Beware the Blogosphere: Here Be Dragons!

The age of blogging innocence appears to be over. We have to be careful with what we say and what we upload. With the legitimacy of the blogosphere comes responsibility. I really hope it stays small-townish and relational . .. . but its also quite possible that 2007 will be the year where lawsuits will add an element of terror to blogging. God forbid we become so paranoid about blogging that we become as hesitant as haemophiliacs IN A RAZOR FACTORY!!. [no insult to haemophiliacs intended – PLEASE dont sue me!!] Nothing is completely clear since the online world is new territory but here are some rules that might save you from doing something stupid and some ways to extinguish the blaze if a fire ignites.

Neverheardofpryomaniacs-PoiPoint to files rather than republish them. YouTube makes this easy for videos by giving you html code for your blog that points to their source – and they take care of the bandwidth and storage issues. When I use a mp3 music file in a viewer, i point to its original location.

NeverheardofpryomaniacsprivNot everyone wants to be outed publicly or have their mug on your video. Ask first and if in doubt, don’t publish it.

Neverheardofpryomaniacs-PdfArticles in .PDF format belong to someone. Give them rights and control over the originals by not republishing them on your own site. Then the author doesnt have to chase down a hundred copies to make an edit.

Neverheardofpryomaniacs-PerCreative Commons is still the best way to show everyone your copyright [or in this case, copyleft]. I have been using this one for years and it might no longer be the best but at least it says what i want it to say – and people who want to appropriate my stuff do not have to email me. As for images, the original match that i stole. . . appropriated and edited for this post is found on one of the sites Phil Johnson blogs on called Pyromanics. Such an edit removes copyright, as Phil once said when he gave some good advice on image editing. Thanks Phil!

Neverheardofpryomaniacs-PhoDon’t put other people’s phone numbers on your blog. This is taken as an invitation to harrass them. Don’t even put their email address on your blog, unless they ask. In which case write it in code [name at hotmail dot com] so the spambots miss it.

Hope that helps a little. We should expect some banter and opposition. Hopefully it wont get our of hand and we will learn to live with each other online. If someone offends you or abuses your rights, go to them in a friendly manner and get it sorted. If they wont listen, add one or two others to the CC on your email. Only then do you start BCC’ing some authority figures. And if you are part of Jesus’ family then dont take your brothers or sisters to court. That not the family way.

Related: 15 Blogging Tips for 2007

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Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)

10 Comments

  • Link Love

    Okay, so Ive been posting too much (maybe). So Im going to try something. I am going to try a single post for many of the smaller things I typically post throughout a day. This way maybe things wont get buried as quickly. So he…

  • Blog as you would want to be blogged about. It seems at times that in the interest of full disclosure (of others) that bloggers feel that they can just post anything they want.
    And about the the CC and pdf’s: I believe that these issues are much more important than many believers want to acknowledge. Taking other people’s property without their permission, even for altruistic motives, is stealing whether it is digital or physical. And not just the taking, but the improper use of these properties.

  • Innocence in Blogging

    Tallskinnykiwi has a great post here about good blogging practices for the new year. As many of you know, I am a stickler for intellectual property (like copying cd’s and dvd’s and such).

  • thats a great point. I hear that the poor kid in the Star wars light sabre video, the highest downloaded viral video is absolutely horrified and dpressed as the video was released without his knowledge. With some one like that, even if we just watch it and laugh there is something wrong knowing that, much less continually promoting it.

  • Good points, Andrew. This made me rethink some things I’ve recently posted and I’ve had to repent/repost. It’s not just about avoiding lawsuits, but personal responsibility too. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that other people read what we post (well, not in your case, but…). Thanks!

  • Andrew,
    On the topic of phone numbers, these are typically harvested from the whois information that is not only publicly available but very useful.
    (I used to work for an ISP where I would call the owners of domains/servers that had been hacked to fix it before I had to block their entire IP from our network.)
    I worry that your suggestion will lead to more people just pretending the information is not out there, so only an elite can use it correctly.
    I wonder if instead we should encourage more transparency and openness by making it easier to find whois information … I wonder if blogs would be so hateful if anyone who read them could call you on the phone with ease.
    For example do sites where everyone must have a profile to post comments have a better quality of discussion? Like the karma systems from /. etc?

  • Chad,
    Please be careful what you call property. The naming of ideas, concepts, documents, and computer files as property has caused and is causing real damage to our ability to communicate and share culture.
    The very concept of property (especially copyright) is social compromise that created a limited monopoly to increase the total value in the context. I.E. you should have exclusive rights to the produce from this land, as an incentive to nurture and cultivate the land. Property _always_ starts as something communally owned. It is always created for the benefit of the entire community. Claiming something as property, thus is an act of stealing we all agree to because of their are ethical benefits to it. When there are greater ethical reasons to revoke the property claims, as moral people I suggest we must revoke or ignore those claims.
    A major part of the internet’s ability/design to route around attack is the lack of authoritative ownership of any file released onto it. The most damage resistant networks are the loosest. To give a concrete ethical example … if you enforced your ideas about pdf ownership through technological means(drm), people who carried that pdf inside national firewalls (like china) would be unable to share the Word with folks in need.
    I think we can address Andrew’s issue with a specification that allows for listing a source to check for more current updates.

  • I have to admit that my knowledge of copyright law is very limited, but are you suggesting because something is released to a network that it is public domain? What about work product? I agree that the narrowing of copyright law isn’t a good thing for artists and authorship, but aren’t we governed by laws currently that limit their use? Should we ignore those laws for the sake free (not free beer) information?
    (These aren’t rhetorical, I’d really like to know).
    Sorry I used the aggregate term property.

  • Chad,
    I think there are few levels here:
    1) When I speak I release my right to control what people hear and/or think. Many times I have seen people complain about cached copies of work because the other person does not like the commentary that goes with it.
    An example here would be emergentno.com, which “steals” every post SOL and other sites make and then lets people comment on them in an unfiltered format. I think this kind of behavior is part of the promise of the blogosphere to promote real dialog.
    So sometimes caching articles is important to have open dialog.
    2) I would encourage more people to use the CC licenses and other ways to make clear what rights they claim and how they want to share. I think the CC licenses are critical because the position of the law (recently changed) was you retain all rights you do not absolve. When they are invoked I try hard to honor them, and I also work at only using CC media in the creative work I do.
    This change in law has led to a culture that suggests you should hold on to as much control as you can, instead of a culture that tries to share as much as it can. I do not think that is a good shift.
    I think Andrew’s suggestion on pdf’s is an example of this, Andrew defaults to the assumption that a person who publishes a pdf wants full control of it, unless they specifically claim otherwise. Instead of assuming that a person published an article on the internet because they wanted lots of folks to read it and so caching it is helping them.
    Systems like Coral Cache (which reduce network load, and are especially helpful for people off the beaten path on the internet or who can’t afford large hosting bills) assume if you publish something online you mean for it to be shared. They allow you to opt out of publishing online. The same is true of Google News and even Google’s search index itself.
    See where calling things property can make people leap to bad conclusions? If everyone treated html as Andrew suggests treating pdf’s Google could not exist.
    That said I do not support plagarism, a person deserves credit for their work and ideas. So for example posting a pdf on my site that Andrew wrote and claiming I wrote it is wrong and illegal.
    Linking, HTing, and not always copying the entire post are all good things to do. I just worry when we talk about stealing, because to use that language brings up a large set of social taboos which are harmful and confusing.
    3) I think we should follow all laws unless we have a moral obligation to oppose them. I think helping slaves run away is a moral action. I also think some forms of income redistribution can be moral actions. But that is a larger issue. Examples like taking cache’s of copyright content into china are a great example of a moral reason to break a law.
    On a more personal level, I also sometimes use products that download video from youtube since youtube was designed without that being an option. (Google video for example includes the ability for the author to allow downloading of videos.) To use them in a location where there is no internet access. In that sense I am subverting youtube’s expectations of control, which is kinda like breaking a law. So in each case there is a moral reason to ignore laws that is trumps the moral reason to obey them.

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