The mass collaboration of digital information : an ethical examination of YouTube and intellectual property rights.
The Internet has been lauded as an open and free platform from which one is able to engage with, and share large amounts of information (Stallman, 1997). As one witnesses the shift from analogue media to digitalism, so too is it possible to note a change in cultural practices of media consumers. Users of the media can now be viewed as “prosumers”, producing as well as consuming media products (Marshall, 2004). Digital media users have been given the ability to engineer their own unique media experiences, especially within the realms of the Internet. However, this process has seemingly led to mass copyright infringement as Internet users appropriate various movies, music, television programmes, photographs and animations in order to create such an experience. The art of digital mashing in particular, has been deemed an explicit exploitation of intellectual property rights as it re-cuts, re-mixes and re-broadcasts popular media in a number of alternative ways. YouTube especially has been at the forefront of the copyright furore surrounding digital mash-ups because it allows online users the facility to post and share these video clips freely with other online users. While YouTube claims that they do not promote the illegal use of copyrighted material, they simultaneously acknowledge that they do not actively patrol that which is posted on their website. As such, copyright infringement appears seemingly rife as users share their own versions of popular media through the art of digital mashing. This dissertation however, explores the concept that the creation of mash-ups is not undermining intellectual property rights, but instead produces a new avenue from which culture can emerge. It highlights how Internet users are utilising the culture which surrounds them in an attempt to navigate the new social structures of the online, subsequently arguing that mash-ups are an important element of defining a new postmodern culture, and that the traditional copyright laws of analogue need to be modified in order to secure the development of new and emerging societal structures.