[Viewpoint]User created chaos can be avoidedThe media world has been blown apart by the impact of user-created content, or UCC, on the Internet. It has been called “the fourth wave” in the history of modern media and it has swept through cyberspace like a tsunami. Due to the strong impact it has created, various wars against UCC have begun.
First, there is the war against obscene material. Recently, there was a disturbance on the Web when indecent images were posted on several portals on two different occasions. The incidents occurred due to a lack of preventive techniques that could detect the release of indecent video materials on Web sites and stop them.
The government has decided, belatedly, to declare war on immoral video material and is going to unleash an effort to stop it being released on Web sites.
Under the law, those who spread indecent material on Web sites are liable to be punished with a one-year prison term or a fine of up to 10 million won ($10,757).
The law also stipulates that the operator of an Internet portal site that carries obscene video materials will be charged with aiding and abetting and will be subject to the same punishment, along with the suspension of their business. The Ministry of Information and Communication is going to launch around-the-clock surveillance and will establish centers where people can report the appearance of indecent video material on Web portals.
However, it will be expensive for the government to mobilize hundreds of people to monitor the Internet for a prolonged period of time. Instead, it would be better for the government to strike at the heart of the problem by introducing an automatic system that can filter indecent video material.
With the presidential election around the corner, the political community is on alert against possible negative side effects of UCC. There are signs that UCC will play a crucial role in the upcoming presidential election. In the U.S. mid-term election last year, former Senator George Allen of Virginia was defeated due to UCC that revealed a demeaning and insensitive quip he made about a campaign volunteer who had been born on the Indian sub-continent.
If UCC is manipulated maliciously and used in negative campaigns against rivals, an election can be driven in an unexpected direction.
The prosecutor’s office has announced the criteria that law enforcement will apply in regulating illegal posting of UCC.
Now the Central Election Committee must also take swift preventive action against the use of illegal video material for election campaigns.
The next war is against copyright violations. According to an analysis by the copyright protection center, only 16.4 percent of newly created UCCs are pure creative works ― that is, eight out of 10 UCCs violated copyright law.
Broadcasting stations at home and abroad have declared war against UCC. Viacom, a leading American entertainment company, has filed a suit against YouTube, a popular video sharing Web site, and its owner, Google, claiming $1 billion in damages for copyright violations. At home, the Internet subsidiaries of major network televisions ― KBS, MBC and SBS ― have sent warnings to 38 on-line businesses to express their willingness to file lawsuits against their postings of illegal UCCs.
The competition among media outlets to secure UCC business through public subscription is also hot.
Many ordinary citizens have provided video footage taken at the scene of an incident and the competition among these “citizen journalists” is getting fierce.
The popularity of UCC has started to spread from the Internet to drama and entertainment programs on cable and network television.
With the spread of citizen participation in journalism and a wider use of UCC in television programs, a variety of problems have started to emerge.
It’s likely that legal problems regarding the right to privacy, portrait rights, quotation rights and libel will develop between media companies and program participants, and many lawsuits are likely to be filed on all these issues.
The U.S. weekly news magazine Time chose “you” as its Person of the Year on Dec. 16.
The magazine implied that individuals had emerged as the initiator of media reform and development, along with the emergence of UCC.
If an individual posts video footage taken on a mobile phone, it can spread at the speed of light.
We are at the beginning of an era where ordinary citizens become the main source of production and consumption of entertainment and news.
There are commercials produced by consumers that have become popular, and ordinary people have risen to stardom over-night, thanks to the popularity of the UCC they posted.
Instead of long articles like this one, video footage that lasts a few seconds can create a much stronger impact.
UCC still remains a means for self-expression, rather than a social medium for mass communication. However, it is beginning to cause a cultural shock that will usher in a new era that existing news media may not be able to cope with.
In that sense, UCC is a source of both expectation and fear.
Instead of sticking to existing policies that focus on regulation, it is time for the government to provide a policy that can assure the legal dissemination of UCC and enhance the educational environment it offers. It must also maximize the growth of sound journalism produced by citizens and the impact UCC can have on the entertainment industry.
*The writer is the deputy director of the Broadcasting and Communications Council and a professor of communications at Kyung Hee University.
by Choi Choong-woong