On Saturday, Brian Conley of Alive in Baghdad wrote a message to the video blogging group expressing frustration with the way their work was being represented on the homepage of Ourmedia, an non-profit video sharing service operated by JD Lasica. That two sites known for both their involvement in the online video community, and with generally benevolent intent could reach such a misunderstanding is a testament to the confusion about copyright, distribution and best practices in the industry.
Both organizations stress that their primary goals are to empower communities through online video. Ourmedia, which was created in the wake of Vloggercon in January of 2005, “is a global community and learning center where you can gain visibility for your works of personal media.” Alive in Baghdad was also started in 2005 after a trip by Conley to Iraq, “and provides a place of education and interaction for global citizens interested in the real life political, military, economic and social situation in Iraq.” So where’s the beef?
It’s all about context and communication. In Conley’s opinion, while it’s certainly not as egregious as MyHeavy’s reappropriation of content, by posting a thumbnail of an episode to their homepage, Ourmedia were giving the impression that AiB is part of the Ourmedia network. For their part, Ourmedia says that the mistake was unintentional, and that their effort to reach out to creators on other sites had gotten ahead of their lone developer.
Lasica told me yesterday, that “We haven’t dusted off our front page UI since we launched,” and posted to the videoblogging group details of changes they’ve made to the homepage in response to the confusion — like a text field describing why a clip was chosen and who produced it. “We try to be very responsive to the community. We’re still an open-source noncommercial project,” he assured me.
But as Conley points out, “Organizations that want to be part of a community actually have to be more accountable.” His concerns also speak more generally to the danger publishers face when their work is taken out of its original context. Whether by association or editorialization, context can change how the message of a clip is perceived. “We’ve even had pro-war blogs slander us, basically.” While he embraces the goals of the Creative Commons to enable creators, and generally supports reblogging, he’s considering reverting to a traditional model if only so that he can be given final say in how material is used.
Under the Creative Commons license in the United States, creators still retain “moral rights,” which is a form of redress protecting creators from “derogatory” user of their work. Of course, settling that question in any particular case is a matter for lawyers. In the meantime, if you’re going to re-post content from outside sources, it behooves you to be as transparent as possible about where the content came from. When in doubt, contact the creator.
Note: Some phrasing was updated to clarify the context and intent of Conley’s quote in the second to last paragraph.