Monday, January 22, 2007

Community Created Content: law, business, policy (1)

Over the weekend I received an e-mail from my dear friend Cai in Tampere (Finland), who drew my attention to the book Community Created Content: law, business, policy. The book is written by three Finnish lawyers: Herkko Hietanen, Ville Oksanen, Mikko Välimäki. It is one of the deliverables of the PARTECO research project: To Participatory Economy and Beyond, coordinated by the Hypermedia Laboratory at the University of Tampere. The book was presented on Friday during a seminar. The Parteco project is coordinated by Katri Lietsala, who is now working with my good friend Jarmo Viteli at the Hypermedialab. I understand that in the framework of the research project Cai and his fine colleague Sohvi Sirkesalo will work on a report (hopefully in English) dealing with business models of participatory economy.

Cai notices that the book is focusing on Finnish legislation, but it still is highly interesting and up to date for everybody who is involved with web 2.0. The book "Community Created Content" is written to help its readers to understand the legal, business and policy issues affecting community created content. The aim was to write a handy reference and a useful overview of a complex subject. Main emphasis is on the legal underpinnings of community created content. The book also describes users’ different motives of sharing their works. Several case studies help to illustrate how businesses can adapt to accommodate community created content.

The conclusion of the book gives a nice summary of the areas the book treats. For reading purposes I have changed the past tense to the present.
This book presents an overview of the complex legal, business and policy issues in community created content. First, the book briefly treats the major doctrines in copyright law as well other (Finnish and international) laws regulating community created content services. Anyone wishing to start a new service should have a general understanding of the most relevant laws that affect community created content services.
Then, the book turns to open content licensing. Creative Commons is a leading but somewhat controversial project.
However, Creative Commons copyright licenses are tested and can be recommended for most community content services – with the general reservations that apply to all licensing decisions.
From law the book switches to business. It is subject to wild guesses what is the real business impact of community created content in the long term. In fact, the impact is already difficult to measure as the boundaries between community content and traditionally produced content blur. One scenario is that what one can today label as “community created content” will be just “content” in the future. The example of YouTube shows that community created content services
may be just one acquisition away from major media companies. Something similar has happened to open source software. On the other hand, there remain also community-based projects such as Wikipedia, which cannot be sold. This reminds of the free software ideology, which stresses societal impact over business impact.
Finally, the book discussed the details of actual policy issues in community created content. Copyright has been the hot potato of Internet policy as long as the Internet has existed. It is also in the heart of community created content. As many other books before, this book treats through a set of carefully though proposals to change copyright doctrines to reflect better the Internet reality. While the suggestions may not be implemented any time soon they should anyhow create a basis for further discussion. The book also suggests some intermediate alternatives for community content risk management. For example, best practice documentation for different aspects of copyright management may work as a shield against negligence-claims. Another major issue is the interplay between different licensing projects. No one needs another licensing project to produce another set of incompatible licenses.

From the list of illustrations it is clear that the book is not just an abstract treatment of Community Created Content; even the clip of the hanging of Sadam Hussein on YouTube is mentioned.

The book has been published by Turre Publishing and is available as a free pdf or as a printed book, available through Amazon.

I will be reading this book this week with a lot of interest. Every day a chapter. I am sure that I will return to this book.

Blog Posting Number: 641

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