Someone finds something they love on the internet. They want other people to see this wonderful thing that they love. So they post it on a site like pintrest or tumblr or facebook. In return for posting something that other people also like they get approval. Hearts, or thumbs up, or stars… A way to track how many people approved of their posting.
Social Media is heavily driven by approval. It taps into on the most fundamental human desires – a need for approval, for validation, for status.
We earn approval from other people’s work by posting some else’s creation. Basically we violate copyright or at least get close to violating copyright on a mass basis constantly.
People who post a photo or a gif or whatever aren’t making money on it, but their use of it may have a negative impact on the market of the original work. Basically, they get approval that should ultimately belong to the creator. But that approval has value. Because we all seek it and it is one of major engines of the internet.
Ultimately, most social websites are media trading platforms where people get paid with approval status. Many of them using some form of reblog feature to create a viral spread of the content. So even if we never take someone else’s work and post it, we will often reblog a thing because we like it and because we want people to identify and validate us with this thing we like. dragons, stock car races, classical music, etc.
We all do it. It’s how most of the internet works. Various websites earn money from our approval seeking behavior, so ultimately they make money from our posting of someone else’s work. There’s a lot of ethical implications of that ecosystem which pervades the internet.
I think the law is going to have to evolve a bit to adjust to the internet. There are so many subtle variations to how we slowly suck life out of makers by seeking approval for ourselves through their work. And that approval ultimately belongs to them, but they don’t get it. And in the internet world, approval has a value because we seek it.
It has monetary value because the act of giving approval is the act of seeing and those eyes will also see advertising content. And there is the actual dollars that big media companies are siphoning off hundreds of thousands of creators all the time.
I think that approval has a value to be considered in some copyright case. The way the internet works now, each individual creator has to track down each case of their work being used on a site like facebook and then go through a convoluted process requesting that it be removed. It takes days to weeks. In that period the website continues to earn money and the person who posted continues to earn approval. All of it vampired off a maker who is quite probably drowning in these instances.
The internet has offered a great market for lots and lots of makers. But it also exposed them to millions of vampires.