Who Owns the Web?

The internet and digital platforms have become commonplace in everyday life. The endless frontier of information on the web offers, to anyone with access, topics that range from celebrity events to academic journals, or events happening around the world. But with all of this information comes great responsibility, right? So who owns all of the data on the web? Who gets to decide what gets copyrighted and what doesn’t?

Obviously, ownership of data on the web can get really muddled. When it comes to images on the web, it is incredibly easy to alter them on photoshop or place another story to the history of the photograph. An article on Priceonomics, “How Mickey Mouse Evades the Public Domain” talks about how even the iconic Mickey Mouse of Disney can be manipulated into an image that it was not designed to be.

The Air Pilots, a group created by an underground cartoonist named Dan O’Neil in the 1970s, published cartoons of mickey mouse in “various unsavory situations.” After publishing these cartoons, O’Neil received no immediate push back for his publications, but Disney eventually came after him and were able to sue him $200,000 on charges of copyright infringement.

When it comes to big companies, like Disney, it is no problem to devote time, money, and other resources into tracking down and then creating lawsuits to bring down faulty information or stop the creation of plagiarised copyrighted works or art. But when smaller companies or a singular person’s work has been recreated or used without consent online, how will they have the resources, money, or time to fix that? While the information that is so readily available online is helpful, it poses many threats to the integrity and credibility of the sources that are available, whatever those sources may be.

Since the World Wide Web came into existence, it has always been thought and believed that the information that a person chooses to share to the internet is their “property”. But how can that be the case? The internet is designed for easy access, it is designed and has continued to grow into a space to share information at the touch of a button.

While posting a tweet might seem harmless and completely decided out of personal autonomy, that perceived harmlessness and “autonomy” does not really exist. After that tweet is posted who owns the rights to it? Twitter, the audience, or the creator?

One thought on “Who Owns the Web?

  • Nice first post. Its an excellent reflection on the Disney article and highlights the limitations of copyright protection designed in the eighteenth century when applied to the digital age. Those that enjoyed disproportionate power and influence have always found favor in copyright litigation, but is it accurate do you think to argue that the emergence massive corporate digital entities creating and curating an increase immense amount of data skews this even further in their favor?

    Thinking of future posts, do you best to include all or at least most of the readings in your posts – Cohen and Rosenzweig, for instance, might have something different to say about these historic changes right?

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