The Irony of Social Media and Intellectual Property

Every now and then in this space, I love to play lawyer. It started with the AP/Shepard Fairey spat, and then I had some fun boiling down the Facebook ToS. There’s something about intellectual property that really turns my geek buttons, for some reason. Partially, I think it’s because I think the entire concept is hard to apply universally to online media. When it comes to the things I’ve studied/read about regarding traditional IP, it all just seems a little anachronistic.

Which brings me to an interesting post that I just stumbled across on ReadWriteWeb (and also posted on the Creative Commons blog).

I really like the idea of Creative Commons. When I see a blog with a CC license, what it says to me is, “What I’m writing isn’t necessarily for me to make money; but, hey, I put some time into it, let people know where you got the idea from.”

Why do I write here? I guess I write to throw some ideas out into the blogosphere and see what anyone else has to say. Generally, that’s the motive of most people (although not exclusively by any means) who write in a forum like this and would ever be concerned about where their content ends up.

Hell, if people can’t take what they want out of my content and then continue the conversation, how is it social media?

CC gives people the head’s up on a creator wants their content used, and I think that’s a great idea. I keep thinking about this in terms of Facebook’s gaffe a few weeks ago. The rally cries against Facebook started with the “content producers” who were worried that they couldn’t control it any longer. It wasn’t the run-of-the-mill user who was concerned – until they started hearing about it. When things are clear and communicated up front, it’s better.

I love the concept of CC’s new offering: CC Zero makes the process of waiving all pre-existing copyright guidelines easy. I’d go as far to even call it “Open Source Publishing.” Let’s see a newspaper do *that.*

All “beating a dead-tree-media when it’s down” aside, I think CC helps set the rules for social media. The irony is that I feel that “playing nice” should be the lay of the land. The reason that something in this vein is even required is because copyright law doesn’t have the right applications to online, crowd-generated content. For example, who has the right to the comment on my blog – the user or the facilitator? Someone else entirely?

The big assumption in all of this is that people write things online to be public (just like when you post something to Facebook, you assume that it is actually going out to your social connections). That’s a contradiction to most copywritten content since, in a traditional model, the person you pay for the service is involved in the process. You aren’t paying Google to read this. You’re paying (or someone is) a provider to access the series of tubes to access this site.

Communication law can’t adapt fast enough to changing technology, so, I don’t know when I’ll get my answer. The point is, though, it’s worth thinking about one point: when you create content online, you aren’t expecting it to be simply read. You’re expecting it to be passed along in any of what seems countless ways.

Creative Commons lets that be covered, for the time being. Maybe there will be a precedent that will require more or less of CC’s service. For now? I just want to let you know that I would be delighted for you to use my writing and my ideas. At some point, that’s what this is simply about.

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One Comment on “The Irony of Social Media and Intellectual Property”

  1. [...] borderline obsessed with things like Creative Commons (one of those whole “content isn’t created for the creator” type things). A little more explanation of the symbol, via ReadWriteWeb: Creative Commons announced [...]


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