The top ten YouTubers collectively earned $300m in 2021: is that good or bad?

It’s always interesting to see hard figures about how much individuals earn online from their activities there. For example, Forbes published an article recently that looked at the top ten YouTubers. The income of the stars in this relatively new medium turns out to be comparable to that of those working in traditional ones like …

Thanks to copyright maximalism, video game masterpieces are likely to be lost forever

Video games are undoubtedly an art form, arguably the quintessential art form of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. They combine graphics, video, music and interactive plotlines to produce a uniquely rich and complex creation only possible thanks to the widespread availability of powerful but low-cost systems like game consoles and personal computers. Clearly, …

How to make money from scarcity, in a world of digital abundance

The current crisis in the copyright world is being driven by the once-in-a-civilisation transition from an analogue world to a digital one. Initially the copyright industries fought the Internet and the massive shifts it brought with it, lobbying for laws like the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act that tried to make digital water unwet. Belatedly, …

What has copyright got to do with the Tiananmen Square massacre?

Hong Kong was supposed to enjoy a special “one country, two systems” approach for 50 years after it was handed back to China by the UK in 1997. It’s clear now that the Chinese authorities have no intention of waiting that long. After the Hong Kong national security law was passed in 2020, Beijing has …

The copyright industry wants everything filtered as it is uploaded; here’s why that will be a disaster

The history of copyright can be seen as one of increasing control by companies over what ordinary people can do with material created by others. For the online world, the endgame is where copyright holders get to check and approve every single file that is uploaded, with the power to block anything they regard as …

A few companies dominate the music market; meet the rising giant that could beat them all: Spotify

Back in September, a blog post noted that Universal Music Group (UMG) regarded streaming as key to its future. Investors agreed, pushing the company’s valuation to 45 billion euros (over $50 billion) when it made its IPO. If streaming is good for UMG, it will be even better for the company that re-invented the idea: …

How to add much-needed zest to copyright: treating creators fairly by leaving them in control

One theme that is appearing more frequently both here on Walled Culture, and in wider coverage of the copyright world, is the idea that creators should remain in control of their own works.  Recent posts have underlined that currently this is far from being the case: creators of all kinds are routinely expected to hand …

Cultural digitisation for the many, or cultural depredation for the few: time to choose

A couple of weeks ago, the Guardian had a report on what it called the “growing market for cultural digitisation” carried out by museums and art galleries: Museums around the world are increasingly capitalising on the intellectual property of their priceless pieces, in unexpected collaborations from luxury lingerie to KFC packaging. China is leading this …

The film industry effectively solved the problem of unauthorised downloads; now it is “unsolving” it…

Copyright companies frequently invoke “piracy” when they demand new legislation or stronger enforcement of existing laws. Usually, they have a free hand to claim what they like about these “pirates” and their motivation – we rarely hear from the latter about why they do it. That makes a post on TorrentFreak particularly interesting. It’s a …

Giant Penguin attack: why the US courts should block a publishing mega-merger

This blog has written recently about the disproportionate power wielded by YouTube in both the video streaming sector, and as part of the music industry. Sadly, that is not an isolated problem, as this press release from the US Justice Department makes clear: The U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today to …

Adding DRM code to games is hardly fair play: it can slow them down and even stop them from loading

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a strange thing. It is software code that is added to a product without providing any benefit to the user. It is designed to limit the freedom of people to use things they thought they owned – “because copyright”. For this reason, the Free Software Foundation prefers to use the …

YouTube is “neck-and-neck with Netflix”, and bigger than the world’s entire recording industry

Everyone knows that Google (strictly speaking, the parent company, Alphabet) is a digital giant. But recent figures reveal that YouTube alone is also enormous, and in two markets: video and music. Alphabet’s third quarter results showed that YouTube ads went from $5 billion to $7.2 billion, year on year. As Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s chief business …

It’s time to end the anti-circumvention exemption circus

Copyright as we know it goes back to the Statute of Anne of 1710. A law that old is clearly going to struggle to cope with the enormous changes in technology that have taken place since then – notably the Internet. But even relatively recent copyright laws were framed in ways that have become unworkable …

An artist’s messy divorce shows why copyright shouldn’t be regarded as a kind of property

One of the key themes of Walled Culture is the tension between the 18th-century idea of copyright, and the 21st-century digital world where we spend an increasing proportion of our waking hours. That’s probably the most obvious issue, but there’s another aspect of copyright that is becoming problematic in modern life: the idea that it …

Technological progress + outdated copyright laws = huge swathes of our cinematic culture lost forever

Physical books can be bought, shared, and accessed in libraries quite easily. Films in a physical form, on the other hand, are hard to acquire, share or view in archives. Writing in the Guardian, the non-fiction filmmaker Charlie Shackleton says that 90% of archive collections consist of film prints that will never be seen. Moreover, …

Copyright law discriminating against the blind finally struck down by court in South Africa

Most people would agree that those who are blind or visually impaired deserve all the help they can get. For example, the conversion of printed materials to accessible formats like Braille, large print, or Digitally Accessible Information System (DAISY) formats, ought to be easy. Who could possibly object? For years, many publishers did; and the …