It is not too risky to affirm that intellectual property will soon be History.
Rules designed for the paper era are not useful, enforceable and cost-economic in the Web era.
Here are a few reasons:
1) Intellectual property is not designed for the Web times
I strongly believe that intellectual property will soon be history, not because Anarchism will succeed over Capitalism, but because the Net Economy will find new ways to control ownership of words and patents.
Words alone are mostly worthless. Nobody is able to make money out of them anymore.
Let's take someone whose words are unique and valuable: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for instance. He collects some royalties from his writings, except for:
- the 50% cut that makes his publisher
- the 40% lost to piracy
- the 5% cut from the book physical maker
- 3% from government taxes
- 1% from his agent, lawyer and accountant
So, the Paper Economy offers him 1% of the potential profit from his words.
On the other hand, what happens when you write for the Web?
Most word-content websites have lost money permanently since the 2000 Net Bubble. Even
for prime authors, like Rawlings and her Harry Potter, plagiarism has eaten half of
Making money out of words in the web takes a little more than writing. You need to point the words to those that might buy something related to them. You also need to secure some form of collecting money and measuring your response rates. The webmaster
and the site promoter replace here the publisher.
2) Writing for the Web is different than writing for paper
- few authors that know how to write for the Web (short, focused, adjustable to the reader preference, keyword-dense, sticky, connected with a merchandise or service)
- few publishers that know how to make money in the Web starting from printed words from the paper era
- few webmasters who can transform electronic words in non-electronic dollars, either dealing with authors or conventional publishers
The Web Word Market is more dynamic, focused and automated than the Paper Word Market.
In the past, the unit was the book, because you needed to print it, distribute it and sell it. Now, the unit is the web page, a much smaller one. Or maybe the RSS feed, the article, the forum posting or other smaller dynamic forms.
3) Authors are not so valuable in the Web Economy
Names and brands are less important in the web, because nobody spends too much time in one place, and the average user looks for specific answers rather than just a pleasant reading time.
Can you name a single Web author that always calls your attention? Are there any Web equivalents to Garcia Marquez or Norman Mailer? There are blog authors that have followers, but their names are not relevant. And the blogs with its traffic can easily be sold to someone else.
By the way, names and pen names are out. A famous person in my own field (SEO, or search engine optimizing) is GoogleGuy. A good, sticky name with 2 relevant keywords in it. I don't care if his real name is John Smith or Anand Brahmaputra. My own name
is Sergio Samoilovich, but I would like to change it to Synonymizer, for e-marketing
purposes. When I was trying to sell my netic.com domain I signed Neticman. I own many
domains related to different products I sell. I might also own as many virtual names.
And how about pen names similar to Indian names: Man-who-blogs-for-a-living,
Webcam-Girl, Pervasive-Word-Marketer or the like...
Targeting the right audience and positioning your website in the Search Engines under
the proper keywords is more important than winning a Nobel Prize or a famed contest.
Success is now measured in ad revenue rather than books sold.
My point is that in the Web, being the author of something is not that important. What is important, is to own targeted traffic that can buy a product by that author or any
You can always find an author offering his product thru an Affiliate program, which equals sharing profits with you, the e-marketer. Experts can turn a bad author into good web stuff.
4) Plagiarism is not well defined
So far, there is not linguistic or mathematic rule for plagiarism. It is up to the lawyers to define fair use or unfair use. This makes litigation very difficult. Some
guidelines are mentioned usually in University sites, advising students not to use other's words without permission, but they rarely express a numeric limit between quoting and plagiarizing.
Besides, some plagiarism rules are non-enforceable.
For instance, there is a problem when you plagiarize a short text without noticing it.
To prevent that, there should be a central database or clearinghouse in the Web that you could run your text against, in order to validate it. If I used a phrase like 'New York Times' I will probably will run into the newspaper attorneys, even if I was thinking about the weather in the big apple.
5) Plagiarism is not easily detectable.
It is also a complication the fact that the web is a dynamic medium, and there are no hard proofs of most infringements.
Plagiarism is non-detectable when the author makes slight modifications in the copied text. There is no computer in the world able to read the whole Web and find all the similar phrases or web pages. The main plagiarism detection systems work by sampling the suspected originals and copies, and those small samples can be wrong: either false positives or false negatives are possible.
Software like Synonymizer makes it easy for webmaster to create almost-duplicate text, barely detectable for the search engines.
Finding plagiarists and punishing is very difficult. The web is mostly distributed and anonymous.
Thus, a significant business is surging from the plagiarism-detection needs of authors, universities and publishers.
The anti-plagiarism-detection tool market is also surging.
6) Google is the leader in electronic detection and punishment of plagiarism
So far, Google has some filters that reject duplication from its index, and attempt to give credit to the original author.
For me, it is obvious that some software should take care of the plagiarism issues, instead of the expensive and unpredictable lawyers and judges. With previsions for Synonymizing.
Some kind of web service (the Web Economy) will rate the originality of your words, the value for the customers, the degree of infringement of the laws, and will provide you a reward : traffic that you can monetize. Or a punishment: exclusion from the main
At this point, the Web Economy is doing that: rewarding originality and witness, punishing duplication and dumbness.
Garcia Marquez could profit from AdSense and other ad servers, and there would be
Maybe a small 'Plagiarism Algorithm' in Google and Yahoo can and will replace Intellectual Property Lawyers... It will be cheaper, faster and radically more effective.