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

Tag Archives: humancentiPad

If you asked any random person on the street what they thought the purpose of copyright is, they’d probably assert that copyright is designed to protect the rights of artists. William Patry, author of Moral Panics and Copyright Wars, disagrees. Patry believes that copyright is a tool used by so called “copyright industries” to wage war against their consumers. Patry argues that the modern use of copyright is a symptom of “push marketing”: “With push marketing, businesses create products or services based on what they want to sell to consumers and not based on what consumers want to buy” (5). This kind of push marketing is very apparent in the modern music industry, which constantly resists changes in music mediums. “This is what occurred with the record industry’s refusal to move to MP3 single-song sales, long after it was apparent to rational observers that the CD market was exhausted” (4). Push marketing as Patry describes it is detrimental to progress and resists free market ideals, in particular the invisible hand. Patry argues that the industry needs to move to a pull market, in which consumers and “collaboration, not control” drive the marketing of copyrighted works (7).

Since Patry’s argument is based primarily in the domain of economics, one would assume that a company such as Facebook that provides a service free of charge would have little use for the waging of copyright wars. But while Facebook generally does not revolve around the creation and sharing of creative works, it’s easy to forget that photos and videos uploaded can be considered “intellectual property”. Facebook has a somewhat disturbing approach to intellectual property, as stated in their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities: “For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.” Facebook essentially has the right to use your photos and videos for whatever nefarious purposes they can think of. This becomes even more frightening when it becomes clear how little privacy really exists on Facebook: “When you use an application, the application may ask for your permission to access your content and information as well as content and information that others have shared with you.  We require applications to respect your privacy, and your agreement with that application will control how the application can use, store, and transfer that content and information. ” While users do have the right to resist this intrusion, I doubt that many users consider the possible repercussions of playing “FarmVille”. As Kyle Brovlofski so tactuflly stated in the South Park episode “Human CentiPad”, “Who the hell reads that entire thing every time it pops up?”

It would appear that Facebook is engaging in (or at least has the ability to engage in) borderline Orwellian surveillance of its users that one might think is illegal. But in actuality, Facebook is well within its rights when it does whatever it does with your intellectual property, because the user clicked “agree” when signing up with Facebook. Facebook can also change this contract whenever it chooses: “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,” and the only way to recieve notice is to make the effort to like a Facebook page which, up until now, I didn’t even know existed. The little power that Facebook gives to its users “If more than 7,000 users post a substantive comment on a particular proposed change, we will also give you the opportunity to participate in a vote in which you will be provided alternatives. The vote shall be binding on us if more than 30% of all active registered users as of the date of the notice vote,” does not bring it anywhere close to the ideal “Pull Marketing” tactics described by Patry. The South Park episode “Human Cent-i-Pad” wasn’t too far off, if the Facebook terms of services said that they could sew my mouth to another human’s anus, it’s highly unlikely that I would know about it, and even less likely that I would be able to do anything about it.

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

“Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.” Facebook, 8 June 2012. Web. 08 Sept. 2012. 

Parker, Trey. “Humancentipad.” South Park. N.d. South Park Studios. South Park Studios. Web. 8 Sept. 2012.


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;