Free Media through stolen property

August 31, 2006

If someone takes a photo with a stolen camera, who owns the picture?

This is from a post about a chap who had his mobile phone stolen, which was signed up to a phone-to-web service called

Apart from the hilarity of the thief almost giving away their identity (I will presume this is their dog, and not the dog of someone they sold the phone onto), there’s something very cool about the way that open media can authenticate your identity.

The Data Protection Act was supposed to ‘protect’ an individuals identity, thus giving us all reassurance that we are safe, our privacy safe, our personal lives, safe. Like any protection system, insurance or racket, the ‘service’ is based upon fear. Being allocated rights of privacy, we feel that we must protect them.

Now, with the case of the stolen phone, (which I’ll take as genuine, and not a stunt by Shozo), there’s something reassuring about the role of Free Media, media that is, free to flow through a public system, and not hampered, restricted or protected by the likes of DRM. It becomes part of a trail of activity.

Comments in response to the chaps blog, point out that it’s a shame that photos don’t show the address or identity of the thief, but if the thief knew that the phone would leave a trail of activity (even with the SIM card replaced), surely you would think twice about stealing the personalised device.

Regardless, the photos now exist in a world of limbo. The copyright of the images should be with the ‘photographer’, though they will never come forward and claim them. At present they sit on Flickr under the owners account (with all rights reserved). If the phone wasn’t worth stealing in the first place, the displacement of media ownership wouldn’t be an issue.

Protection services, for media and identity are surely coming to an end (I’ll post about Identity2.0 soon). Once these services thrived on the ability of individuals not being able to share information freely – because a suitable accessible technology wasn’t available. Now that this exists, do the devices that connect us to Internet need protecting, or should they be as free as the data that runs across the network? Perhaps the answer is in disposable phones? Is relinquishing our desire for media rights as hard as giving up our beloved gadgets? Do we desire gadgets more than our freedom? Do we need free data more than identity?

One Response to “Free Media through stolen property”

  1. foolswisdom Says:

    Thank you for sharing the story, I had missed it.

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