User Generated Content – The Life Blood of the Internet and an AntiThesis of the Traditional Copyright System…

The Internet has been accused by many people, typically most of them associated with the Motion Picture Industry of harbinging piracy, and scaling exponentially the quantum of localised DVD piracy. This perspective isn’t entirely false, the only trouble is that when one sees things from a holistic perspective, the Internet has actually broken the back of what the traditional copyright system stood for.

The traditional copyright system which involved 2-3 centuries ago was designed to be a motivational tool for artists and creators. Over a period of time, it became a very limited monopoly, allowing only few people into it. It limited opportunities for creators and made them dependent on the publishers or the producers. In many cases, the bulk of the revenue was earned by the publishing companies, and the artists only got a small percentage of the royalty. This argument is ‘fair enough’ to some extent, because the publisher bears the risk in case of financial loss. This issue concerns the producers and the artists, but the larger problem of this system was that since a huge amount of investment was needed, it limited the distribution of the created content.

The Internet was designed to be a distribution medium, and a great one at that, and was never intended by its creators to be the next big market place. It is this thing that has gone terribly against the traditional copyright content creators, and is the reason why monetization of copyrighted content seems to be such a pain point for the copyright industry, typically the Film Industry in India.

Today, things have changed. Tonnes of content are created by users, and flipped around the Internet. No one knows who created them, no one knows how many millions, they will reach. Understandably, the content dies a quick death. But no one charged any money to create content, no one paid any money for purchase or access of content, and no one charged anything for distribution, all done within the framework of Internet access, thus completing the cycle of what the copyright industry stood for.

The underlining point here, is ‘access-to-anyone’ to be a part of this new system, something that was not a part of the original Copyright system. The potential to earn money is definitely much much lower, although the potential to win yourself millions of hearts definitely is. The stars of the Internet may never be as big as Stars of the Silver screen, but content creators like TheViralFever, AllIndiaBackchod, Bloggers like Lavanya Mohan, Krish Ashok etc have all earned fan bases for themselves.

11226011_1246090502083736_7814168759362748992_n

As with film or primary material like news paper, cartoons, these user generated content hold historical evidence of user’s thought processes and their lifestyles, at a given point in time. Even if users may use Copyrighted content as a base for content derivation, most of it would definitely fall within the realm of ‘Fair Use’.

Without User generated content, Engines like Facebook, Blogger, Wikipedia, YouTube or Twitter would cease to exist. The amount of time spent by ordinary users accessing content on these popular portals, had they not been there, may have gone towards watching Top-Down,native copyrighted content like Films, whether legally or not.

We have also reached a critical point where we need to debate if User Generated Content is as valuable or equal to that of Traditional Copyrighted Content, today for the ordinary Indian citizen. If that be the case, shouldn’t the Industry be seeing this as a more dire threat rather than continuing to focus and blame Piracy, when legitimate threats have already encircled it from the flanks, when one considers the ‘expendable-time’ factor?

Advertisements

I feel like an Old Man today..

I feel so very old today. The book should have been up by now, where I was rushing up things when suddenly, something went wrong. I had ADHD, this I knew. But I guess my brain had taken the limit of its strain and it couldn't take the load anymore..crashhh..

I am now on doctor recommended tablets. More than the function of keeping me alive, they are keeping me sane. Maybe, I hope it is his 'will' that I have enough mental energy to get the KTP project to its eventual goal.

Today, I chanced to have a look by chance at some old engineering books, and I was shocked. When we read and learnt them, they were all theory. We knew nothing about the radio spectrum, 2g, EDGE, Optical communication, Frequency Modulation, White Noise, Signal to Noise Ratio , bandwidth etc..

Did anyone of us even know what was the practical value of 2 Mbps, back then ? Today's, engineering students are that mich more lucky in that sense, that they can see practically see what they learn.

Not just that. We learn a bit about computer hardware design, Economics, about Ethics. I laughed at the system back then saying what does ethics have to do with engineering?

I was a fool. Yes, today, I admit it. But although I admit I was a fool, I am not an ego headed idiot. My feet are firmly rooted in the ground. But in a sense, the KTP project touches on all these concepts at some level, radio spectrum, optical bandwidth, signal processors, multimedia codecs, operating systems. And the underlying subject about KTP is itself about Human Ethics. None of us ever saw Chernobyl, the Titanic or Mr.Peter goal, but we see piracy every day.

We all know that it is wrong at some level, yet how did society accept this phenomenon en masse, although it is morally incorrect?

Today, I realise that engineering didn't teach me engineering. It taught me about life, my future and about being human.

The original aim of the work was to make this readable and understandable for any layman. I think I will to a certain extent manage that. But I also want to add a bit of technical stuff from engineering theory and apply it to the book, but when I read one, I couldn't. My brain is already fuzzy with the drugs and I am already slower than ever. I just couldn't. At this point, I have almost reached the limit of my endurance, and atleast the first version cannot go on for ever.

I am confident that I will finish the first version, which itself will come into the public domain under Creative Commons Non commercial license, and if for some reason, I am unable to rewrite the book practically in an engineering theory context, hopefully someone else will and release it under the same Creative Commons Non Commercial license.

 

Four Basic Attributes of the Internet, that Piracy uses to its advantage..

The Internet was built on some basic principles, but as the Internet has grown widely into an alternate economic space rather than sheer exchange of 1s and 0s, some of these principles have come under threat, non necessarily always with evil intentions, but sometimes, since it has placed the economic survivability of some players. This aspect of the discussion is typically called as ‘Net Neutrality’, but its discussion is beyond the scope of this blog. For now, let us focus on some basic attributes that the Internet offers that Piracy is attempting to use to its advantage.

  1. Decentralisation – The Internet in its original form was always de-centralised. De-centralisation is a process where several people contribute towards a common work, and there typically is no differentiation between the contributors unlike a Traditional Top-Down Centralized Corporate Environment. We can learn some lessons about Internet Piracy and its complexity by looking at some of our own movies. For instance, how did Professor Ramana get caught eventually? Because, he ran a centralized network.                                                                                                                                              

  2. Open Source and Free Sharing Principles – It was Open Source principles that run a substantial portion of the Internet. Engines like Wikipedia and Mozilla FireFox are built entirely based on these principles. The Philosophy of Open Source is that anyone can take an existing work, build upon the work and offer the adapted work for free ( can commercialize the work sometimes). But, sometimes, this Principle does get abused in the case of Piracy, where allegedly Pirated Code of a website or Technology developed using Open Source Software is thrown openly on the Internet, to be adapted by several other Allegely Pirating websites. Although, technically, they are competitors, sometimes, they can also allegedly be ‘Partners in Crime’ as well.
  3. The Internet is like a Road Network – If the main highway connecting two cities is blocked due to a Traffic jam, people are diverted through alternate routes. But, by design of the Internet itself, a single chunk of information can be split up and travel through various routes, before the entire file is assembled at the receiving end. For better understanding, see the Animated GIF File here.
  4. No One owns anything in the Internet – The Internet belongs to no body. Virtually, every aspect of the Internet is given only a temporary usage rights or a common resource is shared across several people. An owner of a Website does not permanently own the URL of the website, He has to pay a fee for periodically renewing the website. There can be several people accessing a common IP address via a Public Wifi Hotspot, or Internally within a Home Wifi. There can be millions of users who use the same shared  hosting space etc.
    All of these principles are incorporated at various levels, to help Piracy continue the ‘Cat and Mouse’ game that has gone on for several years, and that is the reason, why the Internet Piracy menace has still continued to linger. Beyond just a question of a ‘Demand and Supply’ market, Piracy has used underlying principles and masked itself which makes things that much more difficult for law enforcement to catch up with it.