User generated content

55.jpgOne of the great features of the Internet is how it allows people who don’t know each other to instantly share things with each other, sometimes enhancing them along the way. Old examples include Flicker while new examples include Spore, a game which allows users to ‘evolve’ the players (characters) used in the game. These are very significant trends. User-generated content (also known as open source, collaborative design or customer-created content) is changing the debate about file-sharing because these users are not copying content but creating new content themselves. This kind of ‘bottom up’ innovation raises all sort of interesting legal questions about who owns the resulting content or innovation. Or as Jonathan Schwartz, president and COO of Sun Microsystems puts it, ‘we are now entering a participation age … (where) the endpoints are starting to inform the center’. For example, a newspaper in the US has taken the idea of customer co-creation a step further by asking its readers to choose which story is printed on the front page each day. The Wisconsin State Journal (the state’s second biggest selling newspaper) allows readers to go online between 11am and 4pm each day to vote for one of five top stories. The ‘winner’ usually appears on page one the following morning. Consequences? Sports stories have started to appear on page one. We’ve seen reader-created newspapers in South Korea and a magazine for MTV and Nokia in Europe that’s written and illustrated by customers but this appears to be a first. Where is this trend going? Nobody can say for sure, but open collaborate projects are certain to grow which will in turn drive new business models and ways of making money from free or ‘openly’ created content.

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