I write this blog, and another one about Amsterdam, for fun. I don’t earn any money from it, so I get a little annoyed when I find that articles I’ve written here are picked up, copied or syndicated, and appear on a “splog” (spam blog), often without giving me any credit.
For companies in the business of creating content, it’s more than annoying, it’s expensive. But going after content syndicators is impossible, there are thousands and the cost and effort of pursuing each of them through the legal channels is prohibitive. Until now.
Attributor has started a new consortium, the Fair Syndication Consortium, of content creators to push ad networks to pay publishers a portion of the revenue generated from ads placed alongside stolen content.
They’ve analysed splogs and state that most of the ads are delivered via google adsense, doubleclick or yahoo so their theory is that going after these three will kill the sloggers.
Some of the comments on the TechCrunch article, and some of the comments I heard at a workshop today are along the lines of “copyright is dead”, “the Net Gen is different”, and the rather lame “game’s over for oldies!”
Reluctant as I am to class myself as an oldie I’m not so sure that copyright is dead yet. It’s a simple economic question. Content has a value to the producer and to the consumer so there is some level of transaction. There is plenty of user generated content; blogs videos and youtube. But plenty of that content is created by professionals, highly paid professionals. And those paying for content creation will ultimately find a way to protect their “asset”.
It’s clear that everything is in a state of flux, much is being made of the demise of newspapers – the paper version, while our hunger for information grows each year. It’s clear that many of the legal models we’ve taken for granted aren’t going to work in the “borderless” world of today, not because the legal principles are wrong, but because laws themselves are almost impossible to enforce.
There is one ray of hope amongst all the doom laden articles; Creative Commons. This is an easy way to share and re-use content that gives credit to the creators but doesn’t relinquish control. It formalises the “play nice” rules that content creators would like to live by. It doesn’t offer much in the discovery and enforcement of content theft though.
So how can this be resolved? Individuals cannot monitor this, legal systems and governments can’t cope with the cross-border aspects for single cases. Businesses can monitor, and afterall it’s cases where their content is stolen that there might be a big enough economic threat to make pursuing the theft worthwhile. But they have resources to go after someone.
I predict a much greater responsibility being put on service providers from ISPs to domain name registrars to ad servers. Creative Commons, Fair Syndication Consortium and CADNA are just the first steps.