Some Thoughts on Content Creation and Theft

I’ve never been fond of the term “content creator”, basically because it’s thrown around by large numbers of people who have nothing to say, other than that they want to be thought of as content creators. That self-applied term is as meaningless as things like start-up (which has become a meaningless buzzword in Japanese as well), entrepreneur, solopreneur, and a diverse spectrum of other popular buzzwords. Anyone can call themselves a content creator, and that has led to a serious devaluing of the term.

But for people who actually create content or have likenesses they wish to protect the rights to, the Internet—and social media in particular—has simply enabled theft thereof without consequences, including theft of material purportedly protected by laws.

Anything you create and dare to put online can be unlawfully published and used to make profit, and there’s virtually nothing you can do about it that will have any effect, unless you are a large corporation with a team of attorneys, and even those entities are plagued by pirating and unlawful publishing.

The provenance of most of the content uploaded to social media is unknown and undisclosed, not that disclosing the provenance grants publishing rights; it does not. Since a lot of that content it is the result of a multiple unlawful publishing, an unlawful republisher very likely doesn’t even know who owns the content they have unflawfully republished. The proliferation of “Where is that?” questions about photos and the annoyance of some thieves with those questions is evidence of this situation. The unlawful republisher often does not know from where an impressive photo was taken.

Anonymity and the social media business models that rely on providing and protecting user and advertiser anonymity have rendered legal remedies meaningless, even if they were economically feasible, which they seldom are.

This is demonstrated by the countless anonymous page posts on Facebook. Zuckerberg is certainly not interested in stopping these posts, because they provoke engagement, and engagement gives him and his company more money and increased power to capture the attention—and manipulate the behavior—of what are now billions of users.

The game has been won by the tech giants, and it looks like nobody is willing to stop them. People who remain silent are guilty of contributory negligence and act as accomplices, although apparently many haven’t a clue as to what’s going on.

Jaron Lanier was right.