Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Blogs and Intellectual Property Rights

Claymore makes what turns out to be not an obvious observation after all:
This prompts me to think there is probably no such thing controlling rights to ideas submitted to someone else's blog. Doht!

This merits further discussion because of an issue that apparently has been burning much bandwidth on sff.net since early September and has ended up consuming up an inordinate amount of page space in the latest issue of the SFWA Forum. Innocent trees have died because of this.

To summarize extremely briefly (and taking great pains to avoid violating my "no gossip" rule): it seems that during the Hugo Awards ceremony at this year's WorldCon (didn't see it, didn't go, don't care), Famous Person "Alpha" did something boorish and obnoxious to Famous Person "Beta", live and onstage. (Still don't care.) Afterwards, Famous Persons "Gamma" through "Omega" went verbally batguano in various online fora, including sff.net, expressing their many various and heated opinions on the entire issue. (Don't care even more.)

What happened next is the interesting part. Desperately Wishing to be Famous Person "Zed" then copied some of those sff.net posts to his blog, resulting in the "making public of those posts without the consent of their authors," whereupon the full force and might of SFWA came crashing down on Zed's head! The poor twerp has been Officially Censured by SFWA — they had to create the penalty first, as there was no such thing in the Bylaws when I was on the Board of Directors — which means he can't nominate stuff for a Nebula, can't vote on the Nebulas, can't drink in the SFWA suite at cons, and I guess any SFWA members meeting Zed are 'sposed to turn their backs and pretend they can't hear him. Why they didn't just go the rest of the way and call it Double-Secret Probation is beyond me.

But the point is, this whole *@#&^storm blew up because a bunch of very professional writers making catty comments about other very professional writers somehow imagined they could make these comments in an online forum and keep them private. These people are communications professionals, who should understand better than anyone else the power of the electronic medium to distribute words far and wide and the way in which written words can take on an independent existence.

It's pretty simple, really. If you don't want to take responsibility for your opinions; if you don't want your private thoughts to become public knowledge; then for gosh sakes don't shout them in a crowded room, don't speak them in front of any microphone, watch out for people with cellphone cameras, and above all, don't post them on the Internet.

At least, not under anything even remotely identifiable as your real name.