Deconstructing Disintermediation - A Skeptical Copyright Perspective
66 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2013
Date Written: April 27, 2013
This essay attempts to uncover the impacts of disintermediation in copyright law. I argue that contrary to the common view, within the political economy of networked communication platforms and the Internet, disintermediation in copyright law does not necessarily lead to its expected outcomes. Disintermediation may undermine cultural diversity, decentralization and authors’ welfare no less than the traditional corporate media proprietary model. My analysis focuses on the manner in which disintermediation in copyright law tends to stimulate concentrated markets, which channel audience attention to a handful of mega networked intermediaries. The market and media power, which is then held by these intermediaries, has several adverse effects, including: undermining creators’ bargaining position; deflated investment in cultural production and finally, extreme reliance on business models of free — yet commodified — distribution of content. These business models, which are based mostly on advertisement revenues, tend to lean toward narrow, limited and homogenous cultural production. From a broader perspective, I argue that, as opposed to the common view, there is no direct correlation between lessening of copyright protection and the proliferation of content flow and distribution channels. The reason is that among other functions, copyright law is also a mechanism that regulates power relationships between different institutions and actors in media markets. Regarding this capacity, extreme concentration of media power could derive not only from excessive copyright protection, but also from excessive ability to freely utilize content.
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