I his blog entry on the P2P Foundation site Nicholas comments Anne Walk’s question ‘Who Owns a Feed’. Nicholas explains that Copyright governs the content in an RSS feed, but the metadata (e.g. the URL) is not protected. Therefore his answer to Anne’s question is:
Who, if anyone, owns a feed? – Many people and hence no one person [...] What is required is clear rules and understanding so that no one takes control/ ownership of a part of the system that does not belong to them.
I agree with Nicholas’ findings and I think we can even go a step further. We need an environment that enables everyone to take control of his part of the system.
Most digital media business models I know are actually based on Service Providers “taking control of a part of the system that does not belong to them”. The flow and the distribution of money within the system is determined by contracts between value-chain players. The conditions of contracts are determined by the most powerful players in a value-chain. The results of bilateral or multilateral negotiations are not always fair.
“Controlling a feed” is a big business. Service Providers (e.g. google, yahoo,…) do not own the copyright of (user generated) content, but they control the metadata (e.g. user ratings, content identifiers, tags,…). Knowledge is information about content (e.g. context). Knowledge can be more valuable than the content itself. Too much knowledge about free services under control of the community is bad for the business of Service Providers. This might be one of the reasons why last year Yahoo paid an undisclosed amount of money to the creator of XSPF (Yahoo! Music Welcomes Webjay and Lucas Gonze).
My personal view of the current situation is that we are constructing a world in the digital space which is very similar to the world we know in the physical space. A lot of value is being created in the digital space. This value is intellectual property (IP) and access to knowledge. It is a fact that intellectual property needs to be protected – otherwise competition will be unfair, because some people unfortunately just steal the result of the work of other people.
In my opinion some of the critical questions are:
- Who controls the platform to protect intellectual property?
How can we prevent that the platform will be misused to discriminate value-chain users?
- one or a few private enterprises
- many small enterprises or individuals
- governments elected by the people
How can we prevent that protection of intellectual property frustrates innovation?
- competition law
- open standards
- free and open source software (FOSS)
- RF (royalty free) patent policies
- flat hierarchies (every user can choose his role in the value-chain)
- enforcement of copyright law (e.g. Public Domain)
- support of copyright exemptions (e.g. education, fair use,…)
- open licenses (e.g. Open Content, Open Source)
- new business models (e.g. based on digital services instead of physical objects)
- new payment models (e.g. Open Money)
One platform to “control feeds” has been proposed by the DMP. The founders of DMP are Digital Media strategists. Because most of us are engineers, we created an architecture for an Interoperable DRM System that consists of Entities (e.g. User, Device, Content) and relationships (e.g. Transact, License,…) ordered in layers (we like it simple).
This table roughly describes the relationship between some DMP Entities and laws:
||Value-chain players (Users)
||Negotiation and contract layer
||Intellectual property layer
When the digital space was only inhabited by hackers (15 years ago) we actually did what we wanted – and nobody cared. Then (about 10 years ago) the business people entered our space and started to “take control of the feeds”. Today some Service providers are taking control of parts of the systems that do not belong to them by attaching Licenses to Content or filing patents for Devices.
As Nicholas said, we need clear rules and understanding so that no one takes control/ ownership of a part of the system that does not belong to them. Therefore it is essential that engineers and lawyers work together with the common objective to create an environment that enables everyone to take control of his part of the system by expressing (and if necessary enforcing) the rules for accessing his services.