Copyright, Complexity and Cultural Diversity - A Skeptic's View
TRANSNATIONAL CULTURE IN THE INTERNET AGE, Adam Candeub, Sean Pager, eds., Edward Elgar Publishing, Forthcoming
20 Pages Posted: 4 May 2011
Date Written: January 31, 2011
This Chapter challenges the prevailing view pertaining to the connection between broad copyright protection and lack of cultural diversity. Prominent scholarship in the field of copyright links the lack of diversity in cultural consumption to the broad copyright protection afforded to cultural works. Copyright, so goes the argument, constitutes a major basis for the activities of mass media corporations, which flood our cultural sphere with formulaic cultural products, whose sole purpose is to appeal to the taste of the masses. The limitation of copyright, so the argument proceeds, would diminish the cultural domination of mass media products, and promote audience exposure to "other", more diverse works.
The Chapter questions the importance attributed to copyright law in this context. Based on complexity and network theory dealing with the evolution of popularity and the self organization of complex systems, it illuminates the fact that the inclination towards popular cultural works is an intrinsic phenomenon of social networks, and does not depend upon copyright protection. It continues to analyze recent "long tail" data, which indicates that positive changes in the degree of cultural diversity occur even under a broad copyright regime. In light of these observations, the Chapter attempts to offer a broader perspective on diverse cultural consumption, relying on socio-cultural research. This literature indicates that cultural diversity is a complex and multi-faceted issue. The non-linear nature also implies that the level of diversity cannot be easily calibrated by changing the scope of copyright protection. Rather, the attempt to promote diverse cultural consumption must address a series of difficult questions which are outside the scope of copyright law.
Keywords: copyright, intellectual property, cultural diversity, complexity, network theory, long tail
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