Moral Courage & censorship

Its easy to lose your faith in institutions and so its nice to read that Cambridge University refused to censor a masters thesis. This is my favorite part of the letter (via BoingBoing):

Second, you seem to think that we might censor a student’s thesis, which is lawful and already in the public domain, simply because a powerful interest finds it inconvenient. This shows a deep misconception of what universities are and how we work. Cambridge is the University of Erasmus, of Newton, and of Darwin; censoring writings that offend the powerful is offensive to our deepest values. Thus even though the decision to put the thesis online was Omar’s, we have no choice but to back him. That would hold even if we did not agree with the material! Accordingly I have authorised the thesis to be issued as a Computer Laboratory Technical Report. This will make it easier for people to find and to cite, and will ensure that its presence on our web site is permanent….

Read more about the whole back story A Merry Christmas to all Bankers and the full Letter to bankers (PDF)

Nice to see an act of moral courage coming from the university. I know that they are supposed to be like this but its nice to see that they sometimes act this way too.

Public Domain Calculators

Ever heard of Public Domain calculators? Well they have been part of by guilty conscience since May last year. The idea is to create a flowchart for calculating when works enter the public domain. And my guilty conscience? Well I still haven’t finished the Swedish version yet. I know, I know… Anyway the pressure is on again since there will be a Public Domain Calculator meeting organized by the Open Knowledge Foundation in Cambridge in November… High time to get to work, so where did I put my notes…

Public Domain Calculators

There is often a tendency to talk of ‘the public domain’ and of works falling out of copyright and ‘into the public domain’ – as though there is a single set of works which are out of copyright all over the world. In fact, of course, there are different national laws about the nature and duration of copyright in different types of works – and hence what is in the public domain is different in different countries.

We’re currently coordinating work to build a series of public domain calculators – which will help to determine whether or not a given work is in copyright in a given jurisdiction. At the time of writing we have been in touch with groups and individuals interested in helping to build the calculators in 17 jurisdictions.

In November, the Open Knowledge Foundation in association with the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law at the University of Cambridge are hosting a meeting of European experts on copyright and the digital public domain as part of the Communia project. The purpose of the workshop is to produce materials such as legal flow charts and public domain “algorithms” which will help with the representation of different national copyright laws and the determination of public domain status.

Details of the meeting are as follows:

  • Participate: Free but space is limited. If you are interested in coming, email the organizers at:
  • Boyle in Cambridge

    James Boyle, author of The Public Domain, writes on Boing Boing:

    Just a note to say that I am giving a lecture March 10 at 6pm at London’s RSA on my new book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. The lecture hall is gorgeous — Cory has been a frequent speaker there — it has a fabulous series of paintings on the theme of “Progress” by James Barry, featuring earnest waistcoated men with theodolites and many scantily clad young women whose main hope appears to be that The Progress of Human Culture is going to give them something more substantial to wear than a precariously secured bedsheet. The mural is worth the price of admission alone (free but you must register). Following that I’ll be giving the first Arcadia Lecture at Cambridge on Cultural Agoraphobia and the Future of the Library March 12. Hope to see UK BB’ers at one of these events…
    The Public Domain: enclosing the commons of the mind (Thanks, Jamie!)

    Wish I could be there.