CC10 Musicians: Celebrating 10 years of Commons

The great people at CC Korea have now launched the “CC10Musicians” iPhone app (It’s available for download on iTunes
The App provides free access to free Creative Commons music. I can only agree with CC Korea
Please download, enjoy, and spread it to as many people around you as possible to let them have a chance to discover the coolest musicians from CC music scene!
The App is launched to coincide with Creative Commons 10 year celebrations – it’s also a very cool way to find and get acquainted with artists who spread their material under Creative Commons licenses.
Congratulations CC Korea! Thanks for this App!

Happy Public Domain Day

The first of January is Public Domain Day. The purpose of celebrating this day is to remember the wealth of culture that enters into the public domain every year. The list this year includes notables such as  Walter Benjamin his The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is incredibly thought provoking, Mikhail Bulgakov – yes its time to reread The Master and Margarita, the artist Paul Klee and the Swedish Selma Lagerlof.

The Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University has a webpage dedicated to the day. The Center also points out that while in Europe works are entering the public domain changes in US law are preventing this from happening:

What is entering the public domain in the United States? Sadly, we will have nothing to celebrate this January 1st. Not a single published work is entering the public domain this year. Or next year. Or the year after. Or the year after that. In fact, in the United States, no publication will enter the public domain until 2019. And wherever in the world you live, you now have to wait a very long time for anything to reach the public domain. When the first copyright law was written in the United States, copyright lasted 14 years, renewable for another 14 years if the author wished. Jefferson or Madison could look at the books written by their contemporaries and confidently expect them to be in the public domain within a decade or two. Now? In the United States, as in most of the world, copyright lasts for the author’s lifetime, plus another 70 years. And we’ve changed the law so that every creative work is automatically copyrighted, even if the author does nothing. What do these laws mean to you? As you can read in our analysis here, they impose great (and in many cases entirely unnecessary) costs on creativity, on libraries and archives, on education and on scholarship. More broadly, they impose costs on our entire collective culture.

“We are the first generation to deny our own culture to ourselves. Almost no work created during your lifetime will, without conscious action by its creator, become available for you to reproduce or build upon.”

We have little reason to celebrate on Public Domain Day because our public domain has been shrinking, not growing. Samuel Beckett’s English-language version of Waiting for Godot, his existentialist play in which two characters wait for a Godot who never appears, was published in 1954 and would once have been entering the public domain on January 1, 2011. To quote Vladimir from the play: “But that is not the question. What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come—” 56 years later, we are still waiting.

If it ain't online & open it may as well be dead

While Rupert Murdoch keeps threatening the world that he will move all his media behind paywalls it is time to recall the fascinating truth about information: If it ain’t online & open it may as well be dead. If it cannot be found via Google it may as well not exist. I know that this is shallow and that it fails to take into account quality print media but then again – it doesn’t matter how great you are if nobody has ever heard of you.

Encyclopaedia Brittanica had an excellent market lead, brilliant trademark and high quality product. After the web they began to die. After Wikipedia who cares?
One of the oldest online free journals that keep producing, providing & pushing excellent content is First Monday. Authors don’t have to pay & readers don’t have to pay. And yet, miraculously every month quality pours out. Here are my must read articles from the December issue (volume 14, number 12):

Political protest Italian-style: The blogosphere and mainstream media in the promotion and coverage of Beppe Grillo’s V-day
by Alberto Pepe and Corinna di Gennaro

The self-Googling phenomenon: Investigating the performance of personalized information resources by Thomas Nicolai, Lars Kirchhoff, Axel Bruns, Jason Wilson, and Barry Saunders

Public lives and private communities: The terms of service agreement and life in virtual worlds by Debora J. Halbert

Can a license be too ethical?

The Gnu General Public License (GPL) holds an amazing position as the premier free and open source software license but this position may be slipping since its move to version 3 in 2007. In an article entitled Does GPL still matter? Yahoo Tech News reports:

A June study conducted by Black Duck Software, an open source development tools vendor, shows that the Free Software Foundation‘s GPL — although far and away still the dominant open source licensing platform — could be starting to slide. The survey found that despite strong growth in GPLv3 adoption, the percentage of open source projects using GPL variants dropped from 70 to 65 percent from the previous year.

This is interesting. But the question is what does this decrease (if it should be seen as a decrease) mean? The GPL has been in controversies before during its history (Wikipedia historical background) – in fact it’s monunmental position in free and open source software is built upon its unflinching ideological stance which has often been the root of controversy.

The question is whether the GPL has gone too far and is losing its position or if this should be seen as the GPL taking a new moral stance and waiting for the rest of the world to realise the wisdom of its position?

The end of free

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire News Corp reported a huge financial loss ($3.4bn). Naturally this cannot go un-commented so in today’s Guardian Murdoch is quoted as saying that quality journalism* is not cheap and the era of a free-for-all in online news was over.

So what to do? Well Murdoch’s response is to start charging for online news:

“The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive distribution channels but it has not made content free. We intend to charge for all our news websites.”

There may have been a time in history when newspapers could have gone the way of pay-per-view but today the free has spread. One of the reasons for the increasing losses in the print industry is not the traditional web but rather the growth of user-produced content (web2.0). Even if many of these user-producers leech of print media (as does this article since it is a reaction of what I read in the Guardian) it would be very difficult to lock down the news.

The news (whatever that term means) is spread in a number of different sources. Official, unofficial, personal, impersonal, gossip, fact, free, costly etc. But few news sources are so powerful that they can be enclosed and charge money for their content when they once have been provided for free. A pre-internet truth has always been: Any news source can be adequately filled by other news sources. The internet aggravates this by provided a seemingly infinite amount of news sources.

Even though the newspaper business is struggling with their adaption to new technology, charging readers to read their material online will fail. Any attempt by a newspaper to end free will only result in the end of that newspaper. For better or worse – free is here to stay.

* Cannot resist reminding people that “quality journalism” provided by News Corp includes trashy tabloids like The Sun and News of the World as well as quality like The Times and Wall Street Journal.

Remix available for download

Lawrence Lessigs book Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy is now  is now Creative Commons licensed and ready for download from the Bloomsbury Academic page.


‘Lessig’s proposals for revising copyright are compelling, because they rethink intellectual property rights without abandoning them.’
Briefly Noted The New Yorker

‘Lessig… has written a splendid combative manifesto – pungent, witty and persuasive.’
Financial Times

‘… Lessig is surely right that digital culture requires governance that is more subtle and ecological, judging a balance of forces between commerce and community, than precise and draconian.’
Books of the Week, The Independent

‘Prof Lessig is formidably qualified…his latest book, REMIX will enhance his cult status on the web.’ The Guardian

To hear Lawrence Lessig talk about his book Remix you can listen now to the NPR interview (37 min 51 sec)

The Hunt for Gollum

How’s this for an amazing project? A group of over enthusiastic filmmakers have created a film based on Lord of the Rings. The title is The Hunt for Gollum and it will be released for free online from their website on 3 May.

The script is adapted from elements of the appendices of The Lord of the Rings. The story follows the Heir of Isildur; the “greatest huntsman and traveller in Middle Earth” as he sets out to find the creature Gollum. The creature must be found to discover the truth about the Ring, and to protect the future Ringbearer.

The Hunt For Gollum is an unofficial not for profit short film by a group of enthusiast filmmakers. As a Lord of the Rings Fan Film, we are not affiliated with the Tolkien Estate or New Line Cinema and are producing this project as an entirely non commercial film. As with other fan films we are making this purely for the enjoyment of the material and the experience of making a high quality low budget film.

So Far…
Production began in early 2007 when writer-director Chris Bouchard started adapting the script from the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings. Since then, the first three days of filming were completed in September 2007 on location in N Wales.

Check out the cool trailer 1 and trailer 2

Liberty for free – later

The title almost becomes a meta-comments for so many things…

Giving away books online for free has worked for many authors. The customers who download tend often even to buty the books. Most of the evidence is anecdotal but Cory Doctorow, Lawrence Lessig & Yochai Benkler have done well by following this principle.

The publisher Faber is now trying this with a twist. It will let readers will let readers decide what to pay for to download a digital copy of Ben Wilson’s What Price Liberty?.The Guardian writes:

In the book, Wilson argues that the contemporary assault on civil liberties in the UK follows a decline in the importance and status of ideas of liberty in Britain’s national culture, and that it is only through an understanding of history that we can fashion a liberty fit for the 21st century.

The recommended price is £14.99 but you can download the pdf for free. Now I doubt that many will pay for the pdf but I don’t think that the free pdf will limit or decrease sales. The smart thing that Faber is doing is releasing the free ebook six weeks before the launch of the physical copy with the main aim “to stimulate debate for the issues at the centre of this book, as well as generating interest for the book itself”.

The annoying thing is that you cannot download the book until April 27 – so this news is not really news its more about something which will be news. Anyway the book sounds interesting so I will be keeping tabs on this. Even if I would have preferred to download directly – this is the generation of instant gratification and I just didn’t get any!

The gift makes the slave as the whip makes the dog

Like most computer people I spend most of my days reading and writing off a computer screen not producing a large product but doing my work (which in total is a large product). As a researcher I use most of my reading time to read books which are either necessary or helpful for my work. But the best imput comes from reading works written by people in other fields, written for different reasons and intended for different audiences. And yet I all too often find myself reading books filled with ideas that are either similar to others’ I have read earlier or ideas with which I will predictably agree with.

It’s not much of a comfort to say that the statement above applies to most of my colleagues.

Right now I am sitting on the train to Stockholm happily reading a book which breaks this trend “Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The riddles of culture” written by the anthropologist Marvin Harris. I came across this marvelous eskimo proverb:

The gift makes the slave as the whip makes the dog

So cool. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Reciprocity is everything.

Why would sub-democratic leaders blog?

Listening to the radio this morning and heard that Karim Massimov, the Prime Minster of Kazakhstan started his private, yet official blog on 9th January and apparently has been so happy with the result that he has ordered his minsters to start personal blogs.

A politician starting a blog is hardly worth mentioning and starting in 2009 seems even to be a late starter but this one is a bit interesting.

According to the American State Department Country Report on Kazakhstan

The Government’s human rights record remained poor, and it continued to commit numerous abuses. The Government severely limited citizens’ right to change their government and democratic institutions remained weak. On some occasions, members of the security forces, including police, tortured, beat, and otherwise mistreated detainees; some officials were punished for these abuses. Prison conditions remained harsh; however, the Government took an active role in efforts to improve prison conditions and the treatment of prisoners. The Government continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention and to selectively prosecute political opponents; prolonged detention was a problem. Amendments to several laws governing the authority of procurators further eroded judicial independence. The Government infringed on citizens’ privacy rights.

Reporters sans frontières begin their 2008 report on Kazakhstan:

As well as the usual problems journalists get when they expose corruption or criticise President Nazarbayev, the media was the victim of power struggles inside the regime. Three opposition journalists died in suspicious circumstances and coverage of the August 2007 parliamentary elections was biased.

So the idea that the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan starting a blog and praising the way in which it allows citizens to communicate more directly with government is surprising to say the least. Either the whole thing is a propaganda attempt gone wrong or a total misunderstanding of the power of online communication.

Or maybe those in power just don’t get how bad they are?