YouTube Creativity and the Regulator’s Dilemma: An Assessment of Factors Shaping Creative Production on Video-Sharing Platforms
41 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2021 Last revised: 16 Nov 2021
Date Written: October 5, 2021
“Broadcast Yourself”, “Real People, Real Videos” — these slogans of YouTube and TikTok advertise a space for every grassroots creator. Influenced by this ideal picture, there may be social and economic concern that imposing strong regulations or legal liabilities on video-sharing platforms might suppress user creativity. It has been argued that these platforms offer creative opportunities: first, by sidestepping traditional gatekeepers (experts such as commissioning editors) and lowering the entry barriers for creators; secondly, platforms may provide creators with toolkits, knowledge, and connections with immediate audience feedback, thus empowering and democratizing the production of culture. This paper argues that regulation also needs to take account of anti-creative factors operating on content sharing platforms, countering their idealized image. Sharing platforms may not change the underlying dynamics of cultural and creative industries, such as creator poverty, inequality, or risk (uncertainty). The features of sharing platform may even enlarge the gap between the most popular creators and everyone else. The paper will first review psychological studies on creativity and economic theories of cultural goods. It will then propose how to apply these in a platform context, taking YouTube as an example. In particular the role of user interaction and YouTube’s recommender algorithm is explored. The paper concludes that the recent global wave of platform regulation (relying on copyright law, content regulation, algorithm regulation and competition/antitrust law) is insufficiently sighted of the factors discouraging creativity on platforms such as YouTube.
Keywords: user creativity, platform law, regulations, psychology, economics, YouTube
JEL Classification: O31; O32; O33; O34; K21
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