|Don't ask to ask, just ask
Musing on Monastery Contentby Old_Gray_Bear (Bishop)
|on Oct 17, 2004 at 23:01 UTC
It is a Sunday afternoon (local time), and I found I have some free time to put down some thoughts about a topic that I have been mulling over for some time.
A few weeks back there was a Monk, let us call him 'X', who, after a bit of acrimony left the Monastery in a Huff. (Note, I use 'He' here, as a neutral pronoun, not as an indicator of gender. I learned at an Olde School, and am rather set in my ways about pronoun usage.) As one of his last acts, X updated all of his base nodes to remove the content and replace it with a "I am Taking My Marbles Out Of Play and I Am Going Away Forever!" note. This left several (rather long) threads head-less, as it were.
To me, one of the appeals of the Monestary is reading the ongoing commentary that a Question or a Meditation engenders. The combination of differing view-points and new information (new at least to me) is always facinating. Thus, the "beheading" of the several threads meant that the context of the ensuing dialogs (polylogs?) suffered greatly. (As my Deconstructionist Son is quick to point out, context and content are inextricably related. You can not alter one with out effecting the other.) The Reader could infer some of the base-node content from the comments, but that would still be an incomplete summary of X's thoughts.
This decapitation immediately resulted in a Consideration to have the original content restored, in defiance of the Original Poster's express wishes. (I note that a compromise of sorts has been reached on some of X's nodes. They are now showing as Reaped, with a reference to the original content.)
This Consideration request gelled a question that has been quietly nagging at me for years. Who is the 'Author' of a collectively designed work?
The Perl Monks Monestary is a Community. The 'Intellectual Property' of the Monastery is tied up in the threaded discussions that take place here. Who has the right to remove this IP from the general knowledge pool that the Monestary constitutes? The Author of the inital comment? All of the Authors that contributed to the thread? The Gods? or PMdevs? Or does it take a collected concensus of the Monks, of level Friar or above? (Justify your conclusions in one thousand words or less. Use specific examples. Sorry, harking back thirty years to my high-school English classes.)
I have not come up with an adequate resolution to the dilemma.
On the one hand, I have to support X in his wish to remove his writings from general circulation. He wrote them. There was no 'license' attached to it releasing the words and ideas to the Public Domain. He is able to edit the node content at will. His retraction is merely a severe form of editing, but it is His Right.
On the other hand, X started a conversation. There are other monks who contributed to the conversational thread. The words in those conversational nodes are as important as X's original words. Other Monks spent time to respond to X's suggestions. Why should X be allowed to damage Their work by removing the initial impetus to the conversation? If I support X's claim to ownership of his content, then I have to also support his respondent's right to have their content left undamaged as well.
Gripping hand, there is nothing in the Web World that can not (in theory, at least) be recovered from the back-up tapes, see the current compromise. Consequently X's "final request" may be physically impossible to honor. The History on the Web is written in stone (or at least magnetic domains), and once the information is on the Web, it can not easily be rewritten or removed from the Collective Consciousness. In fact, removal of a datum from the Web may be both technically and physically impossible. You can not know all of the places that your words are cached and recorded. Not to mention that the Law of Conservation of Information and the Second Law of Entropy both begin to apply the instant you push <send>. Once launched into the Aether, you can not recall your actions.
So, who is the 'Owner' of collectively created works like a conversation in the Monestary? Does the concept of 'Owner' have any validity in the area of the Collective Creation? Does the concept of 'Author' or 'Owner of the Intellectual Property' really make sense in the context of an evolving conversation? I don't have an easy answer. I would like to say that this is another of those Questions of Philosophy that make for good discussions over a pint after-hours, but the current SCO vs The World law suit seems intent on defining one answer to this question. I am not certain that I like any of the potential answers that could come out of the court room.
So, being a Bear of Little Brains. I shall indulge in a recursive solution to my problem. I will start a conversation thread in the Monestary and see if the Monks can collectively come up with a workable answer....