Entertainment Law

Wiki Authorship, Social Media, and the
Curatorial Audience

April 2010

By Jon M. Garon*
for the Journal of Sports & Entertainment Law
Harvard Law School

To download the article, click on: Wiki Authorship pdf

ABSTRACT: Wikis have become an important source of information and a go-to destination on the Internet. The shared authorship and social editing represent an increasingly influential model for content creation and dissemination, which will continue growing in prominence for education, training, newsgathering and entertainment.

Wiki authors undertake their participation based on their agreements regarding the ownership, attribution and integrity of the copyrighted material they contribute. To accomplish the goals of the wiki, both copyright law and contractual licenses are needed to allow unlimited republication, editing (or creation of derivative works) and waiver of control (or integrity) over the resulting publication.

At the same time, today's participants increasingly want to be recognized for their part in social networks and media activities. As part of the newly identified curatorial audience, today's media consumers participate by creating content, collecting media, commenting on works and building community around their various interests. Commercial content producers have been driven to reinvent their production and distribution methodology to meet the participatory role of this curatorial audience. Wikis are highly susceptible to these forces, and will inevitably evolve to incorporate other forms of social media.

Wiki's traditional norms included a social networking of authorship which excluded not only control and integrity of works, but also the sublimation of attribution for particular authors. While the curatorial audience embraces collaborative authorship, the lack of attribution may be running counter to the developing social networking expectations. This article explores the legal structures and normative rules likely to develop in socially edited content for the Wikis of the future. In keeping with the public migration to attributed online content, this article suggests that collaborative authorship must adapt its normative expectations regarding attribution. Improved attribution will benefit the accuracy and reliability of all social media and new sources, a critical step if news and other content providers hope to regain public trust.

For wikis, and particularly for those with academic content, sites should emphasize attribution, content resiliency and audience relevance. These parameters should be integrated into the reporting software. In this way, contributors who have made quantitatively and qualitatively significant submissions can be recognized by research sponsors and academic employers. The ability for academics and researchers to demonstrate their success in creating and disseminating knowledge would propel the continued expansion of social editing resources and public information they generate without harming the open and egalitarian values of wiki culture.

Download the full article: Wiki Authorship, Social Media, and the Curatorial Audience pdf

* Jon Garon is admitted in New Hampshire, California and Minnesota.

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800-528-1181.