Back in the summer of 2007, Ken posted about homework software for students. In that post he mentioned a site/service called Scribd. Created in the image of Web 2.0 publishing, Scribd is essentially an archive into which authors may upload articles that they have written and want to make publicly available. At first look, there doesn't seem to be any controversy in that. But Aristotle said, "Nature abhors a vacuum," and into the serene and empty space of self-publication, controversy has naturally rushed. From an announcement on the Scribd site posted on March 30th:
"Yesterday, The Times of London published an article claiming that various authors, including J.K. Rowling, were “fighting” Scribd over copyrighted material on our site. Unfortunately, the Times’ article was misleading and included factual errors that must be corrected."
"Online document sharing site Scribd has announced that it has partnered with a number of major publishers, including Random House, Simon & Schuster, Workman Publishing Co., Berrett-Koehler, Thomas Nelson, and Manning Publications, to legally offer some of their content to Scribd’s community free of charge. Publishers have begun to add an array of content to Scribd’s library, including full-length novels as well as briefer teaser excerpts."
Of course, for the commercial publishing enterprises, the battle for publishing rights and sites comes down to their business model and their bottom line, but there is an underlying agita about shanghaied content that affects other content producers, too. I won't publish the links, here, but on several occasions, Ken has found Serendiity35 content, taken verbatim with no attribution, on pseudo-blog sites that do nothing but list content to lure browsers to their advertising spam sites. The (admittedly un-enforcable) license under which we publish Serendipity35 content is Creative Commons Share Alike --that license precludes any commercial redistribution of content.
There is a new model for online content and online publishing in the works, but it is not likely to be defined by existing precedents or the notion of ownership. What that model may turn out to be might look more like the law of the Wild West (it already does to a degree) than a codified set of principles, but it will almost certainly be something that redefines or eliminates what we think of as copyright, today.
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