Viral Spiral, Bollier's new book

I have been a fan of David Bollier since I read his book Silent Theft so I was happy to see that he had written a new book on the importance of the public domain and the commons. The book, Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a
Digital Republic of Their Own
is also available for download under a Creative Commons license. From the website:

One of the big themes of Viral Spiral is the enormous value generated from making one’s work openly available on the Internet. While publishing traditionalists are skeptical of this new reality, a number of pioneering authors and publishers have shown the commercial appeal of posting their books online using one or another Creative Commons licenses. Among the more notable authors are Cory Doctorow, Lawrence Lessig, James Boyle, Yochai Benkler, Dan Gillmor and Peter Barnes. In the same spirit, New Press has authorized the following download of the text of Viral Spiral. I hope that anyone who has the chance to browse through the PDF version of the book will want to buy a hard copy.

Popeye and friends

Elzie Crisler Segar died in October in 1938 – as of 1 January this year he has been dead for 70 years which means that his artistic works have now entered into the public domain. Among the best known of Segar’s work is Popeye the Sailor and now the famous spinache eating strong man and all his friends and enemies are free to use. The strangest of the characters must be his friend and cowardly straight-man Wimpy


More details over at Cearta.

James Boyle on the Public Domain

James Boyle has published a new book. And it’s on the public domain. This is a must read affair. And if you dont believe me then you can download it first to check it out!

The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike License.

If you like it, please consider buying a copy.

Why am I allowing you to copy the book for free?  And why is Yale University Press letting me?   To understand why I am doing it, watch this video by Jesse Dylan.  And if you want to  understand why it  makes economic sense to my publisher, read this short article.

Download the book as a pdf. (1.5Mb)

New Book: Terms of Use

A couple of months ago I mentioned that Eva Hemmungs Wirtén was soon publishing her second book on the public domain. Her production, writing and depth makes her one of the foremost public domain scholars around today. The very fact that she is a Swedish humanities scholar publishing in the English market seems to make her an exotic addition to the scholarly publication. This should not be so considering the ability to think and writes exists widely outside the larger universities and the web provides and excellent infrastructure for the spreading of knowledge. So could it be that there is a bias towards certain universities and university publishers?

Anyway her second book Terms of Use: Negotiating the Jungle of the Intellectual Commons (University of Toronto Press) is now out and it has already been reviewed by David Bollier on his blog. Bollier gives the book a glowing review and writes about Eva:

Wirtén, a professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, is developing a sophisticated new frontier of public domain scholarship… Wirtén’s book is a welcome addition to the literature on the public domain... Terms of Use is highly readable and even entertaining.

And she deserves this praise. I read Terms of Use with fascination, letting the author guide me from the familiar early history of property theory – a story populated with white colonialists declaring the right to take land from natives who did not use it. This reminds me of the comic Eddy Izzard who has the following sketch in his Dress to Kill tour

We stole countries. Thats how you build an empire. We stole countries with the cunning use of flags. You just sail around the world and stick a flag in.

“I claim India for Britain”.

And they go: “You can’t claim us, we live here, 500 million of us”.

“Do you have a flag?”

“We don’t need a bloody flag, this is our country you bastard”.

“No flag, no country – you can’t have one. That’s the rules”.

(check it out on youtube in particular this version which has a lego animation). Anyway back to the book. Eva then boldly goes where the familiar story has not gone before. Exploring the parts of the public domain which should be familiar but are not. The history of lopping as a right, the imperialistic problems with Kipling, the origins and political significance of botany, botanical gardens and taxidermy.

From these wide sources she deepens our area of study, forces us to go beyond the simplistic terms and understanding of the public domain as a modern romanticization of a confusing past. We need work like this to be able to understand what it is we are actually talking about. Go get the book and read it. Oh, and if you have not done so read her first book as well No Trespassing: Authorship, Intellectual Property Rights, and the Boundaries of Globalization.

Mashing-up Culture: The Rise of User-generated Content

Sampling and remixing, mash-ups and appropriation, wikis and podcasts are part of the digital creative milieu of the twenty-first century. Sites such as YouTube, Flickr and deviantART have offered new outlets for creativity and become hubs for innovative forms of collaboration thus playing their part in challenging modernist notions of what it means to be a creator as well as a consumer. User-generated content has draw upon the reuse of existing texts as well as new creations, bringing forward possibilities for new audiences and meanings while also raising questions about how digital texts are controlled through copyright and how intellectual property is managed.

Drawing on this background, papers are invited for the two-day workshop – Mashing-up Culture: The Rise of User-generated Content – which will take place at Uppsala University, Sweden on May 13th-14th, 2009. The event will be the first organised by the European research project COUNTER which explores the socio-economic and cultural impacts of the consumption of counterfeit goods and will bring together COUNTER researchers with scholars and stakeholders to explore the current state and dilemmas surrounding copyright and the production, consumption and distribution of culture.

Papers are invited which explore the possibilities and pitfalls surrounding the creative use of copyrighted materials with possible themes including but not limited to:

  • Sampling, mash-ups, and appropriation
  • Creativity and collaborative practices
  • Creative industries and intellectual property
  • Copyright, Cultural Heritage and Cultural Policy
  • Regulating intellectual property (formal and informal protection)

The aim of the workshop is to provide a creative and stimulating forum for an interdisciplinary and international discussion. We especially invite researchers at the earlier stages of their career to submit proposals coming from across the humanities and social sciences. Accepted papers will be published in the workshop proceedings and further publishing outlets will be explored following the workshop.

Abstracts must be no longer than 1000 words and should consider key questions addressed in the paper, data used, theoretical perspective, as well as key findings and/or contribution to the field. The title, author(s) names, email contact(s), institutional affiliation(s) and references cited must be clearly given in the submission but is not included in the 1000 word limit. Further a 200 word biography of each author should also be appended to the abstract.

Abstracts must be submitted as word processing files (not PDFs) to Eva Hemmungs Wirtén – – no later than Wednesday 7th January 2009.

Proposals will be evaluated on the basis of originality, quality of research, theoretical innovation and relevance to the central themes of the COUNTER project. Accepted authors will be notified by email by 30th January 2009. Successful applicants will be invited to attend the workshop at no fee and receive significant reimbursement of travel costs and workshop accommodation.

Delegates are expected to participate in the whole of the two-day event.

Key dates:

  • 7th January: Deadline for submission of abstracts and author biographies
  • 30th January: Successful authors notified by email
  • 10th April: Full papers submitted for inclusion in proceedings
  • 24th April: Papers circulated to workshop delegates and discussants
  • 13th-14th May: Mashing-up Culture workshop

A document picturing some of the venues to be used for the workshop and the social events is available online. For further information on the workshop please cotact the workshop chair, Eva Hemmungs Wirtén –

Terms of Use

My friend, collegue and fearless explorer of the public domain Eva has sent me a copy of her new book “Terms of Use

Love the tigers on the front… If it is anything like her last book it will be great. I will be reviewing it here later but I just wanted to give anyone a heads up straight away – this is an interesting book.

The Orwell Diaries

Starting next week (9th August) George Orwell’s diaries will be published online at The Orwell Prize.

Orwell Prize is delighted to announce that, to mark the 70th anniversary of the diaries, each diary entry will be published on this blog exactly seventy years after it was written, allowing you to follow Orwell’s recuperation in Morocco, his return to the UK, and his opinions on the descent of Europe into war in real time. The diaries end in 1942, three years into the conflict.

Putting the diaries online is a very cool way of using the web and showing how important cultural artefacts can be made available to anyone and everyone without depriving someone of access. This has been done several times before but I must say that I am looking forward to reading Orwell’s private diary. This is technology put to good use.

George Orwell square in Barcelona is under camera surveillance! Is this an instance of beauracratic humor? Photo by Wrote (CC by-nc)

Wikipedia takes Manhattan

Free Culture at NYU and Columbia are organizing a photo contest in  New York. The idea is to document the  city and provide  images which can be later used for wikipedia articles. This is a great way to increase awareness and to provide a bank of images for others to use. Does anyone want to organize something similar in Göteborg?

On Friday, March 28th (April 4th rain date), join Free Culture @ NYU and Free Culture @ Columbia on a quest to get the best shots of NYC. Bring your camera and a way to get around town for the biggest scavenger hunt in Free Culture’s history.

All photos will be uploaded to the Wikimedia Commons for inclusion into Wikipedia articles about NYC that need photos. We’ve got hundreds of locations, sites, and things to document for Wikipedia and it should be a really fun day.

Each member of the winning team will receive an iPod shuffle loaded with Creative Commons music! Second and third place teams will win copies of “Wikipedia, The Missing Manual” donated by O’Reilly.

Millenium Mouse & Copyright

The attempts Disney goes to maintain copyright over their intellectual property are legendary. Copyright term extention acts have ensured that Mickey Mouse is saved from the public domain and continues to generate income for Disney.

But what would happen if Mickey was shown to be older than we thought? An artefact at Lund Historical Museum dated to 900 A.D. was excavated at a site called Uppåkra in southern Sweden.

Surprise, surprise its Mickey!! This means that Mickey is over 1000 years old – let Mickey enter the public domain – he deserves it…

Don’t be surprised if Disney uses this as an excuse to extend copyright terms to 1000 years!

Although made of bronze, the brooch ornament likely adorned the clothing of an Iron Age woman. Excavations at nearby sites, such as at Järrestad, have yielded other unusual pieces of jewelry, such as a necklace with a pail fob at the end and another necklace strung with 262 pieces of amber. (Discovery Channel)

(via Boing Boing)

Theories, Movement & Collected Stories

James Boyle has just given an excellent presentation on what the environmental movement did right. He points to the right mix of theory, movements and the collection of stories in the creation of the concept of the environment. The environment as a concept did not exist prior to its creation, establishment and acceptance in the wider public.

What he means is that the movement to protect public domain and develop creative commons requires more than the creation of licenses and preaching to the choir. The theory is required as a base but the broader public does not want to read theory. Therefore what is required is a movement of people to enable the transfer of dry theory in the communication to the public.

How should this be done? Well the environmental movement added a collection of stories. Individual examples of environmental damage. Burning streams, smog cities, nuclear waste and silent springs. The collection of stories have become established and iconic. They are established in the mental image of the public to such a degree that protection of the environment becomes an obvious step.

So, in order to establish the protection of the public domain, open access and creative commons the organisations working with these issues should look at the strategies of the environmental movement.