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James Lau
James Lau

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Proprietary Rights to Your Digital Content


The social web of today is highly integral to our daily lives. How we share these secondary extensions of ourselves is through digital social platforms. The vast majority of these proprietary platforms harness our activities through threads, forums, and instantaneous feeds. Utilizing our data, to make business and marketing decisions and suggestive social connections. It’s an expansive landscape that we take for granted.

First, I will start with examples of some obvious platforms.

The sharing of information throughout the web such as Ghost, Medium, Substack, and for writing. Then there are platforms for images like Instagram, Flickr, 500px, and SmugMug. And what about video, there is TikTok, Snapchat, Vimeo, and YouTube. You are offloading your data to an external platform that controls the exposure for you.

All these serve as a base for users to easily add, share, and sell content. But from a recent podcast episode, Press This WordPress Community Podcast with guest speaker Seth Goldstein, they discussed the dilemma of exporting your data from them. How can you manage your data on a paid or closed-source platform? How do you pull your content when you need to leave, or if the platform suddenly ceases to exist? Do you spend day and night downloading your one-thousand-plus photos from Instagram or years of articles from Medium?

I’ve watched two of my favorite history channels on YouTube move away to their own .tv website. They create great content about history, but they find it unsustainable due to increased monetization regulations from YouTube algorithms. This reduces the chance of being seen. By moving to other video streaming sites, they ultimately own their videos. This provides a haven for like-minded people to join and subscribe.


The second option for publishing content is through self-hosting sites. The majority of these choices require several technological know-how to achieve. You need to obtain a domain name, choose a hosting provider, and pick a content management system that allows you to write, upload, and share your data.

You also need to maintain the condition of your website from malicious hackers. Normally a dedicated IT team would manage these on proprietary platforms, but this doesn’t mean a data breach is preventable. Large organizations have been hit before and identities have been stolen.

But back to self-publishing. The beauty of this is that when you feel ready to leave the ecosystem, you are free to take your data to another platform. Assuming the new platform allows the import of your old database.

Your content, images, audio files, and videos go along with you. They might be downloaded through a separate zip folder. Having access to all the assets you’ve accumulated over the years is a good feeling.

If the content management system doesn’t provide a way to export your assets, you still have access to the server through your hosting provider. This is something that proprietary systems do not allow. If they do, they make it tedious and time-consuming to extract.


WordPress is an open-source content management system that allows users to self-publish content freely. It continues to evolve year after year by adding new features that greatly enhance its usability for designers, developers, and end-users alike. The most recent development in the support space was acknowledged during the State of the Word 2023 address where Matt Mullenweg mentioned Data Liberation.

What is this you ask? It’s what I had mentioned before about self-hosted sites. Your database isn’t locked into any proprietary system. You have the freedom to download your articles, media assets, user logins, statistical data of the site, site structure, and overall design to another platform.

Check out the data liberation guide for more information.


Now, say you want to disconnect from a single hosting provider due to security reasons or censorship of content. The next level of abstraction is to utilize a decentralized server ecosystem.

Decentralization or decentralisation is the process by which the activities of an organization, particularly those regarding planning and decision-making, are distributed or delegated away from a central, authoritative location or group and given to smaller factions within it.
Wikipedia: Decentralization

Prime examples of this technology are IPFS and Web3 hosting. The data and content you share are no longer stored at a central hub. The data is in essence, in a blockchain format. If your information was suddenly hacked, you can still recover it from other external encrypted redundancies of data. The classic, “single point of failure,” becomes a myth.

This becomes more of an application tool for software development use. It’s not ideal for the average content creator who just needs a blog post published about their latest travel, to say, Iceland, with photos and videos. But as large social media platforms start to clamp down censorship, controlling your private data, the web must adapt to this change.


We’ve circled back to social media networks and ownership of personal data. There’s a term that’s been swimming around called, “fediverse?” What is this exactly? How does this differ from a traditional social media network?

The fediverse (a portmanteau of “federation” and “universe”) is an ensemble of social networks which can communicate with each other, while remaining independent platforms. Users on different social networks and websites can send and receive updates from others across the network.
Wikipedia: Fediverse

Think of what we covered earlier, about the decentralization of your data from a server perspective. Fediverse is exactly that but for social network feeds. Facebook, X/Twitter, Quora, etc. are examples of centralized social media platforms. Your private data is managed by one single entity.

What if you could spread out your social feed through a blockchain of redundant outlets? A few platform examples of this technological concept are Mastodon, Lemmy, and PeerTube. Based on the decentralized model, but with social media applications sitting on top of it. Everyone can socially connect with anyone across the web and what you share can be seen by anyone. Your content is yours to keep and it can never be taken down by a single organization.


Whatever platform you choose to share your personal or business content, there should always be a way to retrieve your data. It was published by you and it should rightfully be yours to keep.


If you’ve stuck around to read this far, thank you!

To further reinforce the idea of owning your data, I want to bring up my recent tech purchase and why I chose it.

Recently, I have been concerned about my state of health and wanted to set a healthier path for 2024. It was during the post-Christmas and New Year’s sales and I was debating on purchasing either a FitBit Charge 6 or a Garmin Instinct One.

Both devices are packed with features and do an excellent job of tracking one’s health. Functions such as sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, step counts, GPS data, stress level, calories, etc. FitBit is now part of Google’s UI and software ecosystem, which makes it trustworthy of my money. Garmin on the other hand has been a leader in GPS technology way before cellphones became the smart device we know today.

These two products have different user interfaces on the watch, but the one important thing I wanted to see the most was, you guessed it, my data. Both brands have app counterparts that run on your cell phone that you sync via Bluetooth and you can check your daily score from a high-level perspective, or you can take a deep dive into the data and see exactly how you performed, say your sleep habit. How much deep sleep did I get? What was the REM sleep over being awake (tossing and turning)?

These details define my purchase decision. Although the user interface design of FitBit and the app was sleek, seeing your data came at a price. You see, FitBit has a premium subscription plan paired with its fitness devices. If you want to see the data in finer detail, you have to pay a monthly subscription.

Why should I be paying for the data that my body generates?! Garmin gives you access to the data at no charge. My thought behind all this between the two brands is this, the reason why FitBit can keep their product prices low is because they paired it with a subscription-based service approach. Garmin on the other hand, their devices are far more expensive but they offset that with the data they collect and they allow you to see it all.

What about leaving the ecosystem? You want to walk away with the data. If for some reason you want to export the data that has been tracked, both brands allow you to do that. Here are links to FitBit export data services versus Garmin’s export data service. This is great on the one hand, but not being able to see all my data at once until I export the information (looking at you FitBit) is absurd.


This was initially published on my site at Please come by and check out more of my writing and other works!

Thanks for reading!

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