Posts Tagged 'internet'

The Pirate’s Code

By John Kamerer

Piracy seems to be the hot topic of this generation, due to the rise of digital media making everything worth pirating infinitely more accessible (whether legitimately or not).

For example, eReaders like the Nook and Kindle will let a customer buy eBooks simply enough, but at the same time, a quick Google search can find most any book in an eReader-compatible format with no copy protection. Consumers can rely on iTunes for musical needs, but if you can hear a song, chances are you can get it for free one way or the other. Streaming video services such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Instant Video give viewers several attractive options other than cable TV or buying individual DVDs, but a few hours with BitTorrent can do the same thing.

In the video game industry, it’s still common to buy a game in a physical store. Lately, however, games are becoming increasingly available through digital distribution (and even before that) it is easy to play old classics through emulators on your computer.

Now, with controversial bills like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Protect IP Act (PIPA), Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and now the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) attempting to censor the Internet in the name of stopping piracy, it’s important to know all sides of the issue.

So, why do people pirate media? There are actually many reasons aside from the black-and-white “they want this piece of media without paying just to spite the artist/author/producers.” One perfectly legal reason is for the purpose of owning a digital backup of media that you already own. People may pirate because by buying something digitally, you don’t truly “own” it, but rather, you own a license to use it. With physical media, it doesn’t matter if you read a book or turn it into paper-mache, but if Amazon, Apple, or even Nintendo feel they have a good enough reason to, they could suspend your account and “brick” your device of choice. Then what happens to the media that you purchased? Sorry, you no longer have the rights to it, and don’t expect a refund. The people pirating just want some assurance that their media library won’t disappear because someone tried to hack their account.

Perhaps the most common (and the most morally gray) reason is a simple matter of “try before you buy.” A pirate might download the pilot episode of a series—one of a singer’s many albums, or the first installment of a book or game series—and then go back for the rest legitimately because they liked it so much. If you go to The Pirate Bay on any given day, there’s a good chance that an obscure singer/band has purposely put one of their albums up for grabs specifically to invoke this phenomenon.

Despite all the rationalizations, piracy is still ultimately a bad thing. So how do we fight it? Video Game journalist Jeff Gestmann once made the insightful quote, “You have to be easier and more convenient than free. You have to compete with free.” As mentioned earlier, many pirates do what they do because purchasing legitimately only creates hassles with licensing. Many music artists have adopted a business model where the consumer pays for copy-protection free music, eliminating both that particular hassle and the problem of overpriced digital media.

With video games, designers can get creative with how they handle pirates. For example, in the PC version of “Batman: Arkham Asylum,”  if a pirated copy is played, Batman will spontaneously lose the ability to turn his cape into a hang-glider about an hour in, making completing the game impossible. The pirate gets just enough playtime to decide whether or not to buy it legitimately, and this tactic effectively cuts them off if they try to continue past the “trying it out before deciding” period.

Here’s a general code of ethics for digital pirates:

Never pirate movies, and only rarely, TV shows. Many shows can be legitimately obtained with Netflix and Amazon Prime memberships.

Look for unprotected eBooks as digital backups of books you already own legitimately. People need to read more, and libraries are starting to become rare.

Only pirate older games. If the game companies no longer make money from people buying the game, it’s their own fault for not putting them up for digital distribution. To compensate for the “minor” piracy of older games, only buy modern games new. Even if you can save a few dollars by buying used, it’s good to show support for the people who take time and effort to create these games. If you do manage to pirate a modern game, consider buying it legitimately later.

Spread your favorite finds by word of mouth rather than by sharing files. If I tell a friend about an album I love, they’re more likely to buy it than pirate it, and hopefully continue spreading the word as well.

If the legitimate media is filled with obstructions in the name of counter-piracy, don’t even try it. We need to show the world that competing with the pirates is more lucrative than trying to stamp them out completely.

John Kamerer is a Resident Einstein in the Wakerly Technology Training Center at Marquette University.

Making the Case for Journalism in an Online World

By Steve Byers

Philip Meyer — the guru of precision journalism — gave a talk in October to an Austrian conference. I was derelict in my duty, so I just got around to reading it. Not only should I have read it last fall, but I should have made it required reading for my classes. It’s published by Nieman Reports, and you should read it, too.

Meyer links two major strands of journalism: the precision journalism field in which he was so important and narrative journalism, the field of Gay Talese and Truman Capote and Mike Royko and Jim Stingl. And, I would add, so many digital storytellers today.

Journalism feeds on facts, and the Internet culture makes facts available to us in such a stream that the need for journalism — for mediation — is more important than ever. As Meyer said, “Instead of replacing journalism, the Internet is creating a new market need: for synthesis and interpretation of the ever-increasing stream of facts.” Continue reading ‘Making the Case for Journalism in an Online World’

How Do We Reconcile Ethics and Journalism 2.0?

By Steve Byers

Writing in Forbes, Jeff Bercovici discussed how a story filed by a student ended up basically costing more than 30 people their lives. The story recounted the burning of a Quran by an insensitive pastor in Florida.

Bercovici’s report prompted some excellent comments (very nice to read thoughtful comments instead of the stupidity associated with most of those showing up in Wisconsin newspapers about the political problems) as he talked about how the story was ignored by “legacy newspapers” before being run by a foreign news agency. It’s the story of how the traditional ethics and checks and balances seem lost in this era of “empowered citizen bloggers and crowdsourced reporting.”

But the battle was joined. John McQuaid, writing  in the Huffington Post, sums up the flap started by Jeff Bercovici writing about the Internet reports of the Quran burning, and he extends the discussion into the whole role of aggragators — like Huffington Post.

What may be more fun, even is somewhat less enlightening, is a listing in New York magazine’s online site of the Twitter battle between Bercovici and two other writers he’s attacked: Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen.  (Note: profanity used here.)

Frankly, Bercovici’s central premise attributing the report to a student without direction was wrong. The student posted at the request of an old media news agency on that agency with, presumably, editing. But the point about crowdsourcing and ethical considerations is worth making. Anybody can start a blog or a website. It can operate without any ethical consideration at all. This has always been true in old media (go to a bookstore and look at the “current affairs” section or watch Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann or the Sunday morning political shows for totally unsupported, outrageous if not fully false claims), but the Internet allows faster and wider consumption of that drek, so the current discussion is worth following.

Sometimes progress hurts — and journalism can kill.

Steve Byers is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Journalism at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication.

Using Social Media to Document Egyptian Protests

By Lauren Haberkorn

Social media seems the one reliable way that the outside world continues to learn about the unfolding events surrounding the political turmoil in Egypt. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube may not have sent people out into the streets, but they definitely sped up the process. Now, those of us outside Egypt are relying on these social media outlets to provide updates on the demonstrations going on inside the country.

Citizen journalists inside Egypt originally began broadcasting messages and videos capture on cell phones to provide a glimpse of the protesters gathering and demonstrating in the streets. As protests against President Hosni Mubarak escalated over the last week, the government has responded by blocking the Internet, mobile networks and television broadcasts. The people of Egypt, however, continue to protest and stand up for what they believe in, and journalists continue to capture their stories. Without social media (now mostly by foreign journalists and observers), these voices would not be heard. Continue reading ‘Using Social Media to Document Egyptian Protests’

North Korea Joins the Twitter Community

By Jennifer Janviere

North Korean poster art depicting soldier in war

Image from Uriminzok YouTube video

Twitter has a new member: the government of North Korea.

Long known for its reclusive international status and strict controls of incoming and outgoing information, the country reportedly joined Twitter last week. The country’s designated “Tweeters” posts under the name user name “Uriminzok,” which translates to “our people.” The move is somewhat ironic, since the country blocks Internet access for the majority of residents and is not exactly well known for promoting an open dialogue with the international community. Continue reading ‘North Korea Joins the Twitter Community’

Disability and Accessibility in Cyberspace

By Jennifer Janviere

One of the greatest strengths of the Internet is that it represents a democracy of information; a gathering place where ideas and knowledge are exchanged freely and a wealth of knowledge is always only a Google search away.

If you happen to be an individual with a visual, hearing or mobility impairment or learning disability such as dyslexia, however, you may encounter difficulties and frustration gaining access to online information that many users take for granted.

While laws exist to ensure access to public space for people with disabilities, the one pubic place in which this isn’t yet enforced is the Internet. The most likely reason is because cyberspace is not a physically tangible place and of the few laws governing it, many are still ambiguous and murky.

This could soon change. Several years ago, California state law began mandating that websites be accessible for people with disabilities, and other states could follow this precedent. There are even a few examples of lawsuits filed against companies whose websites are not considered “fully functional” to the disabled. One need not look further than the 2006  lawsuit brought against Target by a sight-impaired website user to grasp the potential implications.

Technology offers a solution (albeit limited) to many of these issues: text and voice recognition software, talking browsers and Braille displays increase website access for many people with impairments. But it’s also up to website developers to incorporate user-accessible practices into online design. There are some simple steps web designers and developers can take to make sure their sites can be used by the largest majority possible. A few key basics include providing alternative text with all images and validating HTML code to prevent errors that could potentially confuse text recognition software. For deaf visitors, web content providers might consider offering alternative versions of videos with captions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act posts guidelines for web accessibility on its homepage. Additional guidelines can be found on the WWW Consortium site. The International Center for Disability also provides an interesting article on the topic titled “Is Your Site ADA-Compliant …or a Lawsuit-in-Waiting?”

For anyone constructing and maintaining a website, making it fully functional to the majority of its visitors is certainly an issue worthy of attention and consideration.

Jennifer Janviere is a multimedia specialist and instructor in the Diederich College of Communication.

Electronic Addiction

By Steve Byers

Hand on computer mouseThere’s been a lot of discussion lately about teachers asking students to go 24 hours without media. Linda Menck and I did this for a freshman honors seminar last fall, and the results were both interesting and intriguing.  A third of the students didn’t make it a whole day; one saying she gave up after a couple of hours because “Facebook called my name and I had to sign on.” Another said he “did not think that I was dependent on my cell phone, computer or Internet at all. I was in for a big surprise.”

More intriguing were some of the observations of those who stuck it out. Their comments reveal how interwoven electronics are with student life at Marquette. “My life revolves around my electronic gadgets.” “This assignment was one of the most difficult I have ever had. . . . When there was downtime, it was hard to think of something to do.” “It seemed like everywhere I looked, someone was on the computer or talking on a phone.” “I heard my book bag buzz [with text messages] every other minute or so. I broke down and asked my roommate to check my phone. What isn’t cheating . . . right?” “It’s actually kind of sad how helpless I felt knowing that I couldn’t use my phone.”

Students reported getting more homework done—and “my first laundry of the year”—and some questioned the amount of time they are spending on social media.  “It makes me wonder how much more I might know myself if I just took a couple of days to sit by myself and read a book or write a story or just to think.” But my favorite reaction was a young man who had neglected to tell anyone what he was doing. “When I didn’t respond to any of my mom’s texts, she became extremely worried.”  After he didn’t answer the phone, she called his roommate, convinced something bad had happened. All in all, the experiment showed, as one student put it, technology and media “play a huge role in our lives. It has become practically a necessity, since everyone is ‘connected’ almost all the time.”

Steve Byers is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Journalism at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication.


The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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