Monday, February 15, 2010

Assignment #3: Creative Commons and Copyright Issues

Creative Commons (also known as CC) is a website devoted to people who want to share their work freely with other internet users. Their copyright licenses are free to the public, and it can be used for any new upstarts hoping to share their music, books, or any type of media with a large audience. The best part, aside from it being free, is that it is completely legal!

Creative Commons is different than traditional copyright because a traditional copyright typically claims that “All Rights [Are] Reserved” whereas a Creative Commons copyright can include however much (or little) the owner of the piece would like to take credit for. This can be in different levels, down to a CCo (pronounced “cee-cee-zero”) copyright, which is a “no-rights reserved”-type of deal where the owner claims no rights to the piece and allows all to use the piece freely. This is as close to a public domain as one can get with their work, and Creative Commons is a great tool to help people get their media out to the public.

Photo Credits: Sterin.genini on Flickr. CC. Some Rights Reserved

(Here is blog about where to legally get free web graphics--Creative Commons gets an honorary mention.)

I think Creative Commons can be the beginning of a very long and very happy friendship between users and independent content producers. It helps both sides out because, usually, downloading music or books raise issues in a person's mind about whether they are breaking any sort of copyright laws and whether they are pirating. Creative Commons assures protection from any such worries and explains how it is completely legal as well as free. (With other file-sharing sites, it is sometimes hard to tell whether the entertainment or documents you are loading is illegal or not. In this case, that shouldn't be a problem.)
From the point of the independent content producers, Creative Commons is a good way to gain publicity as well as fans. The more people that have access to a demo of a song, for example, the more likely word will spread about how well the song sounds. The fanbase can increase exponentially and sharing becomes MUCH easier between person-to-person and band-to-audience. This is excellent news for all those publicists out there!

There are minor setbacks to being able to share content so freely-- such as the need for funds when royalties are not enough to keep the content coming in. (See NY Times article "Taking Sides in the Digital Revolution, Where Copyright Is the First Casualty" ) For example, giving up all or partial rights to a book or song can translate to less income for the content producers, but, as the old adage goes, one must spend money to make money. The free publicity hopefully makes up for the loss in royalties.

Many artists have come up with a way around such a problem anyways. Take, for example, Josh Woodward. He is a Creative Commons musician who is fine with the public use of his work--so long as he gets credit for his pieces. In this way, the publicity stays alive for the producer and the content stays free for the "consumer". It is very much of a win-win situation.

Post Sources:
(Creative Commons site)
(NY Times article on some positives and negatives of Creative Commons)
(Josh Woodward's site)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Assignment #2: Democracy's Long Tail

Google announced that it would no longer censor search results in China. This came about because Google claims that the Chinese government has launched a cyber attack and sent malware upon some online activists from China. See “Google’s Threat Echoed Everywhere, Except China”
Later, after Google made these claims, some online activists came forward to vouch for their validity. See below for more on this:

As soon as the announcement was made, many people the world over have commended Google for taking steps to discontinue it's partnership with China to limit internet censorship. Even Yahoo, a long-time opponent of Google, showed it's support for Google's decision.

People in Mayanmar (also known as Burma), for example, are using the internet to expose the Junta (military forces) and their actions. Without the internet, we would not have known about the “Saffron Revolution” in 2007. This was a peaceful protest of monks, political activists, and students meant to oppose the Junta who in turn used tear gas, public beatings, and arrests to quell the revolt. After taking pictures with their mobile phones, citizens-turned “citizen journalists” were able to send them online and share their stories with the world.

Note that in most (if not all) of these cases, information is sent to people outside of these countries and blogged about by people in other countries. For example, Ko Htike (an online activist born in Burma and now based in London) has several contacts in Burma send him their footage and he posts it on his blog.
In Iran, videos or pictures of the protests during the 2009 elections were forbidden to be uploaded. Anyone caught taking documentation with a mobile phone risked getting it taken away and possible great bodily harm.
In China, like in Iran, the internet censorship is extremely high. However, people found ways around these restrictions and have found ways to access sites and share their own with other people through proxy servers.
(Visit for more information on proxy servers.)

Some tools the "netizens" are using to combat limited speech on the internet include proxy servers (as is the case in China), mobile phones, and internet cafes (as is the case in Burma--videos snapped on a phone can be uploaded as soon as a person gets access to their local internet cafe).

With such a strong underground network of people getting their stories out online (with the help of the Long Tail, anyone can become a "citizen journalist"), I do not see these governments keeping everything censored for very long.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Assignment #1: The Long Tail

Chris Anderson, author and editor of Wired magazine, created his idea of The Long Tail. At first, he wrote an article describing his idea. However, it became such a popular idea and response/feedback rates were enormous enough to warrant his writing a whole book on it as well. Essentially, Mr. Anderson uses what he calls a "Power Law" (shown below)

Photo Credits:

On YouTube, he calls it the "80/20" rule named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who noticed that 80% of the income in Italy belonged to 20% of the people. (

Mr. Anderson uses this same principle with his "Long Tail" idea. He mostly concentrates on the entertainment industry to illustrate his point, so I will do so, too. The most popular songs, videos, and books are sold in stores in hard copies and tangible objects (i.e. cds and leather-bound volumes of books). Other, more obscure tracks or books, don't even make it to store shelves. So many songs and books are made that less than half of them make it to the market. The "head" of Anderson's power law (the 80%)is made up of the popular tracks, hit-songs, and bestsellers. The "tail" (20%)part of his curve is reserved for the less-known, often unacknowledged pieces that don't make it that far. This is where the internet steps in.
Less popular tracks don't need to compete for shelf space like the more popular tracks do in stores. Because it is so relatively cheap to store songs or books online, a lot more is stored and competition is not so fierce. These songs or books are relatively unknown, but sites such as or help the case some by using "recommended" features. For example, clicking on a book and indicating your intent to buy it will lead to a portion on the page dedicated to telling you that "users who bought this book also bought...".
Also, on, one can create a radio station with songs they like and get suggestions of songs they MIGHT like according to different aspects of the songs they choose. This can lead to a person going online to listen to a song they know and love, being led to a song that is less known but similar in style, leading to a song that a very small amount of people have heard but has similar elements. Ultimately, this can lead a person to discover "hidden talent" and a whole world of songs they like without necessarily having been exposed to the artist otherwise.

There's a whole website dedicated to what "you might also like"!

This relates to the 80/20 rule because 80% of the people that like the popular songs only get a small portion of songs to listen to (i.e. those songs you keep hearing repeated on the radio) and the 20% of songs, mostly unheard and undiscovered artists, are found online (and ONLY online). But the 20% has the longer part of the tail because these little purchases add up from different sites and can actually make loads more money than the hit song would have. It's a debate of many people buying only what is offered in stores (which, admittedly, is less than half of what is found online...for example, Border's Books and Music only sells half of what has to offer--they have to be selective of what they sell because there is limited space to put it in.) versus many many more people buying one or two tracks of things they find online. Oftentimes, online wins.

Democratically, the Long-Tail is the better option. It takes the monopolizing out of selling because it equalizes the playing field. Anyone can get anything published or recorded and the internet provides a great distributing tool for such purposes. However, this should also come with a warning--it can lead to a lot of people sharing explicit and implicit material, so viewer discretion is advised.
As far as creating opportunities for budding artists, though, the Long-Tail is excellent news for budding artists and musicians.