How Important Is Attribution In Copyright Issues?

from the summing-it-up dept

Many, many people think that attribution is a key part of copyright law, but in the US it's really not a part of the law at all (with a few tiny, nearly meaningless exceptions). Attribution issues may come up in situations of plagiarism, but they have little do with copyright infringement, which is infringement with or without attribution. Elsewhere, there are issues of moral rights, but for the most part, the US does not recognize moral rights in copyright. Of course, many have argued that perhaps attribution is more important than much of what is in copyright law, and at times there have been efforts to focus more on the question of attribution over infringement. A recent study has tried to quantify some issues around this idea and put questions about the value of attribution into context. Eric Goldman points our attention to this recent paper by Christopher Sprigman, Christopher Buccafusco and Zachary Burns which is entitled Valuing Attribution and Publication in Intellectual Property.

The paper's authors seek to get a real sense of what the tradeoffs are for content creators -- and they quickly discover that content creators are willing to accept significantly less money in exchange for attribution and publicity. They also discover -- as their own previous studies have shown -- that content creators tend to significantly overvalue their own works. But the key finding is that attribution has tremendous value to content creators -- both amateurs and professionals alike. You can read the full details of the experiments in the study, but the researchers came up with a clever way to effectively get photographers to value a work with the possibility of getting a large cash reward for it vs. the possibility of having the image published with credit in a major publication. Notably, the impact was much stronger with professional photographers, since to them making people aware of their work had much greater value, even if it meant getting paid much less. It was also interesting to see that amateurs valued publication without attribution less than just getting paid, but for professionals, they were willing to get paid less if the image was published somewhere major even without attribution. Not surprisingly, getting published with attribution was the most desirable, and for that the pros were willing to accept the lowest payment.

I know that some copyright maximalists love to bash those of us who point out that there is significant value for content creators in getting their works out there and accessible in ways that people see/hear/experience them -- and this study presents some empirical evidence to support the idea that it's a pretty strong effect. Towards the end, the study digs a bit into the policy questions and suggests that requiring attribution (a la moral rights) as a mandatory part of copyright law actually could be harmful, in that it would take away a key negotiating point over which prices could change drastically. Coupled with the fact that artists have been shown to overvalue their rights, such an attribution right actually makes it more difficult to come to an agreeable price on content, and limits how much content is likely to be sold. Definitely an interesting read overall.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2012 @ 12:24am

    Attribution is very important for the living, it allows some to get recognition and it opens doors, would I like to see laws trying to force attribution?
    No way, if you get it wrong you would get punished, if you didn't expend enough to find the lineage of something you could get punished. Those things are best left for the collective memory of people and the morals of their times to be decided.

     

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  2.  
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    Stephen Pate, Mar 28th, 2012 @ 4:24am

    Attribution

    Under Canadian and other British Commonwealth law, the concept of Fair Dealing (analogous but not identical to US Fair Use), use of copyrighted material is allowed in a news report, research paper, etc only when the original source receives attribution. Without attribution, any use in Canada of copyrighted material is an infringement. If a specific use is allowable under Fair Dealing is still subjective although the common uses of news reporting are well established.

     

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    Suja (profile), Mar 28th, 2012 @ 6:28am

    they quickly discover that content creators are willing to accept significantly less money in exchange for attribution and publicity

    Bingo.

    You can pay me 10000 dollars for one video, but in the end it's still only from a single view.

    Stuff takes time to make, sometimes costing nothing but time, I want to be repaid other's time for the time I used through views, comments, contacts, fanart .etc

    Money is hell of alot easier to get once you have a fanbase, but when you don't have one.......

     

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  4.  
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    David Oppenheimer, Mar 28th, 2012 @ 6:39am

    Copyright Infringement

    Good points and yes, I will work for less if credit is given with a link to my site.

    Another point about attribution and copyright. I often hear from infringers that they left my copyright notice watermark intact on the photo. Many people have told me they thought they were entitled to commercially use my photos because they provided attribution when in fact they just committed willful copyright infringements by use my work with a prominent copyright notice.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2012 @ 7:51am

    "I know that some copyright maximalists love to bash those of us who point out that there is significant value for content creators in getting their works out there and accessible in ways that people see/hear/experience them"

    Strawman right there. You are creating something that isn't entirely true. What copyright holders (not maximalists... just holders) object to is their works being re-used without permission, without consideration, without attribution, and without even the simple courtesy of contact.

    You don't think artist want people to see their works? Of course they do - but they also want people to know who the artist is.

    Mike, why is your world so ugly black and white?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2012 @ 8:03am

    "I know that some copyright maximalists love to bash those of us who point out that there is significant value for content creators in getting their works out there and accessible in ways that people see/hear/experience them -- and this study presents some empirical evidence to support the idea that it's a pretty strong effect. Towards the end, the study digs a bit into the policy questions and suggests that requiring attribution (a la moral rights) as a mandatory part of copyright law actually could be harmful, in that it would take away a key negotiating point over which prices could change drastically. Coupled with the fact that artists have been shown to overvalue their rights, such an attribution right actually makes it more difficult to come to an agreeable price on content, and limits how much content is likely to be sold. Definitely an interesting read overall."

    I think you are putting words in peoples mouths, Mike. No one has ever said that there isn't significant value in giving an artist exposure. The problem is that most people believe that the artist should have a CHOICE in how their creations are distributed, promoted, and marketed. Your defense of piracy as a means of exposure is offensive because you assume that the promotion will lead to more success for the content creator.

     

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  7.  
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    Ed C., Mar 28th, 2012 @ 8:23am

    Re: Copyright Infringement

    Legal issues aside, directly using someone's work for commercial gains without any kind of compensation to the original author is general frowned upon. People caught doing so will not only see their sales drop, but will find it harder to make contacts in the future. Sure, some amateurs don't care about tarnishing their reputation when they don't really have one, but that will make it harder to build one if they have aspirations in going pro.

    And to clarify, by "directly using someone's work" I mean using it without any significant transformative contribution to create a new work, as is usually required to declare "fair use".

     

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  8.  
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    Ed C., Mar 28th, 2012 @ 8:28am

    Re:

    Your defense of piracy as a means of exposure is offensive because you assume that the promotion will lead to more success for the content creator.

    I think you are putting words in peoples mouths.

     

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  9.  
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    Ed C., Mar 28th, 2012 @ 8:37am

    Attribution in exchange for a portion of their usual fees is fine, but I think it should be an option, NOT a requirement. There are some uses were attribution is not easy or even desirable for the buyer, and they're usually willing the pay the premium for such use. Requiring attribution is only going to force those buyers into requiring "work for hire" contracts where the creator completely surrenders any copyrights, which is not always desirable for the creator either.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 28th, 2012 @ 8:38am

    Re:

    "I know that some copyright maximalists love to bash those of us who point out that there is significant value for content creators in getting their works out there and accessible in ways that people see/hear/experience them"

    Strawman right there.


    An unusually lifelike strawman, then, judging by the numerous times maximalists have taken this position in the comments on this site.

     

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  11.  
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    MrWilson, Mar 28th, 2012 @ 9:03am

    Re:

    Wait - you modified Mike's original statement by changing the term from copyright maximalists to copyright holders as if they're necessarily the same people and then you argue against something he's not saying. That is the definition of a straw man.

    Copyright maximalists don't have to be copyright holders and many copyright holders aren't the works' creators anyway, so it's irrelevant to talk about attribution to them.

    Mike isn't saying that artists don't want people to see their works. Where did you get that?

     

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  12.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Mar 28th, 2012 @ 9:09am

    15 minutes of fame

    It used to be said people would only get 15 minutes of fame. It was a remark on the fleeting value of popularity.

    But today, 15 minutes of fame is all you need. Once you have the fame, you can turn that into a paying career. Without that fame, you're pretty much making zilch.

    Often it takes less than 15 minutes. A hit video on Youtube is all you need. Look what OK Go did with 4 minutes on a treadmill.

    Art is all about getting your name known and capitalizing on that. It's all about having loyal fans.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2012 @ 11:54am

    Re: 15 minutes of fame

    "Art is all about getting your name known and capitalizing on that. It's all about having loyal fans."

    Actually art is about creativity. MARKETING is all about geting your name known and capitalizing on that.

     

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  14.  
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    Cody Jackson (profile), Mar 28th, 2012 @ 4:22pm

    Noteriety brings money; money doesn't bring noteriety

    Money is a one-time thing. Yes, you can always make more, but in and of itself, money doesn't bring more money. Reputation, noteriety, fame, whatever you want to call it can bring more money. As said on this blog before, obscurity is more detrimental than lack of money. If people don't know about you, you can't parlay that into payments.

    For me, when I self-published my programming book, I made sure to offer it in as many versions as I could. So, people can buy a physical book or one of a multitude of ebook formats. I also offer it for free from my web site (multiple formats) and via torrent.

    I make about $100 a month in sales, which isn't much but the topic is in a niche area and it is $100 more than I had before. But establishing myself and getting my name out there is more important, as I can put it on my resume, attempt to get writing contracts, or whatever. Basically, I consider it as investing in my future, rather than an immediate money-grab.

     

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  15.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 9:08am

    Re: Re: 15 minutes of fame

    I stand corrected.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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