Jun 7, 2009
Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now
I wrote this about a year ago but still think it’s relevant and true. What do you think? – Matt
On Twitter the other day talking with the Conversation Agent about the Associated Press’ decision to go after sites that quote too much of their content — they had called out the “Drudge Retort” (not to be confused with the “Drudge Report,” – though some confusion is undoubtedly intended by the author of the former) for quotations ranging in length from 39 to 79 words — I got to thinking.
I’m no lawyer but I learned about “fair use” as a graduate student and always assumed that, if you were using a quotation in certain expository contexts, that the copyright holders would just have to grin and bear it. I can see there being a problem with populating your blog or website with entire articles penned by someone else – but even then, if you have given proper credit and linked back to the original location of the text, is that really so wrong/bad?
Though I tend to lean in this direction, I’m not saying that all content should be free or that copyright doesn’t mean anything. I am saying, however, that trying to control where your content shows up on the web goes against the tide of history as well as the essence of the web an sich, as the Germans would say.
On the “tide of history” front, “give it away” is the order of the day. I’ve referred elsewhere in these pages to an essay by John Perry Barlow on the power of giving away “content,” and my ideas have not changed on the subject. Specifically, every business should focus on their absolutely unique, inimitable, and irreplaceable offering, and deploy their “content” to sell that.
Barlow uses the example of the Grateful Dead allowing taping at their shows because they realized that circulating bootlegs increased interest in their music and, more importantly, promoted attendance at their shows which were always one of a kind. As the bumper stickers used to say, “There’s Nothing Like A Grateful Dead Concert,” which is why concert revenue was the core of their business.
Apply this to your business and ask yourself, “What is my live-in-concert moment and how can I use my content to get people through the proverbial door?”
On the “essence of the web”-front, I see the distinction between sites as more conventional than actual. Every page on the web is exactly one click away from any other page. That means, not just one click away from any page that belongs to your site proper, but one click away from any other page you can find anywhere on the web. To tell the world, “It’s ok to look at my content here but not there, one click away,” is like saying, “You can access content via your computer but not your iPhone.” In other words, it’s absurd.
More importantly, however, we’ve got to face facts and concede that the site is no longer the absolute home of content, nor is it necessarily the place where the content will be viewed, consumed, or otherwise processed by the end user. Content circulates freely. This circulation can be influenced, but not controlled. Since it cannot be controlled, any business based on selling content or access to it is going to have a shorter and shorter lifespan.
Am I right or am I right?
Image Courtesy of frankh.
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