Bottom-up creativity and its new challengers

by Eszter Hargittai on June 29, 2005

A propos the spread of social bookmarking and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week that file-sharing programs can be held responsible for copyright infringement, this article in today’s NYTimes does a nice job of summarizing some of the ways in which various new online services are leading to more and more bottom-up creativity and content whose sharing does not necessarily constitute copyright infringement.

But bottom-up creativity may depend on more traditional avenues at times and the article doesn’t address this other side of the issue at all. For an example, take note that some photo labs (e.g. Walmart, like they really needed to come up with more reasons to alienate people) have decided not to print people’s photos if they look too professional. The burden seems to be on the amateur photographer to prove that the picture was really taken in her own back yard. ARGH.



dglp 06.29.05 at 4:35 pm

The reference (footnote? sidebar?) to photo processing is really interesting, and is a good example to use in underscoring the need for latitude at the point of (re)production.
There are also at least a couple of provocative scenarios that would feed off this. One is about what happens when a professional photographer takes a CD in to be printed and is spurned. The other is when someone does the visual equivalent of plunderphonics, manages to get it printed, and announces the copyright violation to the world.
Aside from that, there’s also the problem of derivative work. My high school photography teacher had us imitate works by Weston and others. That was in the days of print film. Today’s students wishing to have hard copies of their efforts might run afoul of technicians who are aware of but not familiar with the original.
Lastly, I wonder if a declaration of ownership at the counter would give processors some latitude in discharging their obligations with regard to copyright infringement.


vivian 06.29.05 at 9:05 pm

Go to Costco instead of Walmart. Duh. They treat people like people (employees and customer) with few stupidly-inflexible rules. They also brag that professionals use their services.


ArC 06.29.05 at 11:22 pm

Not that I would go to Wal-Mart anyways, but what _really_ cheeses me off is that I almost definitely _wouldn’t_ get the “your stuff looks too good” warning…


eszter 06.30.05 at 9:53 am

dglp – I didn’t mean that as a footnote/sidebar, I actually consider the issues arising at photo processing an important concern, a point the author of the NYTimes failed to consider when speaking so positively about the new opportunities arising from bottom-up creativity.

Vivian – I think Wal-Mart is just an example in this case, the way I read the story (or perhaps it was another article about a similar situation) this is only going to become more common and spread to more stores.

arc – ;-}


Jeremy Leader 07.01.05 at 12:32 am

I’ve seen ads advertising Kodak’s extra value in their photo-finishing services; they seem to do things like adjust the color balance to make the pictures look better. So maybe if you use them and there’s an objection to the professional appearance of a photo, you could blame their quality improvements.


dglp 07.01.05 at 5:01 am

eszter – thanks for the clarification. My intent in adding those terms was digressive. I wanted to call attention to something without elaborating on it in a distracting way. The comments section is an odd place to start a discussion about writing terminology…

But since it caught your attention, let me explain. The starting point is that in the hard-copy text world, various terms exist for different kinds of asides, including footnote, endnote, sidebar and parenthetical remark. Their function is to draw attention to and provide relevant but not central details of information.

This is also one function of a hyperlink – but it’s not the exclusive function of hyperlinks – so one is at risk of confusing the reader if one refers to the content of an aside using the term ‘link’. I think my meaning would have been less clear if I had written ‘The link to photo processing is really interesting’. Would I be referring to the link itself, or to the resource content and/or the substantive issue it raises? At the moment of writing, I thought that there is no specific term for this function of a hyperlink, and it does not satisfactorily correspond to ‘footnote’, ‘sidebar’, or any other term I could think of. Why not? If we have footnote etc. for hard-copy text, why aren’t there similarly specific terms for electronic text?

So, if you were to seek a term that refers specifically to the content or substantive ideas raised by a linked document, what would suffice? Footnote? Sidebar? Reference?

I thought this was interesting enough to make an aside about it. I apologise for not having something to link it to! ;)


Eszter 07.01.05 at 3:22 pm

dglp – Thanks for the clarification, interesting points.:) Reference is good, and I see now that “reference” was the term you used. I guess adding “footnote” and “sidebar” with question marks confused me a bit making me wonder if you were asking whether I had meant it as a footnote. I see your point about the potential confusion coming from using “link”.

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