his mother does not want to buy him an iPad and he refuses to be seen with a less expensive Toshiba HandiBook. While Cartman’s response is extreme, it represents the loyalty consumers feel towards brand-name technology, specifically Apple.

Some critical questions to raise are how we got to the point where consumers would not be caught dead with an off-brand piece of technology and why we feel the need to have the latest-and-greatest even if it is, in the case of the South Park episode, a HUMANCENTiPAD? According to Patry’s interpretations of the definition, Apple uses what he describes as “push marketing” by creating what it wants then markets it to the consumer. Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple was quoted in BusinessWeek in May 25 1998, cited in Owen Linzmayer’s Wired article “Steve Jobs’ Best Quotes Ever,” saying that “it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” (qtd. in Linzmayer). This is precisely the kind of approach Patry detests and views as an attempt of control of consumers. Jobs even went one step further to say in a BusinessWeekOnline interview in October 12, 2004 that “I’ve always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do” (qtd. in Linzmayer). Patry criticizes businesses for creating “products or services based on what they want to sell to consumers and not based on what consumers want to buy, resulting in what Theodore Levitt called ‘marketing myopia’” (5). Unfortunately for Patry’s case against this marketing tool for being ineffective, Apple has been highly successful with push tactics and now has a large following of Apple users, myself included.

For whatever reason I feel a certain connection to my Apple products (of which there are eight being used regularly in my house at home with me and my parents) and while I would like to think that I make the decision to purchase Apple products based on my independent thoughts and decisions, I recognize that this is not the case. Like many other consumers I have allowed myself to be seduced by companies like Apple and in order to continue to use their products will blindly accept the Terms and Conditions presented to me “like every three weeks” (Parker).

Works Cited

Linzmayer, Owen. “Steve Jobs’ Best Quotes Ever.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 39 Mar. 2006. Web. 07 Sept. 2012. <http://www.wired.com/gadgets/mac/commentary/cultofmac/2006/03/70512?currentPage=all&gt;.

Parker, Trey. HUMANCENTiPAD. South Park Studios. Viacom, Apr. 2011. Web. 6 Sept. 2012. <http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s15e01-humancentipad&gt;.

Patry, William F. “How the Copyright Wars Are Being Fought and Why.” Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. 1-41. Print.

“Terms and Conditions.” iTunes Store Terms and Conditions. Apple, 23 May 2012. Web. 06 Sept. 2012. <http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/us/terms.html&gt;.


The HumancentiPad could do everything except read, and I couldn’t help but sympathize with it. The intangibility of online user agreements causes people to be less concerned with the terms they are signing to.  I believe that the virtual reality of the Internet is what separates users from these agreements.  The speed at which the Internet runs also makes the few minutes it takes to read the terms seem like an eternity, especially when the accept button is so textually dominant over the terms.

Designed to be the ultimate personalization of the Internet, Facebook follows what William Patry describes as a pull business.  Facebook is a pull business because, “rather than seeking to constrain the range of resources available to participants, pull models constantly strive to expand it while helping participants, pull models give even people on the periphery tools and resources (including connections to other people) needed to take initiative and to address opportunities creatively as they arise” (Patry 7).  The aim of Facebook, as with most social networking sites, is to connect individuals on it to one another.  Wanting to be part of a greater group fueled by constant communication is what draws people to the site.  Facebook’s business model appears innovative by adapting to each individual consumer’s interests and having multiple means of communication available (wall post, chat, pictures, ect.).  Clicking the terms of agreement when signing up for Facebook is simply the price to pay to ensure you are not left out of the community the site creates.  People would much rather buy into Facebook and be a part of its personalized society than be critical of the various agreements they are signing themselves to by joining.   

In contrast to the more individualized practices of “pull” marketing, “push” marketing establishes a baseline strategy to get general consumers (as opposed to specified marketing to individuals) to buy into their product.  Patry argues that, “due to their push mentality, the copyright industries view the entirety of copyright as unidirectional: the public is a passive participant, whose role is to simply pay copyright owners, or to stop using copyrighted works“ (Patry 8).

 Even as a pull model, the language of Facebook’s “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” is extraordinarily convoluted.  The level of personalization that Facebook creates is a product of the rights they earn for their consumers’ identities through the agreement, so it is no wonder the language used is flexible.  Perhaps the best clause in their terms of agreement is, “we can change this Statement if we provide you notice (by posting the change on the Facebook Site Governance Page) and an opportunity to comment.  To get notice of any future changes to this Statement, visit our Facebook Site Governance Page and “like” the Page” (Sec.14, Pt. 1). If you are only notified of agreement changes if you like and get notifications from a particular page within the site, Facebook’s terms are subject to change without the direct notice of their general users (ie. those who do not read the fine print regularly).  The language used in this part of Facebook’s terms of agreement are analogous to Patry’s understanding of a pull model, as the terms are subject to change as the site changes.  Patry is pretty adamant in claiming that the copyright industry should be transformed into a pull business.  I am tempted to say that I would rather the law be rigid and commonly understood with respect to copyright than be ever changing and only relevant on a case by case basis, as through a pull system.  If the rules of copyright are ever changing to fit the individuals involved, like in the case of Facebook, is it necessarily better for the individual?

The power of Facebook’s agreement policy, like in the case of copyright law in general, comes from the uncertainty it creates.  Even if a Facebook user reads the terms they are inevitably going to agree to, the language the terms are formed on does not aid the consumer in having any idea what they are signing to.  Perhaps the reason we are so trained to not read user agreements is because we are used to the language being so extraordinarily indecisive.  Because we are preconditioned to think the terms will be vague and unhelpful to us, we don’t bother with them unless we absolutely have to, and even then we may just skim. 

 

Patry, William. Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

“Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.” Facebook, 8 June 2012. Web. 08 Sept. 2012. <http://www.facebook.com/legal/terms&gt;

 


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Copyright laws are designed to “promote the progress of science and useful arts (Madison Article I, Section 8).” Many everyday websites are attempting to do just this. However, they seem to consistently fall short of the noble goal articulated in the constitution due copyright wars resulting from our modern culture and technology. Stumbleupon.com, which has a mission to provide users with individualized internet content based on a profile of interests each member creates is, on the surface, a fun and unique way to discover one’s interests on the Internet. Buried under the website’s thousands of pages of poetry, photography, music, recipes, and more, there is secret and binding literature, the terms of service agreement.

When reading through Stumbleupon.com’s terms of service, one can see traces of the power struggle depicted in William Patry’s chapter, “How the Copyright Wars are Being Fought and Why.” In the section labeled “Term,” Stumbleupon.com clearly reserves the right to ”restrict, deactivate, or terminate your account for any reason” (StumbleUpon). This statement gives the company more power than its users, sharply contradicting my first impression of the sight as an individualized cultural discovery provider, focused on catering to its users interests. This concept of a company’s power over the customer can be seen especially clearly in the South Park episode “HumancentiPad,” where Eric blindly agrees to Apple’s terms of service, subsequently signing his life away. This episode does a painfully wonderful job of depicting the power we as customers give service providers by clicking “agree.”

Companies and service providers such as Stumbleupon.com and Apple are known for their popularity among consumers and reputation for being caterers of customer desires. This is humorously echoed in the South Park episode by character Kyle Broflovski when he says, “everybody knows that everything but apple is stupid!” (Parker). However, upon reading the terms of service and watching the “HumancentiPad,” a new side of these companies was revealed to me, a side that mirrors William Patry’s claims of what the copyright war is, a struggle for power. While Stumbleupon.com makes it clear in their terms of service literature that the “services are made available to you for your non-commercial use only,” (StumbleUpon Section 7, f) it is not without the stipulations discussed above. Through the implementation of their terms of service, both Stumbleupon.com and Apple are limiting consumers’ rights in what users can do with the cultural content they obtain through services provided by these two companies.

By recognizing the fact that very few users actually read the terms of service material, companies like Apple and Stumbleupon.com are secretly in control of their customers’ rights. Users are under the impression that these two companies are all about giving customers exactly what they want and creating an environment of free-flowing and available culture, a consumer’s euphoria. To some extent they are, but what customers fail to realize is that company policy is a juxtaposition of the outward appearances they advertise and is often swept under the rug by the simple click of the “agree” button.

 

 

WORKS CITED

Madison, James. United States. Constitution of the United States. Philadelphia: , 1787. Web. <http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html&gt;.

 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, dir. “HumancentiPad.” Writ. Matt Stone. South Park. Comedy Central: 27 Apr 2011. Television. <http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s15e01-humancentipad&gt;.

“StumbleUpon Terms of Service.” StumbleUpon. N.p., 27 Jul. 2011. Web. 6 Sep 2012. <http://www.stumbleupon.com/terms&gt;.