Appearance of YouTube & Web 2.0: Meaninglessness of Copyright

Posted on June 24, 2011

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by Esther Young Hyun Cheon

Copyright is a set of exclusive rights granted to a creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. This differs from real or personal property. Real or personal property is tangible, like a house or a car. Copyright is a non-physical property. It is a legal right that can be enforced in the courts and arises by virtue of creativity. The creator of that work does not own each note or word, nor the material, but the creator does have a right to the particular arrangement of those words, notes or material. Copyright owners can make a profit via permanently transferring or assigning their exclusive rights to others. Could the law be applied on YouTube equally?

YouTube is an internationally known website that provides people with space to upload and share their works. Works that are UCC, which is an abbreviation for ‘User-Created Content’, is user-created content that is both produced and edited personally by the user in order to share the work with the public. YouTube has generated controversy about whether they can keep copyright law from being applied to YouTube or if they will apply the law on behalf of the creators or producers.

Copyright law is a right that an individual can claim in order to protect his or her creation from commercial use. It might seem quite reasonable that such a law should be kept for any work created by individuals. However, the law doesn’t need to hold in the case of YouTube.

The first reason is that the purposes of UCCs uploaded onto YouTube may vary from person to person, but most UCC users don’t extend their thinking to calculating the financial incentives made from their UCCs when producing content. Their motives are for personal creativity or gaining respect from the public, rather than for commercial or financial gain. Creative expression is the chief motivator.

Some even use UCC as a way to achieve their dreams. Let’s take an amateur singer named Rebecca Black as an example. She became a huge sensation with a UCC, singing “Friday”. As the video had racked up more than 150 million views, ultimately it helps her to achieve stardom and bring her even closer to her dream. Secondly, UCCs that are based on videos played on TV should be considered as the users’ own creations. YouTube has a number of special featured videos that contain certain sports plays. Originally, the plays were on TV or other sports channels. The creators of the videos partially quoted the sports highlights and edited them to create UCC. They should be interpreted as new creations with originality. “The contents from the media are public features. UCC producers have a right to quote from content. UCC production, without the intention to earn money, should be allowed.” said the Chief Executive Officer of Pandora TV, the video-sharing website of Korea.

Thirdly, the new era of Web 2.0 is approaching where anybody can create services with given data and where they can use the web as a platform. Tim O’Reilly, who first used the term, Web 2.0, claimed the importance of collective intelligence playing a vital role in the future of the web. Moreover, he insists that the genuine purpose of web 2.0 can only become active when individuals are granted free access to media content.

The copyright law is an old law that doesn’t fit the new era of Web 2.0. Copyright law should be changed for the sake of the new era. The key point of Web 2.0 is harnessing the collective intelligence. Two hands are better than one hand. How about the power of millions of hands?

Case in point, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia where anybody can upload their knowledge. Because there are so many people contributing, Wikipedia is the newest but has the most extensive knowledge.

Another is the Linux operating system, or OSX, running on personal computers worldwide. The OSX was created by Linus Torvalds in 1986. More than just a well-made program, it had an added bonus of being able to run on cheap PC clones. However, this was not the only thing that made Linus special. What really created revolution was that Linus gave his work for free. People were able to see the sources, the source core, thereby creating the new unique ability to further develop and share it with others to improve upon. The contributions of many hands were able to make it a success that it has become today. Five million programmers worked many sleepless nights collectively to help shape it into what has ultimately become one the best operating systems in the world.

For mass intelligence to truly work there shouldn’t be any creativity-restricting copyrights. Hence, the era of copyright has reached its inevitable demise.

Alternatively, the era of ‘Copyleft’ is approaching. As a contrary concept of copyright, Copyleft is a type of license that attempts to ensure that the public retains the freedom to use, modify, extend and redistribute a creative work and all derivative works, or such movement. YouTube, along with Web 2.0, will evolve on a massive scale seeking to harness our collective intelligence.

Fantastic growth will take place and restrictive copyrights will cease to tie our hands. In the past, they have only acted as shackles, shackles straining our creativity and slowing down the flow of information. Copyright laws are nearing their expiration. And in the end, they will only serve to inhibit growth on the Web, and block human creativity from reaching its full potential.

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