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Controlling Context: We Are Who We Are by the Company We Keep

Whether one chooses to define ownership of content through copyright (treating creative output as an object to be owned and bought and sold by a defined party over a specified period of years), or through the European model of “moral rights” (permanently and indelibly linking the author or artist to the work of art s/he created), more and more, the whole semantics of creative intentionality and meaning are called into question in cyberspace.

An article, a book, these are things in themselves, with beginnings, middles, and ends. But constellations of chunked-up, kinetic, hyperlinked, multiauthored, google-ad-enriched content clusters may convey an imaginative reality far different from that which any of the authors of the single chunks of content envisioned. And judiciously placed advertisements, colors and fontings, juxtapositions with other content chunks or ads, can create nuances and meanings the original authors never intended.

As we revisit our copyright and moral rights laws, we need to be mindful of one of the first intentions of copyright: the protection of a reader’s right to know the origins and authorship — the authenticity — of content.

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