I worry that the creation and more importantly, the ownership of original content is becoming a minority sport. I believe very strongly in the free market, and the ‘perfect market, and in small business, widespread distribution of ownership, and other seemingly abstract things. For me, the scariest part of ‘Alien’ isn’t the monster, but the way people refer to weyland yutani as ‘the company’, because there is only one. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, or to put it another way, monopoly companies screw the customers.

wy

The thing is, it seems increasingly like people consider personal ownership of content ‘too much trouble’. A LOT of content is being created, for sure, but who actually owns all of it? the strong likelihood is…you don’t.

Your really popular youtube channel? thats owned by google. Your twitch stream followers? yup, owned by twitch. Your friends? I think you will find facebook own them. And these days if you are one of these young people I keep reading about, your sex life is probably mostly owned and managed by tindr or grindr or other apps ending in ‘r’. If you go so far as to actually have a blog, rather than just facebooking stuff, then its probably hosted by ‘medium’ or gamasutra, or some other blogging company with small print and Terms & Conditions so long you never read them. Your opinions are not yours either, they are indexed and cataloged and stored and owned by facebook, twitter, disquss and all those forums you comment on.

Doesn’t this scare you a bit?

Naomi Klein wrote in No Logo about the privatization of social spaces. basically in the 1800s, we would meet our buddies in the town square. In the 2000s, we met at the mall, which was private space, with security guards who could throw you out for wearing the wrong clothes or behaving in a way they didn’t like. In the 2010s, that ‘public space’ is facebook or similar, where the security guards are invisible, but you can bet your ass they are still there.

town

The companies that have started owning our thoughts, dreams, opinions, shopping lists and diaries, are doing a superb job, because they realize that convenience trumps everything else. They have made it so easy to turn over our lives to them that we have done so en-masse. Thats fine, as long as you and the company are friends. When the two of you fall out….well maybe you just shouldn’t?

I can pretty much say what the fuck I like on this blog. I work for myself so no company has muzzled me. This copy of wordpress is hosted on my server, not by wordpress. The server is rented from a 3rd party, which theoretically could yank my site if I started inciting race riots or something, but we are going out on a limb a bit there. Much more importantly, this article is written by ME, its owned by ME. Its not going to be published legally in some book without my permission, not re-printed by a reputable site without my permission. I won it. Its a trivial, passing thought typed up by a guy in his office on a Sunday afternoon, but I own it, I control it, its mine, and to me, thats very very important.

Take a moment to evaluate how much of your life is being managed by private companies you do not control.

 

4 Responses to “On the ownership of original content”

  1. Alex says:

    This is a sentiment very much shared by the IndieWeb movement. Scary to see people’s work destroyed by an account suspension on one of these sites.

  2. Thomas says:

    In a free market, monopolies happen. This is especially true when distribution costs fall to (near) zero so any producer can serve any consumer in the world; consumers just choose the best offering, and that producer will take an increasingly large share of the pie until it’s gobbled it all up. These companies are just reacting to their incentive, which is: maximise shareholder value.

    So I wonder: how can you be in favour of a free, unregulated market, but be opposed to its natural consequences? Or are you saying “I’m okay with these monopolies existing, but they’re not for me, thank you very much”?

    • cliffski says:

      Monopolies will happen if the market is left alone in its entirety, but that is not in the best interests of society. I like decent competition, and strongly support anti-monopooly legislation to ensure companies in a potentially monopolistic position are broken up, or never get into that position. Its a fine-line to walk, but I think its essential.
      Imagine if apple put every other phone maker out of business. That would not end well.

      • Steven says:

        Amen. I’m glad you wrote this. Now I realize how stupid I’ve been on these social networking and blogging sites. I’ve written some stupid, angsty stuff before and now people can get a hold of that and use it against me and for their other interests. There’s nothing I can do about it because I don’t know how to clear my digital name and I don’t have the resources to host my own server. I have no idea how to overcome such a hurdle.

        I guess I better hunker down and figure it out.