Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Community Created Content: law, business, policy (2)

The book Community Created Content: law, business and policy consists for almost half of pages, dedicated to law. The authors recognise that capturing the wealth of networked producers and creators may turn out to be one of the biggest factors that will help to increase our society’s productivity during this century. Professional content will not disappear, but will be complemented with citizen journalism. Designing services that harness the wealth of their users’ creativity is not trivial. Finding a balance between exclusive copyright and open has turned out to be a delicate task.

Community created content poses many challenges for service providers and users. The focus of this book is on the legal issues. Obviously, this kind of book cannot cover all relevant areas of law that affect community created content. But it covers international, European and national (Finnish) law. The authors of this book believe that the most crucial questions in community created content are the usage rules for the content itself. All creative content is covered by copyright. This also means that copyright licenses define in most cases how services can utilize the content submitted by users. There are of course situations where copyright is not the main issue. Sometimes the content can be illegal based on criminal law. Other relevant areas of the law, which are briefly covered in this book, include data protection and editorial liability for the service provider.

Copyright is perhaps the most internationalized regime of private law. This makes it also natural to discuss copyright from an international perspective in this book. The book mainly refers to international copyright treaties and European Union legislation with comparisons to United States doctrine where applicable. Details of for example the Finnish copyright law are omitted. Finnish copyright law follows today rather closely the European doctrine. In contrast, criminal law remains as one of the most national areas of law. Only Convention on Cyber crime harmonizes some particular criminal policy issues like child porn internationally. Thus, in the sections discussing crimes such as privacy intrusion and hate speech, the book refers extensively to Finnish law. As noted, the perspective taken is that of a Finland-based service provider. One of the chapters is dedicated to new copyright rules such as under creative commons. The various systems are enlightened and the various choices explained.

This mix of international and Finnish perspectives delivers some surprising aspects. In Finland there is an Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media, which applies to various kind of “network publications”. The act defines a set of obligations that apply to corporate publishers (but not private individuals). But the law has a provision on protecting the sources of news. The protection applies to all kinds of net publications such as blogs, including those provided by private persons. As a consequence, bloggers enjoy this protection that can be characterized exceptional in the global perspective. Even for a liberal country as The Netherlands, this is an exceptional situation. Here you should not publish pornography, nor should you send hate mail to the queen, but your sources are always unprotected.

All in all the law section is very thorough and interesting as it covers the full spectrum from the Berner Convention to the creative commons and the other systems in between. To me it has been one of the best essays on copyright on networked content and especially user generated content., which I have read so far. It basic, but covers all aspects and makes you aware of the implications. I would love to have a discussion with Mr Mikko Välimäki about the legal implications for an international blog like this, which mostly happens to be generated in The Netherlands.

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

Blog Posting Number: 642

Tags: copyright, creative commons, community created content, user generated content
Links: community created content, copyright, creative commons, participatory economy, user generated content

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