Our News Editor Dan Holloway starts a timely conversation about intellectual property and how it affects indie authors. Read on, then join the debate via the comments box.
You know that it really must be the case that “everything has a day these days” when there is a World Intellectual Property Day. But those of you who have followed my weekly news round-up at all over the past year will be able to imagine just how excited this discovery has made me.
Why this Day is Important
The purpose of “days” is primarily to start conversations, and with that in mind I want to make this post more about getting you to share your own thoughts and start your own conversations than about me pontificating (I do enough of that). So I want to look, very briefly, at some of the ways that intellectual property touches on our lives as writers.
The first thing to say is that as writers, intellectual property affects us all.
And not necessarily in the ways that we think. It is easy for us to assume that intellectual property is all about piracy. And it includes that, but it includes so much more.
On a single day in my creative life, intellectual property might affect me in the following ways
- Looking for a picture for my blog or for a video captured powerpoint (because I need to be careful not to share what I am not allowed to share)
- Needing to look up the details of a research paper (publicly funded and globally important science is often hidden behind paywalls that pump billions to academic publishers’ profits)
- Discovering that my books appear on a filesharing site (which means someone has done something with my book that only I had the right to do)
- Playing around making found poems (because even if I have thought of something really cool to do that involves someone else’s material, I might not be allowed to do so)
- Writing about someone who’s a music fanatic (because quoting even a tiny chunk of song lyrics can land you in hot water)
- Uploading my latest book to Kindle (because I have to choose whether or not to activate DRM, a file protection method that makes it harder to pirate my book but also means you can’t read it on multiple platforms)
- Sharing the latest cool thing I’ve made on social media (because depending on the platform I use I may, as the small print will tell me, be giving up some of my rights)
- Assessing a student’s essay (because plagiarism levels are soaring and it matters that students don’t get artificial grades by stealing someone else’s work)
Each of these involves intellectual property, and the laws and conventions around it, in very different ways.
A Difference Approach: Creative Commons
I want to finish with a brief outline of Creative Commons , an alternative way of doing copyright that has caught the imagination of millions of digital creators. It comes from the open access movement, which is firmly committed to allowing everyone to use everything that has ever been created in order to move the world forward, but it can be used by everyone, and you will see it used everywhere.
Creative commons licences are a way of telling people what they can do with your content. You get to decide:
- who can share your work
- whether they can modify it
The creative commons site creates a licence to reflect this and, if you wish, a means of attributing your content to you whenever it is shared. You get to control what happens to your work, and others still get to use it.
Intellectual property matters to all of us, but for many of us it means different things. Fortunately, my word count limit means that I won’t stir the pot with my own thoughts, but I do want to know, what does it mean to you?On #WorldIPDay, let's talk about #intellectualproperty - with @agnieszkasshoes Click To Tweet
- Find out more about World Intellectual Property Day at its website here: http://www.wipo.int/ip-outreach/en/ipday/
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