Content Creation in Virtual Worlds

Not to be too flip, but “making stuff” would be the simplest way of thinking about content creation.  However, the word “stuff” usually brings to mind tangible things.  And so does the word “content.”

The concept of content creation in virtual realms is more than the tangible things, isn’t it?.  In fact, it may not be tangible at all in the virtual realm – probably only virtual?

Wait – let’s be sure we really know what we mean.  From Websters online:

tan·gi·ble [tan-juh-buhl] adjective:

  1. capable of being touched; discernible by the touch; material or substantial.
  2. real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary: the tangible benefits of sunshine.
  3. definite; not vague or elusive: no tangible grounds for suspicion.
  4. (of an asset) having actual physical existence, as real estate or chattels, and therefore capable of being assigned a value in monetary terms.

So, we can create “stuff” in virtual worlds.  And we often do.

So what is the problem?

With the advances in technology the access to information is quicker and broader.  We no longer have to depend on books for information.  Radio came, and television, and the Internet, and the world and all who are connected to it became available at our fingertips.  Technology to produce this content also make copying content simpler than before. So more people are creating content.  Sometimes it is their own “original” content, and other times derivative from other content.

There are many ideas of what “original” is.  For example:

Originality is the fine art of remembering what you hear but forgetting where you heard it.” Laurence J. Peter.  Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/originality.html#ysywFDAqLMEFqKeg.99)

But let’s think about why we create content.  In the virtual (as well as the “real”) one creates content for many reasons: to express thoughts or opinions, to help others (learn, do, make, grow, etc.), to make money (things to sell, etc.), simply as an aesthetic manifestation (art, music, etc.), or for fun, to list a few.

If our purpose is to help others, does it matter if it is our own content or from someone else?  If you want to express yourself, what is wrong with using words (music, pictures, etc.) from someone else – particularly if it is the best way to express what we are trying to convey? Do we need their permission for these purposes?  We are helping others! We are just conveying a feeling, thought, emotion, . . . !

Now, if we want to make money, I think many may hesitate to say there is no problem using content from someone else – at least without their permission or cooperation.  The problem is when it is a copy of work by someone else passed on as your own.  That seems to be lying, and it does not seem “fair” to the original creator.  Even when “just an expression” or even when we are “just helping others” many would consider it not “fair” to the original creator.

The courts have tried to regulate ownership for many years.  Ownership of land, possessions, of ideas, and now “virtual content.”

What can we do? Or, What should we do?

Each of us who do or may create content in virtual realms needs to consider several things.  First, why do we want to? What is our purpose, our ultimate goal, our need for creating this content?  If altruistic, then it would not matter what happens to it.  If for our benefit (monetarily or otherwise) then we may need to consult a lawyer.  Even with our altruistic motives, we need to be careful that WE do not use/abuse other people’s content.  Again, you may need to consult a lawyer.  Barring that expense, one should search for the many sources of information about content creation. [examples: Digital Content Creation Copyright Issues; Legal Responsibilities for Video Content; or even Wikipedia on Copyright]

But don’t stop!  Create.  Communicate.  Express.  This is what makes the world, virtually or otherwise, most interesting, most interactive, most personal.