Jon Festinger’s discussion in class raised a very important concept, especially in the online space. So far, our discussion has mainly been about how to create content and how to disseminate content effectively, but what exactly do we have control over? How do we ensure that our work is recognized as our own?

Often our discussion of issues like ‘fake’ news revolves around trying to figure out who is behind it, but more often than not, the issue is the other way around – creators make interesting content and don’t receive the proper recognition. Copyright, naturally provides a level of protection over this.

For example, it was very interesting that he pointed out that copyright isn’t required to be registered to be effective (although it needs to be registered in order to take legal action). It certainly is unfair when people create ideas that end up being used for profit by someone else, and not everyone necessarily has the resources (or feels the need) to officially register when they first publish the work.

However, sometimes it’s the other way around, and it’s the users that may be at the whim of the copyright holders. We often hear about copyright trolls, and how often they end up suppressing use of materials. Disney is probably a great example of this – their lobbying of Congress has led them to extend copyright protections time and time again.

It makes sense that there should be protections for a reasonable time, but the key here is that it should be reasonable. At this point, copyright laws in the US last for more than a century in some cases, which seems much longer than reasonable. Do things published in the 1940’s really need the protection in this day and age? Even things in the 50’s and 60’s I feel have been out there long enough that they should be in the public domain.

Having things enter the public domain allows for more creativity and adaptation. Even Disney wouldn’t have been able to make their blockbuster films the same way if fairy tales had been under copyright protection.

Jon did mention some interesting points, particularly the other aspects of copyright that don’t directly involve the royalty aspect.

For example, he mentioned the concept of moral rights, which exists in Canada, but not in the US. From my understanding, creators are allowed to retain a certain amount of control over their work, specifically to protect the integrity of it. That’s certainly a very useful right to retain – not everyone wants their work associated with infamous individuals or controversial topics, even if you paid for it.

Another interesting one was the fair use/fair dealing laws. Essentially, if you are trying to cover something for narrative purposes, educational, or for other similar purposes, there’s a certain level of protection over that. Again, this certainly makes sense. If this was not the case, then it would be very difficult to review any content or critique any piece of work, with the fear that they may be breaching copyright laws.

In terms of my own content, I’ve tried to avoid posting material directly on my site, but instead linking out to other people’s resources. For example, in each week’s reviews, I include clear links to the channel, so that traffic is directed to them.

Aside from avoiding issues with copyright, it also gives people the ad revenue that they probably need. Many publications are struggling with circulation, like this article from our readings this week. Many publications have found that revenues are continuing to decline, and for many smaller creators, ad revenue is a significant part of how they sustain their operations.

Driving more traffic to the content themselves encourages the creators to continue putting out content, and also avoids copyright issues – it’s a win-win!

Overall, the discussion this week was very useful both as a creator and as a consumer. This also drove me to look up what works are entering the public domain this year – did you know that 1984 by George Orwell is already public domain in Canada?

This also led me to think about what it will be like 100 years from now, when many works in the past few decades and today will start entering the public domain. I feel like there’s going to be a kind of movement that emphasizes consuming media from the past, in a bid to learn more about our lives today.

Nonetheless, it’s going to be a long time before then, and in the meantime, we’ll just have to keep renewing that Netflix subscription.

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