If you haven’t heard of the Cooks Source story yet, read this post at TechnoLlama (though you can find it retold many other places). Andres adds an important and thoughtful note — he’s building on his prior observations about Anonymous (and that ties in with observations by Solove, Shirky, & others about the ups and downs of crowd-sourced justice). I agree with Andres that viral posses are something new and troubling.
My personal take is that the Cooks Source affair nicely illustrates my problem with the prior SSRN affair and with digital copyright generally. The letter from the magazine editor is the exact sort of folk copyright that is fairly common among the public (though, thank goodness, a much rarer thing in commercial publishing!)
The Web isn’t public domain, but it is largely a free access sphere. As I noted in the prior post, I’m very interested in how that fact plays out with regard to public expectations about copying and reposting. As I said before, my sense is that the Attribution/Non-Commercial rule maps pretty well to popular copynorms. In the Cooks Source affair, attribution was provided, so anti-plagiarism norms are not a problem. The real outrage was about the commercialization of Web-posted authorship in an offline format. So again, that maps to the SSRN affair, which elicited some pretty strong reactions in some quarters.
While I think my sense of Web norms is pretty accurate, I don’t have hard numbers & statistics to back it up. Is anyone aware of any recent empirical work on web norms re copyright? (E.g., something like this but significantly more rigorous.) Since the public is increasingly in the role of author and editor, at play in the fields of copyright law, I think it’s essential that we have some good empirical understandings of how the public understands the law that they are expected to obey.