Network-based Communities: Pawns of Promotion
I love the term organic (think bucolic images of server farms), especially when it’s applied to gui-meta-electro-datapackets getting drank into and blasted out of internet trunks and whatnot. I still don’t know what elephants have to do with any off this, but we certainly can put off any rigorous investigations of implementation technicalities until another day.
This is going to be ad hoc, so roll with me as best as you can. Holmes was pissing and moaning last night about some of his favorite Black Sabbath videos seemingly being yanked from youtube. That place is actually fancied by some to be a community. These pawns are essentially at the mercy of whoever or whatever it is that administers community guidelines. Some might say fair enough. Others prefer to say fuck you, and maybe strike out on their own.
CMM… I like it. Just about covers the entire waterfront of bling-friendly self-promotional yet vaguely clubby aesthetics.
Back to my mainline of thought, or rather my first major tangent. There are other places where monkeys who shoot videos can post them and apparently actually get paid if enough people view said videos. One such place is metacafe.com; according to their Producer Rewards® program, “We pay $2 for every 1,000 views a video accepted into the program receives in the United States. Your video will be evaluated for acceptance into the program after it receives 20,000 worldwide views. *** In addition, your video must be suitable for a mainstream audience – no adult, erotic, violent or hateful content.”
Anyone else notice that a lot of the Top Producers seem to be primarily purveyors of videos of girls running around in their underwear? I got nothing against that. In my book, one monkey’s erotic is another’s gapping maw of ambiguity. And just when Miss How to Make a Sexy Outfit from an Old Mustard-Stained Shirt starts getting comfortable with her stream of income, will the erotic net begin to be cast more broadly? I mightily suspect that these sorts of on-the-edge-of-the-guidelines groundfloor-ish early-ish adopters are permitted to flourish much for the same reasons that alleged copyright infringers existed largely unchecked for so long at places like youtube. Once the volume of traffic is sufficiently great, then the rough and tumble early days of substantially guideline free operation come to a close. Then again, maybe it takes a lawsuit.
Organizations including Viacom and the English Premier League have issued lawsuits against YouTube, claiming that it has done too little to prevent the uploading of copyrighted material. Viacom, demanding US$1 billion in damages, said that it had found more than 150,000 unauthorized clips of its material on YouTube that had been viewed “an astounding 1.5 billion times”. YouTube responded by stating that it “goes far beyond its legal obligations in assisting content owners to protect their works”. Since Viacom issued its lawsuit, YouTube has introduced a system called Video ID, which checks uploaded videos against a database of copyrighted content with the aim of reducing violations.
Okay, so this is probably what is going on with the de-posting of your favorite youtube videos. I don’t care what is and is not fair use. Leave that to the legal eagles. The point is that youtube now purports to have a system in place to scrub away video posts that appear to include copyrighted material. But there does seem to be a (glimmer of a) due process mechanism available for those inclined to pursue it.
In August 2008, a U.S. court ruled that copyright holders cannot order the removal of an online file without first determining whether the posting reflected fair use of the material. The case involved Stephanie Lenz from Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, who had made a home video of her 13-month-old son dancing to Prince’s song “Let’s Go Crazy” and posted the 29-second video on YouTube.
So what are we left with? A landscape predominated by larger internet communities and content posting players who have attracted too much attention (i.e., lawsuits) to remain entirely lawless and relatively unknown websites flying below the radar.
But let’s not fool ourselves. While systems such as Video ID are cumbersome, they are merely a cost of doing business. So are the lawsuits. The desirability of providing a fun lawless milieu, which geometrically or otherwise grows traffic, is weighed against the financial cost of defending against lawsuits and then eventually taking burdensome measures to attempt to mitigate the chance of having Toni Iommi come after you. Believe me. You don’t want that to happen.