Digital Rights Management

Piracy of digital content is regarded as a serious problem by content companies. Digital Rights Management (DRM) is considered a potential solution to this problem, but I believe that given the current and foreseeable state of technology the content protection features of DRM are not effective at combating piracy. The key problem is that if even a small fraction of users are able to transform content from a protected to an unprotected form, then illegitimate distribution networks are likely to make that content available ubiquitously.

It is, however, entirely feasible that DRM could at least partially affect piracy. The software industry is currently experiencing a 40% software piracy rate. Nevertheless, the software industry by all accounts appears to be thriving. Media and entertainment companies may face a similar challenge. If piracy could be decreased by just a few percentage points using DRM, then this might translate into millions of dollars of otherwise unrealized revenue. But according to Defective by Design (2014), DRM does not come without a price. First there is the cost of building, deploying and maintaining a DRM infrastructure, which will eat into whatever unrealized revenues are recovered. Second, DRM protected content is economically less valuable than unprotected content. Therefore, deploying DRM will result in fewer sales of legitimate content, which also might offset some of the revenues gained by decreasing piracy. The question is whether or not the benefits of DRM outweigh its costs.

Unauthorized use and unauthorized acquisition are two aspects of piracy that DRM technology aims to address, however, the real problem with piracy is that it only takes a small fraction of users who are capable of dissociating licenses from content to make managed content available to a significant fraction of users in unmanaged form. According to Lessig (2006) current technological measures will never be able to completely stop the illegitimate distribution of pirated content and that content producers must take steps to compete with the piracy as an alternative. Regardless of whether or not DRM can be effectively used as a risk management component, content producers regard themselves as being in competition with the pirates. Therein lies the biggest promotion of piracy. It’s called show business for a reason. Content producers and distributors primary concern is to maximize the value of intellectual property, not to protect it for the sake of protection.

 

 

References

 

Lessig, L 2006,  “Intellectual Property,” Code version 2.0, New York: Basic Books, New York, pp. 169-200.

 

2014, What is DRM?, Defective by Design, viewed 18 May 2014, <http://www.defectivebydesign.org/>

Internet Vs Traditional Media Regulations

When discussing media regulations in Australia, the primary difference between Internet and traditional broadcast media is that current ACMA laws simply cannot accommodate for emerging technologies and media platforms. The fact remains that the Internet cannot be regulated by the same means as broadcast and print media – to attempt to do so is both technologically infeasible and ethically unsound. As an international media channel The Internet is fundamentally different from broadcast media. It is a global community that is already ten times larger, more complex, more diverse and more interdependent than all the Australian cities combined. The Australian governments have not sought to impose censorship regimes upon any of the other conversational media due the obvious social and technological obstacles that such censorship would encounter, the same obstacle that prevent them from regulating Internet content.

Green, Hartley & Lumby (2009) argue that most of the information accessible on the Australian Internet is originated by foreign sites, which cannot be controlled by Australian laws. Information is propagated on the Internet with extreme rapidity. The very nature of the Internet is to copy data and with the added bonus of social media sharing capabilities media postings can be read by hundreds of thousands of people within hours of orientation. No complaints body can be expected to act with sufficient speed to prevent the worldwide dissemination of unclassified material originating at Australian Internet sites. Local users cannot be restricted from employing encryption and anonymity services without severe commercial losses to Australia. Yet these services remove any possibility of certainly determining responsibility for offensive material.

Legislation to restrict the rights of Australians to employ strong cryptography could not be effective against criminals, but it would criminalize all corporate electronic security and individual privacy in electronic media. Authentication standards on the Internet are very poor. It is ridiculously easy for one user to convincingly masquerade as another. So easy, in fact, that most people can do this without violating any system security or knowing very much about computers at all. While reliable voluntary authentication can be achieved on the net, there is no technology in existence that will enforce mandatory authentication on the net. These technological realities represent severe constraints on the ability of legislation to enforce any censorship regime on the Internet.

 

 

References

 

2014, Internet Regulation, Australian Communications and Media Authority, viewed 9 May 2014,

<http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/About/The-ACMA-story/Regulating>

 

Green, L & Hartley, J & Lumby, C 2009, Untangling the Net: The Scope of Content Caught by Mandatory Internet Filtering. CCI, viewed 9 May 2014,

<http://www.cci.edu.au/sites/default/files/alawrence/untanglingthenet_report.pdf>

Social Media Practices

In our information-rich world, activist and advocacy groups trying to get attention for particular causes increasingly rely on social media as a means of building support. Forms of advocacy urging users to “like” or “share” posts, pages, videos, etc on social networking sites are often referred to as “slacktivism” or “armchair activism”. Slacktivism is a term for giving token support for a cause, like wearing a pin or “liking” something on Facebook, without being willing to engage in more meaningful support, like donating time or money.  These activities pose minimal cost, time and effort to participants. One click to like, retweet, or share and the slacktivist feels as if they have contributed to the cause, when in reality they don’t even have to move from behind the screen of their electronic device.

However according to Howard (2008), Advocating for a cause on social media does not automatically make you a slacktivist and this sort of online activism is not necessarily a bad thing. Social media allows users to organize, network and share what they’re passionate about in a way that wasn’t previously available and the ability to communicate quickly and on a global scale enables the spread of knowledge. It’s now easier than ever to learn about causes and share information. Citizen journalists, tweeters, and Facebook users across the globe certainly serve us by erasing divisions based on gender, religion, race, and nationality, but the unfortunate truth remains that these so-called “slacktivists” rarely take any real further action when they go offline. Someone who “likes” a cause on Facebook wouldn’t be any more likely to donate in the future than someone who had no exposure to the cause at all.

Social media isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to activism, it is simply a platform through which people can connect and raise awareness for certain issues. Social networking sites, primarily, Facebook and Twitter need to be seen as more of a relationship-building tool rather than a fundraising tools (Earnhardt 2013). By themselves they do little to further social causes but people are more likely to participate when they see what their network cares about and decides to care about it too. For example the more exposure an issue receives the higher the chances of gaining support just like you are more likely to support a campaign if your friends and family are endorsing it.

 

 

References

 

Howard, R. G 2008, “The Vernacular Web of Participatory Media”, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Vol. 25, No. 5, pp. 490-513.

 

Earnhardt, J 2013, Cisco Social Media Policy, Cisco Blogs, Weblog post, 15 June, viewed 9 May 2014, <https://blogs.cisco.com/news/cisco_social_media_guidelines_policies_and_faq/>.

Sexist or Feminist??

The tiresome canard about how “sex(ism) sells” has been approached by many different people in many different ways with no concrete correlation between sexist or sexual content and marketplace success. I will look at two examples from opposite ends of the spectrum and attempt to understand the extent to which gender roles play a part in their success.

Although an extreme example, the highly popular, open world franchise, Grand Theft Auto is famous for its controversial adult and violent themes. The name along with the rating gives the player an idea that this will not be an innocent, light-hearted bit of fun, but rather a window into an expansive criminal underground (actually not so underground) in an urban gang setting and a corrupt society.

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It should come as no surprise that the résumé of Rockstar Games along with racism and adhering to strict stereotypes also includes sexism. GTA V has little room for women except to portray them as strippers, prostitutes, long-suffering wives, humorless girlfriends and goofy, new-age feminists we’re meant to laugh at. The only upside to Rockstar’s treatment of women is that there isn’t a female protagonist for them to butcher.

At the other end we have the 2013 series reboot of Tomb Raider. The character Lara Croft was first introduced in 1996 as a hyper-sexualised female Indiana Jones. At the time the video gaming culture, in terms of both industry and consumers, was male-dominated therefore Lara designed by and for men, acting the way men liked (like exploring and shooting) and looked the way men liked (consider that Angelina Jolie had to wear a padded bra in the films to faithfully recreate the bust of her virtual counterpart).

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The 2013 video game has made significant improvements in the representation of women. It is set before the events of the previous games, when Lara is not some kiss-ass tomb raider, but rather a young woman with everything to prove. Throughout her journey she shows she is strong, intelligent as well as street smart, independent, resourceful, disciplined, compassionate, vulnerable, raw, but most importantly real.

The success of such a franchise illustrates that the industry, as well as the consumers, have the potential to treat female protagonists (and female characters in general) with the respect they deserve, ushering a new era of gender roles in video games.

 

References:

Behm-Morawitz, E & Mastro, D 2009, “The Effects of Sexualisation of Female Video Game Characters on Gender Stereotyping and Female Self-Concept”, Sex Roles, Vol. 61, pp. 808 − 823, Springer Science and Business Media.

Everett, A & Watkins, S. C 2008,  “The Power of Play: The Portrayal and Performance of Race in Video Games,” The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp.141-164.

Koda, T et al 2009,  “Avatar Culture: Cross-Cultural Evaluations of Avatar Facial Expressions,” AI and Society 24.3: 237-50.

To Skim, or not to Skim

Here’s a challenge: can you read this whole post without getting distracted?  Can you resist the urge to skim each paragraph for the “gist of it”?

Chances are this will take some effort (or a lot of effort): as a Uni student who has grown up in the technological age I am accustomed to reading on the web, and therefore am a participant in the online reading style known as the “F-shaped pattern“. This style refers to the quick skimming from left to right across the top, and then scanning the middle until the bottom, absorbing a few main ideas but not truly engaging with any of them.

Jane Dorner in her 1993 articles entitled “When readers become end-users : intercourse without seduction”, talks about how readers have now become users, simply scanning written works to obtain the major points, providing an overview and sense of comprehension. But how much are we really absorbing? That’s not to say that this technique is always problematic. When users are websurfing, reading for entertainment, or perusing blogs, it doesn’t matter so much if you’re just skimming, but as the internet is increasingly becoming the source for all our content – news, research, and entertainment – we must ask the question: how is the internet changing the way we read, and the depth with which we take in information and what are the implications for society if the deep, reflective thinking associated with reading is replaced by the “web-page graze”?

After becoming accustomed to reading quick bits of information online, it has become harder to stay focused on long reading assignments that require sustained focus. If people, and in particular, students, are reading less thoroughly and getting more “summarized content”, how will this affect the type of thinking they engage in?  What will be the impact of online reading on the depth with which people immerse themselves in the subjects they are reading about?

 

References:

Cover, R 2006, “Audience Inter/Active: Interactive Media, Narrative Control and Reconceiving Audience History”, New Media and Soceity, Vol. 8, p.p. 139 − 158, Sage Publications.

Dorner, J 1993, “When Readers Become End-Users: Intercourse without Seduction”, Logos,Vol. 4, No. 1, p.p. 6 − 11.