Wikileaks and You

During the initial release of government documents via Wikileaks I had the pleasure of sitting in on a panel discussion addressing the ramifications of the event. There were the expected comments; one part of the panel celebrated the release stating the government needing to be more transparent and that people deserved to know what was happening. Others on the panel pointed to the danger the release may have created for certain individuals and the need to be able to discuss items of national interest in private. There were also conversations regarding freedom and the need for honesty, all of which were interesting, but there was one comment that caught my ear that day and stayed with me. A former Ambassador on the panel noted that as opposed to creating greater freedom and transparency the Wikileaks release would result less freedom, greater governmental control and a restricted flow of information over the internet, an effect just the opposite of what was intended.

The Ambassador’s comment has frequently come to mind during a discussions regarding over the need for an organization to monitor the usage of imagery in publication and across the internet. The trend in this conversation seems to have shifted toward the idea that the creation of a single organization that can monitor the movement of imagery on an international level, one that may also resolve the issues of payment and usage. I am not going to discuss the merits of this proposal here, that is another post entirely, but I would like to ask you to think about this issue from other perspectives.

There are generally two proposals that arise during these conversations. The first is to have the copyright office or another governmental agency monitor the use of imagery and to possibly work as a sort of collection agency for usage. The second is for a corporate entity to oversee and manage this process. For one or the other of these methods to work one entity will need either extraordinary over site and the ability to reach into all corners of the internet, or there will need to be choke points built into the system through which information would need to flow. The resulting concentration of power over the flow of imagery and information would be extraordinary. The effects of this concentration of power and control are unknown but certainly can be imagined. As image makers we may quite possibly be handing over control of what we create with unintended results, a look at the changes within the stock industry over its short life might be a good example. This is not to condemn the ideas listed above, they may indeed be the best or only solution to our problem, but to ask you to be aware of what you ask for. Sometimes the results are not what we expect.

Thomas Werner: Lecturer, Educator, Curator, Consultant
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