Your Intermediary is Your Destiny

In chapter 12 of The Social Media Reader entitled ‘Your Intermediary is your Destiny’ Fred von Lohmann speaks of a clearance culture, ‘the expectation that express permission will have been obtained for every copyrighted work that appears in a video.’ Throughout the online and offline media worlds are compared amongst their obligations to uphold copyrights, specifically towards video content. While offline intermediaries are viewed as doormen, having to be satisfied with the work before its broadcasted, online intermediaries are comparable to bouncers, involving themselves after a complaint rather than being consulted before hand. In reading the points highlighted in the chapter it seemed that both online and offline intermediaries are on opposite sides of the same spectrum. While one nitpicks each detail, the other barely does anything until rights have been breached.

The best result would be to find a balance between the two extremes, finding a way to pay attention to infringement while not being over baring and punishing the guilty and non guilty parties. While I do believe that copyrights are necessary in order for deserving ones to benefit from their labor, I strongly believe that online intermediaries serve a tremendous purpose, allowing us to see the full scope of things that aren’t shown offline.

The strict boundaries emplaced by copyrights, holding intermediaries legally responsible even if they were unaware that were rights were infringed upon, sets the tone for online intermediaries and its users to rebel and post things they shouldn’t. At the same time, the leniency of Congress in their Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, enacting a copyright safe harbor that allows online intermediaries to ‘store and transmit video on behalf of their users without suffering the kind of strict liability that offline video distributors face, sets the stand for copyright laws to be so strict to compensate.

While I wouldn’t argue that modern video is more or less influenced by preexisting copyrighted work, I do believe that taking an idea with the primary intent of making it your own does change the work. Numerous cases in music deal with copyright infringements such as Vanilla Ice’s popular song ‘Ice Ice Baby’ and the recent success of Robin Thicke’s song ‘Blurred Lines’ are just two of the many cases filed against musicians under copyright infringement. I think the line between copyright infringement and inspiration has yet to be defined in detail.


  1. I agree with your statement “The line between copyright infringement and inspiration has yet to be defined in detail” in regards to artists coming out with new songs. So many artists became successful because they themselves had other artists whom they looked up to and were musically inspired by. Speaking in terms of music, I believe every artist or producer has someone they are inspired by, and after listening to other’s work, they think to themselves “How do I make my own original work, but sound as great as them?” Time will tell where the fine line between copyright infringement and inspiration is defined.

  2. I agree with your last conclusion that the line between infringement and musical creativity is very unclear. When we discussed this in class I thought that even though some songs are considered the “original” song, there must have been some influence or inspiration to those original songs as well. Letting artists use other work from other people to create a NEW creative version of the song is a good way to incorporate past music trends into new music and hopefully bring new audiences to explore older music. However, there has to be a concrete way of selecting which songs are clearly not “original”, it is just a matter of how this is decided. New media and technology has complicated this issue even more. Artists sometimes cover a song and make it their own or create a remix of the song and it is released in different media platforms. People can find and download these songs and it can become extremely popular in the media. I wouldn’t say this is infringement especially if they are not making money of the song. However, other people might argue that this could take away the popularity and credit of the song that was the inspiration of the new version.

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