[Thesis] You Can’t Squeeze Blood From a Stone. Why ACTA Isn’t Beneficial for the Media Industry Either.

On: September 7, 2012
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About Ineke Scheffers
Hi, I'm Ineke. I'm a social media, internet and television addict. When somebody tells me about a trip the first question that comes to my geeky mind is: "How was the WiFi?" rather than "How was the weather?". Instead of admitting to my infobesitas, I decided to make this new media addiction my life by studying it and hopefully making it (part of) my job someday. That's why I chose for this Master: New Media & Digital Cultures. Last year I graduated my BA in Media & Culture from the University of Amsterdam. I wrote my thesis on ACTA and it was called 'You Can't Squeeze Blood From a Stone. Why ACTA Isn’t Beneficial for the Media Industry Either.'. I believe in the 'sharing is caring'-internet and like to see the ones in power to treat this space appropriately. So not by criminalizing, blocking and censoring content using the old traditional media model, but by embracing this 'new' techniques and developing a fitting new media approach. During this summer I decided it was time for an internship and I ended up as an internet editor at Merge Media in The Hague. I was lucky, this company gets it! Just like me they don't see the 'social, downloading, peer to peer sharing, pirating'-internet as a threat to commercial businesses, but they see it as a site of great opportunities. They believe by giving the consumer something worthy (not necessarily for the world, but for the target audience), your brand will get something worthy back: A loyal sincere passionate evangelizing consumer. At Merge I got the chance to blog; copy write; vent my thoughts about social media; create, analyze and give advice on Facebook and Google Adwords campaigns and create my very own engagement program for Merge itself. At the moment I combine this Master with (very) part time blogging at Merge. Want to know more? Feel free to Tweet me!


Love to watch your shows online? Like to create Nutella memes to get on the hot page of 9GAG? Want to rock out in your bedroom on Gangnam Style to put it on your YouTube Channel just like Keenan Cahill did? This might all be illegal someday. Even though the Anti-Counterfeiting Agreement has been set aside, the battle on internet rights is not over. If it’s up to the involved governments and the mainstream media industry laws or agreements of this kind are coming rather sooner than later.

So what’s the battle about? They say it’s about intellectual property rights for the advocates and freedom of speech for the opponents. Ok, I suppose that’s true. But what’s also very obvious is that the advocates are mostly concerned about profits. This is why I think the freedom of speech argument of the opponents really isn’t that interesting to them. If we, the opponents, want to win this battle we have to come with a more interesting argument to the advocates. We have to come with an argument that opposes laws and agreements like ACTA, but that at the same time at least shows profits will not be lost and maybe dropping laws like this can even increase profits. Allow me to take a shot.

At the start of this summer I graduated my BA ‘Media and Culture’ from the University of Amsterdam. I wrote my thesis on ACTA and it was called ‘You Can’t Squeeze Blood From a Stone. Why ACTA Isn’t Beneficial for the Media Industry Either.’ In this thesis I offered an alternative argument to drop or at least reconsider ACTA from a mainstream media industry point of view.

ACTA has come into being because of concerns about piracy, illegal downloading, peer-to-peer sharing and user-generated content. These would be the reasons intellectual property rights and profits are under pressure. Using the theories of Henry Jenkins and other authors I looked at The Colbert Report and his Colbert Nation, Lady Gaga and her Little Monsters and Radiohead’s way of promoting their album In Rainbows. All three very successful profitable examples of the mainstream media industry. But what’s noticeable about these three examples is that they don’t use the old traditional media approach to copyright by criminalizing fan-activity, but that they embrace and encourage their pirating, illegal downloading, peer-to-peer sharing and user-generating fans. They realize they have to do that to maintain profitable and even increase profits.

Jenkins proposes the media industries can take two approaches to the technical developments on the web that caused piracy, illegal downloading and so on: The collaborationist and the prohibitionist approach. The prohibitionist approach is the approach ACTA was proposing. It would prohibit copyright infringement and criminalize piracy, peer-to-peer sharing, fan activity, user-generated content and other forms of action that are seen as copyright infringement and counterfeiting. This would mean most media consumers would also be criminalized. This really would be the wrong way to go for the media industry, because it would attack their paying consumers and fans and will therefore be more likely to harm their profits than increase them.  The conclusion of Jenkins and other authors mentioned in my thesis is to take the collaborationist approach. This approach embraces its consumers and sees their value. Piracy, illegal downloading, peer-to-peer sharing, fan activity, user-generated content and other activities that infringe copyright can be seen as indispensable promotion, because they open up new markets; encourage sampling and discovering new content consumer’s are interested in to buy; and create and keep loyal paying consumers. This approach has proven that it does not only protect profits, but if used well can even generate extra profits. Giving consuming fans some input in the business, providing them content of their interest, creating a space where they can distribute their own creative turn on the content and picking out and recognizing their best work is the best way to create a loyal consuming fan-base and will help win over possible new consumers. In this day and age the selection of media content is so great that the collaborationist approach is absolutely necessary to be profitable. This approach does not fear and fight the new developments and possibilities but uses them to its benefit.

Right now: Who is a more successful popstar on the world than Lady Gaga? I can give you an answer to that question: No one. Lady Gaga is approaching 30 million followers on Twitter, has over 52 million likes on Facebook and over 2 billion views on her official YouTube Channel. Pretty impressive right? Whatever she does, it is successful and others in the mainstream media industry could certainly learn from her. By using new media technologies and its developments she has built her extremely loyal fan base: Her Little Monsters. These Monsters are that loyal because she lets them feel that they and their efforts are taken seriously. She shares YouTube videos of her fans remixing her copyrighted material, making it their own. She does also gives her fans a lot. From pizza to her fans waiting in the cold to get her concert tickets to free downloads of exclusive songs and content. Meanwhile her fans appreciate this so much that they are buying her tickets, merchandise and perfumes in extraordinarily great numbers. She sees the value of her fans and is using Jenkins’ collaborationist approach. She embraced her fans and created a steady loyal fan base that others are jealous off. She proves an artist does not have to prohibit his/her fans from copyright infringement and downloading just by looking at her bank account. She embraces the new technologies and is very successful at it. She’s using it, not fighting it.

Let’s conclude: ACTA and similar laws or agreements aren’t beneficial for the media industry. A new collaborationist business model that fits the new techniques and ‘sharing is caring’ sense of Web2.0 is needed to maintain profits and would even be able to increase profits when used wisely.

Scheffers, Ineke. ‘You Can’t Squeeze Blood From a Stone. Why ACTA Isn’t Beneficial for the Media Industry Either.’ Bachelor Thesis University of Amsterdam, 2012. 

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