The Social Notwork: Ownership, Copyright and Challenging the Status Quo

It’s no secret that when Facebook hit the net in 2004, it revolutionised the way we share information online. But, cloaked by the fanfare of its arrival, the social network ushered in an ideology viewed by many as infringing upon the rights of its users. These highlight a fundamental flaw not only in Facebook, but in the current zeitgeist online- a boat that’s set to be well and truly rocked….

Walk down any high-street in the world and you’re surrounded by examples of intellectual property ownership; authors own the rights to their novels, composers own their compositions. Even Mrs. Miggins owns the rights to her famous Shepard’s Pie recipe. Even though you can’t touch this property, it’s still just that- property.

I know from experience as a freelance writer the legal issues that surround the ownership of my intangible assets. Here in the UK, under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, I’m given ownership and subsequent licencing powers over any original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work I create as soon as I create it. However, exceptions to this include when content I produce is subject to prior terms of agreement, which is where Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities comes in.

As you can see, through using the site, you’re effectively giving up a large portion of your ownership of the content you post.  Those photos of you trekking the Himalayan foothills, that insightful poem you posted to your mate, that killer BBQ sauce recipe you came up with; by posting them on Facebook, you’re granting the site a number of rights to use and redistribute your material.

The problem of ownership online is becoming more and more pressing, and it reaches past Facebook. The recent news that Twitter will integrate photo sharing capabilities into the platform raised a veritable uproar when it was alleged that it would retain ownership of any photos uploaded. So much in fact, that it prompted Twitter Vice President of Communications Sean Garrett to tweet the following.

People are starting to wake up to ownership online, and it’s against this backdrop that sites such as MyCube are offering an alternative. Based on a charter that puts ownership at the core of its ideology, MyCube provides users with a social network where they retain control of anything they upload. The following video explains how:

With the incentive of monetisation, how can MyCube ensure its users don’t post content that’s not theirs to financially benefit from? I put this question to Robbie Thomas, General Counsel at MyCube HQ, Singapore. He told me:

“As a social network that is founded on the core principles of privacy, ownership and control, we regard copyright infringement as reprehensible. When a member uploads a piece of content on to MyCube, they are deemed to represent that they have the right, either as owner or licensee, to upload and display that content and, if applicable, charge for access to it.

MyCube is… [committed] to investigate any allegation of copyright infringement by our members, whether brought to our attention by other members or 3rd parties such as the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS).”

In fact, by putting ownership at the heart of MyCube, Robbie sees the network as a way of instilling awareness of copyright and its infringement into the community itself:

“I believe that the likelihood of member ‘self regulation’ increases with a platform like ours. One of the overwhelming themes of the feedback we have received to date is that members now really feel they have ownership of their information and can see the intrinsic value that information has. My own view is this empowerment will result in members taking a stricter view of other members exploiting the system to sell (or share) content they evidently do not own.”

It seems then, that the time has come for a paradigm shift on the net. Sites such as MyCube are flagships for this change, and offer social-networkers a real alternative to what’s currently available. By not only putting ownership at the core of its platform, but its user base too, that killer BBQ sauce recipe is soon to be yours to own, sell and take the well-deserved credit for online.


Music in Video: Blackpool Roll – Mr. Scruff

Image used for header background: Luc Legay (used under Creative Commons License)

I’d also like to thank the MyCube staff for their input into the article.

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