The Internet age is one of interconnection and transparency. It is a place where creativity and culture thrive. Its users, as authors, flourish in this environment of access and communication. They lay rich cultural paths and form vast bodies of knowledge in the wake of their expressive contributions. The Internet and Web 2.0 have introduced these individuals to the world stage. They create user-generated content (essentially any creative content produced or shared online) and have the potential to return cultural production to the author.
Social network platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Googleplus have facilitated widespread sharing on a global scale. Authors of user-generated content perform valuable roles in society today where the advent of social networks has merged online and offline life. The Internet has ushered in an era of individual and social authors who have unprecedented access to audiences. New models are beginning to rise from web 2.0 and networks connecting people to an order of magnitude more content, stoking further content generation. The product is a culture of information, collaboration and user-generated content.
This author provides a portrait of the typical UGC author. I am an active participant in blogs, Wikipedia and social networks, and have received no financial returns for my contribution. I maintain my own blog as a means of developing my writing style and voice and as a creative outlet. I visit music blogs to discover and new songs and artists. I rate Wikipedia articles I find helpful to provide feedback to the authors and encourage their continued effort. On social networks, I update my status and post comments in hopes of having my sense of self validated through the “likes” of my peers (I say this with a [somewhat] sarcastic tone). I add depth to news stories by joining the conversation of the comment section. As a human, longing to create meaning, I am driven by the needs of my ego and satisfaction of connecting with society. And as an author of UGC, I do it all for free.
The question then comes, can copyright law be tailored to these new authors? Can the capacity for progress be better realized by a system that values the protection of author identity over exclusive property interests?
Facebook F8 Conference (Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerburg states, “this next wave of companies understands, that if you can help people discover an order of magnitude more content than they could before, then, that enables all kinds of new models to work.”)
Niva Elkin-Koren, Tailoring Copyright to Social Production, 12 Theoretical Inquiries L. 309, 314-15 (2011) (“Individual users are playing an ever-increasing role in the production of content. The availability of low-cost Internet access enables individual users to communicate their creative materials to a large audience, thus increasing their potential impact on the cultural scene and the public sphere.”) (“UGC and mass collaboration have become central phenomena characterizing the Web 2.0 environment.”).
Edward Lee, Warming Up to User-Generated Content, 2008 U. Ill. L. Rev. 1459, 1501 (2008) (“The incredible growth of UGC is the direct result of technological innovation, largely driven by the Internet. The Internet is a vast network for communication built on a platform that is open to all.”) (Web 2.0 is a “buzzword for the vast array of technologies and platforms on the Internet that enable users to generate content of their own”) (“From blogs to wikis to podcasting to “mashup” videos and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, the Web 2.0 culture encourages users to engage, create, and share content online. With users of copyrighted works no longer passive recipients, ‘user-generated content’ (UGC) is now the watchword of today’s Web 2.0 culture.”).
Barry Chudakov, a research fellow in the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto, predicts that by 2020 “[t]echnology will be so seamlessly integrated into our lives that it will effectively disappear. The line between self and technology is thin today; by then it will effectively vanish. We will think with, think into, and think through our smart tools but their presence and reach into our lives will be less visible.” http://pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2012/PIP_Future_of_Internet_2012_Young_brains_PDF.pdf