Call#: Annenberg Library Reserve P94.65.U6 J46 2006
Henry Jenkins has emerged as the leading scholar on fan communities and participatory cultures. In specifically addressing anime fansubbing communities, Jenkins presents a familiar argument of piracy actually serving as a promotional activity for anime properties. He notes that by the Japanese anime industry being tolerant of grassroots activities in the United States, “much of the risks of entering the Western markets and many of the costs of experimentation were borne by dedicated consumers.” This tolerance of fan activities represents part of a Japanese cultural tradition that permits expansion and engagement with media properties. For example, manga artists and studios have permitted the appropriation and infringement of their copyrights by amateur artists in the doujinshi market. Rather than viewing these activities as a threat to the value of their properties, Japanese companies have recognized that collaborative structures are important in “developing compelling new content or broadening markets.”
As other scholars such as Leonard and Kelts have noted, anime fandom helped build up a structure for an American market through experimentation with unfamiliar content and promotion of niche titles. Jenkins's analysis of how companies must balance fan engagement along with protection of their properties is particularly relevant to the ongoing controversy in anime fandom between fansubbing groups and licensing companies.
At the Futures of Entertainment Conference, several panelists discussed potential models for understanding the motivations behind participatory culture in fan communities. As a result of increasing access to the internet and lowered barriers to participation, audiences have developed an expectation about the ability to autonomously engage with the materials that make up their cultural space. In order to succeed, media companies must be able to meet these consumer demands and also effectively incentivize and reward individuals for creating value. The interactions between these fan communities and the media companies that attempt to capitalize on their labor is therefore framed as a “social contract” that ought to produce benefits for both sides. Many of the mistakes that media companies have committed in their interactions with fan communities have been a result of misunderstanding the ethics and ecology of remix culture.
An understanding of community dynamics is essential for discussing anime fandom, which has been one of the most vibrant and engaged fan communities in the United States over the last 30 years. Indeed, the anime market in this country developed through the voluntary labor of fans that imported and translated works that would have otherwise been unavailable to the English audience. The anime industry therefore stands in the enviable position of already having a well-developed community that is engaged with and interested in their media properties. In order for the anime industry to continue its growth and expansion into the U.S. market, companies must develop business models that demonstrate an understanding of the motivations behind these fan communities and utilizes them as vehicles to monetize fan labor. Although the industry is still in the process of developing and deploying a digitally-grounded model, companies have demonstrated an awareness of the demands and expectations that fan communities hold and are attempting to incorporate them into their plans.
Variety.com - Fox Atomic brings new twists: Genre Label Adds to Conventional Tactics.
Tue., Feb. 20, 2007
by Steven Zeitchick
The article discusses the creation of Fox Atomic--a division of Fox Film Entertainment dedicated to genre films and youth markets. However, Fox Atomic doesn't want to just create and market movies, rather "it wants to create entire worlds around those movies." The Fox Atomic website enlists current trends in digital culture to reach out to young, tech savy audiences. The studio has a presence in Second Life called "Fox Atomic Island, a virtual movie studio where citizens can pick up and play with avatars from all its leading pics." It also holds mashup and machinima contests, includes movie related video games on its website, as well as user forums and information on forthcoming releases. In addition, Fox Atomic has created a comics division that will release comics based on movie properties that are not adaptations of the films, but rather engage in "cross-media" storytelling. Current and upcoming film releases include The Hills Have Eyes 2, 28 Weeks Later, and Touristas.
Although other film studios and distributors have a web presence and engage with digital culture, few have ventured quite as far as Fox Atomic. The article remains skeptical as to the success of this strategy as it is still unproven in its ability to generate ticket sales, but this sort of "web 2.0" interactivity and media convergence may be something that film studios can ill afford to ignore.
Call#: Annenberg Library Reserve P94.65.U6 J46 2006
In chapter six, Jenkins discusses the role of popular culture in emerging political communities. Jenkins (as is the case throughout Convergence Culture) is focused on how old and new media interact and the dynamics of collaboration and participation. While Jenkins recognizes the scoff-factor when implying the concept of “photoshop for democracy” (user-generated images that often map themes from popular culture onto the political campaign) is any sort of substitute for real political activism, he insists that this kind of user-generated content and mass dispersion is a serious act of citizenry. In fact, using popular culture as a means of engaging voters might just be the most effective way of re-establishing interest in politics as a part of our everyday lives. Jenkins focuses on the 2004 election and recognizes that the next step is to think of “democratic citizenship as a lifestyle.” Furthermore, online political communities seem to be segregating voters, as opposed to encouraging dialogue across ideologies. Although he seems to offer popular culture as a kind of national balm for the ailments of political fragmentation, Jenkins recognizes the inherent limits of its role in (or applicability as a model for) contemporary political communities.
For me, the most useful parts of this argument is the attention he pays to the increasing participation of average Americans (now as monitorial citizens as opposed to informed citizens) in the media landscape and the possibilities for the integration of politics and popular culture. However, he doesn’t seem to offer any real solution for the acutely polarized political landscape.
Wired’s recent YouTube article, YouTube vs. Boob Tube, does a good job of summarizing the important bits of YouTube culture for those who may have missed it up until this point. It begins as any good discussion of YouTube, by rattling off a large array of videos which are simply to be seen so that you can understand the fundamental concepts underlying YouTube
It continues to assert more of YouTube’s grassroots, consumer-generated flair, slowly beginning to delve into broader sociological concepts (writer Bob Garfield decides to bestow upon YouTube the moniker “monkey vision,” which is a name so outrageously “pompous social magazine writer attempting to coin the next phrase” that it is sure to be forgotten soon.
But beyond that, it does address some key issues with YouTube, such as its future. How can, for instance, YouTube truly keep afloat when all it has is ad revenue and the majority of its hits go through embedded content, not directly off of the site where the ads are?
Regardless, Hollywood types are shaking in their boots, and for good reason. As YouTube takes off, not only do they lose their stranglehold on the media market—as the article points out just a few years ago completely dominated by Hollywood—they lose ad revenue, and to top it all off, many of the videos on YouTube actually infringe upon content that they are creating.
The article, in general, seems to depict a two-pronged future for media. It raises two important questions: can YouTube capitalize on its success, or will it turn out to be a “useless” humanitarian endeavor? The second question is, literally and oddly enough, “will we ever be rid of Regis Philbin?”
Regardless, the future of YouTube still looks promising. We are still in the midst of a consumer culture-driven wave, and as the technology gets cheaper and cheaper, there is no sign of end.
In Chapter 5 of Free Culture, Lawrence Lessig lays out anecdotes and archetypes of all manner of piracy. The duplication of copyrighted CDs and DVDs in foreign markets is touched upon, but one of the main salient points is his defense of Peer-to-Peer file sharing networks, the groundbreaking networks and servers which made Section 512 absolutely necessary and the rulings on which still protect YouTube from harm.
One of Lessig’s major talking points is his attribution of the four archetypal uses of P2P networking: stealing music, sampling music before buying, access to abandonware or other copyrighted content that is no longer available by traditional means, and those who search for content that has no copyright or a Creative Commons license and is meant to be shared.
This is a highly utopian view of both P2P networking and the internet, but at the very least interesting to consider. Lessig goes on to discuss drops in CD sales and later Jack Valenti’s ridiculous claims about VCRs as “tapeworms,” just waiting to drive the industry down. If anything, the VCR and file-sharing networks both paved the way for the kind of content generation and also server networks that my final project will use and draw attention to.
Call#: Annenberg Library Reserve P94.65.U6 J46 2006
In Chapter 4 of Convergence Culture, MIT Professor Henry Jenkins discusses the grassroots/netroots communities that form around the creation of digital content. Specifically, the proliferation of DIY digital video creations based on the Star Wars mythos and collaborated on by fans all across the internet.
20th Century culture, Jenkins argues, built towards a massive uprising of grassroots culture, which began to truly take hold upon the integration of the internet into daily life.
If there are any flaws in the current fan environment, as he sees it, they are (as he mentions from Lessig) the proliferation of legislation produced to keep the interests of major character-licensing corporations happy, such as mega-giant Disney, which will be quite able to rest upon licenses of its property for decades to come, even if Disney kept producing creations that are barely profitable.
Convergence culture heralds the digital age, for sure. Displaying outright giddiness for the subject matter, and extravagant love for the legions of DIY Star Wars buffs and MMORPG fans which proliferate the internet. These weekend warriors deal with the same kinds of copyright issues that I will, though they re-craft their sacred universes whereas my method is to sample.
This section of US Copyright law outlines violations of copyright-managed systems, such as bypassing digital rights management and producing a copy of a video in another format. This makes it illegal for consumers to bypass encryption that restricts content, for instance, to one device for purposes of moving the same content to another. The law also includes information on the Librarian of Congress’ selection of a class of bypassable works, exemption for educational institutions, and what construes technological violation of copyright encryption.
Section 1201 also states that no outstanding violations of this section will hinder a defendant’s fair use argument.
This section of US Copyright law is particularly salient as in order to create my project, I will be bypassing both DVD encryption codes and any DRM embedded into the music used for the piece.
These are both clear violations of Section 1201. However, were my project ever to come under copyright scrutiny, I would hope to find protection under this violation being carried out within an academic institution, for purposes of parody, and creating a transformative video which falls neatly under fair use exemption.
This is also important because for the vast majority of videos on YouTube that contain copyrighted content owned by major corporations, that content has been captured from a source which implemented digital rights management, and thus the uploaders have infringed upon Section 1201.
Thesis: This project explores the increasingly important relation of digital and remix/convergence culture to copyright law and copyright holders, specifically with regards to how video and sound properties are handled in the highly open market of the internet. As a creative submission, I will create a mash-up video parody featuring copyrighted content from Apple Corps., Vivendi Universal, and Buena Vista Pictures. My supporting paper will detail the copyright violations that were necessary for the creation of the work, as well as discussion of whether and why the work should be seen as "fair use" and the ways in which our current cultural paradigm calls for a system within which creations in the same class of works can be made without the violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Arguments:(1) If laws are in place which protect works which are transformative in nature or fall under other fair use or parody guidelines, a system should be established by which consumers can legally transform their media without having to violate the DMCA by bypassing digital rights management encryption. (2) Our culture is in a transitional state, as technology is making the process of parody and other fair uses increasingly democratic. (3) The creative project itself will be a parody of Hollywood tropes and practices, which are becoming increasingly less dominant in the new age of user-generated content. Fittingly, the final project will be posted on media and netroots darling YouTube to make the commentary complete.
This press release from YouTube briefly details their partnership with Universal Music Group (UMG), subsidiary of Vivendi Universal. In this groundbreaking strategic partnership, UMG agrees to make music videos whose rights they own viewable on YouTube. It also allows for YouTube users to utilize music from UMG’s extensive catalogs in their videos. In turn, YouTube agrees to remove from their site any content owned by UMG which they choose not to make available, and UMG and its artists will be compensated by YouTube for their properties being viewed on the site.
The document makes mention of the nature of the partnership: that is, a way for UMG to tap into the vast resource internet traffic, a way to assure that YouTube remains devoted to protecting their property, and lastly an embrace of contemporary convergence culture and the new consumer/prosumer drive towards user-generated content.
This is an interesting deal, especially considering the rampant speculation of YouTube running into problems with UMG just a month before this announcement and how, in the midst of the YouTube deal, UMG sued two other video sharing networks.
I reference this announcement because it, as well as YouTube’s agreement with Warner Music Group (which preceded this partnership) are primary evidence of a growing trend towards adoption of user-generated content models, and the willingness of media giants to begin the slow process of loosing content restrictions without direct payment by the consumer.
I reference specifically the Universal Music Group rather than the earlier Warner announcement because segments from my project will include property (video) that is owned by Vivendi Universal. While this announcement does not in any way justify the posting of my project on YouTube as a legal action, the existence of a link between the two companies is of note, and hopefully a sign that should property agreements expand, the video included in my project will one day be YouTube-licensed (keeping in mind that this is not likely, as the project will contain copyrighted material from additional companies.