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Web Applications: User Generated Content and the Law

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Abstract

The web-based application is a concept used in computing. It refers to any kind of application that uses any web browser as the clientele base (Wesley, 11). The web application concept may also be used to refer to any computer application software that has been coded into a programming language that can be supported by a web browser. The application software also requires to be mark-up-language compatible. This is to enable the application to be rendered executable on the web browser. The web applications are usually very popular among users due to its ubiquity and convenience to the users. According to Wesley (43), the application software gives its users the ability to do the update and maintenance of the application. The commonly used web applications include the online retail and sales, web mails and online auctions. This paper explores various characteristics of the web application. It also explains the concepts of the user generated content and various laws that govern the uploading and management of various contents into the web.

The User Generated Content

The users-generated content is any published information, a story or discussion which is provided to a website by unpaid contributors or authors. The information that is usually uploaded onto the website is usually in the form of videos, photos, blogs, comments, poll response and/or discussions. Most of these contents are usually uploaded on to the social media forum. According to Darras and Ibarra (2010, p.122), user generated content usually covers a wide range of contents from media which is available in various forms of technologies in the modern world of communication.  The user generated content can trace its origin back to 2005 when it entered its mainstream usage. The user generated content is used for a wide range of media related applications, such as news, problem processing, research, gossips and reflections. The invention of the user generated content on the website has lead to the invention of new technologies, which have made communications and self-expression accessible and affordable to the members of the public.

The user generated content has provided platforms where individuals can key in their information with ease. They have incorporated various digital media technologies which include digital videos, questions and answers databases, review sites, photography in the mobile phones, social media and social networking. To improve on the user friendliness, the user generated content has also employed the combination of free software, open sources, flexible licensing programs among others so as to greatly reduce the existence of various barriers to discovery, skills building and collaborations. This has contributed to the increased popularity of the user generated content over the last decade. More users have been flocking to social networks to share information and also to receive it from the wide network of people.

Theuser generated content is usually monitored fully by the website administrator. Sometimes, only partial monitoring is done. It is done only when the user generated content constitutes a small portion of a website. Monitoring is crucial in the user generated content. This is because some writers usually use offensive and disturbing language and content. Furthermore, monitoring helps in checking the infringement of copyrights and the prevention of plagiarism. The monitoring also prevents the writers from posting content that is not relevant to the general theme of the site.

The charges that are applicable in the user generated content are often negligible. This has made the data centre all over the world to be completely filled with various types of data and information.

The Law Relating to the User-Generated Content

Overthe last decade, the user generated content has been on a phenomenal rise. The eyes of the media houses have the focus on the new technological concept of the social media and social networking. The biggest growth in the social networking and social media was experienced in the year 2006. Big companies in the social network industries started to encourage internet users to create and upload films, videos and contents so as to make them available to be watched by other viewers. According to Janssen (2012, p.321), the YouTube Company was paid over US$ 2 billion by the Google Company in the year 2007. This indicated that the user generated content had become a huge company with a big financial base. As this trend continued, the user generated content became increasingly commercial (Bell & Romano, 2009, p.347). This trend has made the legal issues surrounding the service to be inevitable. A lot of focus has been put on the social network and social media industry in the recent past. This is simply because those people whose rights have been infringed would have hefty cash to pursue.

This section of the article tries to identify some of the legal issues that are likely to cloud the new popping business venture. The user generated content providers may need to familiarize themselves with various laws that govern the vicinities of social networking, content development among others (McCaw, 2011, p.121). These legal issues include the following:

Copyright can be explained to be an intellectual property. It is a legal concept which is enacted by various governments in the world. It gives a creator or a developer of an original work the exclusive rights to distribute, sell or use it for a given period of time. These exclusive rights enable the owner of this intellectual wealth to receive payments and compensation.

The users of the user generated content may upload content which is likely to be copyright protected. The copyright protected materials may include artistic films, works, sounds and music recording. In her book, Liss (2012, p.79) reckons that the user is assumed to have no legal repercussions on the issue of copyright. According to her, the user generated content providers have the responsibility of ensuring that only materials which are not copyright protected are uploaded (Liss, 2012,  p.231). The user generated content providers need to establish the legal owner of the content uploaded. They also need to know the exclusive rights that could be infringed and the defence that is available against the infringement.

The other important issue that would attract legal consequences is the use of offensive and defamatory language or uploading illegal contents, such as pornography and disturbing pictures and/or videos. This would make the user generated content providers to fall into trouble with the authority. If this happens, the user generated content providers would have their licenses revoked by the authority. In his recommendations, Martinez (2012, p.326) urges the users generated content providers to put in place monitoring techniques in order to curb this.

Another legal issue that surrounds the user generated content is the right clearance procedure. The right clearance procedure involves a multilayered and a comprehensive process that the users generated content providers usually go through when licensing the intellectual property. This is usually done in order to facilitate the combination of various works aimed at coming up with the new work. According to Shklar and Rosen (2003, p.105),  the right clearance process is the second most rigorous process that writers and authors go through. The most difficult part is to develop the content.

The users generated content providers may also require familiarizing themselves with various legal defences that are at their disposal. In this case, defence, such as the ‘’pursuit conduit’’ and the “hosting defence,’’ both of which are the United Kingdom’s judicial precedence, is considered.

Reflective Discussion on the User Generating Content and the Law

In the current world, every aspect is revolving around the user generated content technology. This technology has brought about the social networks and the social media. Today, social media include the Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, trending among others. These social networks and social media have grown to such level that sometimes they are the primary source of news and information to a considerable large group of people. These social networks and social media, as a result of the user generated content, have come along with advantages and disadvantages in equal measure.

On the advantages side, social media and networks have served as the primary source of information to a large number of people. Due to the high penetration that the social media has achieved, news and information have been travelling comparatively faster than other media. The social media have also served as a source of entertainment for many. The YouTube Company among others has been on the front line in encouraging the user generating content users to upload videos and clips on the site. This has created a large database of clips and videos with high entertainment value onto the site. Social media and social networking have played the intermediary role between traders and the people who require goods and services. The user generated content users usually upload their goods and services which they are offered for sale. On the other end, other users who require the advertised goods usually upload their corresponding needs. This enables the social media and social networking to create a platform on which various people carry out their businesses without incurring the hefty cost of adverting.

On the other hand, the users generated content social media and social networking has attracted criticism in equal measure. Various evils in the society have been attached to the increased usage of the platform. Social media have been blamed for providing a platform on which people spread destructive rumours. According to Cheltenham (451), social media and networking were largely blamed for the political uprising in the Arab countries between the years 2009 and 2011. Another critique of the social media is the addiction. Cheltenham (460) argues that a large number of people are unnecessarily spending a lot of time on the social network. This has dealt corporate world and business a big blow. Workers are spending a lot of time on social networks instead of carrying out their responsibilities. This has lead to wastage of useful time. Cheltenhamalso admits that indecent contents have also found their way into the social media (Cheltenham, 466).  

Sometimes, the user generated content provider is unable to monitor these contents. This makes it easy for these indecent photographs, videos and writings to make rounds in the social media. This causes psychological trauma to the users who find them unpleasant. Janssen and Crompvoets (2012, p.334), also add another criticism of the user generated social media content. In their work, they argue that the user generated content providers have failed to stop underage people from accessing their sites. They reckon that underage children usually have unlimited access to these social media and social networking. Holding that most of the content is adult oriented; this would negatively affect the underage children. The authors suggest that the user generated content provider should manage their sites to ensure that only people of desirable age are allowed to access them. To curb the different crimes that are perpetrated on the social media platform, Janssen and Crompvoets (2012, p.346) advise that the user generated content providers should carry out massive education to the users on various channels that these criminals may use. The user generated content providers should also establish a call centre where its users could make their references when they are under the threats of conmen and women. 

Conclusion

The user generated content could be termed as an important phenomenon in the modern world. It has greatly contributed to the much awaited globalization. It has improved the welfare of the people through networking. As it has been indicated, the user generated content has many advantages. The various disadvantages that the user generated content have should be checked so as to have it being exclusively useful.

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