Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When Do We Lose Ownership?

In class we watched a news story about the 2007 Virgin Mobile ad scandal, and a TED video about the openness of the internet and its effect on our perception of boundaries. The latter addresses the former -- although unintentionally.

In 2007, Virgin Mobile Australia ran an ad campaign based entirely off of a picture of Alison Chang - a teenager from Dallas - that they had found on Flickr. Virgin Mobile never alerted Alison and her family to the fact that they were using Alison's picture for their campaign, nor did the Changs receive any royalties for the use of the picture, the case being that, because the picture was posted on Flickr - a public website - the picture was part of the public domain and therefore did not require legal clearance for its use. The Changs sued Virgin.

The TED presentation addressed this same idea/issue: once a picture or work of art hits the internet, who owns it? Everybody has access to said work, and everybody is open to interpret it however they choose. The presentation also asked "Is this a good or a bad thing?"

I believe that there is no straight answer to that question. There are times when borrowing another's work that one finds on the internet is a good thing, and there are times when it is not.

I believe that things like AMVs and films made of stock footage are a legitimate and necessary art form. I say "necessary" because I believe that this new "mixed-media collage" media that has sprung up as a result of high speed internet is teaching us to interact with each other as artists and to be creative in a whole new way. It teaches us to interpret, rather than to pull something out of nothing. If all we did was create, rather than interpret from time to time, than the art world would be a much more cold, isolated, and frankly boring place.

Also, I believe that issues of copyrights are a generational thing. I believe that my generation has become so accustomed to things cut-and-paste interpretations like AMVs and "*Insert TV Series Here* Abridged" and even things like Chad Vader that we usually assume right away that the person doing the mash-up is not responsible for the creation of the raw content.

However, I believe that Virgin Moblie went too far when they used Alison Chang's Flickr picture for their entire ad campaign. For one, there is the issue of money. It's her face, and Virgin Mobile made money from it. She obviously deserves a cut. The ad campaign also violates Alison's basic right to privacy, unlike AMVs and "*Insert TV Series Here* Abridged." Frankly, it's creepy.

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