Copyright? There’s A Need For A Debate

On Friday I read a blog post on about alleged copyright infringement on Blogger. The post on the JISC Digital Media blog described how “In a draconian move, Google has recently removed several music blogs from its Blogger and Blogspot services“. The story, which was also featured in a Guardian article on “Google shuts down music blogs without warning, concerned the deletion of entire blogs which were alleged to contain copyrighted content.

The post concluded “it also starkly demonstrates the importance of gaining permission to use copyrighted material, lest you spoil your ship for a ha’pworth of tar. As always, if you’re not sure, don’t use it!“.

I disagree – I feel that copyright in today’s digital environment is a very complex topic, and simply suggesting that copyright resources should never be used is avoiding the realities of how digital resources are being used. In addition to the question of how copyrighted resources are being used, there is also the question of the extent we should continue to support a legal framework around copyright whose relevance is being questioned by increasing numbers  – Professor Peter Murray-Rust, for example, at a keynote talk given at the ILI 2009 conference argued that “Copyright as we know it must be destroyed for the sake of academic publishing and in order to facilitate the sharing of knowledge (as distinct from the business of making money from restricting the sharing of knowledge)“. As described in a report on the talk published on the FromMelbin blog Peter claimed that “Copyright is currently preventing the sharing of knowledge that could help to save the planet and that we as librarians should be agitating, displaying our “raw anger” and protesting for legislative change“.

Comment Moderation is A Barrier To Debate

I responded to the original blog post on Friday night, mentioning a paper on “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web” by myself and Professor Charles Oppenheim which describes a risk management approach to copyright. However the blog contains a message that “Unfortunately due to high levels of spam all of our comments are moderated and only authentic comments posted” so as I write this my comment is not yet visible (it was approved on Monday morning).

It is true that blogs are subjected to automated spam attacks – back in June 2008, for example, I described how on this blog the Akismet spam filter had filtered  A Quarter of a Million and Counting. But for me this demonstrates the effectiveness of the Akismet spam filter.  Since this blog was launched in November 2006 comments can be made on any of the posts, with no moderation being in place – the only requirement is that the comment author must provide an name and e-mail.  This policy, I feel, is important in avoiding delays in the publication of comments.

For me this ease of commenting is an important feature of blogs, especially for blogs in which feedback, comments and discussions are encouraged. The benefits of immediate publication of comments therefore outweigh the risks that spam might get through the spam filter and save me the effort of having to manually approve comments.

I also feel that comments can be useful even for posts which were published a long time ago – so I do not switch off comments after a set period of time.  This can also be useful in allowing notifications from other blogs (via pingbacks and trackbacks) to be displayed, so that viewers can easily follow links to posts which link to articles on this blog.

Comment moderation and closed comments? Not for me.  What about you?