ZDNet published a piece today about copyright law and the need to adapt IP laws to the Internet-driven cultural shift towards user-generated related content and participation. Brad Lichtenstein (friend, colleague, filmmaker, and the original inspiration for my work on transmedia activism), who is active in thinking and writing about the commons, posted a comment on his site about participation and the public domain. Thanks to him for continuing the conversation.
Generating mashups (fair use derivative works) and the use of orphan works are two very pertinent legal issues currently facing social change media. While most people don't dispute the rights of artists and creators over their content and the ways that content is used or disseminated, I wonder if, in thinking about media for social change, we should revisit "fair use" in the context of educational or charitable purpose or some analogous purpuse. (Or if someone already has?). The Copyright Act currently allows for performances of a non-dramatic or musical work in educational or religious assembly contexts. What if that notion were expanded beyond performances to include mashups, derivative content, sampling, or use of orphans works? I'm not certain that would be a popular stance, but perhaps it's worth exploring.
(For more information about legal issues surrounding user-generated content, The Center for Social Media has a number of great papers and discussions on its site.)