Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Temporality of Digital Knowledge and Copyright Bozos

Pam Ashlund of the Nonprofit Eye Blog has a new posting about "the Temporality of Digital Knowledge" - the notion that for all the wonderful online information we have at our fingertips, the idea that the Internet is a permanent repository of information is a false one. How many times have you gone to your bookmarks to find a particular reference and landed at a blank screen marked, "401 Error - page not found"?

Pam suggests downloading and saving the information you need, rather than rely on bookmarks or tags, but acknowledges the ethical problems regarding copyrights. She then calls for some sort of permanent solution to the problem of vanishing online data:
I'm not proposing new legislation here, but rather the quest for a solution. Maybe a volunteer effort to archive this fantastic, but vulnerable virtual library. It would be a shame to have to continually re-create the wheel every time a user gets tired of administering a website.

This is my battlecry - save our on-line nonprofit resources! Otherwise all the social bookmarking in the world won't matter.
I second her call, but also recognize the many legal and ethical issues involved in saving information that one does not "own."

I also found Pam's posting relevant in relation to a book I'm reading currently, called Freedom of Expression®: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity by Kembrew McLeod (follow the title link for a free pdf download or instructions for ordering in print).

McLeod blames new, stronger copyright and patent laws for the death of creativity and a dangerous situation in such far-flung fields as agriculture and medicine. Drawing a line from Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land to the patenting of the human genome, McLeod argues that being able to build on another's work is central to the creative process. As Isaac Newton said, "If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."

He doesn't argue against copyrights or patents, just the over-enforcement and extension of copyrights virtually forever. He refers often to the Constitution, and the founding fathers concept that copyrights were for a limited term to encourage and support creativity, but that eventually all knowledge and creativity would belong to "the commons" for the betterment of all mankind.

How this relates to Pam's dream project of a repository of nonprofit information will be clearer if you read some of McLeod's book, but it's a fascinating idea.

NOTE - I apologize for the irregular posting here as of late. Between holidays, personal health issues, and, of course, working it's not always possible to write posts that are up to the quality that I strive for. December may also be spotty, but I am not giving up on blogging. Please bear with me - thanks!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Ken, you always say what I'm trying to say, but so much clearer! I think I've found the answer I was looking for in Mag.nolia
    Your post got me thinking about copyrights and publishing rights in general. Should all knowledge be free? Should it be free once you've made it public? How's a poor artist to make a buck? My head hurts!