Digital, Intellectual & Creative Etiquette: Not Simple

At times I feel stuck by where our culture is at.  We are deeply invested in capitalism and materialism which has a fear based gripping as if we're saying "there's not enough" and at the same time people are earmarking the social sphere with invitations to loosen this grip.

Sharing, volunteering, swapping and giving - as if to say, "there IS enough" - is popping up all over. We see this with the Without Borders groups and in anonymous gifting in the public space (to name a couple). There are models too, the creative commons & open source.

For those invested in intellectual property things are still weird. It is so easy to take another's inspirations and sell them on the market. TV show producers, book authors, anyone in the creative 'industry' can peruse blogs and essentially steal another's life experience by replicate it for financial gain.

As a blogger I credit where an inspiration came from when I write about it. I do this casually, "our friends at ____ " got us started on ____. Or "after seeing this on ____'s blog." I like logging the evolution of an idea and threading a community of like minded people together by leaving a cookie crumb trail.

When people are making money from intellectual property and under pressure to come up with ideas, phrases, titles, content and inspirations nothing but personal morality prevents one blog from predatory content lifting from another. And so I ask, "where is digital etiquette?"

It feels awful to have your inspirations and creativity lifted and sold on the market with no credit given. When both parties are making a living off of intellectual property it is worse than theft because it leaves the one who's inspiration it was unable to use their own words and ideas.

I want a world in which ideas will not be owned and so I find myself conflicted. Right now I'm stuck with a flimsy cliche, "one bad apple. . . ."

HS blog readers what are your thoughts on the subject? What might intellectual property/digital etiquette look like? What exists already?

Photo: Meowolf installation Santa Fe, NM


Tom said...

Copyright laws say that you cannot copyright an idea, only a physical manifestation like a book, photo or blog entry.

This is one of the few things I believe is correct in our current copyright laws.

One other thing they got right is that your copyrightable works are automatically copyrighted by you when the physical thing is created.

If you want other people to be able to use part or all of your copyrighted work in a "derivitive" work, then Creative Commons Copyrights can do that.

Otherwise, if someone appropriates part or all of your copyrighted product into their own work, then that is not only morally wrong, it is illegal (in the US at least).

But, just like in the real world, bad guys and girls are unlikely to be dissuaded by moral issues. They are, however, likely to take the prospect of legal action seriously.


Wendy Jehanara Tremayne said...

Let me throw out a scenario. . . if a blog mimics other blogs content to gain popularity then publishes books containing that content, do they not make it nearly impossible for those who actually spawned the idea to publish books with that same content? they make the originator of the idea appear as the thief.

morgaineotm said...

Give credit where credit is due.

Tom said...

I suppose it depends on whether the new blog mimics the Idea (homesteading blog) or whether they actually use content from HSHS. Just plagerizing and changing a few words or the order of the sentences probably means they are still violating your copyright.

Just from memory, I seem to recall that the Creative Commons website has some pretty good links about what is and what is not a copyright violation.

I also seem to recall that the "look and feel" of a website is part of your copyright ... but don't depend on my memory for that. Research is needed.


Tom said...

Or you could name names and let us "Comment Bomb" the offending blog to let everyone know they are a rip-off.


Wendy Jehanara Tremayne said...

nahhhh. . . lets stick to the larger view. what's etiquette look like? what should it look like? i'd rather live in an open and free world and get ripped off every day than return to the grip that lack creates. when a community all agrees, even if unofficially, on their etiquette than I think people are inclined to follow it. the risk of public humiliation, being called out, is often enough to keep everyone honest. but what etiquette would everyone agree on?

Wendy Jehanara Tremayne said...

i want to add. . I once had to call in my creative commons license on swap-o-rama-rama. one of the 5 largest car companies in the world violated it. guess who won? yes, little ol' me and my creative commons license. i was amazed.

it's capitalism that's the cause. it brings out the worst in human nature. it creates reason to be unfairly competitive. that's why I favor voluntary etiquette which is socially managed over laws.

at some swap-o-rama-rama's we'd have performance artists wear all green, painted face and all. their job was to hover where they saw people getting greedy or over excited by the free stuff. it had a profound effect. what is that but softly applied social pressure, a reminder.

Joel said...

This is a very tough subject, but I think the ability to create is much, much more valuable than any of that ability's individual products.

As to manners: I ran into an interesting blog post recently, imagining what might happen if advances in the humanities (especially cognitive science) led to an explosion of practical advances in etiquette. One can hope!


Matt said...

you can register your copyright to protect your blog. but you may have to print everything out and mail it in to DC. there is a way to use digital timestamps as well.
you shouldnt have to do this but it will protect you by proving the date of creation. of course, someone can still do a "Derivative Work" based on the artists work. artists have always struggled to get paid. i know my mother did. when its culture dies, a civilization ends. this is the end, as art and support of the arts feel like they're dying.