Who owns copyright on the Net? 

Professor Brian Fitzgerald was a guest speaker at the recent Charles Darwin Symposium

With the explosion in self-generated websites comes the problem of who owns copyright on content published for global consumption.

This was the theme of Professor Brian Fitzgerald’s lecture on the new field of copyright law known as Creative Commons.

Professor Fitzgerald outlined the enormous potential for copyright infringement where content posted on the Net can be easily accessed, altered and ‘cut and paste’ into new versions of someone’s creativity.

While in the commercial world—in music publishing for instance—strict copyright laws have grown up, the shared environment of the Net has led to a less restricted notion of copyright known as Creative Commons.

“Creative Commons is a digital environment where people are happy to share their material on the Net, badging the material as available for reproduction with certain restrictions,” he said.

“It’s a grassroots movement and millions are already using this facility; it builds on the free and open software movement that believes that if you want to create a community of information you must have less regulation of how the content is used.”

Professor Fitzgerald, who is project leader for Creative Commons investigation in Australia, said those happy to share their content could simply badge their material as Creative Commons: Attribution. This allowed it to be reproduced, so long as the creator of the material was acknowledged.

The CC badging could be further refined as non-commercial and non-derivative to deter other people from making a profit, or tampering with the material.

He said Australia was now drafting its own CC licences based on international models.