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

Tag Archives: Netflix

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;