Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Intellectual Property and Blogging

I blog because it’s enjoyable. I blog because I want to write something every day. I blog because I want to let others know that I am here. Do I feel the need to protect those things I write? Not often. But sometimes I think about the stories, poems, and other “intellectual property” that I put out there. Is it protected simply because I posted it?

What is intellectual property in the electronic age? What happens when we make our work available on the World Wide Web through blogs and such? Several treaties have been passed to address the problem of vast opportunities for worldwide distribution of copyrighted materials and to protect those writers and artists from theft of their electronic material. However, chat rooms, discussion boards, e-mails, web sites, blogs, and even home pages also make it possible to publish thoughts, ideas, and works that upon “publication” are immediately available for anyone and everyone to access and read. They become public property and can easily be used without permission or commission. The WWW makes it simple and cheap to deliver cost-free copying of information.

With this change in technology, can intellectual property remain protected? According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), “intellectual property refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.” Using some else’s intellectual property, words, or forms of expression in a work and failing to cite the source of a direct quote or failing to give credit for a paraphrased idea is a serious offense. In the past, intellectual property was just that—property. It was considered to have monetary value. To publish another’s work without that person’s permission would be a crime equivalent to stealing capital.

Does the capability of the Internet to provide free copying of content change the role of intellectual property? Do writers lose their desire to put out their best stuff as a result of mass copying? What can free writers and such do to protect themselves as well as their intellectual possessions?


Yana said...

I don't think there's much a writer can do to protect his or her intellectual property on the web. In fact, I would go so far as to say that a writer who wanted to protect his or her intellectual property should not publish on the web.

To me, the whole point of the Internet is its freedom of information sharing. It has been used very successfully to disseminate vast amounts of information all over the world within hours. People who write on the web do so in order to be seen by a wide variety of readers. If you want to keep your intellectual property safe, keep it offline.

Hayley said...

Well, Yana, that brings me back to my question, "Do writers lose their desire to put out their best stuff as a result of mass copying?" In your scenario when we view posts and such on the Internet, can we assume that it isn't the best that the world has to offer?

Yana said...

No, Hayley, I don't think so at all. I think that many writers only have a desire to be heard and are not necessarily worried about "mass copying." I think they do post their best stuff online. If nothing else, the Internet has pushed many to write more, and more often. Perhaps the quantity waters down the quality, but I don't really believe that.

Zea said...

As I progress in law school, I will pay attention to how issues like these are handled. I think this problem is and will continue to grow in importance as our worked adjusts to everything being so online.

I recall finding out shortly after starting my myspace account and posting my first few blogs that myspace considers all information posted to the site to be its property. I was aghast at first, but eventually, I disregarded it since I wasn't posting opuses or anything, and I doubt that myspace has any reason to deign to take my stuff. But... it is worth keeping in the back of one's mind that they could!