Who Gets to Keep Their Rights?

01 March 2009

Last post we looked at some misconceptions held by people about posting content to the internet.  Today, we are going to look at how these misconceptions might influence perceptions relating to online content in general.

The students interviewed for the Vanderbilt article discussed last time held a common belief that once you post your content to the internet, you have given up your rights to the material.  This may explain some common copyright infringement behaviors on the internet.

People commonly run image searches in order to find pictures or graphics.  They then use their findings in a myriad of ways, some that could be infringing and some that would qualify as fair use.  A general assumption that content posted to the internet no longer has any rights attached to it could explain people's willingness to freely use whatever they find.  There are search engines, such as http://search.creativecommons.org that will help users find content pre-licensed exactly for their need.  There are also a large variety of public domain image resources available on the internet.  However, the existence of these resources is not as widely known as something like Google image search.  And, if people think that any image on the internet already comes "rights-free," then why does it matter which search is used to find the image?

One area where the argument that ignorance about rights and posting content online cannot be made is the area of digital music and film downloads.  The respective content industries have, by this point, made it very clear that just because their content is on the internet does not mean the rights-owners have given up their rights.  But, that perception certainly did exist when file sharing and p2p first appeared on the scene.  Many college students (and others) in the late 1990's said of file sharing, "well, if it was illegal, we wouldn't be able to do it."  Thus explaining that since they could do it, it couldn't be illegal.  

While the perception that posting to the internet equals rights-loss has been changed in regards to mainstream, professional, music and video content, it appears the shift has not expanded to cover other professional content, such as images, or amateur content, such as the types of content Facebook users post to their accounts.  The content industries have done a good job of educating users about content-industries' rights.  It's time to educate users about their own rights in their own content.


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