Sunday, December 14, 2008

Who owns this blog?

Some days ago I received a Facebook message that asked me to confirm Moshe is “owner” of the blog Shores of the Dirac Sea. Which I did and while at it, I too joined that Facebook blog network, upon which I had to pick 9 people from my friends list to confirm I “own” this blog. Among the ones I picked was Tommaso, the Quantum Diaries Survivor from next door. We got into a conversation about the question of blog ownership, a term that he seemed to find similarly bizarre as I do, and I thought it would be interesting to hear your opinion on that too.

Sure, I am writing this blog - well, most of it. But do I own it? One could equally well argue it is owned by Google. The only meaning of ownership that makes sense to me is that this blog is public property. Everybody who writes a blog knows what (s)he is doing when clicking on the “publish” button. It means your thoughts go out there, into the wild open.

Now don't get me wrong, of course I am pissed off if somebody uses my writings without paying credits to me. But if I write something where this aspect is of major importance I publish it such that I have a copyright on intellectual property. However, plagiarism doesn't seem to happen all that often even on blogs. For one, most people are actually honest and don't claim originally where there was none. Instead, over the years, we have had several requests to reprint articles or figures, to use quotations, and have been asked how to properly cite a blog post. But besides this, the very reason that blog posts are public provides safety through recognition of copies by readers. The more readers you have, the more likely one of them is to come across and recognize a plagiarism and notify you.

An effect much more interesting than actual copies and quotations however are follow-up threads were people continue a discussion that was initiated elsewhere. This pinging back and forth of thoughts through the blogosphere is as far as I am concerned one of the best aspects of it. What matters in the end however is the emergence of the discussion itself, not who owns it.

19 comments:

a quantum diaries survivor said...

Internet has made all of us richer in many ways. Running a blog, for people who think they have something to share, is an elegant way to pay back.

Cheers,
T.

Bee said...

Well said :-)

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

I find what holds to be the greatest utility of blogs is that the have the ability to set a point of reference to examine the authors own thoughts and have others (your readers) to do the same. When it is done by those that use reason as best they can as their guide it expands to serve as a mechanism for reasoned change. Perhaps then what the world needs is more of this and less of the other. The question is how can this be accomplished? For now however I can take solace in having you and Stefan as to serve as such owners along with others that have by way of following your own have been recommended. So like in the world of academia perhaps citation rather then popularity will serve as how one can distinguish.

Best,

Phil

Amos said...

You have a copyright in, and right to, the writings from inception, even prior to publication (at least in the U.S.). But check your account agreement with google!

Bee said...

Hi Amos:

The question is how well can you pin down what was written when. This is a problem with blogs generally, as I can change the timestamp of these posts as I wish. I am not sure Google keeps track of every single change that might have been made in a draft, or in a post. And if not, how can you have a copyright on what you possibly only wrote after having been copied? Best,

B.

PS: An interesting aspect btw is that I can't change the timestamp of comments, meaning its you guys who timestamp my writings.

Bee said...

Oh, forgot to say because I have said it so many times before. It would be great if there was a possibility to timestamp blogposts, eg by locking them in a specific version that can't be modified without breaking the lock. It would make the medium much more reliable and more suitable for scientific purposes.

Phil Warnell said...

HI Bee,

In the philosophical perspective one could ask if ideas are of your creation or are they of your discovery. Then one must ask if ownership applies in terms the same as creation? A an eExample, was Columbus more or less so entitled? Copyrights and patents are related to be what serves as incentives and what Tommaso talked about is on a higher plane then this. So I would say if it relates solely to putting food on the table this is indeed required, yet if it is not it holds to be more of importance to ones ego; not that this is entirely unimportant for being able to be felt that one has worth as to be needed is often what sustains one more then sustenance as Tommaso implies. I would say that as in nature the proper balance in this regard must be struck.

Best,

Phil

Michael F. Martin said...

Don't disagree with the point you make in the end. Just thought I'd throw out a few thoughts that seemed apropos.

Wesley Hohfeld came up with the idea of property as a bundle of rights, each of which was correlate to an obligation or duty on another. The right to exclude, in general, is included with every bundle of rights that we call "property," at least in common law countries.

I can say with almost perfect certainty that Facebook did not have a Hohfeldian conception of ownership in mind when it decided to use that term, but its use of the term fits with a Hohfeldian conception of property nonetheless. The stick in the bundle of rights of interest here is the right of attribution, which is useful for attaining copyright, but also (and perhaps more importantly as far as Facebook is concerned) for determining liability for libel.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Michael,

“The stick in the bundle of rights of interest here is the right of attribution, which is useful for attaining copyright, but also (and perhaps more importantly as far as Facebook is concerned) for determining liability for libel.”


If this be the case then in defense for sure I would claim that what I hold as being ownership of was a discovery rather then of ones own creation. I could therefore plead not guilty for how could I be faulted for simply discovering something. It must also be considered if damage is done was it caused by it being made evident or rather resultant of the thoughts and or actions related to others. I’ve often found to hold blame to it being the fault of only the owners to negate there being human intelligence rather then serve as evidence for its existence.


Best,


Phil

stefan said...

Dear Bee,

in a sense, the "owner" of a blog is also some kind of host, in that she/he should care of the comments and the commenters, and try to maintain a welcoming and stimulating atmosphere. In my impression, this sense of "ownership" could be even more important than the "intellectual property" issue concerning the posts.

Hm, I should take care of some comments from the last two days :-)

Cheers, Stefan

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Stefan,

“Hm, I should take care of some comments from the last two days :-)”

Besides from not having enough stimulating thoughts to maintain a blog on a regualr basis, I have long realized that the maintenance of one would entail not only great effort spent on such considerations yet conflict with my inability to make such decisions as they are required :-) I’ve found for instance while hostility and rudeness are easily detected by the readers, that for the most part what otherwise what should be considered as being reasonably is often difficult to discern. I think the best I could ever do is to attempt to have no comments stricken other then those that serve no purpose other then to do willful damage to others.

As and alternative one might relegate such comments to a particular place, were they would be in the company of like minded and spirited persons. Come to think of it some philosophies have already proposed such a place already and actually exists. That can’t be however for that’s a far too easy solution and for sure I wouldn’t want to meet the owner:-)

Best,

Phil

stefan said...

Hi Phil,

As and alternative one might relegate such comments to a particular place, were they would be in the company of like minded and spirited persons.

One could call it quarantine station instead of hell ;-). But indeed, that could be an alternative to deletion. Fortunately, usually neither is necessary.

Cheers, Stefan

Anonymous said...

What if...#15
What if I owned this blog and all your comments?

Robert said...

Obviously, what facebook means by "owning a blog" is having the authorisation to write posts. Instead of asking your "friends" this could as well be achieved by facebook giving you a random word (say "penguin") and you are confirmed as author ("owner") of the blog if the word appears in a future posting.

A bit like the scene in "wag the dog" where Dustin Hoffman being a Hollywood producer wants to confirm that somebody is close to the president. This is done by Dustin saying a random phrase, the person ringing a number on the mobile and saying that sentence and the president then saying that sentence a few seconds later in a press conference on C-SPAN.

Re timestamps: It would be a useful service if there were a web-site where you send a digital signature and the website shows (or has a database) of all the signatures and the time they were submitted. The problem of course is to make this so secure it could hold up in court including the time.

Count Iblis said...

So, who will own this blog 500 years from now?

Bee said...

Hi Anonymous:

What if I owned this blog and all your comments?

If there is no consequence of "ownership" it is just an empty word. As long as I write the posts and moderate the comments it amounts to nothing. Come to think of it, if you want to moderate the comments, let me know.

This leads me to wonder, does Discover Magazine "own" Cosmic Variance? And such, does the freedom to choose a template define ownership?

Best,

B.

Arun said...

Who owns Linux?

Plato said...

I think dorigo's comment is honourable as well. I have appreciated his teaching unconditionally. Lubo's efforts as well. Of course to all those who blogged beyond their trades specific on varying interests.

Bee:What matters in the end however is the emergence of the discussion itself, not who owns it.

I changed this statement a bit to help better reflect what I think is the nature of sharing in that community?

"What matters in the end however is the emergence of the idea itself, not who owns it."

What is to be transmitted between blogs, or developed in the blog history if it's development did not neurologically manifest "within itself first( it's brain)" to become in it's totality, a character or personality with flavour? The blog, is the person/persons.

What do you do when you come across something you didn't know then thought about it to become a steppingstone?

Best,

Anonymous said...

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