Copyright, Sharing and Multiplication Problems


This is a screen shot of a (staged) screen shot, taken from the multiply.com tour page. You can see lots about Johnny's page and postings, but you never quite see what sort of music he's sharing.



Multiply.com was never as fun as Yahoo!360, or as convenient. Yahoo has those whimsical avatars, so useful for adult learners who want a degree of anonymity or the ability to recreate themselves visually. Y!360 users were only a click away from their Yahoo e-mail. The blog authoring system on 360 looked enough like the e-mail compose page that writing in one made the other easier and more familiar. Users could customize the look of their pages with increasing levels of complexity. There were features that allowed internet radio streaming and the sharing of photo albums.

The problem, of course, was that these features only sometimes worked. Then Yahoo gave up on the whole project, choosing instead to try to replicate Facebook under the name Yahoo!Mash.

We come to new situations in protection or in growth. Either we are closed and pessimistic, focussed on everything bad, or we are open and optimistic, ready to see only the good. (It's never purely either-or, but it's close.) Whichever our starting place, it takes a lot to move us; to turn doubt into hope, or excitement into disappointment. But enough good news - or bad - can lead us to a tipping point where we look at something with new eyes.

I came to multiply.com in growth, determined to be excited by it. I first heard of it from people who were - like me - looking for a new 360-like home. Their reviews were positive. The music and video sharing feature raised questions for me, but I pushed those aside (alternating between the slogans "just don't do it" and "everybody does it"). When I encountered grumblings between users, I thought, "human nature" and offered kind words. A couple of groups - one semi-official - sounded a little nasty. But, one or two groups aren't the whole world. Ignoring or quietly exiting seemed a reasonable response. There were also odd page loading issues. "Well", I thought, "I am running older software on dial-up."

The tipping point came at Christmas, when I was unable to post what I wanted - and was able to post the same thing on this Google blog (see below).

When I next ran across a bit of snarkiness on the "multiply user support group", I was less patient. This is an unofficial but widely promoted peer-support group that is dominated by a dozen volunteers who, apparently, are "tired of answering the same questions over and over" and yet unwilling to stand aside and let someone else answer them.

Then the loading issue started again, with items on the top of the page going awry. This is probably related to my slow dial-up connection. But, it's also related to the software environment at multiply: no such issue appears on blogger or Yahoo!360 (which, admittedly, often timed-out) despite poor connectivity on my end.

A third issue is the audio/mp3 uploading feature. Multiply.com bans "sharing" (copying) copyrighted materials without permission in its policies. But its practice suggests much more of a "wink, wink, nug, nug" approach. (Remember Johnny's screen shot shown above?) Many users quietly violate that policy, and multiply only seems to enforce it (deleting a user's account) when things get too public: there's a posting of an alleged Costumer Service e-mail which suggests setting music to "contacts only" is acceptable, though this seems unlikely.

The company's awareness of its own exposure to liability - due to posts like the one from Yahoo!Answers pictured below - may have led to an adjustment to the in-site search tool. "Music" used to be a search category; i.e., you could click on "music" from a drop down menu, search "U2", and find a list of user pages where U2 songs were available for download. Now, you have too search "U2+music" in the all category. Speculation is that this change was meant to make the company seem a little less supportive of piracy. There was no official word on the change.

On their end, several users have asked about removing the "download" button (and capability) that appears whenever they post an mp3 file to their music page. This speaks to a desire to find a middle ground wherein users can stream music from a page as a sort of add-on decoration without appearing to engage in explicit "file sharing". But "sharing" online isn't really sharing - its copying, or making available for coping, and that's a copyright violation in the U.S.

Well, okay. The approach Peter Pezaris (founder and CEO) and the rest of the gang take to music (or video) sharing probably follows some unofficial industry standard. But it leaves me in an uneasy moral circumstance. Should I, as an educator or literacy facilitator, encourage learners to join a site which encourages makes it so easy to pirate music? Nevermind my personal ambivalence about such things. How should I present myself professionally?

That's obviously a rhetorical question.


Alright, there are some drawbacks to multiply. What about the positives? What does the site offer that another site doesn't?

Multiply, like Y!360, offers a blogsite with attached social networking. That means a contact or friends list and a newsfeed, and the ability to customize what gets shared with whom. (Without, say, Fb or Y!Mash's anti-blogging flash and poke distractions. Discussed below, at Bill Mullin's and in the literacies cafe.)

If I can find some reliable 3rd party widgets to do the same thing on blogspot, I'll have everything I want.

And even if I can't, I seem to have made up my mind. Though I'll keep the multiply account open for now, I'm not putting any more learners on it. Rather, Google's blogger is going to become my facilitating tool of choice.

2 comments:

Bill Mullins said...

Thanks for the link. I like your Blog. Looks great.

billmullins.wordpress.com

Ivan Chew said...

The unfortunate feature about sites like Multiply.com is that they want to draw users in and keep them there. That's a step backwards wrt Web 2.0. thinking. So I agree with you that for ease of facilitating connections, something like blogger.com is still one of the better service out here.