Friday, January 04, 2008

breaking a resolution

Well, that didn't take very long at all. I told myself, and others, that I wouldn't be re-entering the copyright debates until something actually happened (a bill.. anyone?... a royal commission... something?). So, here it is January 4th, and that goes out the window. At least I'm still going to the gym and writing poetry every other day (so far).

The modified version of my no copyright resolution is that if something out there strikes me as interesting, I will blog about it, but I will refrain as much as possible from engaging in discussions about my blogging in the comments section. Everyone else should feel free to argue against what they think I'm saying, but I'll be busy elsewhere until we're all sitting around some committee table in Ottawa. Fair enough?

So, here 'tis -- this morning, following some fascinating feminist links from the new Antonia Zerbisias blog, I happened across a discussion of unauthorized photo use on the Internet. It's here at a pretty raw, and sweary blog called Bitch Ph.D. -- The camera captures your soul: What is this picture for? The discussion continues in the comments section and then in a follow-up post you can find on your own at the main site.

The issue at hand is not strictly copyright, but I think the ethical discussion underlying this post about porny re-use of personal online photos on Flickr has relevance to our discussion about copyright. Both begin, after all, with respect, and both delve a bit into the question of whether locks are necessary to protect what is ours. Does someone's "freedom" to reuse material found on the Internet include the right to unpermitted pornification of personal imagery?

3 comments:

Chris Brand said...

I've only read the blog posting, not the comments, etc. but to me, this is pretty straight-forward. Linking to a picture that someone has put online legally is quite ok with me, regardless of the context.

It's one of the reasons why there are no pictures of my daughters online - they're too young to consent themselves, and I don't feel that it would be fair to them to post their pictures.

The "legally" is important - it means that the poster has permission from the copyright holder and all the "models". Without that, the picture being online at all is problematic.

The "linking" is important, too. Making a copy of a picture and putting it online would also be a problem (copyright violation unless permission is granted), but a link is just a pointer to something else.

Note that the wonders of webservers give the poster all sorts of flexibility here - if I were to post a picture online at a particular URL, I could easily configure my webserver to serve different content at different times - I could randomise the actual picture, return one to people using whitelisted IP addresses, return something different to people based on the "referrer" header, or only serve a certain picture when it's retrieved as part of my own webpage.

In general, when you post a link to somebody else's server, you have no control whatsoever over the content that it links to, which means (tying back to copyright) that you can't be responsible for what people get by following the link, which is why many lawsuits against search engines, torrent trackers, etc, are problematic to me.

Of course, if you don't control the server hosting your image, you're taking more risks by putting your content there.

This is actually a great indication of why you really need a good understanding of the underlying technology to appreciate some of the legal and moral issues, too :-)

Russell McOrmond said...

I want to add a link to a note I posted to the CBC Spark BLOG which relates to the statement Chris made about getting permission from all the "models".

I guess there are many issues to deal with, and not all of them are copyright related. And they don't have simple black-and-white answers.

One of the problems we face is that far too many unrelated issues are ending up being stuck in the Copyright act, making it nearly impossible to understand what it is saying.

Russell McOrmond said...

Woops -- hit save too quickly.

I think from a purely copyright standpoint, there is nothing to see here. Linking needs to be perfectly legal, just like suggesting music people should listen to or books people should read needs to be perfectly legal.

But like Moral Rights for creators (which may be better to have in a separate parallel law separate from the rights for the often different copyright holder), there is something to be said for a tort along the lines of defamation that isn't as strong as defamation that deals with this type of issue.

There are many flaws with current defamation law (reverse onus, etc), but this is the area I would look to for the type of issue being discussed. Copyright is likely the last law that should be looked at to discuss this type of question.

So -- maybe you did keep you resolution, as this didn't seem to have anything to do with copyright.

Then again, neither do TPMs applied to content and/or devices, and yet these unrelated topics seem to be increasingly incorporated in "Copyright" debates.