Kindergarten, Cut and Paste and the AP

Now, the below diagram isn’t a sarcastic Boomtown/Kara Swisher creation. It’s not from TechCrunch. It’s not even from Ezra Klein, the Post‘s king of whimsical and informative charts.

It’s from the AP itself, explaining it’s new rights management system (the AP News Registry) for its content (via BoingBoing):

As Cory Doctorow goes into in his post at the BB, “A lot of copyfighters were mystified by the Associated Press’s recent announcement (complete with a bonkers diagram straight off a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s) that they had spent millions of dollars on a DRM system for news that would limit how you could paste the text you copied from your browser window…This is a seeming impossibility…it just seemed too weird to think that no one at the AP had said, ‘Wait, what? This is dumb.'”

Jumping back to that wonderful diagram, here’s my sticking point: it is undeniable, from a usability standpoint, that the more steps that you add to spreading information, it will get to less people. Sure, there’s a chance this model actually may protect some of the AP’s specific original content. But there may be one additional step to getting to the consumer: full buy-in from the editorial universe.

The way I see it, this actually hurts publishers more than the AP (of course, that chart is so confusing, there may be nine extra steps to protect them, however, I’m getting off track). There are still a ridiculous number of derivative placements that stem from each posting. Is the AP planning on holding them hostage to this system? More steps, more checks and, of course, more dollar signs are the last thing the newspaper industry needs – especially those publications that rely on AP to fill out their content on a daily basis.

Information is to be shared, not hoarded and certainly not passed through a series of tubes until it’s potentially rendered useless to that very fact. We’ve been cutting and pasting since we’ve been toddlers. We figured out to make photocopies of news stories, the power of e-mailing and tweeting links; it’s taken millions of dollars to create this system and it will take less than a week for someone to beat it and go back to our blasphemous, pirating, copy-and-pasting ways.

Accept it and change, or keep trying to live in your old paranoid, business model. Your choice.


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.


Copyright and Fair Use

Now, I’m proud of this post because not only are my friends the kind who would name this blog, they also are the ones who told me [paraphrased], “If you ever went to jail, it’d probably be for a weak crime like copyright infringement.”

Let’s fire up that Comm Law class real quick and remember the following:

To claim copyright, you must have printed material. So, a photo of Barack Obama taken by one of your staff’s photographers is certainly considered your property.

And what can you do with that?

1) Distribute;
2) Prepare any derived works;
3) Reproduce; or
4) Publically (a) perform or (b) display.

Also, you can sell the rights to do so.

Of course, if you can prove that an individual saw the work, then used it without permission and benefited financially, you can recover and get an injunction in place. That’s the course of action for correcting an infringement.

Some things fall outside of infringement, though. For example. the idea of Fair Use. You know, the one that kind of allows generations of American artists the freedom to take something and artistically reinterpret it. It’s covered by this statement in US Copyright Law [emphasis added by me in this case]:

The fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

This comes up because the AP is actually trying to take it to Shepard Fairey over that whole poster that includes a similar pose of the original photo:


You want to talk about Social Media? Has there been anything more social in terms of political comment than this image over the last six months (that didn’t include Alaska, Russia or Tina Fey)? So, don’t go changing your Obamaicon yet. I’m looking forward to AP getting raked over the coals on this. (It’s already started at TechCrunch and FamousDC).


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