Mark Hamilton has some very interesting points to make about ownership of content in a massively distributed, citizen journalism world where it’s easy to get someone’s stuff and then trade with it as if it were your own:
This is a potentially huge problem as citizen journalism grows. We can all be journalists, but we have to rely on the honesty of strangers to ensure that our rights are not abused or, if there is value in what we create, that the value flows to us.
At the very least, this is a situation that cries out for easy, well-developed and locked-in metadata that makes it clear to anyone the who, the what and the how (as in how you can use it) of the files. Proper, respectful use would still rely on the integrity of the end users, but it could make tracking easier, particularly if married with an effective “internet identity” system.
When mainstream media is running uncredited video, when there is widespread downloading and use of copyright material and when there is little understanding about the legal rights of creators and the responsibilities of users, a technological fix may be all that we have.
I’m sure the fix will have to be technological, though it seems ironic that the creative commons may have to run a form of DRM (MRM – moral rights management?) in order to thrive. But it also strikes me that the way “connective” technology is evolving – trackbacks, Technorati pings, Google – it is becoming easier, not more difficult, to keep at least half an eye on who’s using your stuff (one guy I know has something set up to track searches on his name, all the time). So maybe a technological solution based on that, rather than on adding metadata, might be the answer.