Intellectual property rights, especially in the digital age, are certainly a multi-faceted issue. Questions like; what is intangible property?; what is fair use?; what is the fair value of something that can be infinitely copied and linked?; how do I protect my rights?; which rights do I want to protect and which to I want to leave unprotected? Art, for instance, often derives its value from scarcity. Artists who work in etching or lithography number their prints. How do digital artists ensure their market that the product they offer is scarce, unique and hence of value. Photographers who publish on the web regularly embed watermarks in the samples they post to prevent copying. Musicians rely on Digital Rights Management schemes to protect their intellectual property.
When we create original material we expect to retain any commercial value if the material is sold, licensed, reproduced, etc. As a blogger the value I am creating through my writing has more than one parameter. There is the content itself and then there is the forum for discussion with an engage audience of readers. But the reader today is not in a consumer only role. When you comment on , reblog, cross link to my content, you are a creator as well. Who owns the interactions? If I write a book from my blog content, how will I compensate you if your comments add to my thought process and enhance the value of my product? I never got any compensation for the comments I made in class in college, although I know for a fact that my professor ended up incorporating some of my ideas in one of his books.
I have no expectation that the audience should pay for my writing, but I do wish to retain the rights to my original thoughts, images, concepts and so forth. What I am really building, in a way, is my brand. I will be of value and ultimately there may be some form of remuneration in the form of paid writing, speaking, coaching, training and consulting engagements. I share my ideas freely because in doing so I increase the profile and visibility of my ideas. In a way I increase their liquidity. They are an asset to be sure, but not if they are locked away. I can only really increase their value, and my value by extension, by increasing the number of people who access them and share them with others.
But not if in sharing with others, those people profit off my ideas without any benefit to me. And here is the dilemma. What is the point of diminishing returns on creative content freely distributed on the web or other media? At what point have I stopped building my brand and begun giving away the store? I’d love to hear your opinion.
What about non-commercial use? Notice at the bottom right hand corner of the page, I grant non-commercial rights to you through the Creative Commons. Information wants to be free, and frictionless, as long as that is a two way trust.