|Title:||The challenges of intellectual property for users of social networking sites: a case study of Ravelry|
|Citation:||Humphreys, S., 2008. The challenges of intellectual property for users of Social Networking Sites: a case study of Ravelry.|
|Link(s):||Definitive , Open Access|
|Key Related Studies:|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:||This study uses data from a Social Networking Site case study, knitting pattern site Ravelry, and analyses data and discourse from the publicly available discussion boards on the site.|
|Data Type:||Primary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||Yes|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:||
This paper examines how the complexity of motivations and practices found in a specialist social networking site intersect with the institution of intellectual property (IP). IP is a set of conventions and legal practices which evolved in a very different environment of production and distribution. In a co-creative social networking site we find a concatenation of amateurs, semiprofessionals and professionals, occupying multiple roles in gifting economies, reputation economies, monetised charitable economies and full commercial economies. People use, buy, sell, give away, and consume in this mixed economy that can be characterised as a 'social network market'. The users of online social networking sites (SNS) find themselves having to come to grips with the complexity of IP law in order to participate fully. This paper uses Ravelry, a specialist SNS for knitters and spinners, to analyse the negotiations that take place around IP in a social network market, in particular the way the discourse of copyright is mobilised to negotiate the territory between amateurs and professionals.
Main Results of the Study
Copyright and intellectual property are not completely irrelevant as mechanisms of regulation, but there is a problem if a regulatory mechanism is in play that most people have very poor literacy with, and in fact even most trained legal people admit to uncertainty over. If a simple request for clarification generates a thread with over 80 posts and almost inevitably ends with “you need to consult an attorney”, then there is a problem. While discussion leads to some literacy, in fact the general effect seems to be off-putting rather than encouraging of people learning more. In the resulting confusions moral rather than legal discourses seem to drive some of the decisions made to publish or not, even though negotiations are couched around copyright. The frictions between amateurs and professionals, or the social and financial economies of a social network market, are played out on the field of IP. The Ravelry site owners are in the process of designing some standard Creative Commons style licenses for designers to use if they choose, but acknowledge that these will not fulfill the needs of all designers in all jurisdictions. They are partly hoping that the licenses will serve an educational function for buyers by making clear what they are able to do with the patterns they are either purchasing or being given for free. The Ravelry standard licenses, if they eventuate, will serve some different purposes to the CC licenses. CC licenses are designed to give users a larger set of permissions than copyright, in advance, thus obviating the need for a user to contact the owner for those permissions. Ravelry licenses may serve a similar function but some classes will serve to limit rather than expand the permissions, and will thus require a click through style of consent to the contractual arrangement. Without such a procedure the contracts would not be considered valid by a court.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
The broader issues implied through this case study are about the need both for simplification and flexibility in intellectual property law and the need for developing new literacies in legal matters in communities of users. The use of IP as an ideological tool in the service of creating a largely commercial environment is interesting, but the success of this strategy is not by any means a foregone conclusion.
Coverage of Study
|Level of aggregation:||Case study|
|Period of material under study:||2008|