Money Doesn’t Talk – It Silences

I’ve never been a fan of automated approaches to plagiarism, but the idea seems to be taking off for the corporations who are upset with people who clip and remix – because, well, that’s ours and besides, surely there’s some way we can make money off it?

The Wall Street Journal reports a new venture will scan the web for your property so that you can either put a stop to it or charge for the use.

Attributor appears to go further than existing techniques for weeding out unauthorized uses of content online . . . [Company execs] claim to have cracked the thorny computer-science problem of scouring the entire Web by using undisclosed technology to efficiently process and comb through chunks of content. The company says it will have over 10 billion Web pages in its index before the end of this month

So if I understand this, they copy web pages to see if they’ve been copied. And this kind of indexing, unlike the Google library project, doesn’t violate anything because media companies might make money from it – and the heck with innocent bystanders whose work is copied into this massive database without permission. They aren’t in business, so their rights don’t matter. Right?

What corporations don’t seem to understand is that a lot of the people involved in remix culture aren’t interested in monetizing “intellectual property” – see the total puzzlement when business folk tried to figure out why the Craigslist founder didn’t want to maximize his profit. They just couldn’t wrap their heads around it. (Thanks to Library Juice for the link.)

The secret of Web 2.0 is that it revels in creation without worrying about artificially limiting access by charging a toll. This outpouring of creativity challenges the standard wisdom that the only incentive for creators is cash.

I can’t help but be reminded of how so many academic publishers are also stymied by this new reality. As Jon Jensen said in a speech last March –

I watched the more open access Muse journals like PostModern Culture get far more traffic than the closed ones. It was at Project Muse that I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation which convinced me that we were spending more of our grant money *preventing* people from access to the online journals, via security and IP-range subscription system development, than we spent enhancing access and adding value. This opened my eyes to some strange realities of electronic scholarly publishing.

He moved to the National Academies Press, and proved that open access works – it enables discovery, generates book sales, and frees up the publisher to do what they do best. When will big media catch up to the idea that someone posting thirty seconds of Jon Stewart on YouTube isn’t in it for the money – but drives audience to the show? If they could figure out that we’re not all into monetizing, and stop spending so much money trying to make us stop, they could relax and reap the benefits of fans growing their market.

Take it from the Person of the Year. Some of us don’t want to maximize revenue – we just wanna have fun.

Author: Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

4 thoughts on “Money Doesn’t Talk – It Silences”

  1. I’m not with you all the way on this one. The Daily Show depends on
    advertising and cable fees for its existence. Someone who puts clips of it
    on youtube can’t really be called a creator, and it’s debatable whether
    putting it on youtube drives eyeballs to the show (er uh to the advertising via
    the cable fees) or not. It seems that long term it would hurt the show.

    I thought the interesting thing about the Craigslist article was that
    the site was successful because it served its users and that was
    enough for them. Is there a lesson here for the increasing influence of
    corporate thinking on academia and academic libraries? (Take a look
    at craigslist. It’s not glitzy, but it works.)

  2. I’m just a nice, middle-age lady librarian, so maybe my opinion isn’t worth much of anything, at least in terms of the corporate world. But these people are going to have to learn how to deal with a new generation that sees media/intellectual property in a whole different light. My sons — 15 and 23 — EXPECT to find a variety of quality content available for free on the Internet. They make little distinction between commercial and non-commercial sources. As long as something is useful/entertaining/informative, they will consume it. If it’s not there for the taking, it may as well not exist. They’ll just go elsewhere to find a rational substitute.

    And despite all the moaning and handwringing in our profession over “information literacy,” it’s been my experience that, by and large, young people are far more information savvy than a lot of folks my own age or older. Most of these kids have excellent B.S. detectors, developed as a means of self-defense. As my teenage son told me not so long ago, in an attempt to explain his overt cynicism, “I’m part of the advertising generation. I’ve been marketed to since birth.”

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