Q2: Why Are You Making Such A Big Deal Out of This?

What? Huh? Don’t know what this is about? You need to read this first.

Wow, that was dizzying. Really, really dizzying.  I have responded to many of the comments, but it occurs to me that it is easy to get lost in there, and there are a few things I would like to respond to directly because they came up consistently.  This is my blog, so I get to write a whole post as a comment response. I’m going to close comments here, but I’ll leave them open — for now — in the Q1: Who Owns Your Internet Noise? post. That’s because I want to keep all the comments together.

Now, there are a few themes I’d like to address.

Why are you making such a big deal out of this?

I’m not. If you’ll reread my post, you’ll see that I said “Something isn’t sitting quite right with me in this situation, and perhaps you, readers, can help me figure [this out].” There’s no accusation, no request of action, no condemnation. I state how I feel about the situation and then, I ask you what you think.  I never call this a crisis, a breakdown of civil society, an emergency, a big deal. I have some commenters who think this is a big deal and use those exact words, but my words? “Something about [this situation] is bugging me.” I wrote a post. It became a big deal because of community participation. If you had had nothing to say, it would just be me asking questions. I think YOU made it a big deal.

Why do you care? You’re not even in the book!

I care about digital rights. I’m curious about where they start and end. I’m interested in both the legal implications of harvesting content from Twitter and the ethical implications of not informing your contributors that you’re using their work for potential financial gain. I’m concerned about precedent — if it’s legal to collect 140 characters, when is it legal to collect 500? 1000? And, as a photographer who uses Twitter, I care about the rights attached to my pictures. I care because I trust my online community and when I learn that something less than transparent is happening in that community I want to find out what the deal is.

If you don’t want your stuff splattered all over the place, why do you put it on the web?

You know, I feel like this is the digital equivalent of “she was asking for it.” There’s all kinds of other ugly analogies I can draw here, but I’m going to skip that and say this: I set a Creative Commons license on my Flickr feed. There’s a copyright notice here on my blog. I operate under Twitter’s terms of service, and Facebook, well, I figure Zuckerberg is changing the rules every minute of every day and don’t put work I value there. I read contracts when I sell and publish work to internet publications and I abide by those terms. It’s flimsy protection, I’m totally aware of that, but I don’t agree that just because it’s on the web, it’s part of some help yourself free for all looting spree. I think this is a dangerous attitude and devalues all of our work.

Nobody else complained. What’s your problem?

True story. I once received a contract for some agency work. Seattle is kind of a small town, especially in my day job field. Work gets handed around a dozen or so agencies, a lot of it is for Microsoft, sign a non-compete here, you’re likely to be unemployed. A lot. The contract had an insane clause in it — for a period of one year after the start date of my employment, I could not work for clients of this agency. If I chose do to so, say a completely unrelated Microsoft project came up through another agency,  I agreed that it was fair retribution to the first agency to give them 50% of my pay in compensation. I was stunned. I called the admin. I did not say “Are you fucking kidding me?” but let me tell you, it took every ounce of my being not to. We worked it out, but not before she told me this: “No one has ever complained before. What’s your problem?” People. Just because no one complains does not mean it is right.

I think that’s it. Comments are open here, until such time as I see fit to close them. Thanks for maintaining a civil tone, staying on topic, and not posting personal attacks of any kind.

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