This is the first in what will likely be an irregular series of guest columns on the site where leaders in content-related organizations write articles detailing copyright issues that they see as important. If you are interested in submitting an article for this series, email me via the contact page.
Today’s article is written by Rudy Rouhana of Lisensa (previous coverage).
Content Licensing in the New Web
Rudy Rouhana, Vice President of Lisensa
Thanks to a new breed of tools and services, publishing content online is easier now than ever before-and it can all be done for free. These low entry barriers have opened the door to bloggers, a new class of content creators, comprising a community of over 57 million people worldwide that is growing at a rate of two per second (source: www.technorati.com).
While the growth of the blogosphere symbolizes opportunity for aspiring content publishers, it has also given life to another issue, one revolving around the topic of online copyright. The reality is that while massive amounts of new and valuable content are being created, significant chunks are also being copied or plagiarized. Making matters worse, with a lack of guidelines in place to define the “rules of the game” the incentive to end this practice is minimal at best.
So who is at risk? While not all of the 57 million and growing blogs rise to the top of the daily reading list, many do post valuable and original information on a variety of subjects. These are the sites where potential for copyright infringement is most intense.
To appease both parties, new solutions have been introduced that are designed to create a system that allows interested bloggers to repurpose content for their own use, with the permission of the creator and according to their terms. Unfortunately plagiarists have clearly ignored the availability of these options and the result of this neglect has had several negative effects.
- First it creates reader confusion. As a work gets distributed in multiple sites the question of the creator’s identity comes into play.
- Second it tarnishes reputations and damages credibility because much of the repurposed content gets included in splogs (see bullet four) which damage the credibility of the article and in turn its author.
- Third it creates a lost opportunity for content creators to profit from their work. As with the original Napster, when songs were available for no fee, the opportunity to create a paid market was virtually eliminated. The same holds true for today’s content creators.
- Fourth it has contributed to the sudden rise of spam blogs, or splogs, which are sites that do not deliver the reader any written value. Considered by many a poison to the blogosphere, splogs can be attributed in part to the lack of clarity around online copyright and the absence of a working marketplace for user-generated content.
In a medium populated by millions of citizens but relatively few rules of engagement, it should come as no surprise that solving copyright issues is not a simple fix. In fact it will be difficult to find a magic bullet that will solve the problem of plagiarism. Compounding the issue is the fact that in the digital world, much of the content being produced online has its greatest potential influence both intellectually and commercially within an extremely short window, as news cycles have gone from hours to, in some cases, just minutes. Translation: when action is taken it must occur quickly.
The answer rests with providing both sides a simple method to manage the process of licensing. For authors, the system should support commonly recognized and easily searchable licensing terms such as those provided by Creative Commons. For those licensing the author’s work, either for commercial or non-commercial use, the system should be transactional and both provide and maintain a record for each party.
The recorded transaction model gives authors the ability to create certainty under which license the transaction occurred, which is important since Creative Commons licenses are revised and authors may elect to change them over a period of time. Leveraging this model also lets the original author know who has decided to make use of their work, giving them the opportunity to contact those that have done so. Lastly it enhances the ability to track licenses that may be attached to derivative works.
There is more content being created online than at any time before. With documents changing hands so freely, the need for tools that give authors control of their work grows. Many new solutions have emerged that are designed to give people the ability to control their works and the manner in which they can be repurposed, both in the commercial and non-commercial realm. The key, now, is to create an environment in which all sides tap into the tools at their disposal.
A property of Top10 Media, Lisensa is a copyright transaction platform for user-generated content. Lisensa allows bloggers to control commercial and non-commercial repurposing of their content according to preset terms. Founded in 2006, Lisensa is led by an experienced executive team which includes John Palfrey and Rudy Rouhana. For more information please visit https://www.lisensa.com/.