On Monday I attended a crowd-sourcing Meetup with the funny (and as it turned out inaccurate) title of The Distributed Distributed Work Meetup. The idea was to hear talks about various crowd-sourcing topics from speakers in Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and New York. Technology didn’t cooperate, and were left to our own devices, which meant to eat, drink, and listen to fascinating and provocative talk by Alek Felstiner on a range of legal questions surrounding crowd-sourcing platforms such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (AMT).
I cannot do justice to the legal issues, in part because so many of them remain unresolved. I will, however, report on a number of questions raised during the talk and on some of the potential precedents for this kind of work. One reason to discuss this topic is that there are some concerns that the Turkers are being exploited by those who pay for the work, as the value of the work to the company sometimes seems much higher than the rate the worker is paid.
Yet many people chose to do this work freely, and seem to enjoy doing it, and certainly there are many companies and individuals, profit-oriented and academic, who benefit from this service. The questions raised in this talk bore on the legal relationship between the organizations or individuals requesting work and those providing it.