Documentary coverage of IGF-USA by the Imagining the Internet Center

Posts Tagged ‘copyright

IGF-USA 2012 Scenario Story: Two Possible Futures for Copyright – Anarchy or Totalitarianism

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Brief session description:

Thursday, July 26, 2012 – The laws of copyright were introduced before the Internet, before file-sharing and before the advances in digital tools now used to create sampling, mash-ups and remixes. One example of the complex copyright conflicts faced today is “The Grey Album,” produced by DJ Danger Mouse. It gained notoriety as it challenged the intellectual property structure in place, mashing two legally protected albums in a violation of copyright law. Danger Mouse created the album strictly as a limited-edition promotional item (only 3,000 copies), but it immediately went viral and caught the ear of many people in the music industry and all over the US, making any legal cease-and-desist request technically meaningless. This example illuminates the incredibly complex and nuanced existence of copyright law in America today. This scenario exercise was aimed at exploring two divergent sides of America’s copyright future, one where regulations surrounding copyright law are lax to the point of anarchy, and the other where the regulations increase at an exponential rate, creating a totalitarian atmosphere.

Details of the session:

Moderators for the session were Ariel Leath and Kalyah Ford, graduate students at Georgetown University. Panelists included:

  • Thomas Sydnor II, senior fellow for intellectual property at the Association of Competitive Technology
  • Matthew Schruers, vice president for law and policy at the Computer & Communications Industry Association
  • Brandon Butler, director of public policy initiatives for the Association of Research Libraries

Thomas Sydnor II speaks in a workshop about the future of copyright at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

This scenario exercise at IGF-USA 2012 featured a consideration of what might happen if one or the other of two extreme situations – totalitarianism or anarchy – evolved in the future. Students from Georgetown University proposed two possible futures for panelists to discuss.

Scenarios: In an anarchist 2020 scenario, panelists discussed what might happen if a high school student turned in work incorporating aspects of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.” Would a teacher be expected to treat it as an original work? In a totalitarian 2020 scenario, panelists discussed a situation in which the phrase “good morning” is owned by McDonald’s, and any online use of it would instantly set off an alarm automatically requiring that the violator of the copyright pay a $500 fine.

These two scenarios tied to copyright, according to panelists at IGF-USA Thursday at Georgetown Law Center, are highly unlikely, but they are still interesting to ponder. They discussed the potential ramifications of both extremes.

“As far as totalitarianism, if (the United States) were to fall into totalitarianism, we’d have done it a long time ago,” said Thomas Sydnor II, a research fellow at the Association for Competitive Technology. “When I take my walk with my dogs, my dogs trespass on my neighbors’ lawns, and I go and I trespass on my neighbors’ lawns to clean up what they left on my neighbors’ lawns. And yet, I do this every day and there is not the slightest chance that I will ever be sued for it, much less arrested because we all realize that, to a certain extent, part of rights is exercising a little restraint in enforcement.”

Snydor also stressed the importance of thinking about where the Internet and its users are going in the long run in terms of copyright law enforcement. “We don’t need to have perfect enforcement, but we do need better than we have now,” he said.

Thomas and Matthew share laughs during a workshop about the future of copyright at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

“Whether we like it or not, it’s a much more complex copyright environment today,” said Pablo Molina, information systems technology professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

“I consider it as similar to considering the tax laws. Tax laws are so complicated, there are so many tax laws passed every term, that you need really expert tax lawyers and CPAs and other people just to figure out how to corporate or individual taxes when things get complicated, and I would argue that it is the same thing with copyright law.” He said we are likely to be moving toward more and more legislation and more and more enforcement.

Panelist Matthew Schruers of the Computer & Communications Industry Association argued that while law regulates the Internet, the impact of other vital factors must figure into decisions about the Internet as well, including markets, architecture and social norms.

Schruers predicted that even if copyright law goes in the direction of anarchy, human norms will most likely still prevent people from entirely disregarding the idea of copyright law.

He said if he were asked to predict which direction Internet regulation of intellectual property is most likely to go in the future, it will be more anarchic than it is today.

“In a low-protectionist anarchy environment, you’re likely to see more noncommercial and derivative work that is based largely on noncommercial creation,” Schruers said. “Control needs to be effective in order to produce [a totalitarian environment].”

Given the same choice regarding which direction on the totalitarian-anarchist spectrum society is most likely to go in the future, Molina said he believes society is moving in the direction of totalitarianism. Even so, he said he believes a full tilt to this extreme is unlikely. “There are always ways for people to circumvent the system,” Molina explained. “Both scenarios are possible. Whether they are likely is a different story.”

In terms of other factors important to the copyright law discussion, Molina and Schruers both said economic growth is an extremely good measure to assess when seeking balance between the extremes.

“In terms of progress, economic progress is the best metric we have,” Schruers said.

— Mary Kate Brogan


IGF-USA young people’s panel: GenNext’s Online Future

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This 2009 IGF-USA session description: “Young Internet users, entrepreneurs and advocates are the expert respondents in this session which is aimed at illuminating current and future issues. Discussion points will include the positives and negatives of hyperconnectivity, online security/safety, copyright, the future of the media and information, and the future of identity and privacy.”

Nathaniel James, executive director for OneWebDay was the panel moderator. Participants on the panel included Sebastian Bernal, a student in the School of International Service at American University; Aaron Eilbott, a sophomore at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Va.; Randy Gyllenhaal, and Alex Trice, both from Elon University’s School of Communications; and Kim Ngyuyen, consumer privacy fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

How they use the Internet

The panelists started out by describing their personal use of the Internet and online tools. Aaron Eilbott, age 14, noted he has more than 300 Facebook friends and at any moment at least 100 of them are online. Randy Gyllenhaal spoke with enthusiasm about his Blackberry. “There’s a reason they call them Crackberries,” he said as he noted that he is checking it all the time.

Moderator Nathan James, director of OneWebDay, asked the young panelists to share stories about how they work online. Eilbott said he keeps Facebook on when he does homework every day. “One day last week it went completely offline and I felt deserted,” he said. “I had to do my homework by myself. I didn’t realize I was kind of addicted to it until I didn’t have it.”

Kim Ngyuyen, a consumer privacy fellow for EPIC in her mid-20s said that she disagrees with older adults that the Internet is a distraction for young people.

It is actually more distracting when the Internet is down because you keep clicking on it and checking and checking when it’s gone. You are trying to do everything you can to get that Internet back. It’s a security blanket. You always need to feel connected. – Kim Ngyuyen

She also spoke about being online while in class at her university. “It’s not a distraction there. When you are called on in classes, friends might ‘chat’ you answers to help you if you have trouble answering a professor’s question,” she said, adding with a smile, “I’m not saying all of the conversations are academic, you know.” The room filled with laughter.

Being hyperconnected, now and in the future

Discussant Stephen Balkam, director of the Family Online Safety Institute, brought up a current BBC report titled “Tech Addiction Harms Learning.” It noted that 63 percent of the students surveyed indicated that they are addicted to Internet. “Obviously this was written by adults with a different point of view,” he told the panelists, noting that it might be a slanted perspective. “The world you guys are going to inherit is an interconnected world… Whether we like it or not we are going to a world where there is this constant need and desire to be connected.”

Panelist Alex Trice, 19, agreed. “I had to do an assignment for class where I had to go through a whole day without being connected to media, and I was constantly thinking about it… For our generation, being connected is important.”

Sebastian Bernal, a freshman from American University, noted that the hyperconnectedness we have now is “just foreshadowing what we will have in the future.”

Discussant Balkam noted that some people anticipate that brain implants of information devices may be only five years away. “When your kids come to you and ask for a brain implant,” he asked rhetorically, “what are you going to do about that?”

Young people tough on right age for starting on the ‘net

The group of young people began to discuss the appropriate age to begin going online. Trice said she started using the Internet at age 7, researching dinosaurs, fairies and unicorns. “I would say don’t get an e-mail address and Facebook until you are 13,” she said.

Randy Gyllenhaal, a senior at Elon University, said he read a report that 11 is the average age of a child encountering a porn site. “There are certain things in the digital world like pornography that worry me,” he said. “They should be exposed to the Internet, but don’t become addicted to it until you are rational about it like we are.”

Bernal said 13 is the age he would suggest to delineate as the divider before a child goes online. “If a 2-year-old or 4-year-old is online all the time, he won’t be able to develop social skills.” Ngyuyen said she suggests children should not go online before the age of 13. “The risk of stumbling upon pornography or something that is harmful to children is higher every year,” she said. “The Internet poses a specific danger to younger children. It is up to parents to make sure their children are using the Internet the right way.”

Eilbott declined to set a particular age for starting on the Internet. “I wouldn’t want to expose my children to the Internet until they have a reason to use it for educational purposes,” he said.

Privacy as an opt-in choice

The topic of online privacy was introduced by the moderator. “We don’t have to give up our privacy,” Ngyuyen said. “Users have to have control over their information. You should have a choice. EPIC favors an opt-in approach not opt-out. So you should start with no information available about you and then have to opt-in to allowing it to be shared.”

Eilbott said he generally knows the people who are seeing information about him on social networks. “I have met 90 to 95 percent of the people who are my friends on Facebook,” he said.

On Facebook, it’s not about being friends with them as it is with friends in real life. On Facebook, the definition of a friend is anyone you have met in your life for at least two seconds.   – Aaron Eilbott

How young people get their information

The panel began discussing how they get information. “I am probably the only person in my age group who watches network news,” he said, adding that he thinks the “flattening world of media” – in regard to so many unreliable sources getting into the mix, with some being considered to be producing ‘news’ – is dangerous. “I think most people still trust CNN, the Associated Press the New York Times, and I feel the mainstream media has been flattened to include bloggers.

“It is important to have professional and verifiable journalists doing work and Twitter and those tools will help spread that information out to those who are not looking at traditional news.”

Trice noted that she gets news through her social networks. “I find out a lot of news on Facebook and on Twitter rather than watching television, I find it all out on the Internet,” she noted, and she added, “We all know how to use the technology and it gives us more power as individuals. We can share what we see from our perspectives from all over the world. Rather than just the mainstream media you can see news as a person sees it from an eyewitness viewpoint.”

A member of the audience, Derrick Cogburn of American University, asked the panelists what techniques they have developed or adopted “to vet the information that’s coming at you so fast today. How do you know that Michael Jackson died?” Trice told a story about being out with friends one night when she got a text message that Matt Damon had died. She and her friends began texting other people to ask if it was true and didn’t hear any verification. Next, they checked the LA Times. “We didn’t see anything from a source we trusted,” she said, “so we didn’t believe he died.”

Copyright and IP gets audience going

The moderator brought up the topic of intellectual property and copyright. “Think about the people you know and how they are using content,” James said. “Tell us from your perspective in a world where information flows so quickly it is simpler to get it without paying. Where is the intellectual property debate going?”

Eilbott said teens are aware of copyright but they don’t care about it. “We are aware of what can happen if you are caught, but there’s not much fear of any legal consequences,” he said. “The fee if you get caught is so high that it seems almost mythical – $80,000 if you download one song, yeah right. ”

Trice observed that hackers who enable illegal downloaders always seem to find a way around any barriers raised to deter them.

No matter how many ways they try to make people pay, they are going to find ways to circumvent it and find ways to hack into it and get it free.   – Alex Trice

Susan Anthony from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was among many audience members with a keen interest and questions tied to this topic. “If it’s my ox you’re goring I care, if it isn’t, I don’t,” she noted. “In the United States we talk about the university age as the ‘lost generation’ in regard to respecting other people’s copyrights. We have an ongoing debate over how early you should start teaching children about copyright. Some say in elementary school, but I don’t know how I think about that.”

Gyllenhaal jumped into the discussion. “I agree with you completely,” he said. “I think it comes down to the moral issue that you are taking someone else’s work. Personally, a song means more to me if I pay for it. It’s the principle of it – you are taking something that’s not yours. From the moral level of it, if more people treated the Internet that way we’d be better off.”

Several of the young people on the panel agreed that they would pay a flat rate to cover all downloads of copyright-protected content, such as $5 per month paid to their ISP.

Anonymity is valued by young people

When asked by an audience member about anonymity, all of the panelists said they have an anonymous e-mail account. “I call it my spam e-mail account,” Gyllenhaal said. “I don’t have a secret life. It is my Yahoo account. I send my Facebook stuff there and anytime I have to register for a site I use it to avoid spam.”

Ngyuyen also said she uses an extra e-mail address for dealing with spam. “I also use it when I want to make comments on blogs and I want to stay anonymous,” she said. “In general, I do think people have the right to be anonymous online. It would create a chilling effect to lose that right.”

Gyllenhaal brought up Juicy Campus, a currently defunct site on which all posts were anonymous and people were being subjected to bullying and hate speech. And online bullying was briefly discussed.

What are adults all wrong about?

A member of the audience asked, “When you hear adults talk about these ‘universal truths’ about young people online, are any of them really true?”

My parents assume that just because I am on the Internet while I’m doing homework I’m not getting anything done. They don’t give us enough credit for the fact that we are able to multitask.  – Alex Trice

Ngyuyen also said her ability to work on other tasks while online was misunderstood. “My parents had the misconception that the Internet is really an entertainment world when in fact I would say having fun on the Internet is maybe 30 percent. I am learning something.”

Eilbott admitted some distraction, noting his parents “do have a point, I will get home from school, start my homework and an hour later not have done anything but talk to 12 friends.”

-Janna Anderson,

CONCLUSIONS: ‘What We Don’t Know About the Future of the Internet’ Rainie and morning plenary respondents finish the session

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panel plenary IGFUSAThe panelists answered questions about finding ways to satisfy desires of people to share freely but somehow pay an appropriate price for the information they gain. “Most in my generation won’t want to pay for things because they are used to things being free,” Gyllenhaal said. “Young people will pay for things we use. I guarantee young people would pay for Facebook. It has become that important for us.”

Andrew McLaughlin came into this discussion in support of the principles many, including Chris Anderson (author of “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” and originator of the “Long Tail” idea in Internet economics), have brought to the forefront of the discussion of Internet economics. “Free doesn’t really mean ‘free,’” he said. “We have lots of media now that is free to the end-consumer in exchange for attention or something that benefits someone else. There will be things you are asked to pay for and things that third parties are asked to pay for.” He added it is important to find ways to properly “vindicate intellectual property rights” online and also address privacy, anonymity and authentication in the right way. “I find the ‘free’ debate to be kind of dissatisfying,” he said. “Free to the end-user still leaves you a broad way to pay for things.”

Lee McKnight noted that the issue is complicated. “It’s not just an issue of free and for-pay, there are barter arrangements that come into play as Internet governance has been progressing in these historic days,” he said. “Economic and competition policy will come to the fore… This is a ripe area for policy analysis and discussion at IGF in Egypt and over time as we continue to grapple over challenges.”

Rainie was asked about education and the Internet as an audience member noted how far behind education is in implementing the advantages of the Internet. “Participation matters,” he noted, saying it has been shown that students enjoy the ways in which they can be more active participants in their education when they can go online in classrooms.

McLaughlin chimed in. “The federal government is a disaster when it comes to using these new tools,” he said, noting that it blocks employees’ use of social networks.

“I hope that people less freaked out by these networks and systems will start running things,” he said, adding that every government employee should have a home page offering information they want to share and affording them the ability to collaborate with others in government. “That would drive a culture change that would be unstoppable,” he said, “and you would get the efficient task-oriented government we are trying to achieve.”

-Janna Anderson,

Response from Randy Gyllenhaal, Elon University, to Lee Rainie’s ‘What We Don’t Know About the Future of the Internet’

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randy_gyllenhaalRandy Gyllenhaal, the panel respondent representing young people, is a member of the documentary journalism crew reporting at IGF-USA for Imagining the Internet. He supplied the transcript of his contribution:

I’m no expert on the ins-and-outs of Internet politics, but I do fully understand my generation’s infatuation with being connected.

From the youngest age, we have understood what it means to be plugged in. We have grown up right alongside the Internet, more than any other generation… Instant messenger was introduce in middle school, MySpace came about in high school, YouTube and Facebook just in time for college…

I remember my first e-mail address, my first screen name, my first MySpace and my 4th MySpace.

But something Mr. Rainie said made me think… when Generation Y comes to power, how will we look at issues like copyright and information ownership?

As the Internet evolves and matures, we must evolve and mature with it – not something you’d expect to hear from a young person.  – Randy Gyllenhaal

It’s been ingrained in our heads that the Internet is free. Napster taught us that music can be free, taught us that news can be free – we’ve never had to pick up a newspaper in our lives.

Even TV can be free… yesterday I told my roommate to watch the new episode of “House” on Hulu… he said he didn’t want to sit through 30 seconds of ads…and would watch it on Ninjavideo…a site that streams TV and movies illegally. 30 seconds, that’s how A-D-D we are… it’s too much to bear.

My generation must grow up, and start taking responsibility for such a powerful tool that is the Internet. Nothing is free. The current model is not sustainable. Maybe I understand this more because I plan on going into journalism…but I hope others my age feel this way as well.  – Gyllenhaal

We want more Internet. We want cloud computing, we want mobile everything, we want it now, we want it fast, and we want it free. But in the future, it can’t be free, can it?

Young people are totally in favor of expanding the Internet and creating more outlets for information. I just wonder if we’re willing to pay for it.