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Here at Copycense, we’ve long contended that the trend toward user-generated content had so altered America’s business, technological, and cultural landscape that the country’s legislature and court system would have no choice but to recognize this shift and begin to change the laws it passes and the way such laws are interpreted.
We have wanted to codify these ideas into a CommuniK. article, but to some degree, the Times‘ Jon Pareles has beaten us to the punch. Pareles’ article on user-generated content is one of the best single statements we have seen about the trend and the issues that surround it. Virtually every information professional, entertainment executive, and creator should read this article as a Cliffs’ Notes version of the digital economy.
The following quote helps show how good this article is
Copyright holders might be incensed; since buying YouTube, Google is paying some of them and fielding lawsuits from others. But a truly shrewd marketer might find some larger value. Those parodies, collages, remakes and mismakes are unvarnished market research: a way to see what people really think of their product. They’re also advertising: a reminder of how enjoyable the official versions were.
The amateurs may seem irreverent, disrespectful and even parasitical as they help themselves to someone else’s hooks. But they’re confirming that the pros came up with something durable enough to demand a reply. Without icons, what would iconoclasts mock?
Pareles follows with another outstanding observation
Individually the hopefuls can’t compete with a heavily promoted major-label star. Face it: Song for song, most of them just aren’t as good. But collectively they are stiff competition indeed: for time, for attention and, eventually, for cultural impact. The multiplying choices promise ever more diversity, ever more possibility for innovation and unexpected delight. But they also point toward an increasingly atomized audience, a popular culture composed of a zillion nonintersecting mini-cults. So much available self-expression can only accelerate what narrowing radio and cable formats had already begun: the separation of culture into ever-smaller niches.
That fragmentation is a problem for businesses, like recording companies and film studios, that are built on selling a few blockbusters to make up for a lot of flops. The music business in particular is going to have to remake itself with lower and more sustainable expectations, along the lines of how independent labels already work.
But let the business take care of itself; it’s the culture that matters.
For these reasons, Pareles’ article is this week’s Article of the Week and Quote of the Week.
Jon Pareles. 2006, Brought to You by You. The New York Times. Dec. 10, 2006.
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