“Have a heart go Anderson…I mean Vegetarian!”

If you don’t care about the environment today, you are considered a monster. As a global issue, the entire world is attempting to make ‘environmentally friendly’ choices, however, animal activist group PETA have a very unique way of displaying their beliefs. Although they may be friendly to the environment, are they friendly to society?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights NGO in the world. It works through animal rescue, legislation, celebrity involvement and protest campaigns to protect all animals from harm. In July 2010, long time supporter of animal rights, Pamela Anderson released her newest PETA advertisement, encouraging vegetarianism.

The image portrays a nearly naked, blonde Anderson, posing seductively in a bikini. Her body is marked with paint, mimicking a butcher’s diagram with words such as “breast”, “rump” and “round”. The caption for the advertisement “All Animals Have the Same Parts. Have a Heart-Go Vegetarian” stands out against the ‘pure’, white background.

Nudity isn’t a new territory for Anderson who is well known for her days as a Playboy Bunny. Nor is this a crazy step for PETA, known for pushing the boundaries in advertisement and repeatedly using nudity, to encourage the idea of being ‘natural’. Nevertheless, is this sending out the right message or is PETA stooping too low, sexualising their advertisements to gain support?

The denotations of this image do not immediately bring to mind the idea of becoming vegetarian to protect animals. Semiotician, Roland Barthes put forward the ideology that the reader produces the meaning. Therefore, different people may interpret images differently. As a result, the original true meaning of an image can often be misunderstood; in this case, PETA’s reasoning behind vegetarianism. The connotations of the advertisement make me see vegetarianism as a way to have a ‘perfect figure’ and ‘sex appeal’ like Anderson’s; but is it the same for you? Some definitely think so with it being banned in Canada for being “sexist” and treating the actress “like meat” (see article here).  Standing out is one thing, but being controversial is another. Companies like PETA often blur the two ideas, creating images that question morals as a result. Many may find it creative, but not everyone will agree.

Although signs can be universally understood, depending on their context, they can be interpreted a number of ways. Did you know that in 2012, 889,000 advertisements were banned? Well yes, thousands of images had their denotations and connotations questioned and they clearly pushed the boundaries of ‘simple ideas’ too far. To successfully interpret the ‘true’ meaning of an image, it must be understood that images go beyond ‘one’ message and what you see isn’t necessarily what it means.

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Copy, Paste, Arrest

The issue of copyright is a very fine line we have all crossed, most likely more than once. The concept that it is illegal to take something that is not yours appears simple, however, with evolving technologies and converging media platforms, copyrighting laws are becoming more detailed in order to remain enforceable and effective, thus becoming more complicated to comprehend.

FUN FACT: There are over 2,405,518,376 people with access to the internet today. Content is becoming more accessible than ever before. Information is being diseminated faster than it can be received. As a result, people often mistake copyrighted material as Public domain, that is anything not under copyright that can be copied and remixed freely. “I can save it to my computer, what’s the problem?” Now here is the real issue. Who says we can’t just download a new song or photo without permission; who is in control?

This is where legislation implemented to regulate what we can do. By Australian law, “copyright generally lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years and where duration depends on year of publication, it lasts until 70 years after it is first published.” (Australian Copyright Council) Essentially, the copyrights of ones material will most likely outlive you.  It is only fair that someone who has originally created something has the right to its ownership and control, and that they are credited for their own work.

The purpose of my media platform ‘Tumblr’ is to share text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos that can be reblogged by any other user. Upon looking through various Tumblr blogs I found the original source of material quite often hard to find. This ability to “effortlessly share anything” is being questioned by some who consider this a breach of copyright. Tumblr’s current copyright laws are established from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). DMCA makes avoiding Digital Rights Management (DRM) a criminal offence. Therefore any stolen material is issued with a Copyright Infringement Takedown.

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According to Mashable, leading Porn Company, ‘Perfect Ten’ sued Tumblr for $5 million for “rampant and unremedied uploading, display and distribution of Perfect 10’s copyrighted photographs.” Perfect 10 complained that even after sending former Tumblr president John Maloney six Digital Millennium Copy Right Act notices, only a small amount of the 200 reported were actually removed. Tumblr argued on the other hand that their “safe harbor laws” place users responsible for copyright laws, not Tumblr itself.

With the rules of copyrights often blurring, people must take extreme caution when thinking of using someone’s work. The terms and conditions are becoming finer and finer. Internationally acclaimed author, John Green, gave an entertaining opinion on the ‘ins and outs’ of copyright laws, with a particular experience of his own. This vlog not only argues that copyright is not keeping up with fast paced technology but most importantly it’s our responsibility to police ourselves do right by our fellow internet users.

Blame Anyone But Us

Society tends to blame others for its problems and quite commonly the media falls victim to this blame. ‘TV makes you fat’ and ‘violent video games equals violent children’ are basic examples of statements, often used to explain the ‘unethical’ or ‘unhealthy’ behaviour of individuals. This idea that ‘the media has a direct effect on audiences, causing them to act a certain way’ has been proved by many studies; however some claim this ‘effects model’ is clearly flawed, challenging the legitimacy and authenticity of these conclusions.

The article, “10 things wrong with the effects model” by David Gauntlett, argues the media effects research has quite consistently taken the wrong approach to the mass media, its audiences, and society in general”. Instead it treats children as inadequate, follows conservative ideology, assumes superiority over minorities and makes no attempt to understand the meanings of the media, rather bases theories on artificial studies.

Gauntlett refers to Bandura’s ‘bobo doll’ experiment whereby a group of young children witnessed adults acting aggressively towards a bobo doll and were then given the opportunity to play with the same doll after. Majority of the children similarly attacked the doll, concluding that ‘children learn social behaviour such as aggression through the process of observation learning’. Nevertheless, it was not considered by Bandura that these children knew they were being watched, therefore possibly altered their actions. This study also, did not acknowledge that the children faced no repercussions for ‘hurting’ the doll. Not only does this study fail to consider major factors that may alter the outcomes, but assumes children will automatically act violently when exposed to violence. How can such tests be therefore used as evidence against the media and its effect on people?

Gauntlett’s ideology effectively argues the media should not be the initial starting point in investigating the particular behaviour of individuals. Society cannot successfully blame the media without understanding its true causality; that is the relationship between cause and effect. So can the ‘effects model’ be truly used against the media? I believe this is a question that can only be answered by looking at all the factors of the problem.