In 2012, copyright laws and the creative industries they protect, have come face to face with the Internet in an unprecedented struggle for power. According to some, this is having a dramatic effect on our culture (Lessig 2001; Lessig 2004). Whilst most of the attention has been focused towards the United States and the two controlling industry bodies, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the consequences for stricter copyright laws, or new measures to protect them will have international effects (Barrett 2012; Horten 2012; Lessig 2001; Lessig 2004). This essay seeks to discuss the concepts raised in the accompanying poster whilst also examining both the past and present relationship of the Internet and copyright and how and why new measures will directly impact our shared culture in the future. Focusing primarily on the rhetoric of Lawrence Lessig, founder of the Creative Commons organization, this essay also looks at alternative measures to copyright legislation and how they are being implemented. An analysis of American rock band Nine Inch Nails (NIN) and their relationship with the Creative Commons, is also undertaken, in an effort to indicate the real world potential for such alternative measures.
Lawrence Lessig in his book The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (2001) examines the impact of the Internet on the global cultural commons and copyright. In order to understand his arguments some broad definitions are necessary. Culture is broadly understood as the collective identity of a group of people, including their customs, arts, social groups and intellectual achievements (Oxford Online Dictionary 2010). The cultural commons, or public domain, is thus the shared pool of cultural resources that serve as a collective record of our history and is frequently, if not always, drawn upon in the creation of new forms of art and creative expression. In attempting to describe the Internet as the best evidence for the benefit of a creative commons to society, Lessig (2001) focuses on the architecture and beginnings of the Internet. Based on an end-end-network where a user’s computer is directly connected to other users, the architecture of the Internet was always based around an open framework with no central authority, application or human, dictating the traffic (Lessig 2001; Lessig 2004). The World Wide Web, which in its current form is used by more than 2.2 billion people (Miniwatts Marketing Group 2012), is an exceptional example of the innovation possible on an open framework (Lessig 2001). The commons of the Internet created a neutral space where innovation and experimentation could occur on top of the controlled infrastructure and thus improved the value of the controlled space (Lessig 2001). Initially a strict physical layer of infrastructure, the Internet, through an open framework has had a phenomenal impact on culture and the way it is shared. As Lessig (2001: 99) describes, the decentralized innovation of the Internet creates opportunities “for individuals to draw upon resources without connections, permission, or access granted by others.” This freedom on the Internet gives people access to a substantial amount of information and tools for creativity, research and education. It has created a global culture where diverse peoples interact and are exposed to information they would have previously been unable to access.
The landscape of the film and music industry contrasts greatly that of the Internet with its lack of a central governing body dictating its traffic. As Lessig (2001; 2004) suggests, the open framework and commons of the Internet, is very much at threat from the RIAA and MPAA. Whilst Lessig (2001: 130) argues that “the digital world is closer to the world of ideas than to the world of things”, the existing industries, are seeking to govern the Internet using the same measures they use to control...
References: Boyle, J. 2008, The Public Domain, viewed 21st April 2012,
Horten, M. 2012, ACTA v SOPA: what’s the difference? viewed 20th April 2012
Lessig, L. 2004, Free Culture – How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, New York: Penguin Group.
Mackintosh, H. 2007, Stars compose new ways to make music, viewed 20th April 2012
Miniwatts Marketing Group 2012, Internet World Statistics, viewed 20th April
Tyrangiel, J. 2007, Radiohead says: Pay what you want, Time Magazine, viewed 20th April 2012
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