They say that there are two sides to every coin. Just as there is this nasty “Dark Side” of copyright, there is a “Bright Side” to blogging. The two are intimately related. Allow me to explain.
The information revolution that began with the printing press picked up speed in the 20th century. Suddenly, less information was being lost (more information was being preserved, transferred, and used), and more people were gaining access to information. Newspapers, radios, televisions, cars, theaters, comics, books, planes, magazines, tapes, CDs, DVDs, HD-DVDs — and best of all — the internet! Because information became so easy to preserve and/or transfer, people making a living off their creative livelihood demanded stronger protections. And while I’m not so sure the history is exactly right, you see the gist of it: there is a tug of war between the forces craving information and the forces that want to restrict its flow. Intellectual property, after all, is very different from land.
Blogging is one of the frontiers in this battle. Hacks of all stripes regularly steal the content of the outstanding blogs on the internet, such as Registan, by far the best site on anything having to do with Central Asia, and now, Michael Yon, the extraordinary and unsurpassed photoblogger who chronicles the Iraq War.
A year and a half ago, Michael described the folly of a new magazine, SHOCK, that reproduced his award-winning picture of a soldier cradling an injured Iraqi girl, one of several victims that day from that most disgusting of acts, the intended murder of innocents including children. SHOCK is apparently now out of business, and it’s for the best. It used Michael’s picture, along with other photos, to argue that Iraq = Vietnam. Michael has strong beliefs about what the image was meant to convey and wants to protect it as long as possible. Here’s where blogging came in:
Like most illegal usages, this only came to my attention after readers found it. Once I began trying to clear my name, several bloggers wrote about it and published contact information to the publisher, who began getting a flood of complaints. That’s when the publisher turned around and threatened me, in writing, with a defamation lawsuit. That’s no misprint: they took my property, used it a vulgar way, further dishonored our military and our country by timing their inaugural launch to Memorial Day weekend, and then, when some patriotic bloggers dared to call them to complain about it, they threatened me. People who go into business deliberately seeking to offend and insult others should probably get used to complaints.
And did I mention that Michael is a huge Gator fan? ( Well, it seems more that he’s actually just obsessed with the fact that Gators aren’t green, but he seems to love Gainesville, so…) The Gator Nation is everywhere! Anyway, this just shows you how the diffusion of information can help protect rights.
We can argue about whether or not you should be able to copyright art works, and for how long, but point is that this new age of technology has brought about some bright sides along with the dark. In short, blogging allows people to avoid the monopoly/duopoly/oligopoly power of the mainstream media and get decent reporting out of Iraq, as well as to aggregate huge amounts of information for absorption. The more information there is available, the more people can make good decisions about the future and help others to do the same.