Elias Bizannes and some other folks from the DP project have started working on a way to unify network legal contracts.
A little over a year ago I set out on the same path, trying to bootstrap a “Social Media Standards” organization. We’ve both come to many of the same conclusions, some differences, and focused on some different areas — as he spent much time with networks, while I spent more time with startups and ad firms.
## Here are some key points
– I don’t think that a universal legal doc is possible, recommended, or even a good idea. All the portability concepts tie in very strongly to a company’s business operations — it’s both unrealistic and arrogant to mandate ‘you will do this!’. However I think clarity and guidelines are in order.
– I propose the following:
– a ‘legend’ of datapoints / concepts , where there is a menu of set options that network operators can choose from
– each datapoint and option has an iconic, easy to read, representation… very much like the CC licenses
– there are several recommended configurations of datapoints & options that have trademarked names
– operators may also create customized configurations that reference individual icons
This approach would gives users the ability to identify and easily read TOS agreements, while affording network operators flexibility. In other words — adopting this system could never conceivably hurt their business.
– Enforceability is an issue, as are the differences in legal concepts and wording between countries. Who can sue? How? Where? My idea has been to use SocialMediaStandards as a non-profit licensing group : networks would be able to say that their legal contracts are compatible with specific legal concepts or iconic configurations offered by the group ; in doing so and displaying the trademarked images , they would be liable to the group under contract law if they should make false claims. This would allow the group to litigate on behalf of end users who would be otherwise unable to do so, and greatly simplify enforcement as some other legal concepts get thrown into the mix. Users would still be able to sue for breach-of-contract, fraud, misrepresentation as well — this would give the group the ability to file suit as well.
– I identified common sets of datapoints , and broken them each into 2 categories : Content and Activity. I think each should be treated differently. Content is what a user directly enters into a network, Activity is the networks’ value-add. ie: I can upload a bio (content) and then there is the number of times that bio has been viewed (activity). For every datapoint, I believe there should be the same – but independant, options to regulate content and activity.
– Elias did something similar, breaking things down into ‘nouns’ and ‘verbs’. There is a bit of overlap on both our concepts, but they’re still quite a bit different.
You can see my concepts [by clicking here](http://www.destructuring.net/IdentityResearch/Essays/2008_06/2008-06-SocialMediaStandards-PrivacyAndTos-InitialThoughts/2008-06-SocialMediaStandards-PrivacyAndTos-InitialThoughts.html)
You can see Elias’s concepts [by clicking here](http://wiki.dataportability.org/display/work/Elias+conceptual+framework)
## On ownership of data
Elias and I fought on this for a while. Then we realized that we were both a little drunk, and talking about the same thing: that a user does, and always should own their content — as afforded by copyright law in most countries.
Where we differ a bit is as follows, and is a bit of a controversial topic:
I believe that it is more than reasonable – and should be required – for a user to enter in a contract with a network , that grants an irrevocable non-exclusive license for the network to use and redistribute uploaded content in the original context once it has been interacted with by others. I don’t beleive in this clause/point for the sake of the network , but for the sake of other users. This concept is akin to publishing a letter-to-the-editor in a newspaper or magazine: you can’t undo things once published; people still have the ability to make clippings of the content. It’s also like loaning a photo to a friend — they may return the original, but copies may have been made and are floating around.
I believe this doesn’t affect the concept or legality of ownership. The user still owns their content, and has all legal rights to it. There is simply a non-exclusive license granted to the network to keep content active… such as in the event that a photo is commented on or added to another’s virtual photobook; or a thread of discourse on a topic doesn’t have key sections missing.
Some people believe that this concept strips them of rights. I believe they are attempting to create rights where none existed before. Once something has become public, become shared, it is impossible to undo it — one cannot take back their own words once they have been heard by others. I believe proof of this exists in the simple virtue that other users could simply screencap or printscreen on this content, and that while technology can allow things to be ‘undone’ it doesn’t mean that it should.
That being said, I believe that networks should require users to enter into a covenant with one another , and the network , to agree that items should be forever published. I also stress that contracts like this are more important for the other users as they are for the network.