Copyright v creditright

I wrote a post on Ev Williams’ and Biz Stone’s new Medium platform about rethinking copyright from a legal right not to be copied to a moral right to be credited: creditright. Please go read it there first. Then please join in the excellent discussion about the topic at Google+. Now I’ll add more points here…

* Content is not king. The assumption that content contains all our value in media leads us to sell it and prevent others from copying it, true — but it also leads to missing opportunities, such as realizing the value in relationships.

* If relationships have value, then creators want to assure connections to people through links and data: “Who read or commented on or shared my idea and what can we do together?”

* Those relationships can be exploited in a few ways: Events (see Togather for authors), direct sales (see — and buy — my Kindle Single, please), contributions (contribute to my entrepreneurial graduate on Kickstarter)…. None of that means riches are assured. In the copyright regime, they certainly weren’t either.

* This notion does not kill advertising support for creation. But it says that revenue should travel with content as it is shared. I’ve been arguing for sometime for the embeddable article, which would go to readers rather than making readers come to it. It would need to carry brand (i.e., credit), revenue (likely advertising), analytics (see data point above), and links. I was getting ready to build a demonstration when Debbie Galant found Repost.US, a cool company whose service does exactly this, carrying an article’s logo and its own ads and analytics with links back to the original (and a Repost.US advert added to pay the bills). I spoke with their CEO and he said that when an article is shared it receives by large measure a new, incremental audience. I have some networks and companies very excited about being able to share their content — that is, find new relationships — this way. I wish that media and entertainment companies would learn to go with the flow of links and make their content embeddable and spreadable now that some have shown how they can still get the benefit of brand, monetization, data, and links.

* When credit is given for ideas, then whole articles (or books) don’t need to be copied or embedded. Just the ideas are. The day after I talked with Repost.US, I went to see my friends at 33Across (where — disclosure — I am a mini/micro/nano investor), which just bought Tynt a company that appends a link to the source when you cut-and-paste content from a web page onto a blog or into an email. This is a way to make credit travel with ideas. When you enable and encourage that to happen, you learn a lot more about your content: what ideas are spread, by whom, where and how. That has value. As I’ve been saying, Facebook and Google know how to exploit those signals. Media — content creators — don’t.

* When copyright changes, the idea of plagiarism changes. As I said in the Medium post, the old sin was not rewriting enough; the new sin is not attributing *and* linking. All newspaper and magazine articles should carry footnotes to their sources. I learned that ethic of linking in blogs and the practice of footnoting in writing Public Parts. There’s every reason that other media should take it up. Readers deserve it. Sources and creators deserve it. The record deserves it.

* When creditright takes over, then fair comment becomes a different beast. No longer do we fight over how much — how long an excerpt – is necessary and fair for comment. Now, the more comment the better. Just credit.

* Under creditright, piracy is also redefined. The crime is not copying and sharing someone’s work, the crime is violating the means that creators provide — a la Creative Commons or Repost.US — for its use. This also infers that creators who do not provide those means — who do not make their content spreadable and embeddable — are just plain fools. That is in essence what is happening with much supposed theft and piracy today: How often do you hear people say they would buy the show or movie or record if they could, but when they can’t, they head to a torrent site? This is not to say that a creator *must* provide the means to make content spreadable. But it does say that once we have the means to take economic advantage of spreadable content, spreading it becomes acceptable, even the norm. Wouldn’t that be smart?

Finally, we need to recall the genesis of patent and copyright regimes: to encourage creation and the open sharing of knowledge. Each is becoming outmoded in its way. Patents are used to lock up even common practices — even the information that is our own genome — so they cannot be used. Copyright is used to prevent sharing and the creation that comes from inspiration of what came before. Creditright address at least the shortcomings of copyright by returning to the original purpose of encouraging creation, helping to support it given current technology and reality, and enabling creation upon creation.

: LATER: Related: How plagiarism helped fuel the American Revolution. Commonplace books as a predecessor to Pinterest.

  • I’m not sure how familiar you are with similar laws outside of USA, but copyright is really an american phenomenon. In Europe, it’s generally more normal to actually use terms related to credit and creation. In Norway, for example, we use the term “Opphavsrett”, which translates as “right of origin/creation”.

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  • woke

    How is this different from Ted Nelson’s “transcopyright”?

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  • I never thought we had anything said creditright. Anyways thanks for letting me know that.

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  • Everyman

    Interesting piece, Jeff.

    But in the world you describe, everyone gets rich except the guy who did the work. Until I can pay for my gas, food and lodging with Creditright, it’s not going to fly. All it does is legitimize exploitation.

  • Andrew Rollason

    “Creditright” is an idiotic concept.

    The production of any art, be it graphic or written; both phyisical and digital, as with anything requires effort, be that physical or intellectual or otherwise. Copyright in principle is about making sure that artists are compensated for that effort.

    Creditright as a concept, deprives creators of their right to be paid. People need to be paid to put food on the table, keep the rent paid and the lights on.

    • It’s not at all about depriving artists of compensation but instead assuring that they can receive compensation in more ways.
      And “idiotic concept” is not a great way to begin a decent discussion, don’t you think? I’d that’s an idiotic concept in and of itself.

      • Andrew Rollason

        “assuring that they can receive compensation in more ways” How?

        It’s all very well to credit someone with producing something but that of itself, doesn’t address the problem of a revenue stream.

        I could for instance, copy a video from Youtube and then republish it. Does me giving credit to the original producers actually improve their bank balance? Of course not. The revenue which should be rightly due to them, never flows to them but me.

        And yes, I chose the word “idiotic” deliberately. I could have also chosen “unreasonable” “injudicious” or “imprudent”. I could have also said unfair as well.

        Copyright in principle is about intellectual property rights. Creditright is about theft. The recent case to do with the “Monkey Selfie” exactly proves this point.

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