Copyright in the Digital Age

If you create an original work (print, video, 3-D sculpture, whatever), you automatically own a full copyright to it with all rights protected. People know about this and respect it. But what if you wanted to only have some rights reserved to you? What if you wanted others to be able to use your work immediately and share it with the world, so long as it is for a non-commercial purpose and you still receive attribution as the original creator of the work?

In the old days, anyone who wanted to use your work would have to stop, contact you, and wait for you to get back to them with your permission (or not). If you saw ten things you wanted to use, you might have to contact ten different authors and then sit back and wait and wait to see if you could get permission to use the work(s) in question.

Today, you (that is, the author) can be proactive and go to Creative Commons and get a Creative Commons license for your original work. You are not giving up your copyright. You are just agreeing that you prefer to only reserve some of the rights instead of the frequently-seen "All Rights Reserved".

Some authors go further and simply release their work into the public domain. That means, they give up all rights altogether to their work.

It is a new way of thinking, a new paradigm. In this new paradigm, strangers you've never met can be your collaborator. Your work may be built upon by someone else and give a third person a brand-new idea that is really great and would not have happened had not different people worked together.

One way to get collaboration going quickly is to set up a wiki. Wiki (which comes from a Hawaiian word that means "quick") sites allow others easily add, remove, or edit content. (See the NetLingo definition.)

One popular wiki site is Peanut Butter Wiki. You don't have to be a geek (meaning you don't have to be a programmer), Peanut Butter Wiki is free, and you can get set up in just minutes. Best of all, you can password-protect your wiki so that you control who has access to your site.

It's not just a dog-eat-dog world out there anymore. Now it can be a dog-helps-others world, too, for those who choose collaboration over competition!

For more information see:

  • Creative Commons
  • Copyright.gov
  • Stanford Copyright & Fair Use Center
  • Center for the Study of the Public Domain
  • Peanut Butter Wiki
  • NetLingo.com
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    Last Modified: 9/8/2007