Earlier today, having just installed the Pulse app on my iPod Touch, I came across a link to an article published in TechCrunch on the launch of a new service called Bo.lt. The article’s headline summarises what the service will provide: “Page Sharing Service Bo.lt Lets You Copy, Edit And Share Almost Any Webpage“.
The comments on the article were somewhat predictable; as seems to be the norm for announcements of new services published in TechCrunch some were clearly fans (“OMG! This is going to change everything!“) whilst others point out that the new service provides nothing new: “Shared Copy (http://sharedcopy.com/) is a great service that’s been around for 4 years that does ~the same thing“.
Of particular interest to me, however, were the comments related to the potential for copyright infringements using a services which, as the TechCrunch article announced “let’s you copy, edit and share any page“. As the first comment to the article put it: “I can just see it…this will make it easier for 1) people to create fake bank statements, 2) awesome mocking of news headlines, 3) derivative web designs“.
In order to explore the opportunities and risks posed by this service I registered for the service and created a copy of the home page for my blog and subsequently edited it to remove the left hand sidebar. As can be seen an edited version of the page has been created, and you can view the page on Bo.lt.
So it does seem that it will be easy for people to copy Web pages, edit them for a variety of purposes, including poking fun, creating parodies (has anyone edited a Government Web page yet) as well as various illegal purposes.
But what about legitimate uses of a service which makes it easy to copy, edit, publish and share a Web resource? The educational sector has strong interests in exploring the potential of open educational resources (OERs) which can be reused and remixed to support educational objectives. We are seeing a growth in the number of OER repositories. Might a service such as Bo.lt have a role to play in enabling such resources to be reused,I wonder? Will Bo.lt turn out to be a threat to our institutions (allowing, for examples, disgruntled students unhappy at having to pay £9,000 to go to University to create parodies of corporate Web pages) or a useful tool to allow learners to be creative without having to master complex authoring tools?