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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Self-regulation of bloggers? part 2

Update: Malaysian bloggers have formed their own association.

Sometime back, I wrote my two cents (though I'll probably have to up that to five cents since one-cent coins are not in circulation in Singapore) on self-regulation of bloggers. Since then, I've come across two third-party blog entries that reference my entry, by Gerald Giam (are you my ex-classmate/school mate?) and Bernard Leong.

Gerald supports the idea of a Code of Ethics (yay!). Bernard has one question that I'd like to answer:

Do we need to form a bloggers association as suggested by Yadav?
Ideally, yes, it's probably a good idea -- in Singapore. Because our government likes structure. Forming an organisation doesn't mean painting a bull's eye target on itself. It means that members of this organisation agree to adhere to the Code of Ethics. It's like saying: "I hereby agree to adhere to the Code of Ethics. If I flout it, please shoot me (figuratively speaking)." So being a member of the organisation holds the blogger to a higher standard because it confirms his adherence to the Code.

This is similar to the Creative Commons, which I based the above idea on. A person who adheres to Creative Commons says, "I agree to use the Commons to allow my copyrighted work to be used by others under the specified restrictions. If I impose additional restrictions not mentioned in the specified licence, please shoot me (figuratively speaking)."

If a person doesn't follow Creative Commons, that doesn't meant he can't share his copyrighted work. It just means it's harder for a third party to figure out under what circumstances it can use that copyrighted work, if the person has allowed it to be shared.

Similarly, a blogger who doesn't follow the Code of Ethics does not necessarily exclude himself from adhering to the ethics. It just makes it more difficult for third parties -- including the authorities -- to figure out where he's coming from when he blogs.

To increase the chances of the Code of Ethics being acceptable in Singapore, especially in the courts, it's necessary, as I had suggested previously, to include the government, probably through a (ranking) minister or two, in its formulation and enactment.

Legally speaking, I've only heard of one case that came before a U.S. court over a third party who flouted someone's chosen Creative Commons licence. I'm not sure if the trial is over, and I forgot where I had read of it. It would be interesting to see the outcome of the case, because it would be a precedence to whether Creative Commons -- and possibly other community-created codes of conduct -- actually has any weight in the eyes of the law.

Similarly, it would be interesting to see how a breach of the Code of Ethics would play out in our Singapore courts. Which is why I advocate including the government in it. A community-created Code with government backing would, I believe, have more legal weight and moral standing when tested in a court of law.

So that's another of my two (or five, depending on what's in circulation) cents.

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