[Letter to the editor]Issues regarding User Created ContentA form of User Created Content, video clips created by Internet users or ordinary people, are appearing in the media. This UCC can have both positive and negative effects on our society. Recently some of these negative effects came to the fore and measures have been taken by the government and companies to regulate UCC. For example, UCC has been used to spread pornography. Lately, thousands of Internet users received pornography that had been posted on portal Web sites. While UCC has been expanding through Web sites, no system or device has been installed to prevent Internet users from posting pornography. The Korean government announced it will fight against the distribution of pornography.
Those found posting pornography on Web sites can face jail time of under a year and fines of 10,000,000 won ($93,000), and owners of the Web sites will receive the same punishment as pornography distributors. In addition, the owners face suspension of their business. The Ministry of Information and Communication said that a 24-hour Information Center will be installed to block illegal destructive information in the Internet. However, hundreds of people are needed in order to monitor Web sites 24 hours a day; the center cannot operate effectively without a huge staff. Therefore, we need a fundamental solution to block distribution of pornography, by introducing an auto-censoring system.
Before the start of campaigning for the coming election, politicians were cautioned about using User Created Content on the Internet. UCC can be used for a negative purpose by manipulating information about politicians and their policies, and its impact can be huge on people and society. Two weeks ago, the Public Prosecutor’s Office announced regulations to prevent illegal use of UCC to spread information libeling politicians. We need to establish an advanced Internet culture by autonomous and reasonable participation as netizens, or citizens in the network. Moreover, the election administration commission needs urgent measures to deal with the spread of UCC.
Another problem regards copyright. Research by the Copyright Protection Center last month found that only 16.4 percent of new UCC in March were original users’ creations. Over eight out of ten violated the copyright of original products or programs. Domestic and overseas companies declared war against UCC, warning that they will file lawsuits. Viacom, an American media conglomerate, filed a suit against two big online companies for a billion dollars, due to infringement of copyright. One is YouTube, the biggest online video clip company, and the other is Google’s parent company. In Korea, the major broadcasting stations’ online corporations issued a warning to 38 online companies that they would sue those companies for damages for illegal UCC distribution.
Many media companies try to gather ideas through UCC contests, and use them. For example, a citizen’s video clip is used for real news programs on TV. User created content is also used for diverse programs such as soap operas and entertainment shows on TV and the Internet. However, using UCC for a news program creates new problems, such as violations of privacy and human rights, which can result in legal disputes.
Time, an American weekly news magazine, selected “You,” not any specific individual, as the person who most shaped our world in 2006. That means individuals have had a huge influence on shaping media. Once a video clip taken by cell phone or digital camera is posted on the Internet, it will spread quickly. We can say that a new era is coming, in which common people can become “prosumers,” they can produce, and consume, media programs. A TV advertisement made by a TV viewer is now popular and a person appearing in the advertisement becomes a star for a day. A few-second-long video clip has more power than long news articles. Internet media have been changing traditional media paradigms radically so that the media environment has been transformed.
UCC has yet to become an authoritative public medium for society, and is largely used as a way of expressing oneself. But it has already made a cultural imprint on our society, which current media are not able to do. The Korean government encourages building up a legal space and educational environment for UCC that has huge potential in order to boost a productive and creative media industry and to establish sound citizen journalism.
Choi Choong-woong, Deputy Director, Broadcasting Communication Center and professor of journalism and communication, Kyung Hee University