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At the heart of culture lies creative recursion: re-applying creative practices to artifacts resulting from previous creative practices. Remix culture could then be defined as processes of creative recursion that make this recursion as such recognizably visible. This is what makes a remix reflexive, as is explained by Eduardo Navas over at remixtheory.net:

[remix] allegorizes and extends the aesthetic of sampling, where the remixed version challenges the aura of the original and claims autonomy even when it carries the name of the original; material is added or deleted, but the original tracks are largely left intact to be recognizable.

As a result, works of remix communicate always and simultaneously on at least two levels: the asthetics of the remix as a new work and its status as a remix, referencing the remixed works. A nice example of the communicative power of remixing as recognizable creative recursion is provided by the most recent election campaign of the Pirate Party of Lower Saxony in Germany. To communicate ‘piracy’ as a brand, the pirate party creatively ‘pirated’ prominent brands.  Find below several of the respective campaign posters, all of which can be found on the campaign portal ideenkopierer.de (“idea copiers”; some of the translations are taken from Torrentfreak):

The tenderest temptation since parties were invented.

We may not have Alps in Lower Saxony, but we want to ensure that students continue to know that cows are not purple. Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday, as is reported by the 1709 Blog, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced that “Music, Movie, TV and Broadband Leaders Team to Curb Online Content Theft“. The press release not only obtrusively evidences the change in wording from “piracy” to “content theft” (see “Too Sexy for Being an Insult: Framing Piracy“), but also advertised two remarkable initiatives: the introduction of a common framework for so-called “Copyright Alerts” and the foundation of a “Center for Copyright Information“. Taken together, these initiatives constitute the most comprehensive attempt of private regulation in the field of copyright since the (failed) attempt of establishing all-encompassing Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems at the end of the 1990s and the early 2000s (see also “DRM in the Music Industry: Revival or Retreat?“).

Screenshot of the Center for Copyright Information HomepageAccording to the RIAA, the “Copyright Alerts System” will address (alleged) online copyright infringement

with a series of early alerts — up to six — in electronic form, notifying the subscriber that his or her account may have been misused for online content theft of film, TV shows or music. It will also put in place a system of “mitigation measures” intended to stop online content theft on those accounts that appear persistently to fail to respond to repeated Copyright Alerts. Read the rest of this entry »

In two weeks from now, Sigrid and myself are going to take part in a three-day-workshop entitled “Consuming the Illegal: Situating Digital Piracy In Everyday Experience“.  This exploratory workshop is funded by the European Science Foundation (ESF) and mainly organized by Jason Rutter, a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the School for Mass Communication Research, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. The self-stated goal of the workshop reads as follows:

“This workshop places internet piracy – the illegal downloading of digital content – within a context of research on consumption and everyday practice. Bringing researchers from a range of social science disciplines it aims to develop theoretical and methodological perspectives to examine consumer behaviour, practices and understandings to investigate a phenomenon usually framed as deviant.”

In our contribution, entitled “Transnational Copyright: Misalignments between Regulation, Business Models and User Practice” (PDF), we want to question one of the basic premises in current debates  on copyright and also the conference title, namely that the demarcation line between legal and illegal can be easily drawn. Instead, we argue, that

Read the rest of this entry »

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

If Mahatma Ghandi’s famous this description of political struggles applies to Creative Commons’ quest for an alternative copyright, then the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has just entered stage three: open battle.

In a letter to members (see Part 1, Part 2) ASCAP asks for donations with the following rationale (see BoingBoing):

“At this moment, we are facing our biggest challenge ever. Many forces including Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation and technology companies with deep pockets are mobilizing to promote ‘Copyleft’ in order to undermine our ‘Copyright.’ They say they are advocates of consumer rights, but the truth is these groups simply do not want to pay for the use of our music. Their mission is to spread the word that our music should be free.”

According to this statement, the biggest enemies of copyright holders are no longer “pirates” and respective platforms such as “The Pirate Bay” (see also “Framing Piracy“) but rather NGO’s and unnamed corporations pursuing a copyright reform agenda. Read the rest of this entry »

When EMI, the smallest of the “Big Four” major labels, announced to start selling its music without technological protection measures (“Digital Rights Management”, DRM) in 2007, the other three majors quickly saw no other possibility but to follow down this road. Flanked by Apple’s CEO Steven Jobs’s “Thoughts on Music”, this move brought an astonishingly unsuccessful decade of attempts by industry incumbents to establish DRM technologies to an end.

In theory, put forward for example by industry researchers such as Mark Stefik, DRM technologies should not only prevent illegal copying practices (“piracy”) but also allow new streams of revenue by tailoring prices individually to consumer’s needs. In praxis, however, this vision never became reality: while in the world of small and many independent labels DRM never was important (see, for example, the online-store “finetunes”, which was DRM-free from the beginning), the cartel of major labels first tried to develop industry-wide and all-embracing DRM standards in the realm of a so-called “Secure Digital Music Initiative” (SDMI). Remains of this bold attempt, which was silently shut down after only two years of existence in May 2001, can only be found in the Internet archive. Controversies between content owners and hardware producers about the necessary protection levels had delayed DRM development, whose outcome was then rejected by consumers, leading DRM-mastermind Stefik to conclude in 2007: “The situation reflects the core issue that current DRM provides no compelling benefits to consumers” (see the paper “DRM Inside”).

The only refugium, where DRM solutions still prevail, is the – far from thriving – field of mobile music: supported by all four major and hundreds of independent labels, Nokia’s bundling of phone hardware and music-flatrate entitled “comes with music” uses Microsoft’s “plays for sure” DRM solution. But even in this field DRM seems to be in retreat, since Nokia recently abandoned DRM when introducing “comes with music” in China. Ironically, Nokia spokesman Doug Dawson justified waiving copy protection measures with fighting piracy (see Economic Times):

“It’s unique for China where piracy has had a stronghold.”

Does this mean DRM measures against piracy do only make sense, where piracy is weak? While such paradox lines of reasoning seem to finally herald the end of DRM in the music industry, Michael Arrington at techcrunch nevertheless reports renewed attempts of introducing DRM through the backdoor – via watermarking and cloud computing: Read the rest of this entry »

No discussion of regulatory struggles, transnational mobilization, or institutional entrepreneurship lacks references to the importance of actors’ framing strategies (for an overview see Benford and Snow 2000). More often than not oppositional attempts for establishing discursive hegemony lead to changes in wording and/or a constant drift in meaning and connotation of important terms. One of the most interesting questions in the context of such framing battles is whether actors try to establish their own, new wording or rather attempt to change the meaning/connotation of existing frames.

Discussing the election success of European pirate parties (see “Pirate Parties: Transnational Mobilization and German Elections“), Sigrid Quack and I had already emphasized their success in redefining a derogatory designation and compared it to other examples of successful re-framing such as in the case of the term “queer” (see Jagose).

In the meantime, major representatives of the copyright industries seem to have recognized that the continued fight against “pirates” could be a strategic mistake – at least when it comes to wording. As Nate Anderson at ars technica reports, the head of the International Actors’ Federation, Agnete Haaland, said “We should change the word piracy.” at a press conference:

“To me, piracy is something adventurous, it makes you think about Johnny Depp. We all want to be a bit like Johnny Depp. But we’re talking about a criminal act. We’re talking about making it impossible to make a living from what you do.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Paul David Hewson, better known under his stage name Bono Vox as a frontman of the rock band U2, is undisputedly one of the world’s best-known philantropists. He holds – and expresses – pointed opinions on a huge variety of subjects, leading him to the foundation of his organization DATA, an acronym for “Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa”.  So it was no surprise, when in his recent New York Times op-ed he addressed issues covered by this blog. Of his piece “Ten for the Next Ten” especially number 2 dealing with intelletual property caught my attention:

“A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators — in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who can’t live off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us — and the people this reverse Robin Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.”

Is it really true that the biggest losers of file-sharing are the creators? Bloggers at the UK Times come to different conclusions in their recent analysis, presenting the following “graph the record industry doesn’t want you to see”: Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday the organizers of one of Europe’s largest music conferences “Popkomm” publicly announced its cancellation for 2009. Originally it was to take place in September at “Station Berlin”. In an official press statement Ralf Kleinhenz, Managing Director of Popkomm Gmbh gave the following reasons for cancelling this year’s event:

“A situation that was becoming clear early this year at Midem in Cannes also seems to be affecting Popkomm in Berlin. Despite positive reactions to the new event location and a satisfactory number of bookings by exhibitors, because of the economic situation we anticipate a considerable decline in trade visitor attendance. Out of responsibility towards the exhibitors we have therefore decided to postpone Popkomm for one year.”

While this reads like a reference to the overall economic crisis, Dieter Gorny, head of the Association of the German Music Industry, tried to reframe the cancellation into a political statement later that day:

“The digital crisis fully hits the music industry. Because of Internet piracy many companies cannot afford to take part at the Popkomm any longer. […] We want to point the way that politics finally must act to stop theft of intellectual property on the net.” (Handelsblatt,  translation L.D.)

This strategy of blaming Internet piracy for all of the music industry’s problems is not new. For years this is the chorus sung by music industry representatives whenever there is bad news. But probably piracy is too good an excuse: if one has the impression that business models and strategies are only threatened by criminals and would work otherwise, this may not be the best starting point for (self-)critical reflexion and innovation. Couldn’t it be that the music industry fails in coping with digital challenges because its major proponents have a “perfect excuse” for their management failures? In a way, their defeatism might thus performatively cause their eventual defeat. Just consider this an alternative explanation.

(leonhard)

The second version of Amazon’s relatively successful ebook-reader “Kindle” comes with a new feature, the so-called “text-to-speech function”: it enables ebooks to be read aloud. So, while you are cooking or driving to work this feature allows you to continue “reading” a book. Computers have had this feature for a long time (e.g. to read aloud PDF documents) but the Kindle with its specialization on ebooks is the first to bring it to the world of mobile devices. Or better, it could be the first.  Soon after the president of the US Authors Guild, Roy Blount, had publicly critized the feature in a New York Times piece titled “The Kindle Swindle” as a potential threat to audio books, Amazon gave in and agreed to disable text-to-speech on a title-by-title basis at the rightsholder’s request (see Slashdot). In his blog, Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig describes this as “caving into bullies“, emphasizes that Amazon did not violate any exclusive copyrights with this feature and bemoans that “users and innovators have less freedom“. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
April 2017
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