Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Who owns/controls Media?

When reading, searching and in otherwise trying to gain information/knowledge/ideas on a topic for my telecom class (Twitter: t101medialife), I saw a video (has the feeling of being old, but I think that more comes from production values, such as the hum, and the lack of editing-if I didnt have class and work tomorrow, I could stay up all night and edit it better, but not sure i could remove that hum) of Leah Lievrouw (she starts at 4:24, but video is long).
She talks of media relationships and ownerships and it got me thinking about several things, like who owns media and why is media so hard to 'control'.

I think it is that ideas transfer easily as does data on a network. Places like YouTube combines people watching videos and so data and ideas are transferred quickly and easily from person to person and place to place. But there are so many videos, how do you find something you want, or would even be interested in? Or would be interested in, but not that you are aware of? Aggregation of this media?

Another video I watched discusses meaning by Sonia Livingstone (who seems very brilliant and better video).

The discussion of meaning is not just lying around, but is decided on by the viewer and takes work. The 'Grab and Go' but do we know what we got and have we thought about it?

The meaning production takes place by the viewer (experiencer?) and not the producer.

Those thoughts from each of those videos got my brain going so much I stopped the videos (and I didn't have the time to watch 2 hours of video, need to sleep sometime). I wanted to roll those around, think about them, share them and now I am blogging about it.

Theft used to mean taking something away from someone else, but with digital data, copies are not degraded from the source and do not remove the original. It is funny that this concept which I believe was discussed in at some length in the past is finally starting to have an impact in society.

A quote from the 70's: "There is a viable alternative to the problems raised by Bill Gates in his irate letter to computer hobbyists concerning 'ripping off' software. When software is free, or so inexpensive that it's easier to pay for it than to duplicate it, then it won't be 'stolen'."
[See Copyleft at GNU or wikipedia]

Now, replace software with music and that should explain both music pirating and the success of iTunes. If the cost is too great (hassle, money, time, encumberment), people will start 'stealing', but again, it is not really stealing. The original is just fine and still there.

I would like to blame a mythical accountant or middle manager who wanted to point the finger at something besides their own failings or the failings of the company. They came up with some charts and a spreadsheet and at a meeting said "Look at all the lost revenue. If we had sold the Y copies shared, we would have made X dollars". I assume greed grabbed hold and did the rest.

If people wanted to pirate and not just get the music they wanted, iTunes (and now other pay music sites) would never be able to compete with music sharing sites.

People want to also play with media the way they want. This leads to more things that make large corporations unhappy and their lawyers very happy (think of all those billable hours). YouTube is full of fans playing with media, not to cheapen, distract or cause problems for the creator, but to express their own like (love seems strong) for that media.

What if the large corporations took the view point that this was free advertising, that more people would be exposed to their products and maybe even be willing to purchase products? Some have, such as Trent Reznor's take on selling music. He sells it and gives it away and makes more than enough to make a profit. Those who are willing to pay for his music get it and those who are not still get it. He even supports people playing with his music and has a site just for remixes of his music. I think more musicians are going to need to take that route. I am not sure how much longer 'rock stars' will be around.

Now, the world is not all rainbows and unicorns and I understand that people need to make a living, but it seems that 'maximizing shareholders return on investment' needs to take a longer term viewpoint than just this quarter or year.

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