Birth of a genre

A genre is a category or grouping of similar types of cultural phenomena. But at what point does something stop being a mutation of an existing group and evolve (or is it more of a revolution?) into a sub-genre or new-genre? According to Wikipedia the process is always ongoing – almost like glacier-like processes:

Genres are formed by conventions that change over time as new genres are invented and the use of old ones are discontinued. Often, works fit into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions.

But yesterday I came across what was – for me – an explosive birth of a new genre in the form of  Dramatic readings from the iTunes EULA by Richard Dreyfuss on Cnet. Cnet explains why they created this exciting new artform

This Friday’s Reporters’ Roundtable is on a topic that vexes us all: why are end user license agreements and terms of service so long and convoluted? To get ourselves in the mood for this show, we asked CNET fan (and Academy Award winner) Richard Dreyfuss if he’d help us out by doing a dramatic read of the Apple EULA. He said yes.

Sure, it was meant as a joke. But listen to Dreyfuss readings and you realize that he fills a valuable need, fills a void in litterature and drama, and also a gap in the market.

As part of my research I have written about licensing and EULAs and very often felt my head becoming numb through attempting to battle through the awful prose that make up these “agreements”. Imagine the great service to the world if great readers followed the Drefuss example and provided this amazing service to lawyers, law students, activists and the general public.

Dreyfuss is a pioneer but I am waiting for a world where Stephen Fry reads the GPLv3, Patrick Stewart reads excerpts from the Creative Commons legal code and Seth MacFarlane (the voice behind Peter in Family Guy) reads the classic Microsoft Windows XP Professional End-User License Agreement.

Australia goes Creative Commons

Jessica Coates, Project Manager for Creative Commons Australia emailed some important news from CC Australia. The Australian government has now decided to use the Creative Commons BY license as a default for public sector information.

In an official response released yesterday, the Federal Government has agreed to 12 of the 13 recommendations to come out of the Government 2.0 Taskforce report released last December – including Recommendation 6.3, which states that Creative Commons Attribution should be the default licensing position for PSI.

In addition, the government has also agreed that the new Information Commissioner currently being established will issue guidelines to ensure that:

  • by default PSI is free, open, and reusable;
  • PSI is released as quickly as possible;
  • PSI may only be withheld where there is a legal obligation preventing its release.
  • when Commonwealth records become available for public access under the Archives Act 1983, works covered by Crown copyright will be automatically licensed under an appropriate open attribution licence.

The response also includes an undertaking that the Attorney-General’s Department will examine the current state of copyright law with regard to orphan works (including section 200AB of the Copyright Act 1968), with the aim of recommending amendments that would remove the practical restrictions that currently impede the use of such works.

This is the single biggest commitment to CC licensing and open access principles by Australian government, and should mean that the majority of Australian government material will soon be available under a CC licence. The fact that both the response and the announcement have been released under CC BY is a good start.

The assignment of responsibility for implementation of the commitment to the new Information Commissioner is also an encouraging move, and will hopefully see a more coordinated approach to IP policy across the Australian government as a whole.

The response is available here and a blog post from Finance Minister Tanner is available here.

Jessica just emailed an update:

Having read the report more thoroughly, the Australian Federal Government has committed to open access, but its statement re CC licensing is more properly described as an “agreement in principle”, with an undertaking that the IP Guidelines to be developed as part of the response will not “impede the default open licensing position proposed in recommendation 6.3.”

However, the report, the announcement and the entire AGIMO blog are all under a CC BY licence, which seems like a good sign. The response also makes much of the National Government Information Licensing Framework (GILF) as an important tool in assisting government agencies in making information licensing decisions. GILF, a collaborative project between the Queensland Government and the Queensland University of Technology which is recognised internationally as a leader in the area, recommended and endorsed the use of CC licences as the core of its framework for the sharing of PSI.

You can find a fuller description of the Government’s Gov 2.0 response on the CCau blog at

I forgot to read the license

Recently the Norwegian browser released version 10, a nice slick browser and a good alternative. But I forgot to read the license. Thanks to Olav Torvund for reminding me by presenting the most important section on his blog:

By uploading Content to Opera’s site, you grant Opera an unrestricted, royalty-free, worldwide, irrevocable license to use, reproduce, display, perform, modify, transmit, and distribute such material in any manner, including in connection with Opera’s business, and you also agree that Opera is free to use any ideas, concepts, know-how, or techniques that you send Opera for any purpose. For the avoidance of doubt, this clause does not apply to the files you share as an End-User of the Opera Unite, as such files are never uploaded to Opera’s site. Opera will not make a claim to own or use those files.

This is not a totally unusual claim to rights but it should make you think. Any ideas or knowledge shared via Opera belong to Opera 🙂

Blade Runner & Copyleft

OMG! From the Creative Commons blog:

Ridley Scott, the famed SciFi director of the classic Blade Runner will be producing a new web series based on the film released under our free copyleft license. The series will is initially slated for web release with the possibility of television syndication and will be a project by Ag8.

Read more about the project at the New York Times, on Ag8’s Purefold page, or join up on the FriendFeed discussion.

YouTube & Creative Commons

YouTube has collaborated with Creative Commons to allow users to test the ability of users to upload & download video’s under Creative Commons licenses. Obviously users will be able to download the movies and be able to follow the licensing terms. Read more about this on the YouTube and Creative Commons blogs.

Important changes to license

In what is in the “sounds boring but is incredibly important and influential” category of news: The Free Software Foundation has released the GNU Free Document License version 1.3.

One of the main important changes is in Section 11 which now enables wikis to be relicensed under the from the earlier GNU Free Document License to the more flexible Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (v3.0) license. The condition is that such relicensing is completed by August 1, 2009.

That means, the Wikipedia community now has the choice to relicense Wikipedia under a Creative Commons license. Check out the FAQ for this change to the license.

It would be hard to overstate the importance of this change to the Free Culture community. A fundamental flaw in the Free Culture Movement to date is that its most important element — Wikipedia — is licensed in a way that makes it incompatible with an enormous range of other content in the Free Culture Movement. One solution to this, of course, would be for everything to move to the FDL. But that license was crafted initially for manuals, and there were a number of technical reasons why it would not work well (and in some cases, at all) for certain important kinds of culture.

This change would now permit interoperability among Free Culture projects, just as the dominance of the GNU GPL enables interoperability among Free Software projects. It thus eliminates an unnecessary and unproductive hinderance to the spread and growth of Free Culture.

Grapes with licensing agreement

Via Boing Boing comes this marvel of legal wackiness. The plastic bag containing grapes has the text:

The recipient of the produce contained in this package agrees not to propagate or reproduce any portion of the produce, including (but not limited to) seeds, stems, tissue and fruit.

I suppose that the sellers are trying to make an analogy with shrinkwrap licenses. The result, if the text on the bag is upheld in court, would mean that any attempt to grow new grapes from the content of the bag is in violation of the “license” (for the want of a better word). Violating a contract does not mean automatically that the seller or producer can recieve damages so what is left? If you manage to grow something from this bag you will have to give back the original grapes? Its all too confusing.

photo: Grapes with an EULA by dasmart (CC by-nc-nd)

Licensing Hacking

Finally! The Creative Commons team (Kalle and I) have spent two days drinking strong coffee, arguing and laughing in an effort to update the Swedish licenses from version 2.5 to 3.0. Now the license drafts are done and we have invited people, organisations and government bodies to read and comment on the work.

If any of you readers want to join in the bags of fun then feel free to surf in to

Right now I am looking forward to drinking a congratulatory beer or two. Since I am totally brain-drained and coffee-pickled.