Monday, February 24, 2014

Lay mis/understandings of copyright

What do people think about copyright? Over at Jotwell, Andres Guadamuz reviews Lee Edwards et al, Isn’t it just a way to protect Walt Disney’s rights?: Media user perspectives on copyright, 16 New Media & Soc’y (2013) (paywall). The article looks very interesting.  I was struck by this description from the review; it’s probably familiar/intuitive but this time it gave me an idea:

Another interesting finding is that users tended to describe downloading and file-sharing as something transitory, for example, to be done while there are no legal alternatives, or to be performed while you do not have enough money to purchase content legally. Similarly, the delay between a TV show being distributed in the US and Europe was identified by participants as an important factor driving piracy levels up. Users also seemed to be more comfortable with sharing content with friends and family, than to widespread and indiscriminate file sharing online.

I’ve long been a fan of Viviana Zelizer, and these descriptions of incompletely commodified relationships strike me as structurally similar to other relationships to the market she describes, where market transactions are appropriate for some circumstances and nonmarket for others, and this helps constitute a self distinguishable from the market while also involved in and shaped by it.  Of course, here copyright owners are really really unhappy about that, but I think her approach might offer some useful insights.  What will be private and/or uncommodified in the brave new copyright world?

1 comment:

  1. This IS interesting. It reminds me of the fact that so much of the explosion in the US economy had to do with individualizing what was communal - so people went from having a family radio to everyone having a personal radio, and a family TV to everyone having their own TV in every room, and a family car to everyone having their own car, and phones etc. But does it feel different to say that everyone must buy their own copy of the same book, or their own DVD set, etc? This also runs contrary to the environmentally-influenced move away from "we must each buy one" to "Why don't we share" - which is getting us zipcar, and the sharing of Netflix passwords, etc etc.