Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Radical Solution to Blog Content Piracy

Are you tired of searching for and dealing with copycat bloggers?
Could you let it all go?

Two big blogs, maybe more, have adopted a radical approach to copyright. You are absolutely free to copy, paste, steal, modify, and otherwise manipulate whatever you find at the wildly popular Zen Habits and The Simple Dollar. The content on both blogs is public domain.

"I’m granting full permission to use any of my content on Zen Habits... in any way you like," says author Leo Babouta in the post Open Source Blogging: Feel Free to Steal My Content, "I release my copyright on this content."

Babauta says he's "trying this experiment to see whether waiving claim of copyright really hurts the creator of the content." He continues, "I can’t help but wonder whether copyright hurts me or helps me. If someone feels like sharing my content on their blog, or in any other form for that matter, that seems like a good thing for me." In response to counter arguments, Babauta says, "What if someone takes my work and turns it into something brilliant, and becomes the next James Joyce? Or more likely, what if they take the work and extend the concepts and make it even more useful, to even more people? Release control, and see what happens. People are wonderful, creative creatures. Let’s see what they can do."

The Simple Dollar blogger Trent Hamm similarly states, "If you want to reuse an article from The Simple Dollar in your newspaper, newsletter, or anything else, go right ahead. If you want to hand it out in your Consumer Ed class, print it out. If you want to edit it to suit your own needs, go right ahead. All written material on this site is now in the public domain." Hamm's reasons for letting go are similar in spirit to Babauta's. "By releasing all of the written content into the public domain, I have a far better chance of actually reaching people than I ever would keeping that content here and restricting the rights of people who want to share it." He continues, "If someone more talented than me can come along and spin my words into something great, go for it! If someone less talented than me takes my work and butchers it … well, then, they probably won’t build much of an audience anyway. If someone merely republishes it without attribution, at least the readers will get something of value out of the content."

I've been thinking a lot about this approach to copyright, and I find the idea of choosing not to worry about who's copying my posts incredibly appealing, as I'm sure all of you do, too. Am I ready to release my writing to the public domain? No. I'd like to be, but the truth is that right now I'm still way too proud of myself for actually creating a writing job for myself that pays my bills.There's a "look what I did" element to blogging for me that I'd like to let go of. I'm simply not there yet.

Kahlil Gibran wrote of children, "They come through you but not from you,/ And though they are with you yet they belong not to you." What do you think, readers? Is your writing like your children? Is it yours, or does it belong to the world? Could you let go of your claim to copyright?

photo by fox-kiyo via Flickr