Web 2.0 and user-generated conten...
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1290715 http://go.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/2007_2/george_scerri . 1 Journal of Information, Law and Technology Web 2.0 and User-Generated Content: legal challenges in the new frontier1 Dr Carlisle George Senior Lecturer & Barrister, School of Computing Science Middlesex University, London, NW4 4BT Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Dr Jackie Scerri Attorney-at-Law WH Law Advocates, Suite A Dolphin Court Embassy Way, Ta���Xbiex, MALTA MSD 11 Email: email@example.com
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1290715 http://go.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/2007_2/george_scerri . 2 Abstract The advent of Web 2.0 has enabled a host of new services and possibilities on the Internet. Among many new possibilities, users can easily upload online content that can be accessed, viewed and downloaded by other users around the globe. This has resulted in an explosive growth of User-Generated Content (UGC) which although creating exciting opportunities for users, presents many challenges, especially related to law and regulation. This paper discusses Web 2.0, UGC and the legal /regulatory challenges that have arisen in this new ���frontier��� characterised by having a liberating democratic ethos (on one hand) but also sometimes tainted with illegal activity and disregard for accepted norms. Citing various researched case studies and legal cases, the paper highlights possible ���dangers��� where traditional legal rules may be inadequate to address certain types of online activity, and discusses many of the legal challenges which this new frontier brings. These challenges are widespread and relate to intellectual property, liability, defamation, pornography, hate speech, privacy, confidentiality and jurisdiction among others. The paper also discusses the role of intermediaries (web hosts and service providers) and whether they can aid in effectively policing the new Web 2.0 frontier. Finally the paper attempts to discuss possible solutions for the way forward. Keywords: Web 2.0, Internet, User Generated Content, Legal Rules, Protection 1. Introduction User-generated content (UGC) exists in a large variety of forms (such as photographs, videos, podcasts, articles and blogs) allowing users to express their creativity and register their comments on anything imaginable. This has resulted in users gaining unprecedented power (in a virtual environment) to initiate and influence change on various social, cultural, political and economic issues in the non-virtual world. Examples of the extent of the power of these citizens include, ousting a sex predator from public office, exposing inappropriate behaviour resulting in election defeat, influencing musical and artistic tastes, detailing first-hand accounts of war, influencing book readers on a national scale, and creating global celebrities. This power appears to emanate from a ground swell of popular culture rooted in the western democratic value of free speech/expression, together with the decline of trust in traditional organisations (such as established media) and institutions of governance. TIME magazine���s edition of January 1st 2007, profiles many citizens of this new digital democracy including a whistle- blogger, web-artist, social-networker, military-blogger, web-chef, book critic, web-celebrity, ���Intertainer���, and Wikipedia author among others. This paper examines the development and use of UGC and this new ���virtual community���, with a view to analysing the legal challenges that currently arise, or may arise in the future. The paper begins with a background to the environment (Web 2.0) that has facilitated the widespread use of UGC. It then examines into greater detail what UGC is and attempts to give a taxonomy of UGC, classifying types of content and the intended purpose of such content. Next the paper examines the general regulatory framework for such content. This is followed by a discussion of some of the legal challenges that UGC bring to the law and to Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The paper then discusses whether some parts of the new digital democracy may be akin to the Wild West, where online users in pursuant of personal, political
http://go.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/2007_2/george_scerri . 3 or economic agendas freely roam cyberspace, unfettered with disregard for law and regulation. The paper finally concludes with recommendations for the way forward. 2. WEB 2.0 The term ���Web 2.0��� originated from Media Inc owned by Tim O���Reilly2 in 2004, and is used to convey a set of principles and practices that describe a second generation (from the traditional Web 1.0) of web services mainly concerned with user collaboration and sharing. Tim O���Reilly���s compact definition of Web 2.0 is as follows: ���Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an "architecture of participation," and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.���3 The original idea behind Web 2.0 consisted of various principles and core competencies that encapsulate the ethos of this new phenomenon4. These include: ��� The Web as platform. The web is used for the distribution of services and also for harnessing the collective power of users. For example, P2P software providers like BitTorrent makes every client a server, and files are split into fragments to enable them to be served from multiple locations. As the number of users increase, the quality of the service improves. Every new BitTorrent user adds a new resource to the existing network increasing its capability. Popular files are located and downloaded faster than unpopular files. Hence an ���architecture of participation��� is implicitly formed, where users cooperate and collaborate. This is contrasted with a company that needs to add servers to improve its web service. ��� Provision of services (not packaged software) with cost effective scalability. For example, Google���s service has no software licensing, sale or scheduled release, just usage and continuous improvement. ��� Control over unique, hard-to-create data sources that get richer as more people use them. For example, Amazon enhances basic data on books (provided by an ISBN registry) with publisher supplied material such as cover images, table of contents, index, and sample contents. They also claim ownership of user reviews. Amazon is now the primary source of bibliographic data on books and they have their own book identifier called the ASIN (corresponding to the ISBN). ��� Trusting users as co-developers. Using open source development practices, products are developed and continually improved sometimes on a daily basis. For example while Microsoft makes an upgrade every two to three years, Google is continually upgraded based on the activity of users. Also Wikipedia software allows users to continually develop its content5 which at the time of writing (April 2007) consists of over 7million entries in 251 languages6. ��� Harnessing collective intelligence. Examples include: Amazon���s use of user reviews to enhance the buying process or user search activity to produce better results Wikipedia���s repository of information which allows web users to make entries and hence contribute to a body of knowledge which can be accessed and shared globally Blogging and the presence of a ���blogosphere��� linking blogs.