I had a nice chat last week with Mike O'Donnel of iCopyright about their new service for small and independent publishers. The company has a large for-pay service that is used by large publishers, including news wires, to track the digital progress of copyrighted materials and they're reusing some of that technical infrastructure for the new offering.
O'Donnell noted that previous attempts to let individuals control how their intellectual property is used, particularly Creative Commons, lack a number of useful features. iCopyright is promoting itself as an alternative that is free to small-scale creators, and supported by advertising and partner revenue.
But back up a step - what's wrong with CC and how can it be fixed? Well, some of the lacks are that there is no loopback to the creator. If I put a CC license on my works I have no way to track how those works are being used, or to confirm that something is in compliance with my CC license terms. CC also has no enforcement system and if I wish to charge a fee for use (a term specified in CC licenses) there's no mechanism to help me collect these fees.
iCopyright addresses each of these. When you use their service you build a ©reator tag and use that as part of your copyright notice on your writing, artwork, photo, etc. The tag links back to the iCopyright servers, which track clicks and loads so you can find out who's viewing your tagged material, where it's displayed, and so on. Separately, iCopyright has a scanner technology similar to Attributor, which attempts to find places on the Web where tagged content is being used, potentially without permission.
As the owner of the ©reator tag you get a profile on their site that you can use to publicize yourself and to set the terms for use of your work. Unfortunately, the free service doesn't allow you to vary permissions by item - you need to pick one model for sharing all content associated with that tag. For example, if you wish to charge a fee for use of your photos, iCopyright will give you a Paypal link so people can give you the fees you set. If, however, you also want to give away your blog entries for free you can't use the same ©reator tag - you'd have to create another one and attach the free license to the second tag.
As a free-to-creators service this seems like a step forward - we definitely need more active and more powerful tools to turn copyright flexibility and fair use ideas into actionable entities. It's far from the last word, I'm sure.
June 16, 2008
The Futurist online has an interesting think piece by Patrick Tucker on the possible future of writers, books, and writing in this century. Riffing primarily on a talk by Tim O’Reilly from earlier this year, Tucker visits interesting notions such as "the book as souvenir."
There's not a whole lot new here for Copyfight readers but it's an interesting checkpoint that draws together several ideas. One is that modern online writing (primarily blogging) is barely paying the bills even for fairly popular writers, particularly those dependent on ad clicks for revenue. Another is that those who are (still) reading books are interested in more than the content of the page - they're looking for connection and probably also participation of some form.
One way to take this is to think of the book as a part of, or maybe just an intro to, a set of experiences such as blogs, chat, conferences, parties, or formal training situations. Not all of these are appropriate for all published books, but genres such as science fiction have long connected writers to their fans through conventions and other gatherings, much less formally organized.
Finally, there's the question of whether or not the book-qua-book will survive all this evolution and revolutionary change. Will things like the Kindle put the book as we know it to rest? Probably not. As Michael Agger documents in his piece for Slate, the act of reading a physical paper book creates distinctly different - and notably pleasurable - mental states that just aren't found yet in any other reading device.
Nobody quite knows why this should be so - perhaps it's something to do with the book-as-artifact, or maybe it's as simple as the fact that we aren't subjected to the same kinds of distractions and interruptions with a physical book as we are subject to when reading online or with an e-book device. However you assign it, though, it seems that books in some form are likely to be around for quite a while. If only we can figure out how to keep publishing profitable...
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June 13, 2008
The CS Department at University of Washington have released a report with this title reporting on an investigation of copyright enforcement as it currently exists on P2P networks.
The report's site contains a summary of the report's findings, a downloadable PDF of the full report and an online FAQ describing their research methods and key findings. I haven't digested the full thing yet, but the three basic conclusions are stated pretty bluntly:
- Anyone can be framed for copyright infringement. The remote and automated generation of complaints shifts the burden significantly onto the accused to prove their innocence.
- In addition to malicious framing, innocent people can still be erroneously fingered, even if they've never run a P2P program
- Privacy in P2P networks is partial or illusory at best
The authors also try to draw some conclusions, and call for more transparency in the monitoring process. Considering the amount of malicious activity the Cartel directs at the P2P nets
I don't see this happening anytime soon. One the other hand, I see the paper's authors getting a few calls as expert witnesses in the near future.
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June 4, 2008
FMC Releases "Rock the Net" Compilation CD
posted by Alan Wexelblat |