prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for April, 2009

Modern Day Pirates Run Into Trouble

Posted by prof e on April 21, 2009

Pirates, pirates and more pirates

Pirates have been  making a lot of headlines lately. Jack Sparrow has become a bankable asset in Hollywood. Somalian pirates have been on the prowl off the eastern coast of Africa stirring up trouble. If you’ve been watching the news you know that several Somalian pirates were dispatched last week by Navy Seal snipers. But it is the third photo of modern day pirates that is most applicable to discussions of media and society because of the issue of intellectual property (IP) rights. The pirates in the third picture are the founders of The Pirate Bay, a BitTorrent tracking website that connects file sharing parties. Recently they were convicted by a Swedish court of assisting in copyright infringement and sentenced to one year in prison and fined $3.6 million.

Media piracy is an ongoing problem for media companies. Music was the first media format to experience widespread piracy but movies, videogames and other media are also “shared” by both friends and strangers. People who wouldn’t think of shoplifting don’t bat an eye at the thought of downloading media without paying. Somehow the idea that media companies and content producers make plenty of money becomes justification for behavior that, despite its illegality, does not seem to be slowing.

Whether or not you view IP infringement as theft may depend on your place in the content food chain. If you’re a content producer (or hope to be one in the future) you may be more inclined to view piracy as theft. Here’s what Sir Paul McCartney had to say about the Pirate Bay verdict. Link to Sir Paul McCartney

Posted in media industry, music, regulation | 4 Comments »

Lessons from Columbine

Posted by prof e on April 19, 2009

Ten years ago the nation was shocked to hear that two disgruntled students had gone on a rampage at Columbine High School in Denver, Colorado. I remember turning on the TV in my classroom and watching, along with my students, as live coverage of the event played out on screen. We were transfixed by the images coming from the TV and left with questions about how this kind of tragedy could have happened in what felt like our own back yard. It was not long before TV pundits tried to answer those questions. Tales of the shooters’ affinity for Marilyn Manson’s music and Doom, the first-person shooter videogame, were first to surface. Others made comparisons to the movie Basketball Diaries starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Critics of media violence see Columbine as the inevitable outcome of a broken social system where film, television, music and videogame industries mass-produce violence-filled content that is consumed by impressionable children. Today’s children are more impressionable, they say, because they are frequently alienated by their peers and abandoned by the social institutions, e.g., family and church, that, in earlier times, provided alternative perspectives on life. They also point to the few cases of perpetrators who themselves said that they were influenced by media or by the desire to copy the behavior that they saw acted out on the news. Just last month two UK teens were arrested for plotting to bomb a school on the 10th anniversary of Columbine.

Critics of the critics counter that media exposure is an insignificant contributing factor when attempting to explain real-world violence. As evidence they like to point to all of the children that have grown up on violent cartoons, movies, videogames and music yet have never acted out in a violent manner. Some even believe that mediated violence serves as a sort of pressure valve that allows young people to blow off steam in a virtual environment. Killing a few computer-generated monsters or villains is certainly better than kicking the dog or punching a little brother.

This debate has been going on for centuries and will likely continue for years to come. But don’t let that stop you from having opinions of your own!

Posted in media effects | 16 Comments »

The State of the News Media

Posted by prof e on April 12, 2009

state_of_news1According to The State of the News Media, a report by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, audiences for news are shrinking and advertising revenue is falling. News magazines and newspapers have lost the most readers, followed by local and network news. On a positive note, internet and cable TV news are attracting new viewers. The down side is that internet news users are still difficult to sell to advertisers.

The other problem with internet news is that many online news outlets don’t do much if any news reporting…they simply aggregate news from various sources, e.g. Associated Press and Reuters, and bundle them for visitors to their websites. This model is unsustainable if the ones actually doing the reporting are not sharing in the revenue generated by the online advertising. As newspapers fold and reporters are laid off, there will be fewer stories available to the online portals such as Yahoo! and Google news. In some ways it mimics the change that our country has seen over recent decades. We have moved from manufacturing to a service economy. No one wants to make things anymore, and it seems that no one wants to “produce” news content. Without reporters in the field making calls, conducting interviews, showing up at events, and keeping their ears to the ground, the future of journalism looks bleak…and news organizations are scared.

So if your business model is broken and your source of income is in jeapordy, what do you do? Just last week the Associated Press (AP) announced that they would take legal action against aggregators (such as Yahoo! and Google) who use their headlines and news excerpts without paying copyright premission. While Google pays AP for full articles that it carries on the Google website, the problem pertains to Google’s, and other aggregators’, use of headlines and excerpts. News aggregators have argued Fair Use and say that they drive traffic to the AP website in return for using a short bit of the news copy. In this difficult economic climate, the battle is about power, prestige, and, ultimately, survival.

Posted in advertising, interactive media, journalism, media industry | 2 Comments »