The copyright in the Network Culture

By Wei Wei

Every generation will dream the following. Postmodernism’s dream was network culture. Today, digital technology is an undeniable presence in everyday life and is inseparable from mainstream social needs and conventions. Network culture is a broad cultural of social with no limited to technological developments and new media. Obviously, the Internet was not yet privatized or significantly colonized by capital and the nature of network culture is a big question, complicated and messy — for example, the growth of open source, the rise of knowledge workers, the widespread piracy of informational commodities, the importance of bottom-up production, and the rapid decline of traditional informational industries such as newspapers 1. Does copyright really adapt to the network culture and what is the future of the network culture?

In the book of Free culture, professor Lessig pointed out that over years, music albums, movies and software of digital industry constantly tells us how digital network and technology caused the spread of piracy. But at the same time, they deliberately hide a fact that digital network and technology also play an important role in promoting the development of creative works2.  It should not be ignored that the method they used to curb piracy also will limit the creative.


For example, we know the iconic Pop Art image of Love. It consists of the letters LO over the letters VE; the O is canted sideways so that its oblong negative space creates a line leading to the V. The original image, with green and blue spaces backing red lettering, served as a print image for a Museum of Modern Art Christmas card in 1964 (wikipedia). The designer is American artist Robert Indiana. He did register any copyright of the image. People are totally free to use this image. Now the image has been rendered and parodied in countless forms around the world. The image was designed as US postage stamp also parodied in many languages and the sculpture was created in many cities. This image becomes world popular. If Robert is the right holder, he will earn lots of money. The fashion industry also has little intellectual property protection. They have trademark protection, but no copyright protection and patern protection. However fashion industry is main consuming behavior target 3.

Professor Lessig also said that the copyright of  “anti-circumvention” regulations helps decrease the piracy, but it also damages the public’s right of “fair use”. Anti-circumvention prohibits any person to circumvent the copyright owner to control their works are used and taken contact with technology, so the interests of authors can be protected in the digital environments. These technologies include preventing piracy and prevent unauthorized reading, audiovisual and use and so on. If this provision is fully implemented, the fair use of the public will be compressed and exhausted which with great significance and is the fundamental right of the public.

Every time people upload their video to Youtube, the system will automatically analyze and compare the video with the copyright materials in their huge database even though most people didn’t know about this. And the scale and the speed of this system are truly breathtaking. Youtube have the policy with other company who hold the copyrights of the original videos and music such as Sony. When they find a match, they will apply the policy that the rights owner has set down 4. The right holder decides whether this video can be published which also based on this video will bring them benefits or damage. This definitely protects the right holder’s interest, but also limited everyone’s freedom of using those contents what are really easier to find out in the Internet context.

Professor Lessig’s main discussion is that if we are only interested in how to effectively curb piracy, regardless of other issues, the purpose of reaching the curb piracy, the free culture also will be die. Rights holders biggest blind spot, their only concern is to stop the piracy to carry of interests less than in the other. They also convince everyone to legislators in order to effectively curb piracy. But for the people who are not rights holders, we must also pay attention to the culture, information and freedom of speech issues and so on what the current copyright law mostly neglected.  We participate in the digital rights ecosystem everyday. Rights management is no longer simply a question of ownership.

Admittedly, digital technology enables individual easily copy the content on the Internet, causing serious damage to the authors. It is necessary to legislate to protect the author, but professor Lessig believes that we must think about how to make the rights of authors damage to a minimum while not destroy the good side of the network functions. Why he would be so concern about strict copyright laws will hinder the development of cultural freedom? The main key is when we use other’s works it is really difficult to obtain a license. For this, we certainly cannot ask the copyright holder totally free, with out the decisions of whether or not authorize the right. But how people can easily obtain the authorization for a reasonable price and the use of books, it is the copyright holder’s social responsibility concurrently in the pursuit to improve the standards of protection and enforcement of the law.

Many people think that the copyright contributed the creation. However, copyright protection is not the only virtue of cultural creation. Professor Lessig said that in Shakespeare’s time, there is no concept of copyright and legal. Shakespeare still completed a lot of works. So the copyright protection is not entirely unique incentive for cultural creation, there is many other factors that also encourage the creation. For copyright law, only when the benefits it brings more than harm it has the value, which is what we have to strive for.

Recently, the author of Out of Control, Kevin Kelly present that new revolution of technologies will out of the mainstream come from margin area and industries. The company Dropbox succeeds because it is outside the monopoly Internet groups such as Google, Amazon, twitter and Facebook. The copyright law may not protect them. Therefore, these low-quality, high-risk, low profit margins, small markets, and other non-market characteristics will be the key to power of future. The future will certainly be some things that change our lives.





  1. Kazys Varnelis:The Immediated Now: Network Culture and the Poetics of Reality

  2. Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity
  3. Johanna Blakley: Lessons from fashion’s free culture,
  4. Margaret Gould Stewart: How YouTube thinks about copyright ,
The following two tabs change content below.

Wei Wei

Latest posts by Wei Wei (see all)

Comments are closed.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License

WordPress theme based on Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.