The Public's Perception of Copyright -- Video Interviews with Randomly-Selected People in Chicago

Still composite from street interviews, Chicago, 2006

In order to document the public perception of copyright today, we went around Chicago with a video camera over two days in the summer of 2006, asking strangers what they think copyright is for, how it got started, how they feel about filesharing, and for any other thoughts they have on copyright. We didn't tell the interviewees about this website or the nature of our project until after each interview was over.

The points that showed up consistently were:

  1. Most people felt that copyright is mainly about credit, that is, about preventing plagiarism.

  2. Everyone was on the artist's side — everyone wants to feel that they're treating the artists right. Over and over again, we heard the sentiment that when someone goes to a concert they'll buy the CD "to support the band", even if they already have all those songs on their computer already.

  3. Many people felt that copyright was about giving creators the means to make a living, but that in recent times it's been abused and corrupted by corporate interests.

  4. No one — not even the interviewee who had just read a book on copyright — knew where copyright comes from. Most people had the feeling it had been around for a while, though estimates varied widely on how long. One interviewee knew of the Constitutional clause that is the legal basis for copyright in the United States, but wasn't familiar with the history leading up to that clause.

  5. People were ambivalent about filesharing. They don't feel like it hurts anyone, except perhaps the music distributors, but they still feel some residual guilt about it anyway.

You can view the video at the Internet Archive. It is also available at Google Video and YouTube.

The video is in the public domain; all participants signed a release form permitting their footage to be used. Many thanks to Ben Collins-Sussman and Brian Fitzpatrick for their help filming, and to Ben for huge amounts of help with editing.

13 Comments

Re: alternate hosting

Done, thanks for the recommendation.

There were some other comments here, following up to another one about the Internet Archive; when I deleted that one, I didn't realize I was deleting its followups as well (yes, there was a confirmation box, yes, I ignored it because I've habituated to the confirmation from deleting spam comments elsewhere on the site).

Sorry to have blown away those comments; feel free to repost them, folks.

Bandwith

Yea this is one way, another is to choose the right hosting. Different hosting offer different bandwith allocation. I heard Hostagor has nice offers.

But yea your idea also works.

From Bad Taste Bears

More research?

I'm currently researching exactly what this video seeks to answer: the public perceptions and conceptions of copyright law. Are you aware of any larger research completed or underway asking these same questions? My search has not revealed very much.

Thanks!

yes...there is a course on it at Binghamton University

I am actually teaching a course on Knowledge and New Media, and of the big issues we discussed in class is Copyright and Fair Use. Part of our discussion was not only centered on how copyright law is being applied to the Internet, and what actually constitute a violation, but we also looked specifically at how academic institutions perceive and understand copyright and fair use given the increase use of new media technologies in colleges and universities across the country. For the class, we were interested in finding out the criteria for determining fair use and copyright infringement in academic institutions. Students got the opportunity to interview key administrators on campus. Essentially, one of the goals of the interview is for students to learn how school administrators tell the difference between fair use and copyright violation? I will be publishing the materials for this course online. By the way, the course syllabus is online on AfricaResource.com at: http://www.africaresource.com/content/view/209/192/

Part of the reason for this discussion and analysis on copyright and fair use was due to the recent controversy about an exhibition I created in response to the official exhibition sponsored by the university. As a result of this exhibition, I was censored, and still being censored. More information about it can be found online.

Hector Acebes Art Exhibition, Academic Freedom and Free Speech
http://www.africaresource.com/content/view/205/202/

Hector Acebes Exhibition and Racism
http://www.africaresource.com/content/view/182/202/

If you are interested, google Hector Acebes to learn more.

And next semester, I am teaching the first ever course on Google and Yahoo.

http://www.africaresource.com/content/view/210/192/

azuka

yes...there is a course on it at Binghamton University

I am actually teaching a course on Knowledge and New Media, and of the big issues we discussed in class is Copyright and Fair Use. Part of our discussion was not only centered on how copyright law is being applied to the Internet, and what actually constitute a violation, but we also looked specifically at how academic institutions perceive and understand copyright and fair use given the increase use of new media technologies in colleges and universities across the country. For the class, we were interested in finding out the criteria for determining fair use and copyright infringement in academic institutions. Students got the opportunity to interview key administrators on campus. Essentially, one of the goals of the interview is for students to learn how school administrators tell the difference between fair use and copyright violation? I will be publishing the materials for this course online. By the way, the course syllabus is online on AfricaResource.com at: http://www.africaresource.com/content/view/209/192/

Part of the reason for this discussion and analysis on copyright and fair use was due to the recent controversy about an exhibition I created in response to the official exhibition sponsored by the university. As a result of this exhibition, I was censored, and still being censored. More information about it can be found online.

Hector Acebes Art Exhibition, Academic Freedom and Free Speech
http://www.africaresource.com/content/view/205/202/

Hector Acebes Exhibition and Racism
http://www.africaresource.com/content/view/182/202/

If you are interested, google Hector Acebes to learn more.

And next semester, I am teaching the first ever course on Google and Yahoo.

http://www.africaresource.com/content/view/210/192/

azuka

More research?

I am currently researching exactly this same thing - public knowledge or conceptions of copyright law. Is there more research like this, either completed or underway? My search so far has revealed very little.

Thank you!

Re: More research?

I'm a graduate student in library and information science, and I'm taking a course in Cyberlaw. It's fascinating. In "The Digital Dilemma" the authors call for this kind of research to institute some "copyright education" ("intellectual property education" might be more precise) into schools. It got me wondering about how many, or even if, students are aware of the differences between how print materials and digital materials are governed (copyright v. contract) and how their perceptions of these laws influence their information use, given the format of the medium. I've conducted my first interview, and it was enlightening. I'm particularly interested to find out how students' notions of fair use (if they have any) play into this.

Re: More research?

I hope you'll make the sources and results of your research available under an open copyright! We might be able to use them here.

By the way, I think the term "intellectual property education" would be, if anything, less precise. "Intellectual property" is a grab-bag category encompassing copyrights, patents, and trademarks. The first two bear some slight resemblance to each other, though they're much more different than they are similar. And the third, trademarks, is completely unrelated to the first two: trademarks are about preventing identity confusion, that is, about knowing whom you're dealing with. The resource they protect really is limited, since the degree to which someone impersonates you is exactly the degree to which you lose your identity (unlike copyright, where no matter how many copies someone makes of your song, you still have it just as much as you did before).

It is unfortunate that the legal system uses "intellectual property" to talk about these very different things. I often find that when I'm chatting with someone about copyright reform, they'll respond with "Oh, so do you want to reform trademarks too?" Of course not; trademarks are entirely unobjectionable (at least in my opinion), and no one would think there was any relationship between the two were it not for this accident of legal language.

There's a good essay about this over at the Free Software Foundation: http://www.fsf.org/licensing/essays/not-ipr.xhtml.

Re: The Public's Perception of Copyright -- Video Interviews ...

 

If it weren't for filesharing, I wouldn't have half the cd collection I have right now. Bought and paid for legitimately. I also wouldn't have known about all the bands I've paid to see live. The same can be said for movies and tv shows.
This is a common perspective among many of my friends, and I suspect many people around the world agree with that. And when both small and large artists come out and say that it doesn't hurt them, and they're glad people are enjoying their work, I see no harm.
Sure the big record companies might not earn as much as they have, but I see no reason why anyone should get rich selling other people's hard work. Especially not when the artists don't even see half of that money.

Now that we have the Internet, artists can sell mp3 files, FLAC files, (and people are buying it) on their own, with almost no middle men. They can sell physical cds  without a record label. All they really need is marketing. Marketing giants are enslaving artists and authors. Look at what Trent Reznor did with Nine Inch Nails, and is doing now with his new project How To Destroy Angels. He doesn't need a label anymore. His fans are buying directly from him. And they're glad to pay.