Intellectual Property in the Internet Age

It’s really fascinating for someone like me that there is an ongoing debate on intellectual property, on the Internet age. Seems people from all spectrum of life is confused and think that everything on the Internet is “free”.

I believe this confusion stems from the very nature of the Internet and the hacker ethos that permeate from it. The hacker ethos is that all information should be “free”. What this means, is free access to information, “no secrets” mantra.

Fast forward to several years and something profound happened to copyright. It is called, copyleft and creative commons. It is a way to interface this hacker ethos, almost communal understanding of knowledge with concepts like property. It is also the profound difference between the Open Source movement and the Free Software movement. Both is “a matter of liberty, not price”

For example, Open Source is at its heart a methodology for software development. In simplistic terms, it can be viewed as “I own this source code intellectual property, but you are free to use read it, modify the code, add to the code so long as you cite me.”

In content terms, creative commons is the answer to “the problem” of wanton reuse of material. It merely says, Yes, I own this content— a photo, this blog post, music, an audio recording or whatnot but I give you the right to use it, to view it, to listen to it, to share it so long as you give me attribution. The last part is essential. There has to be attribution. There has to be I pass it along to you.

In the Philippine copyright context, is a brilliant piece of copyright legislation. Anything a Filipino does— this blog post for example is automatically copyrighted. A photographer automatically gets copyright for his photos. So as a content provider, I have to be explicit: this work is published under creative commons, you are free to share so long as you attribute back.

Now what happens to posts that I do share on Twitter for example? Are these photos in the “public domain” so anyone can simply grab and share?

Any user who signs up on twitter signs an agreement that basically tells twitter that they have a royalty free access to publish/distribute content. You are basically saying as price to use twitter as a service, you allow them to publish your content, but you keep ownership: “You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).”

Retweeting is organic. In fact, quite useful. To prevent retweeting, you simply turn your profile private. So your content is only allowed to be view by certain people, and even those people cant’ retweet your content.

Now, what happens with a public post? Retweeting is fine and is covered under the agreement that you allow twitter to distribute, but what if your content gets republished elsewhere?

Under the Twitter terms, you retain ownership. Under Philippine copyright terms, you own content you create or publish. The easiest and least messy way is to ask the content owner for permission. Most people will agree to being republished. Quite recently, this blog was asked by GMA7 to republish some content, and we agreed readily, with the caveat of attribution. In many cases, so long as there is attribution, it is fine.

I know a lot of photographers for example whose photos are “stolen”. Images republished without attribution nor permission. Again, creative commons allow you to share with attribution because the owner has already provided you with permission to share because he or she licensed the work as creative commons. Sans creative commons, you have can not, and best to ask for permission. Most media entities cite tweets and photos: “This photo was taken from user blah blah blah”. In many cases those media entities would ask the person if they could use the content. It is better to ask, after all.

Here’s the rule of thumb: if you need to republish something away from sites like twitter, best to ask for permission. Never forget to attribute. And if someone asks you to take something down because they own that photo? Best to do it.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • GabbyBD

    Bo is funny. check it out a masterclass in how to take quotes out of context…

  • GabbyBD

    finally a cohesive response by rappler:

    http://www.rappler.com/bulletin-board/41754-rappler-transparency-accountability

    They should have done this back in September.

  • GabbyBD

    i’ve been trying to follow the rappler issue. i think they couldve done better on this issue. hopefully, they’ll do better next time.

  • Photographs are difficult. I pull them from a google image search and often there are multiple copies of the photos from different sources. Who really owns it? If it is clear that there is a single owner, or if that ownership is conveyed in the photo print, I leave it alone. If there is no apparent owner or attribution on the print, I consider the photo to be in the public domain. Things move too fast to be consulting about a reprint when my blog is here today and into the archives in a couple of days. If anyone were to complain about a photo, I’d yank it mighty fine quick.

    As for my blogs, the words are copyrighted, but the ideas cannot be. So I fully expect that people are ripping off my most brilliant thinking and use it to better the world. Good for them. I can be cavalier about it because my livelihood does not come from the blog. If it did, I’d take up being a lawyer or book-writer or stock broker instead. Online is very loosey goosey. That’s the beauty of the place.

    • cocoy

      Best to always link back to wherever you got the pics ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Joe, that’s why there is creative commons. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Yes, I suppose. I’ll do that when my daily circulation hits maybe 25,000 reads and I figure somebody might actually care . . . or be harmed by my inadvertent theft . . . ๐Ÿ™‚