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Monday Grok: Copyright — it’s only theft when it’s someone else’s work

Monday Grok: Copyright — it’s only theft when it’s someone else’s work

Piracy and privacy dominating debate

No sooner had the dust settled on the SOPA debate — a bad law the tech sector did a good job of torpedoing — than the nerdlingers were up in arms once again about copyright theft. But it's not what you think.

On this occasion, the noise involves one group of coders in the US appropriating code from another group. Basically, Curebit which calls itself a “Social Referral Platform” was caught copying code and images from 37 Signals’ HighRise product. This of course is very, very bad. And not at all like, for instance, copying and republishing an investigative piece of journalism that took 10 people two months to put together because ... because... because... Remind me again how these two things are different.

Apparently, information only wants to be free when it’s someone else's work that is getting stolen. BTW, Grok cut and pasted the information about Curebit from another website, changed a few words, deleted a few more and passed it off as his own creation — All Hail the Internet.

Paul Carr, (whose work we misappropriated in that earlier paragraph) in PandoDaily, punctures the hypocrisy the outrage over Curebit's conduct brings to the whole debate neatly in this piece.

Indeed it's such a neat bit of writing that rather than attempting to improve upon it, we are just going to drop a big slab of it down on the page for you.

Carr wrote: “And yet when the victim isn’t a big evil Hollywood mogul (or one of the tens of thousands of people who work for him) but one of our own… well, then IP thieves should be dragged through the streets until they tearfully apologise. What’s the difference? Is it, as some argued on Twitter when I asked the question earlier, that plagiarism is different from copyright theft? No. And not least because plagiarism is copyright theft. Like most copyright theft, plagiarism doesn’t deprive the creator of their original work and is usually committed by someone who is too lazy or cheap to acquire or create something legally.” *

As he then pointed out, “The only real difference is that in plagiarism the infringer is usually pretending to be the creator of someone else’s work. But the right to be identified as the creator of the work is a so-called “moral right” which, in most jurisdictions (and under theBerne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works), is part and parcel of copyright.”

Privacy is the product, not the policy

Yesterday was international Data Privacy Day , but you already knew I was going to write that. Or at least Google did as it would have been abundantly clear from my recent search behaviour.

Coincidently, it was also the same day Google started emailing its customers about the rationalisation of its privacy policy, the same week Facebook chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg , said the Web was moving from anonymity to identification. And finally, for good measure, it has been about 10 years since Bill Gates dispatched his Trustworthy Computing memo to his evil minions. Thank <i>Readwriteweb</i> for that last observation.

This, all of which, is another way of saying we are currently in the middle of a big moment for user privacy. The cynical view is that the conversation is heading towards one of three conclusions: Users' privacy rights will be trampled underfoot, users don't particularly care anymore, or both of these.

There is another potential outcome which Grok thinks is also likely. Privacy is such a big and unpleasant problem that there's a buck to be made by solving it and as this opinion piece by Keith Teare in <i>Techcrunch</i> suggests, customers will demand nothing less.

Teare pointed out in his piece that privacy, so long a policy issue for Web publishers, has now become a product issue.

Teare wrote: “Product managers now need to think long and hard about the assumptions built into their products and ensure they are serving consumers not just in words but in fact. Consumers are at a tipping pointy in not tolerating all-inclusive policy decisions by service providers that impact who sees their stuff.”

If Grok was a betting man, which he is, he's wager is the problem won't be solved by incumbents like Google and Facebook who are nowhere near as evil as you might imagine — they're just compromised by circumstance.

Instead, some smart young kid with a point to prove will beat them to the punch, and to the bucket of gold that goes with it.

Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments.

* This legitimises Grok's behaviour

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