Free culture online, also known as the open-source movement where information, new technology, and communication are freely shared across the internet, are among the latest trends in the global youth culture marketplace regarding media, communication, and technology. However, increasingly in our Global Youth Culture Research Studies, we are seeing the effects of limitations on such freedoms and the growing backlash resulting in activism in new forms, i.e. coalitions, blogs, websites, message boards, stickers, buttons, and posters, among young people in North America, Brazil, Italy, and even the heavily censured country of China.
For teens and 20-somethings who have grown up with the internet, they see clearly how the internet allows for the free flow of digital information and the spread of ideas. Yet some players in the media industry have taken major steps, even lobbying and passing various laws to tighten controls in the form of ownership, limiting rights to access, and/or no access. One of the most notorious laws is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was designed to guard against copyright infringements and piracy by holding ISP’s liable, and therefore responsible, for shutting down websites on their systems that supposedly violate this Act. However, the DMCA also gives anyone the power to shut down any website for 10-14 days by claiming that the website is infringing on their copyright. In response, the free-culture/open-source movement has caught on like wildfire among young, mostly educated people whose main form of communication, research, and creativity is via computer technology and the internet.
Freeculture.org is one of the latest coalitions attracting an international student following by their attempts to tackle these issues and educate young people about the media lockdowns taking place in various ways, particularly on the internet, but also encourages activism on a local level.
However the movement is global. A British site called “Spike” recently ran an article entitled “How Liberty was Lost on the Internet” that explains how censorship is becoming the norm in cyberspace and who’s doing what to control media in general. The reaction among young people in Britain was astounding and has added to the groundswell of organizations such as the Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons and Free Culture.
In Italy, where media and communication is basically controlled if not owned by the Prime Minister, Silvio Berusconi, there’s a movement happening in reaction among young people who basically want freedom of information and access. According to an article called “Italy Approves Jail for P2P Users,” people can receive jailtime for file-sharing. Under Italian broadcasting law, it is also illegal for unlicensed individuals or groups to even own a piece of broadcasting equipment.
These factors, among other things political and media-censorship-related, have developed into a “DIY” (Do-It-Yourself) TV or “street TV” (www.telestreet.it) movement in Rome, Florence, Milan, and other major metropolitan areas, whereby more than 200 street TV “stations” which with limited broadcast ranges that stretch a max of 1-2 blocks, allow for TV access of content that otherwise would never see the light of viewers. Young people flock to the various street TV locations, including local parish’s and bars, to watch the new content from sitcoms to Hollywood movies to political debates. According to the man behind Italy’s street TV movement, Giancarlo Vitali, “We think it’s unacceptable and outrageous that in Italy there is a monopoly on TV by the prime minister…we want to exercise our right to free speech.”
For China, notorious for their policing of the internet in order to “raise the ethical standards among the young” by cracking down on “unhealthy content,” just last month suspended the registration of new Internet cafes following a sweep in which it closed 16,000 existing ones. With more than 80 million online users in China, particularly among young people who often go to internet cafes, the Ministry of Information Industry claims such regulations are necessary to “mobilize and supervise content on the Internet.” The Ministry just launched a new self-policing website, net.china.cn, which people are supposed to use to report content that could be lewd, pornographic, or disperses information that threatens national security or social stability—including content that contains aspects that are considered “superstitious” or “erotic.” To justify such policies, China’s ministry says it is to “protect the young from exposure.”
For more information about the underground free culture and open-source movement, please contact us about subscribing to our monthly online Label Lab Newsletter which featured this topic in June, 02004. firstname.lastname@example.org