User Creation, User Behaviour and Human Rights


So, in our group we had a wide-ranging discussion, and I’ve summarised it into three themes.

The first was international dimensions. In particular, we were looking at possible developments of existing projects or new projects that might fall at a later stage in CREATe’s work., For example, what about further exploration of differences between civil and common law approaches, or plugging into work at the level of WIPO (particularly its Development Agenda) and other intergovernmental organisations?. We were also reminded that the level at which there is harmonisation of copyright might be different to the level of harmonisation in an area such as free speech or privacy, and that the level of change proceeds along different tracks. This opens up interesting opportunities to test and compare. It was also suggested that we can engage with civil society organisations abroad, as well as those who are located in the UK/European Union.

The second issue is “what do we do with our work?” We were very fortunate to have input from Ofcom on existing data, in discussion of our projects. In turn, we discussed how CREATe’s research could inform that work. We also discussed the importance of equality of access and universal design principles, both in terms of the work we’re doing at the moment, as well as as substantive work for CREATe. Importantly, we noted that we as a consortium are working within a time of real political interest in copyright; how the politics of copyright all the way into the appearance of Pirate Parties might affect the reception of the type of work we are doing. A number of participants suggested that we think about not just understanding what users do, but appreciate our role in educating users and providing information from our research. This should be of interest to the user as well as to those who are perhaps more engaged in copyright issues to begin with. In common with other groups, there was consideration of how the work we do can inform ideas around business models, perhaps even building on some of the experimental work that was included in the projects at this discussion.

The final point, and I think it’s quite an important one that emerged from our morning discussions too, is that of the contradictions between different parts of CREATe. We were quite confident about dealing with interdisciplinary issues, but what to do when our projects end up recommending things that change the situation for another project? Given that we had a human rights dimension here, there was particular interest in how, for example, changes in business models that relate to digital technology might raise new issues on top of the literature we review on human rights. We identified that it wasn’t just about freedom of expression, or privacy, but a wide range of rights issues that we’re only beginning to appreciate. Take for example the current hot topic of ”privacy by design” – of course other things can be “by design” too. So if we make recommendations for building up new systems, how we think about the range of fundamental rights issues is going to be a real challenge. This will involve, we suggest, some difficult conversations between members of CREATe. We need to understand the implications of the things we are suggesting. We will need to get beyond the rights implications of current government actions are, and evaluate the implications of the bright ideas that we come up with. This is a reminder that there are difficult days ahead, as well as the excitement that we’ve gathered from our discussions so far today.

Those were our three points: international dimensions, how we go about our work, and contradictions between our recommendations.


We had a really interesting discussion. You might suspect the sort of thing that only academics can produce, but this wasn’t produced by academics, which is, what we meant by the word ‘user’. And in fact, what was implied by that was the question as to whether that word was appropriate. What was interesting, then, was a series of rival suggestions, which included creator, co-creator, contributors, pro-sumers, and even citizen. And there was this thought that there was an issue here around how you might be labelling people, and thereby branding them in terms that might have legal consequences, but also because of what we would try to capture in terms of the research we were doing. In other words, what it was that we actually wanted to be studying, or understanding. And as someone pointed out, of course, labelling people as users or whatever, you’re dealing with them in very transient form; they’re moving between roles and identities.

And in fact, this led to reflection on something else that has been raised, which is, who is being included in the CREATe view of users? One thought was that children, for example, are important potential users and are people who might be educated through this system. The other issue that was raised, following on from this discussion about what we might use as our term, was what we meant by ‘creation’, what are creators doing? We were tantalized by this particular vision of these teenage prodigies who’ve produced videos on a weekly basis and receive six figure sums in return (which I think comes with a pang of jealousy). This is important, I want to be clear about the different identities that we were dealing with.

The human rights dimension of our theme didn’t feature that highly. It emerged towards the end as we reflected upon what it was that we were trying to achieve, what we meant by a public interest in respect of creativity and so-forth, and the thought that when we were talking about human rights and relations with public interest, we weren’t talking only about freedom of expression, that there were other rights that had to be taken into consideration. The point was to try to find ways of matching and balancing these conflicting planes, in a way that produced an optimal outcome, not a sub-optimal one, which is what tends to happen because we’re dealing with separate industry entities. And this connected to thoughts other people had about how to direct people to outcomes, the nudge solution, which the UK government, at least at one point, was extremely enamoured with.

Explore More >