Wednesday, 31 March 2010
The Byron Review material is available here. I also used this video clip as an example of oversimplified engagements with media/audiences
This kind of thing is abundant online. Check out this Fox news story in the US:
Hopefully, I'll get through this quickly. There's an upcoming reviews deadline for the academic journal, Convergence, who passed this text to me. My last review for them was Tarleton Gillespie book, Wired Shut, which explored the state of copyright restrictions as they are applied to DVDs.
Burkart is based in the Department of Communication in Texas A&M University.
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
There are only a matter of days left (next Tuesday!) until the government attempts to push one of the most important and ill-planned Bills through the House of Commons. There are nearly 25,000 words of legal changes being rushed through the House with less than 2 hours consultation, much of which will curtail basic Internet freedoms and harm many British businesses and services - at the bequest of lobbyists from the music industry.
For some background, read Cory Doctorow's timely article in the yesterday's Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/mar/29/digital-economy-bill-bpi-doctorow
If you can spare just £5 you can help pay for adverts to appear in the national news alerting the public to this failing in our democracy. Our goal of £10,000 is complete - that pays for a full page advert in The Times. If we can double that total we will be able to have our voices heard in at least three different newspapers and on five websites.
If you can spare some change, then donate here (Paypal also accepted!)
Monday, 29 March 2010
Here's my letter to David Milband (very little has been changed):
Dear David Milband
I’m sure you’ve been contacted many times about the Digital Economy Bill, in fact I myself have written to you about this already. I am writing now that Harriet Harman MP has announced that the Bill is definitely going to receive a second reading on Tuesday April 6, widely expected to be the day an election is called.
On Thursday, Harriet Harman gave no assurance that controversial parts of the Bill would not be rushed through in 90 minutes, despite concerns being raised by members from both sides of the House.
Please do not underestimate the strength of feeling on this issue. Over 17,000 letters have been sent to MPs in the last week - yet the Government still seems intent on forcing the bill through Parliament without allowing a real debate about the issues.
People like me, who are concerned about this issue, will be looking to see who has done everything they can to make sure this Bill is not crashed through on the last day before an election.
I would very much appreciate it if you could do everything you can to raise this issue with ministers and party managers to make sure that these provisions receive proper debate and scrutiny in a new Parliament.I wonder if Mr Miliband is going to respond to this email. It would make a pleasant change if I ever got more than an out-of-office reply.
Time is pressing. Get involved.
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
There are some slides about Twitter's use in Mumbai that I'll add here later if I can find them
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
I've been reading (ie blind referring for a scholarly journal) a little academic material recently about the ways in which celebrities use services like Twitter to manage their public personas in order to present what seems like an authentic version of themselves for their fans to consume. The internet, generally, has had a significant impact on celebrity culture in that it has fostered a large range of outlets through which ideas and discussion about celebrities can circulate. Forums, fan sites, blogs and social media (like Twitter) all play a part in offering us unprecedented access to celebrity content - some of it official, some of it unofficial.
What makes Twitter interesting and unique is that it seems to offer an uncensored and intimate point of access. Celebrities (or even people posing as celebrities) can grant their fans or followers what seems like highly personal contact. Many even respond to comments or question in a public replay (eg @username). Some, like Mariah Carey, opt to send messages to their fans using the private 'direct message' reply.
There is a danger that we read a little too much into the supposed legitimacy of the celebrity on Twitter. Not all celebrities are who they claim to be - many of the Twitter accounts of the most famous celebrities, like Britney Spears, are frequently attributed to Britney herself, but also her manager and her website. It's also not uncommon for 'ghost writers' to be employed by high profile celebrities who write posts in the 'voice' or style of the author they represent. It's not always easy to distinguish these writers from the 'real' celebrity - but then again, its questionable if the general public ever really get access to the real, authentic celebrity in other media forms
The celebrity image or persona is 'performed' and 'managed' by stylists and PR teams who frequently brief their employers on what to say, where to be seen and who to be seen with. Twitter could be seen as an extension of that kind of practice. However, their are many celebrities who do use the service as a way of performing what seems like intimacy with their followers. I can imagine that this is part of the appeal for celebrities and fans alike. Appearing at ease with your fame can be advantageous and useful for promoting the brand that is the celebrity identity (ie Katie Price). How honest this kind of communication or authentic is is debatable on the whole. The fact that a celebrity might be accessing their Twitter account from the mobile phone in their pockets or handbags does at least suggest a sense of potential intimacy and this is where Twitter has been successful for the celebrity-stalking fan
Some followers even go out of their way to anger and incite their chosen celebrity victims in order to solicit a response from them, while others may be more flattering.
The web and the tools we find on it (ie Twitter) are great at offering us what seems like more direct access to folk, but their seems to be an unwritten contract between those people who publish things in public and those that consume said material that if you opt to put it out there, then you cannot complain about the invasion of privacy that might come along with that. I'm not sure that having a public presence gives followers a carte-blanche rationale for invasive behaviour, but being able to control your own public facing platform certainly seems to be appealing to those people who bemoan the interference of gossip columnists and the paparazzi.
I'm not sure how influential Twitter is - it may be too early to tell, or it may be that the general creep of social media into our everyday lives is forcing a blurring of the boundaries between what was once considered private and what is now thought to be public. It seems like some commentators are suggesting that Twitter's popularity has peaked, but again, it may be too early to tell. Once thing is for sure, it's never been easier to use social media tools to get what seems like direct access to celebrities. Whether or not that access is genuine or authentic depends on the celebrity
Friday, 19 March 2010
- The report suggests that there’s a direct correlation between Internet traffic growth and lost jobs. That is, the more traffic that is generated on the Internet, the more money will be lost. This correlation is 1 according to the report, which assumes that all growth in Internet traffic will increase piracy at the same rate.
- The report makes another bogus assumption by stating that more traffic will mean more piracy and thus more lost revenue. It does not account for the fact that people might consume higher quality files which are greater in file-size. All projections are based on bandwidth and not the number of pirated goods.- The report cites some academic literature which suggests that piracy leads to a decrease in sales. Studies that reported the opposite or a null-effect were carefully left out. This bias defines the entire outcome of the report. If they used studies that found a positive effect they would have found that piracy would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the years to come.- The report uses fixed substitution rates. They assume that 10 downloaded albums results in one lost sale and this figure is not adjusted for the projected increase in piracy. One would think that the public’s budget for entertainment is limited and that the substitution rate would go down as piracy goes up
“I am fed up of hearing corporate propaganda being deployed in order to justify intrusions on our rights to freedom of speech, privacy and to a fair trial”
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
The backdrop I'm referring to here comes from a report written by the Performing Rights Society (PRS) entitled 'Economic Insight, Issue 15: Adding up the music industry for 2008' (.pdf here), a presentation by the think-tank Demos initiated by the pollsters Ipsos (see below), and a press release from the British Phonographic Industry entitled '2009 music sales show decline but digital retail market starts to deliver'. All of these sources are readily available for anyone inclined to look for them and they all paint a rather different picture of the musical economy than the 'fact' in the Panorama episode
I'm only going to focus on the music-related claims in the episode for now. I may come back to the other claims at a later date (time permitting).
#1: 1 min 50 sec - Jo Whiley: 'millions of us they say are downloading music illegally'; 'record industry losing £200 million a year' and '7 million of us are filesharing music unlawfully'.
-The issue here is that it's very difficult to prove how many millions are downloading music illegally, especially when the figure of 7 million comes from music industry sources passed off as objective facts and rounded up by government as noted in this post. The BBC is aware of this hyperbole - they even investigated it themselves! This is also against the context of more singles and albums being sold in the UK than ever before (BPI).
#2: 2 min 20 secs - Louis Walsh: 'It's harder and harder for a young band to get signed now because there are so many young bands and there's so much music for free. Records shops are closing everywhere'
-This seems like Walsh is claiming that there is a lot more competition for limited recording industry contracts. If that is the case then, of course, it's going to be harder to get signed unless the music industry signs all the talent. This seems like a strawman argument. Record shops may be closing but that has no baring on the recording industry awarding contracts. There are many more supermarkets competing for sales than a decade ago and online stores have also opened. In fact, the IFPI's Digital Music Report 2010 lists a lot of services that appear on the Pro-music website:
- HMV Digital
- iTunes UK
- MSN Music
- MySpace Music
- Nokia Music UK
- Nokia Comes With Music
- Sky Songs
#3: 3 min 20 sec - Roy Stride of Scouting For Girls highlights that artists will spend money on the best studios and best facilities in order to give their fans the best experience.
#4: 5 min 20 - Whiley quotes stats from industry body, UK Music, 61% of 14-21 year olds download illegally.
-There is a danger that this kind of kind claim infers that each downloaded file equates to a sale lost. There is no compelling evidence to support such a suggestion, especially among young web users who may not have the access to capital that would permit them to spend money on all the music they download in a like-for-like context. I'm not suggesting this is a try-before-you-buy scenario, but perhaps something more akin to Spotify's music on-demand capability. The subsequent section looked at students in Manchester who are 'typical' downloaders - precisely the group of people who can seldom afford to buy music at this stage in their lives with £10k of student fee debt and even more living costs on top of that.
#5: 7 min 30 - London rapper Sway comments on 'losing revenue from people illegally downloading' and how 'that can affect your creative process' as well as the poor quality of illegal music files.
-These arguments seem at odds with what other UK rappers like Wiley have been recorded as having said (in the Guardian Music Weekly podcast 31st December 2009?). Wiley sees piracy acts as a publicity tool which encourages people into spending money on his music in other ways, notably live performances. Members of private music filesharing communities like the defunct OiNK might contest - many sites featuer torrents for high quality FLAC rips of rare material that isn't commercially avaialble in lossless audio formats
#6: 9 min - Neil Timms and Fergal Sharky idenitify that the rights hodler to copyright material will identifty an IP address that they beleive is infringing their on thier content an issue a series of 3 letters.
-This was what was referred to as Clause 17 which has since been amended to include more sweeping powers that include the blocking of complete websites hosting material thought to be illegal (bye bye YouTube) . Those suspected of infringing copyright can be sued, throttled or cut off from the Internet? At least Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and Andrew Heaney of TalkTalk had some sense to refute these ideas
To think that this was meant to help explain the current copyright context is worrying to say the least
The recent episode of Panorama (Are the Net Police Coming for You?) completely ignored the rights of the public. It suggested that it is persistent downloaders who need to be worried, but it goes even further than that and has the potential to impact on educational institutions and businesses. For many people, this would have been the first time they will have heard about the Bill. When the Bill is first debated by MPs in the House of Commons, they will shut democratic discussion down – after about two hours of debate. As Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group puts it:
So our elected MPs will have spent a whole two hours on this Bill – before they disappear back to Constituencies to ask for our vote.It's time for more direct action - you need to write to your MP today.
Click this link to write your MP with a preprepared letter
I've sent an amended version of the following letter to my MP, David Miliband, the contents of which can be found below:
Dear [Insert MP Name]
I'm writing to you today because I'm very worried that the Government is planning to rush the Digital Economy Bill into law without a full Parliamentary debate.
The law is controversial and contains many measures that concern me. The controversial Bill deserves proper scrutiny so please don't let the government rush it through. Many people think it will damage schools and businesses as well as innocent people who rely on the internet because it will allow the Government to disconnect people it suspects of copyright infringement.
Industry experts, internet service providers (like Talk Talk and BT) and huge internet companies like Google and Yahoo are all opposing the bill - yet the Government seems intent on forcing it through without a real debate.
As a constituent I am writing to you today to ask you to do all you can to ensure the Government doesn't just rush the bill through and deny us our democratic right to scrutiny and debate.
[Insert your Name]
This will take you two minutes of your time
If you want to know/do more...
The internet ISP, TalkTalk, has created a campaign group called 'Don't Disconnect Us' where you can find the concerns of the industry being voiced. There's also an e-petition over on the government's website which currently has around 34,00 signatures. Sign it.
Meanwhile, Dan Bull has been at it again:
Friday, 12 March 2010
Friday, 5 March 2010
You can also hear Chris Anderson talking about his ideas here (and even download the podcast as an mp3) and watch a video here:
You can find a critique of Anderson's argument here by Cory Doctorow
Next week we will look at another kind of free, when we consider the ideas of Matt Mason and The Pirates Dilemma
February was a big month for me, not least because I had to pay the remaining balance of my Glastonbury ticket, but also because there were a few albums I was looking forward to by Massive Attack and Yeasayer (which I already had wink wink before their release). Let's take a look at the figures...
The total monthly spend on music in February was £227.91! There were a few a couple of concert tickets in there which inflated the figure. Spending on traditional albums and singles were modest by comparison at £27.96, but that's still more than a typical month. I did win a little money on a bet so I bought a couple of extra CDs when I was feeling flush.
As for the overall total, it's standing at £1170.03. In terms of cash spent overall on what would be classified as singles or albums (as the wording in the DEMOS report goes), the figure comes in at £108.20 - that's nearly 4 times the figure quoted for the average non-filesharer. What does that tell ya?
As ever, you can see my my progress to date by clicking this link or take a little look at the spreadsheet below.
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
For the uninitiated text from the original Bill can be found here and the amendments can be found here.
There has been a great deal of interest in this Bill from people interested in copyright and what it might mean to them in the future. Indeed, the Open Rights Group have been actively lobbying to raise public awareness, and several of their members provided excellent Twitter commentary whilst the debate was taking place (notably Glyn Wintle @glynwintle and Florain Leppla @florian107).
In the blogosphere photographer, Philip Dunn, wrote one of the most compelling and lucid criticisms of the Digital Economy Bill. I'll have to link to the Google cached page hosting the piece as his host received so much attention the server was closed. [Edit: Paul Bradshaw @paulbradshaw is hosting the article via the Online Journalism Blog]. His main bone of contention was with what the Bill describes as 'orphan works' under Clause 42 - these are typically works where it's difficult or impossible to contact the copyright holder. This situation can arise for many reasons, not least that the author may never been publicly known because the work was published anonymously or the work may have never been traditionally published at all. The concern in this context is that the bill may mean that photographers might lose ownership
You can find excerpts of his argument below:
Photographers to lose copyright protection of their workIf that wasn't enough reason to be concerned, there are even more problematic implications:
This startling and outrageous proposal will become UK law if The Digital Economy Bill currently being pushed through Parliament is passed. This Bill is sponsored by the unelected Government Minister, Lord Mandelson [sic].
The idea that the author of a photograph has total rights over his or her own work – as laid out in International Law and The Copyright Act of 1988 – will be utterly ignored. If [sic] future, if you wish to retain any control over your work, you will have to register that work (and each version of it) with a new agency yet to be set up.
International Law, through the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, recognises the ownership rights of the creator of the ‘property’. This enables image owners to control how their work is used, and whether it is used at all.
International Law will be ignored by the British Government and this new Act will overturn more than 150 years of UK copyright law.
Philip goes on to question the sense of such a decision when the average Briton is captured on surveillance camera as much as 300 times per day! It also calls into whether or not a photographer can be prosecuted for uploading an image featuring members of the general public to a photo sharing site like Flickr or Facebook.
Photographers are to lose all effective rights to take photographs in public places.
Not content with taking away photographer’s copyright, another section of this Government is proposing sweeping changes to your freedom to take pictures in public places.The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has deemed that a photograph taken in a public place may now be considered to contain ‘private data’
This means that if you take a picture in the street and there is a member of the public in the shot, that person has the right to demand either payment – if you wish to publish the image – or that you do not publish it. In fact, according to the ICO. There does not actually have to be an objection, it is up to the photographer to ‘judge’ whether the subject might object.
You can find more posts by Philip Dunn over on www.photoactive.co.uk
Exactly how this can be policed or enforced remains to be seen, especially when the services listed may be outside the national jurisdiction of the UK. Already, Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act has deemed it illegal to take photographs of police officers - something that would render the recording of Ian Tomlinson's death following police intervention during the G20 protests a crime. Critics fear this may lead to people being unable to record or photograph legitimate public protests which frequently feature the police.
Back to the Bill
Another area of concern was addressed by Conservative front bencher Baroness Buscombe (Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission), a point I alluded to briefly in the introduction. She pointed out that the phrasing of the Bill seemed to give Ofcom the power to regulate what was described as "broadcast material". The concern here lay at how that term was interpreted. Currently Ofcom regulates broadcast television content whilst the PCC deals with matters involving the press. In the context of news this is very important and the rules governing "due impartiality" are applicable to broadcast content, but not to the press which is permitted to be partial (ie the oft-quoted 'freedom of the press').
Lord Puttnam supported Baroness Buscombe in this matter by expressing his concern over what can be described as "broadcast" in a converged multiplatform media environment by citing the example of material rejected by a Public Service Broadcaster which then goes on to be picked up by a partial press publisher and is subsequently hosted on their website. Does Ofcom or the PCC regulate in such matters? Lord Davies' response was less than precise in that he described broadcasting as that pertaining to be the type of content appearing on television. The way in which audio and video content is remediated in the digital age poses more questions of this Bill than can be answered by its proponents, so it seems.
Lord Puttnam (a former Chancellor of the institution in which I work) expressed some anger at the fact the Bill was not going to be referred to the Information Commissioner, responsible for dealing with privacy issues. Lord Young (who is co-sponsoring the Bill with Lord Mandelson) indicated that such a deferment would delay the Bill from being passed. It seems the government would rather pass a Bill that is deliberatively vague, poorly written and ill conceived which would need to be rewritten rather than make the appropriate amendments first!
Lord Puttnam accused Lord Young of attempting to rush a Bill though the House "that none of us is particularly proud of" and which hasn't been discussed appropriately. He also expressed concern at the "extraordinary degree of lobbying" that those involved in drafting the amendments had come up against from the creative industries. Lord Whitty expressed concerns that the Open Rights Group have been actively campaigning against: that the consumer accused of infringement will not be able to defend themselves in a court of law.
Make no mistake, this is a Bill which seeks to favour the rights of the content industries over the rights of individuals who will be labelled as guilty until proven innocent. They will be pit against the strong arm of the content industries and their financial powers, with the burden of evidence placed at their feet to prove their innocence.
ISP TalkTalk has already expressed their concern at this Bill:
"The Digital Economy Bill will give rights holders the power to act as a judge and jury, allowing them to demand that ISPs disconnect their customers without having to prove their case in a court of law. TalkTalk is the only major ISP that has said it will simply refuse to do this and will fight its case in every court in the land and in Europe if it has to."It's still not too late to get involved and have your concerns voices. Visit the Open Rights Group's website today and find out what you can do to be heard.
nb: apparently #debill is an appropriately hashtag - in Polish it means 'moron'. Thanks to Falkowata for that.