This blog is copyleft

February 19, 2007

I think I offended Mark Rainsley of South West Sea Kayaking and, ironically, at least to me, of UK Rivers Guidebook. He wanted me to ask in advance before using his images. I have since removed his two pictures and apologised for any offence. But it got me to thinking and researching (the great thing about blogging).

I have had a vague philosophy about blogging and copyright which was tied in with the open source movement and the idea that “information wants to be free”:

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time.

Stewart Brand, Hackers conference 1985

This philosphy is of course an American idea and Benjamin Franklin is the first exponent with his Philadelphia library in 1731. But it is the internet which has made the freedom of information much more interesting. Because as Bruce Streling notes in a long essay on the subject – information is itself not valuable it’s attention that has become valuable:

What’s information really about? It seems to me there’s something direly wrong with the “Information Economy.” It’s not about [information], it’s about attention. In a few years you may be able to carry the Library of Congress around in your hip pocket. So? You’re never gonna read the Library of Congress. You’ll die long before you access one tenth of one percent of it. What’s important – increasingly important – is the process by which you figure out what to look at. This is the beginning of the real and true economics of information. Not who owns the books, who prints the books, who has the holdings. The crux here is access, not holdings. And not even access itself, but the signposts that tell you what to access – what to pay attention to. In the Information Economy everything is plentiful – except attention.

Bruce Sterling in 1992

I think this is the point of blogging, focusing attention. I use other people blogs as filters and connectors for the browsing the internet: they shift attention from place to place in increasingly tangential, educational and fascinating ways.

I also think that the great new developments in the world of human knowledge are increasingly open source and collaborative: discussion groups, Firefox and Wikipedia for example. Open source was started by computer programmers for whom it was very useful as a checking and editing device for long lines of code. However its application to the real world is becoming more and more interesting. MIT is putting all of it’s course materials online*, Ben Crowell asks how the internet might change book publishing.

If I were writing a book on sea kayaking I would definately make it an open source project as it would make the book easier and quicker to write and much more authoratative. I suggest that sea kayaking (especially area guides) is an ideal subject.

This blog, text and images, is covered by the copyleft license, a form of the GNU General Public Licence.



6 Responses to “This blog is copyleft”

  1. Wenley Says:

    Clearly Kierran, your photo piracy software is not as developed as mine. You get all the exposure. 🙂
    By the way, I received my dear prize book. Let me know when you get mine. I just order it to be shipped.
    Best regards,

  2. Wenley, that took ages! we sent that at least a month ago…

  3. Hello Kieran, I fully understand Mark’s position.

    Undoubtedly an etiquette about sharing will develop over time but it has not done so yet. The power of the Internet is in disseminating ideas and often doing so quickly. All of us benefit from this. No one site can reach the number of readers that multiple linked sites can.

    In the past you have used material from my site and appropriately acknowledged, referenced and linked back to my site. I have benefited from that and you have benefited from that and I hope our readers have benefitted, so please continue to do so, whenever you wish.

    However, not everyone feels the same way, so Mark’s request, to ask in advance before using his images, is very reasonable.

    By the way, congratulations in getting so high up in the wordpress rankings, top 100 no less. You can link to me anytime!!!

  4. Hello Kieran, everyone,

    One of the more popular copyright resources is the creative commons initiative:

    I’ve seen it used quite effectively on (another great resource for publishing geo-tagged photo’s…


  5. Chris

    Thanks for your comment (and great pictures – I love the Hawaii lava flows).

    The creative commons license is very interesting. I can see the need if you want to reserve some rights, like the right to be attributed as the author, but if you are simply saying, as I am, that all the text and copyright is in the “public domain” then what’s the point of the license?

    Thanks again.

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