Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ownership of Public Acts of Creativity

Interesting question emerging out of the Senate race in Nevada. The Nevada Republican candidate, Sharron Angle, is a complete nut job who won to the chagrin of party leaders because of Tea Party support. After the primary, she was convinced that she needed to seem more moderate, at least something approaching sane, and so she took down her web site filled with radical views and embarrassing quotations and replaced it with something more boilerplate. Harry Reid's campaign is reposting her old web pages in a "know the real Sharron Angle" move. Angle is threatening to sue Reid, arguing that it is her intellectual property. You cannot take someone else's work without his/her permission. This is not a case of plagiarism since the entire point is to attribute words to their author. It is a question of whether or not you maintain control of something's public presentation when you create it and take it public. We hear of musicians frequently taking legal actions to stop politicians playing their music at political rallies, most recently RUSH had their legal council contact Rand Paul's campiagn to have him stop using their music (and quoting their lyrics) at his campaign appearances. Is it the same thing? If royalties were paid to the artists, should musicians have control over who plays their songs in public? Should politicians be able to control who republishes their old webpages?