Fair use, who cares?!

Last week and also today we talked about copyrights, the fair(y) use of material and how copyrights are affecting the use of material other than your own.

In 2006, a new party was founded in Germany, named DIE PIRATEN (the Pirates). While they did not garner too much attention for years, things changed in late 2010. Suddenly, the party had found it’s voice (coinciding with the occupy movement) and demanded full transparency on the political process, the abolishment of intellectual property rights, and other before unheard of demands. The party organized itself online, opening its deliberations up for public online debate – everyone could participate and make suggestions or just be a silent reader.

2011 really was the year for the party. Membership skyrocketed and had there been country wide elections the party would have surpassed even well established parties. Surveys indicated that the Pirates most attracted young voters who wanted to see a change in the way secluded politics was run. However, with the soaring membership came problems. The volunteer party leadership had more than their hands full in organizing the crowds, setting agendas, planning campaigns, and discussing issues.

One ticket the party ran on was the abolishment of intellectual property rights. The party argued (though it is probably more correct to say individuals within the party argued as no formal party lines were established) that people download and used content anyways so why criminalize the massive amount of users? Artists and others creating the content in discussion argued vehemently for their rights to their ideas and their right to be paid for anyone using their creative results (songs, movies, books etc.).

In 2012 the party has seen a significant decline in membership and buzz around them. This is due to the lack of novelty (their transparency approach is now known, discussed, and “accepted as weird but normal”) but most importantly due to the inability of the party to organize itself in a meaningful and sustainable way. The Pirates still remain at that grassroot level democracy but cannot find a way to turn that democracy into one that is conducive to a productive political process.

On a side note, one of the very vocal advocates for no intellectual property rights has recently published a book. That book showed up as a copied version on several websites being available for free to the public (as intended by the party line). However, the author (and Pirate) sued the websites because she felt her copyright-rights were infringed and she does want others to pay for reading her work. It’s funny how the tables turn once you’re on the other side of things and realize that there is a (monetary) value that is attached to creative output.


Note: I tried to find some info on this in English. Once I have it, I will post the links in this article.


The power of communication

International Communication is a wide field as it touches upon issues in international relations, culture, technology, politics and policy, conflict studies, diplomacy and many more. This week’s readings gave a broad overview of the history of technological advances and how these relate to the advancement of (international) communication.

What has struck me while reading about roughly 600 years of “modern” communication (starting with the printing press in 1440) is how many of the decisions made by lawmakers, kings and rulers hundreds of years ago are still shaping today’s world of (international) communication. France opted to have its telegraph lines built so that Paris would always be the center of communication. This power has lasted to this day as Paris being the powerhouse of France despite not being in the geographic center of the country.

Early on communication technology (starting with the printing press, and later moving on to the telegraph, sonar, radio, tv and now internet) meant political power and influence. Thus, the means were kept in the hands of the political elite to further their political cause. That is why despotic governments are restricting the access to communication for its citizens. If access is granted power and influence are being given away. Granted, maybe only in small amounts, but in the fast paced age of the internet and viral communication a small yielding of power can result in societal uproar. Just like little babies dancing to their dad’s guitar play or a wedding proposal taped out of the back of a car can go viral so can political ideas, strong images of oppression, war, and crime. The pressure that these images creates, both on governments and on societies, can lead to agenda setting which then can lead to policies that are threatening the despotic government. Access to communication was and still is highly contested.

Post by Franzi R.

Readings this post is refering to:
Daya Thussu “The Historical Context of International Communication” from International Communication: Continuity and Change (2006).

Elisabeth Hanson “The Origins of the Information Revolution” (Ch. 2) from The Information Revolution and World Politics (2008).