Bill of Necessities

Mary Hodder has weighed in on A Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web, both on her own blog and then on her Dabble blog. After thinking about the bill, and the issues it raised, she wrote this (among other things):

Well after thinking it through, in different scenarios, and talking with people at the Data Sharing Summit over the weekend, and a couple of our advisors, I’ve decided that it makes more sense for users to:

1. own their data, solely
2. give a non-exclusive license to Dabble when they put data at our site.
3. be able to remove the data, to the extent that we can take it out (backup tapes are problematic but we’ll do our best)
4. part of the non-exclusive license to Dabble will include that we can distribute the data (RSS feeds, etc) about the user’s activities.

This is good, and I’m glad Mary did it, especially after standing by Dabble’s TOU (terms of use) and the notion of co-ownership of data in her first post.

Possession is nine tenths of the law, the swaying goes. Whether or not that’s the case (it isn’t, but so what), the vector of Mary’s choice pointed straight at the heart of VRM, which is independence. Owning one’s data is a way of assuring its independence from Flickr, FaceBook, MySpace and other social silos. It is essential that these outfits respect that independence. They thrive at our grace, not vice versa.

It’s also essential that we understand where independence originates: with the individual. Possession can make us crazy. (Walt Whitman’s poetry inveighed against “the mania of owning things”.) But we have the first person singular pronoun for a good and natural reason. If I share data with Dabble, it was mine first. Same goes with my photos on Flickr and my videos on YouTube. Even if I dedicate everything I create to the public domain, I am still the point of origination for those goods. My power to operate in the marketplace depends utterly on the ability to control what’s mine to begin with.

VRM is basically about two things. One is independence from vendors. The other is engaging with vendors. Both powers should originate and reside with individuals. We can’t relate only on vendors’ terms. We’ve been doing that for the duration. It’s ugly, it sucks, and we need to move past that. They can’t do the moving. We have to assert our own independence.

Speaking of which, I’m glad that Marc Canter is out there, whacking away at persistent cluelessness by companies old and new about What the Web Is and How Users Require Respect. Almost a generation ago, John Perry Barlow wrote A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, directing his case to the governments of the world. Today Marc takes the same basic message to the companies that host our online social networks, and even (to a growing degree) our online selves. I’m glad he does. We need that.

Authors of the bill are Joseph Smarr, Marc Canter, Robert Scoble, and Michael Arrington. Kudos to all of them. (And sorry, I can’t make WordPress put the links in all those names. Not sure what’s going on there. It’s in the HTML I’m writing, anyway.)

1 Comment

  1. Here is what you should be thinking about if you want to play the social network game.
    In exchange for my uploading materials to your site, you will receive a Limited, fully revocable, License to Display my materials on your network in the Original, forms as delivered to you, with full attribution to me as the author/copyright holder, for the duration of our engagement, being the period of time that we are entered into this arrangement, evidenced by my use of the username/password you have provided and the space on your network you have made available to me.

    All others rights are Reserved including, but not limited to, reproduction, modification, distribution outside of the aforementioned space, subsidary public display, public performance, and or derivative works in any format, online or offline.
    This is just a rough draft of an agreement which is more equitable especially in terms of the reality that they will be placing advertisements around your stuff and you are looking for fame and glory rather than a revenue sharing arrangement. This allows them to continue to grow and it also covers your butt.

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