The Rights of Peer Creators

It’s amazing how often our work lives and personal lives overlap one another; when we write about digital rights, open source, the power of community or the threat of mass surveillance, it’s clear that these are not just workplace issues. This weeks ComputerWorld UK posting is contributed by Miriam and shows how one of her hobbies raises some pertinent questions about intellectual property in the meshed society.

Narrative role playing is a form of collaborative fiction writing, uniquely enabled by the world wide web. Usually building their stories in the existing fantasy worlds of published writers or hit TV shows and films, the work found on narrative role play sites is often dismissed as “mere fan fiction”. Site contributors reject the label on the basis that all characters and plots on the sites are their own original creations. Whilst authors might consider it a compliment to have other people making this sort of work, it seems that they do not always have respect for the rights inherent in original content creation. Site admins claim that they have witnessed multiple cases in which newly published material by an author closely resembles the work found on their narrative role play sites. In most cases the site contributors consider this to be a great compliment to their own creative skills, but questions of copyright and intellectual property theft lurk menacingly in the corners.

This is just one example of peer creators treading carefully around the grey areas of intellectual property law. As new copyright law is drafted, the rights of a whole new generation of creative communities hangs in the balance. Read Miriam’s full article here.

Hope in Federations

Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp gains them almost half a billion users worth of telephone data. We can fully expect them to share their user information once joined, adding a wealth of phone data to Facebook and fleshing out WhatsApp with both Facebook’s data and the results of Facebook’s powerful semantic search. This sort of centralisation avoids giving users control of their own data.

To create a more positive environment in which users retain control of their data, what’s needed are more federated projects. Projects which offer the ability for suitably capable users to run their own service that can federate as a full peer, extending the service without surrendering full control. Diaspora and WordPress are two high profile examples of what federated services can look like, but there are many more available. All are open to user control in addition to service provider hosting.

If we are to maintain control of our own data in the future, federated services offer us much more hope than the route Facebook and WhatsApp are going down. Read more in this weeks InfoWorld article.

Bitcoin coming into its own

Bitcoin has been in the news a lot over the last few weeks. It’s astronomical rise, then the crash after the Peoples Bank of China took cautionary moves to avoid it destabilising the Chinese domestic currency and finally the recovery of Bitcoin’s price over last few days.

The attention that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are getting should come as no surprise. The internet is creating a meshed society in which each of us is able to start businesses, trade goods, conduct relationships, publish, editorialise, and conduct politics, all without needing an intermediary to empower us. An alternative currency that is managed not by a bank but by the consensus of its users, becomes increasingly necessary as this meshed society matures.

For more detail and commentary check out this weeks InfoWorld article from Meshed Insight’s Simon Phipps.

No One Speaks For Me

“Thoughts on Open Innovation” is the title of a recently released OpenForum Academy publication collecting essays on a range of open innovation topics designed to “deliver a snapshot of important developments for policy-makers, business leaders and researchers to consider”. Simon contributed a chapter entitled “No One Speaks For Me”, looking at the concept of a meshed society and some of the ways in which the old world naturally excludes and even fights the onset of the new. The book can be downloaded free, either as a whole or by individual chapters; so have a look, there’s plenty there to get your teeth into!