Clouds, Crowds and Copyright: Framing Ownership, Collecting, and Sharing

Week 4

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  • The cloud-
    • is about computers sharing information. Need to be networked.
    • stores information online, either private or shared- can be accessed anywhere you have internet connection. Has been big for the past five years.
  • Crowds- mass of anonymous interaction. In this context refers to funding. No real scholarly research apart from Dr Justin Williams' work at Bristol.
  • Copyright- general consensus= if they are not protected by it, it's a nuisance. Many scholars believe that copyright laws should change to allow sharing. The lecture on this topic in particular considered the perspective of the consumer.
  • Ownership- questions of ownership arise when copies are shared all the time and are easily reproducible. Must be rethought/abandoned? 
  • Collecting- what does it mean to collect in the digital age? Does collecting become synonymous with sharing? See Mark Katz's work.
  • Sharing- it is too simplistic to say web 2.0 is all about sharing but this is one of the most striking changes. For instance, we are now encouraged to share news articles. Why do we choose to share some things but not others? What does it say about us? These qs link sharing to collecting. 
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It is hard to find evidence about changes that are happening now. Mark Mulligan, as an industry expert, provides this evidence. 

There are two ways of accessing music online (usually illegally)- 

streaming- this is like a shop window. Streaming forms the centrality of sharing (or vice versa). However, the nature of the exchange is this kind of sharing is unconventional and is an unusual concept- not entirely like sharing in the predigital age.

file-sharing-  Through P2P networks- raises ethical issues but is free. Online music stores- limited in many ways but enables user to develop a customised music library.

Digital Rights Management- when you download something in iTunes it might not play back elsewhere. Consumer buys the right to listen, not the track.

The question of does right/wrong distinction map onto legal/illegal distinction arises here. Many say illegal way is right in this age. Wider issues- law remains a social construct. They can never keep up with technology anyway.

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Copyright and Distribution

  • Every piece of recorded music has 2 copyrights: sound copyright and composition copyright.
  • The first major example of music copyright enforcement in a digital context was the closing down of napster in 2002.
  • Streaming is usually monetised through advertising. This is becoming more difficult to avoid and more integrated into the listening experience.
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In Anthropology, collecting is traced to Ancient Greek culture. Later on, in British colonial times, collecting became part of colonial adventure. The British museum is a public collection which reflects this interest.

Walter Benjamin in particular is interested in the act of collecting. According to him, the old act of collecting became doomed with the invention of exact duplication (printing etc.).

Can collecting take place online?

Yes, in the cloud, according to Jeremy Morris. He describes remotely stored data such as Spotify playlists as "curated exhibits of the self".

This point is emphasised when one considers the emergence of data mapping today- that is, the ability to "tag" music and thus associate it with a particular mood (

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