There has been a large amount of talk lately about copyright infringement. SOPA and PIPA recently illustrated how ill-equipped the federal government is to handle the complexities and minutiae of maintaining an analog copyright system in a digital society. Recently, Banksy’s dispatch – adapted from his books Cut it Out and Wall and Piece, eloquently articulated relationship between advertising, infringement and the plight of the modern consumer and starting me thinking.
We are definitely in a transitional period (and perhaps we will forever be), because technology has changed a rate most senior and respected offices of government cannot maintain. With inadequate regulation, copyright infringement runs rampant online, governed mainly by the tenacity of the copyright holder. Many artists and organizations only pursue infringement cases under extreme circumstances, while some have embraced infringement as a necessary characteristic of media in an information-saturated society.
The success with which we’re solving this problem is debatable, but in the meantime an unlikely meritocracy has developed. A look at trends in copyright infringement seem to show that if a brand is well-liked, trending infringements against its properties toward homage rather than mockery, and therefor require less energy and budget to police.
Trends occur when large numbers of people agree on things. Brands like Apple and Steve Jobs and videogame fan having higher trends in positive “feedback” from the Internet community. More notorious brands like BP, McDonalds, and Walmart seem to enjoy far less generosity in their social commentary because the commit actions considered less reputable by the general public.
Perhaps, in the absence of official and reasonable management of infringement, brands should attempt to be good citizens. They would have far less to worry about if they weren’t hiding secrets, lying to customers or burying scandals.
The moral of this story? Even billions of dollars in advertising investment can’t overcome public opinion, and brands may do better to act right and avoid negative infringement than to litigate respect.