"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Email, Privacy, Social Networking and Copyright Protection

Am I right in seeing a connection between Google obnoxiously signing up all its email users for Buzz without asking and the German teen author who thinks plagiarism is cool?

I think the answer really is that if there is the technology to do something, there is the likelihood that it will be done. Teens have always wanted music to be free, e.g., and once DVDs came out, movies, too. We only start to respect the idea of copyright protection when we have to pay our own bills and can identify with not being paid fairly for our work. Realizing this may not end violations, but we all understand that it is wrong/illegal. The German author is arguing that it's not wrong at all: "'There's no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,' Hegemann pronounced in a statement to the press." She goes on to state, disingenuously, that she meant it to be a collaboration, but, oops, forgot to mention the other author. Oddly, the jury of the Leipzig Book Fair doesn't see anything wrong, either.

In the same way, Google is perfectly capable of signing everyone up for Buzz, so they figure, why not? Maybe it's wrong, maybe it's not. They can always backtrack, which they are now doing, adding opt-outs after the fact, just as Hegemann is claiming collaborative intent. Fortunately, technology has also given us the ability to search text for plagiarism much more easily than before, and Google can make global changes to its gmail network in a matter of days. Scary, isn't it?

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