Media People

We just hate being contacted

The discussion about copyright, generally, and Creative Commons, specifically is continuing elsewhere, and I’m extremely pleased to see others speak out with their concerns, opinions, and questions.

In particular, I loved what Phil Ringnalda wrote today:

What strikes me as uproariously funny about the rush to CC license weblogs, though, is that probably the most useful feature of licensing something that you don’t mind having people use is the way that they don’t have to ask your permission before they use it. And you know how we all hate having people contact us, with our dozens of comment links and TrackBack URLS and semi-obfuscated email addresses and we-hope-it’s-spam-proof contact forms. I can’t think of anything more horrifying to a weblogger than to have someone contact them out of the blue and say “I liked something you did so well that I would like to use it myself, may I?” Why, I myself have twice had people ask if they could borrow a couple of sentences I wrote, and both times I found it a horrible imposition to have to reply, since I was entirely too busy dancing around the room shouting “someone actually asked to use those two sentences.

At this stage in the Practical RDF book, I needed the laugh this gave me. More importantly though, is that Phil made some excellent points in this posting and in the next one he wrote, where he commented on the confusing and conflicting copyright notices currently on Donna Wentworth’s Corante weblog, Copyfight.

It’s interesting but in regards to this issue, each of seems to have a different focus. Jonathon’s focus in his last posting related to this topic was about his proprietary view of his creative works. AKMA’s is on the length of copyright terms; while my focus, at this time, (and it looks as if Phil’s focus is the same as mine) tends to be on Creative Commons and my concern about people not fully understanding what this means to ‘give away’ what you write in your weblog.

It’s true that no one is forcing any of us to waive all or part of our copyright. But it does seem as if there is a great rush to plunk that CC graphic on one’s weblog, without a clear understanding of the effect of doing so. Unfortunately, there’s been less discussion about the negative impacts of a CC license than there are the glorious positive impacts. This is going to bite some weblogger in the butt someday.

For instance, did you know that you can copy a weblog that’s been donated to the public domain in its entirety, including look and feel, and all content, without having to give attribution? And that you can even charge for this writing?

Quick! Guess who wrote the following:

Bin Laden’s genius is inventing a new form of chess, one where countries are not sides in the contest but squares on the board. As in the game of chess, one must be willing to make unexpected sacrifices, and to know the opponent’s possible moves at least as well as you know your own. As for the rest of the rules, we can only guess. Obviously Muslim countries are all over the board, with Saudi Arabia, home of Mecca, at the center.

It is also obvious that bin Laden knows how to play our side at least as well as he plays his own. Why else would his pawns have been able to hijack four large passenger aircraft in one day and turn them into enormous missle bombs against American landmarks — all with horrifying efficiency?

It is finally safe to assume that right now he has a good idea what we’ll do next. And even if he doesn’t know what his side will do, he does know we won’t expect it.

So: if we kill him, will we have checkmate? Or will his side merely have sacrificed its queen?

Perhaps it will help if we give this game a more appropriate and realistic name — one closer to what bin Laden has in mind.

Let’s call it World War III.

To all intents and purposes, I don’t have to tell you who wrote this. So I won’t. Guess.

Legally I can put this into my weblog, take credit for the words by not attributing the words to another, plunk my own copyright on it, and I can freeze the use of these words where the original author can’t. All I have to do is change a few of the words, just enough to make it a derivation of the original, and therefore an ‘original’ creative work by me.

Is this legal? How do I know, I’m not a lawyer, but we’re being asked to assume some of the responsibilities of being lawyers in order to understand the impacts of the Creative Commons licenses on our weblogs, and other creative works.

Now you tell me that this isn’t a concept and a license and a movement that doesn’t have potential problems. And if you don’t see it then you go right ahead, put that weblog of yours into the public domain. And if you do, then can you send me a link to your weblog? I might need material for my own weblog in the future.

Archived with comments at the Wayback Machine


Are the fish spawning?

I had a friend ask me a couple of days ago why it’s taking so long to finish the Practical RDF book. I had to laugh (either that or scream) because to write about something such as Siderean Software’s RDF-based search and navigation product, Seamark, required reading over 100 pages of documentation, not to mention installation of the software and other assorted technical activities just to write — effectively — one section covering this very sophisticated commercial product in Chapter 16. And I’m covering at least five other products in that same chapter.

To write about Inkling/SquishQL in Chapter 11 required that I finally download and install Fink (I’ve been lazy), so that I can easily download and install Readline, so that download and install PostgreSQL, so that I can download and install and try out Inkling/SquishQL on my Mac OS X. And SquishQL isn’t even the primary focus of that chapter.

However, I must focus and get this book finished, if for no other reason than to complete the brainwa…urh, education of Dorothea, who is a reviewer for my book (and an excellent one at that).

Must Stop Weblogging.

However, Jonathon has made this a bit difficult by continuing the discussion about copyright and Creative Commons, because, as he puts it, …I am one of only two people in the whole of Blogaria who accept that writers might wish to exert a degree of control over how their work is used and who also feel no obligation to donate their work to the public domain.

I am the other person Jonathon refers to, but I genuinely do not believe we can be the only two people who want to have some control over how our work is used. We can’t possibly be the only two people who believe this. Can we?

As Jonathon, states, this is a topic worth discussing if for no other reason than to see if there are other fishies swimming against the tide of Creative Commons, Public Domain, and an artist’s rights to their own work as compared to the public’s right to use the work as they will. As he writes:

I believe, and I suspect Burningbird does too, that this is a discussion worth pursuing, not so much because she and I happen to share a contrary view but because the intertwined beliefs “copyright is bad” and “Creative Commons is good” have almost instantaneously become an orthodoxy in Blogaria (to wit, the inclusion of support for Creative Commons licenses in the next version of Movable Type). And orthodoxies are the enemy of free, creative thought.

On this issue, there is an orthodoxy within the weblogging kingdom — a mass movement difficult to swim against; and as my last two posts should demonstrate, I am not one for spawning. There must be more subtle nuances to this issue then the black and white pronouncements of “copyright is evil”, “artists wanting to maintain control of their work are stealing from the public domain”, and “creative control suppresses free speech”.

However, I must get myself back to my work and leave this discussion for Jonathon and others — but I sure would like to hear from those others who believe there is no harm in an artist retaining creative control of their work, and that we can be inspired from artists without deriving from them.

(And as I write this, I can feel the push of the stream against me, and see a million fishy eyes headed directly at me…)

Archived with comments at the Wayback Machine

Technology Weblogging

The story of the RSS feeds and the little CC license that could

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Again the consideration of exactly what it means to put an RSS feed online has reared its head. Specifically, Mitch Wagner found out that his RSS feed — which includes full posting content not excerpts — was re-published online at LiveJournal. He wrote:


That site is my intellectual property. You do not have permission to post the entirety of my weblog to your site. Please take down the site


Well, all sorts of interesting commenting occurred, as you can imagine. In particular the implicit assumption that RSS feeds come with ‘tactic approval of republication’ was raised.

What was a surprise is that Mitch reversed himself and now offers a Creative Commons license on his material, though the license information isn’t duplicated in Mitch’s RSS feed directly. Mitch also brings up the ‘commercial’ aspect of re-publishing the material at LiveJournal, and what’s to stop someone from grabbing the content and putting it behind password protected sites that charge money for access.

Easy — don’t publish all your entire posts in your RSS feed. Keep the RSS feeds to excerpts only. Remove the content-encoded field and just leave the description. And adjust your blogging tool to publish excerpts, only. If your weblogging tool doesn’t allow this adjustment, ask the tool builder to provide this capability. The RSS feeds are there to help promote your ideas, not promote their theft. But you have to control the technology, not let the technology control you.

I have a feeling that 2003 is the year when technology and the law will finally find ways to learn to live together, or forever exist in a state of permanent hostility.

(Thanks to Ben for the story.)