The Threat of Copyright and Media Corps on YouTube as a Social Tool

As stated in the documentary, Please Subscribe, “YouTube is the third largest site on the internet.” Individuals use YouTube for a variety of different reasons: to listen to music, watch ‘do-it-yourself’ tutorials, or to entertain themselves for hours on end with cute animal videos. There is something for everyone, and at some point (unless you live like the Alaskan Bush People) you’ve utilized YouTube for one reason or another. To many people, this space is just another entertainment platform. However, it is also used as a creative outlet; without users creating content, we would have no cute animal videos to watch (*gasp*)! Users are free to create and share videos at their own discretion, either by themselves or collectively through audience feedback, without the intrinsic controls of traditional media platforms. This same characteristic, along with many others, also make YouTube the ultimate space to implement social change. However, YouTube’s power to be this tool is being threatened by outdated copyright laws and monopolistic media corporations.

Briefly mentioned in “Hollywood and Vine”, YouTube users can create and distribute content without the influence of outside players, such as media executives or producers — influences that are inherent within traditional media organizations. These traditional platforms consistently show audiences through movies, television, magazines and the like, similar content that typically supports and enforces the status quo. The same identities typically play the same types of roles over again, enforcing stereotypes and worldviews that are in favor of the hierarchy that creates them. In opposition however, the environment YouTube provides can allow creators to challenge the status quo and dominant ideologies within our culture, due to the lack of control and influence found within the platform. Many YouTube users have the opportunity to be exposed to a vast array of cultures and worldviews, which allows them to formulate their own opinions without the pre-determined bias of traditional media.

However, YouTube’s capabilities to encourage social change are being threatened by outdated copyright laws and media corporations. Copyright gives exclusive rights to intellectual property owners, and protects them against those who use this material without permission. However, as mentioned in both “Remix: How Creativity is Being Strangled by the Law” and “Monetizing a Meme: YouTube, Content ID and the Harlem Shake”, copyright laws have not been modified to fit within the environment of the digital age. Through YouTube’s Content ID system, copyright owners can either monetize creators’ content that uses the copyrighted artifact, or block the content. For example, in “’Buffy vs. Edward’ Remix Unfairly Removed by Lionsgate”, the creator of the video, Jonathan, explains that even though his work was legally considered fair use, Content ID marked the video as violating copyright laws, and Lionsgate, the owner of Twilight, began to profit off of Jonathan’s creation. He appealed the copyright violation multiple times, and eventually Lionsgate made him take down the video, infringing upon his right to fair use. Not only did Lionsgate block Jonathan’s creativity, they blocked his efforts to challenge the status quo, as the video was created to critique gender roles within mainstream media. Although not controlling the initial creation of content, it does control whether or not that content will be available for viewing.

Image from http://wic.oregonstate.edu/news/helping-students-making-sense-of-fair-use

As indicated in “Monetizing a Meme: YouTube, Content ID and the Harlem Shake”, “even with Google’s 1.65 billion dollar acquisition of YouTube in 2006, YouTube retains the functionalities of a digital commons. Its perception as a free, accessible, inclusive, and open platform drives its immense social and economic value” but, YouTube’s Content ID can be seen as part of a much larger, on-going enclosure of the digital commons” (p. 12). Essentially, Monopolistic corporations are realizing YouTube’s value as an entertainment platform, and are now trying to buy in. According to “Hollywood and Vine”, many companies are beginning to purchase MCN’s (multi-channel networks) ,in order to get in on the action. MCN’s are third-party companies that are associated with YouTube channels, and provide services that can consist of “audience development, content programming, creator collaborations, digital rights management, monetization, and/or sales” (Multi-channel network, 2016). With traditional media in control of these companies, they can have power over and influence the creation of content, threatening the chance for creators to challenge the status quo.

YouTube has the power to be an incredible tool toward social change, challenging existing hegemonic social structures that are supported by traditional media corporations. However, copyright laws and traditional media corporations are threatening YouTube’s ability to do so, which may inhibit change that is needed to confront current social issues.

Multi-channel network. (2016, October 11). Retrieved October 21, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-channel_network

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