Posts tagged “copyright”.

Excerpts from “Subsistence: Perspective for a Society Based on Commons”

by Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen, released under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Essay from the wonderful book The Wealth of the Commons: A world beyond market & state.

The argument isn’t complete in the article (thus also not in my excerpts) but it does appear there is a book-length work on the subject by this author (with another co-author).

Over the course of modernity, commons as societal institutions have increasingly been reified to being considered merely material objects. This is nothing less than a fundamentalist reinterpretation of the commons influenced by neoliberal thought. No longer do people perceive the purpose or the meaning of socially binding arrangements when it comes to commons, they mostly see only the object itself to which a societal convention refers. And where the material reality of the phenomena in question is immaterial and volatile – for example, the air the knowledge about a plant’s healing properties – they are reified by privatizing them and assigning them a monetary value – through the establishment of carbon emissions trading rights, for instance, or through the patenting of knowledge according to the WTO’s regime for intellectual property rights.

Economic, ecological and social crises are merging to form a single one, a crisis of civilization. In light of catastrophes that they have triggered, the values that characterize our current civilization are proving to be destructive. We need a paradigm shift worldwide: a shift away from egocentric consumerism, away from a society’s structural imperative to maximize growth, and away from our arrogance with respect to the living environment. We, the people of our epoch, need new (old) societal institutions that are bound to a new (old) relationship of humans and nature.

In keeping with the dominant understanding that the feasibility of any plan is dependent on funding, the question of money is often raised to quickly in discussions about the realization of alternatives to the growth-based economy.l Even if some projects to strengthen the commons cannot do without money, this does not alter the fact that the logic of money as we know it is a fundamental built-in error of current-day socialization.

The logic of money is that of a mathematical equation, an exchange of equivalents. Order is supposedly achieved through the objectivity (or tangible quality of an object) of an invisible hand, which is supposed to be superior to the disorder of diversity given by nature. In the present, this is proving to be completely wrong. The logic of money is not suitable as a moral foundation for civilization. (emphasis added)

Presented without commentary (other than my above emphasis) under fair use and/or the terms of the license of the original article (CC:BY-SA 3.0) just in case fair use wasn’t enough ;)

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No body cares about your fixed costs

I recently had the chance to hear a proposal on how we could increase the production of quality open access monographs (not scholarly articles, but monographs).

The method proposed can be summarized fairly easily:

  1. An author pitches a book to a publisher.
  2. The publisher and author work on it, as they do.
  3. The publisher submits the work to an Open Access Monograph Clearinghouse (OAMC).
  4. The OAMC then sends the list and descriptions of all submitted monographs that month/quarter/whatever to a group of institutions (libraries, universities, etc) that select books they want to fund.
  5. The funding level is set by the publisher depending on, presumably, their fixed costs and a margin for profit.
  6. If a sufficient number of institutions agree to fund a work, it is funded and made available as open access online under a CC:BY-NC license (the publisher reserving the commercial rights).

The benefits are pretty straight forward, as well:

  • The publisher gets their fixed costs covered (eliminating most risk) for these monographs.
  • The publisher then can provide add-on services (value add) on top of the underlying work and make (more) profit.
  • The institutions (and the public) get a lot of (presumably quality) open access monographs.

Now, I have some issues with this model.

Luckily, Mike Masnick of Techdirt wrote recently about part of my issue with this model: “Nobody Cares About The Fixed Costs Of Your Book, Movie, Whatever

His relevant points are:

If you did pricing based on the average cost, including fixed costs, you actually lose the incentive to be more efficient and lower your fixed costs, since you get to just bake them into the price. But the public doesn’t care about how much you spent. As far as they’re concerned, you may have spent stupidly and inefficiently. They only care about the marginal benefit they get from the copy.

In many ways this is reminiscent of the stupid debate we’ve had for years, where a lobbyist from NBC Universal kept challenging me to explain how he could keep making $200 million movies. But that’s stupid. If you start from the assumption of a high cost, you’re not building value, you’re just spending budget. All we should care about is how people can make profitable offerings, and there are lots of ways to do that at a variety of price points — but you should never set the pricing decisions on the fixed costs, because the buyer simply doesn’t care.

My additional points:

Let’s not forget about the “stakeholder-ness” of those who invest by covering the fixed costs. I argue that if we want to maximize social welfare (which, I assume, we do), those who invest by covering fixed/up-front costs should either:

  • receive sufficient rights that they are all equals (equal with the service provider, aka publisher, that produced the book) and thus are able to compete against each other (all of the investors) for commercial gains in the value add (supplemental material) markets.
  • the work itself should be shard with the world such that everyone can compete on the value add markets as the costs of the original are already fully recouped.

Having the service provide (publisher) be the only entity that has the ability to commercialize the base (paid for) work needlessly restricts future investment by the public.

“Why would they invest in the value add markets if they don’t have a monopoly on them?” you may ask.

They would hold a monopoly on any value add features (eg: audiobook, videos, supplemental material, etc, etc) of course. And that is where they should compete, on the additions.

This is the same argument that many make regarding publicly funded research (see: [1], [2], [3]. It is normally argued that those works should be available under the terms of (at most) CC:BY. This model maximizes public welfare two ways: the public get free access to the base works and everyone, including commercial publishers, are able to compete in the value add market.

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Michigan Library Changes their Creative Commons License

As some of you may know, I work for the University of Michigan Library where my title is Copyright Specialist. One of the projects I am most proud of is the change of the default Creative Commons license for content created by librarians and staff at MLibrary and posted online from CC:BY-NC to CC:BY, removing the non-commercial restriction. Why is this important? Well, see what I wrote on the MPublishing blog, copied below under the terms of the CC:BY 3.0 license :)

Back in October of 2008, MLibary became one of the first academic libraries to apply a Creative Commons license to its website content. At the time, the Library opted for the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial (“CC BY NC”) license. More recently, on November 18th, 2010, the library changed the default Creative Commons license used for all content created by librarians and staff hosted on the library website to an Attribution-only (“CC BY”) license.

Why did we opt for a CC BY NC license initially then – after some experience – remove the non-commercial restriction? Greg Grossmeier, Copyright Specialist at MPublishing, explains how the Creative Commons License MLibrary chose enables content creation.

Why use a Creative Commons license at all?
Before we get into the reasons why MLibrary changed its license, it is important to review the types of uses we are hoping to encourage by using any Creative Commons license in the first place. In the most simple of terms, we hope to encourage adaptations and redistribution of our content.

First, we are delighted to see our work actually used, improved or incorporated into new resources. When other organizations reuse our work (for example, another institution using some of our libguides) we know that others appreciate our work and find it useful. Second, by using a Creative Commons license that allows derivatives we enable others to make translations of the work without the need to get prior permission. With our use of a Creative Commons license we enable others to make translations and redistribute them for even wider reuse of our work.

Why remove the NonCommercial restriction?
First, removing the NonCommercial restriction provides greater clarity for those wishing to reuse our content. The NonCommercial clause in the CC licenses does not fully define what a “commercial use“ is. Thus, an individual or organization wishing to use our work cannot always be certain that their use would be acceptable. If they are uncertain, the users or organizations will either contact MLibrary to ask for clarification/permission (something which we wanted to avoid by using a Creative Commons license in the first place) or they will elect to simply not use our material. Unfortunately, the second scenario is typical.

A report released by Creative Commons in 2009 found that content creators see more uses as noncommercial than do content reusers. This means that individuals and organizations tend to self-censor their reuses of a NC-licensed work because they erroneously believe that their use will be considered a commercial use, thus not permissible by the license.

The MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) project uses a NonCommercial license from Creative Commons for their content. They elected to be explicit with their interpretation of what “non-commercial“ means. While this is very useful for users of MIT OCW materials it does not scale easily. This is because it is simply defining “non-commercial“ for MIT — and that definition might not be the same for all creators using NonCommercial licenses. Thus, it is not advisable for all creators using a NonCommercial license to write their own definition of “non-commercial.”

If 1000 people are asked to write their definition of “non-commercial” you will probably get 1000 different definitions. If all users of NonCommercial licenses produced their own definition of “non-commercial” then potential users will need to read that definition closely, and possibly ask for legal advice, each time they wish to reuse a work. Ironically, the more specific each content creator is about its particular view of ‘commercial’, the more confused and inconsistent the situation becomes. This confusion and inconsistency is the exact situation that Creative Commons aspires to eliminate.

Secondly, with the use of the Attribution-only license, the library is making a strong commitment to compatibility with other Freely and Openly licensed materials such as Wikipedia. If two licenses are incompatible with each other it means that content from one can not be incorporated into a work under the other. The NonCommercial clause is incompatible with many other open content licenses, including other Creative Commons licenses. In fact, it is only compatible with three out of the six Creative Commons licenses.

CC License Compatibility Chart

As the chart above shows, the most compatible license available (aside from waiving all copyrights) is the Attribution-only license. This allows others to reuse our content in the largest number of places and contexts including, importantly, the CC BY SA licensed Wikipedia.

By using the most compatible license available from Creative Commons, MLibrary enables efficient content creation. We make it possible for users to worry less about license incompatibility and permissions — and instead spend more time on the actual creation of quality content. We hope to see the positive influence of this throughout the local, national, and international library communities.

The above was originally posted on the MPublishing Blog under the title “MLibrary & Creative Commons: Commitment to Compatibility.” Reproduced under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

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Lococast Interview

Last week I was interviewed (.mp3) for the very awesome, very fun Lococast hosted by the always enjoyable Rick Harding and Craig Maloney. We hit on many of my various interests including: copyright, open data, open educational resources (OERs), Creative Commons, community management, the Michigan LoCo team, and Ubuntu more generally,

It was great fun sitting down with Rick and Craig for about an hour; they always make it enjoyable.

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Copyright for Wikipedians

Tonight I gave a presentation to the wonderful University of Michigan Wikipedians student group on copyright.

Copyright for Wikipedians
Other versions: ODP and PDF.

I pretty much threw this presentation together at the last minute (started around 5pm, the presentation was at 7, I also ate dinner during that time) but I think it went ok. However, I know it could be better and it could address more topics more clearly. Mike Linksvayer has even already given me some very valuable feedback on

Do you have any feedback? Any recommendations on how to better phrase something? Any other points specific to Wikipedia that I didn’t remember to talk about?

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Novacut – FLOSS ideals for Video editing

Novacut is a new Free/Open Source project that aims to create a new type of video editor, one that embodies the ideals of the FLOSS community and makes collaboration easier. Basically, it will enable a team to collaboratively edit a video from where ever they are while working on the same version of the source files. It will be able to do this by using a combination of couchdb, Amazon S3 (and EC2 for rendering), GStreamer.

Why am I excited about this and telling you about it (and aside from them seeking donations via Kickstarter)? Because in their video (embedded below) they sold me with the promise that not only will artists be able to share their final product, but Novacut will also allow others to see the process that the creator took to make that product. In effect, the source files of the video. We have this for code, most definitely. We also are starting to have this more often for music with people uploading the individual tracks to community sites like But aside from really awesome projects like the Blender Foundation, there isn’t much of this for the video world.

Also, this is of special interest for those of you in the Ubuntu community because the developers for this project will be at the next UDS for Natty.

So, if you have the ability and the inclination, helping with this project is probably a worthy endeavor. Check out their Launchpad project and join the mailing list.

PS: Check out this great note from the lead developer about the response from the FLOSS community.

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Severed Fifth – Its coming back

You may have already heard, but Severed Fifth, Jono Bacon’s music project, has been ramping up recently.

I want to highlight a few things that I think are fairly interesting.

First, Fair Pay:
Jono is experimenting with the same model that many others have done (notably: Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, and GirlTalk) where you let the music fan pay for the enjoyment they get from the music (that is about the best way to put that, because they aren’t really paying for the bits, those cost practically nothing). When this choice is put in front of music fans, either paying zero or some other non-zero amount, many pay some non-zero amount. My recollection is that the amount is somewhere around $8 for an album.

What would be curious to look at in the case of Severed Fifth is what that amount is. As we saw with the Humble Bundle from Wolfire, Linux users paid more per game than any other platform. Will the awareness of Jono’s project in the FLOSS world translate into a higher average “Fair Pay” for Severed Fifth? That probably isn’t measurable, unfortunately.

Second, Frets on Fire:
Boy do I love me some Rock Band, er, Frets on Fire! I think this is one of the cooler things about CC-licensed music: easier conversion into kick ass formats like Frets on Fire with no worries about copyright law (more accurately, the copyright holder) telling you that enjoying Jono’s music in a certain way is not permitted.

Third, YouTube:
This one might seem obvious, but I promise there is a bit more to it. Basically, because the Severed Fifth music is licensed under a CC license, people can us it in their YouTube videos without getting take-down notices. Pretty awesome stuff. Now the really interesting part. Jono has licensed the Severed Fifth music under CC:BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license. That means, simply, you can use, redistribute, and remix the work as long as you give attribution to the author (Severed Fifth, or Jono) and share any derivative work you make under the same license, CC:BY-SA.

Now, using Severed Fifth music in your video means that your video, a derivative work of both your footage and the Severed Fifth music, is now required to be licensed CC:BY-SA. From the legal code of the license: “For the avoidance of doubt, where the Work is a musical composition or sound recording, the synchronization of the Work in timed-relation with a moving image (“synching”) will be considered a Derivative Work for the purpose of this License” (see section 1b). This is great, now all of those awesome videos Jono showcased in his blog post are now available for your reuse under the terms of the CC:BY-SA license! I think that might be my favorite part of the new happenings around Severed Fifth; Jono spreading the Freedom!

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Creative Commons Catalyst

Today, Creative Commons has announced their campaign to support the new Catalyst Grants.
CC Catalyst Campaign

If you haven’t heard of it, the Catalyst Grant program is pretty awesome. It helps people who are working on great projects keep them going by providing the much needed funding. From the Catalyst Grant page:

Creative Commons is investing up to $100,000 to empower individuals and communities deeply rooted in the principles of openness and sharing. With the Catalyst Grants program, Creative Commons will seed activities around the globe that support our mission. Our goal is to scale our community’s efforts and support them in becoming self-sustainable. Through a rigorous public review and transparent evaluation process, the best proposals submitted by CC affiliates and the broader community, will be selected to receive $1,000–$10,000 to make their ideas a reality.

But, Creative Commons can’t do it all. And this is where you come in. By donating to Creative Commons you can directly help support the (no doubt) awesome projects that the grant program will select. Help support the commons by being a catalyst.

Support CC

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(sourcecode is to binary as ??? is to ppt/odp/pdf)

Ted Gould just posted to the planet with his presentation that he gave at the Desktop Summit. At the end of his post you’ll notice that he uploaded his presentation to Launchpad (at lp:~ted/presentations/2009_desktop_summit/).

I think that is a great idea! Not only does it provide the ability for the community to see what others are using for their presentations but it allows anyone to branch a presentation, which has awesome potential. Especially with the presentation format that Ted chose, SVGs. The S5 presentation format (XHTML/CSS/JS based) would also be a great candidate for easy branching and editing of presentations.

But what if you need to create presentations with others who use Powerpoint or Impress and you wanted to harness the power of a Version Control System? Old powerpoint (ppt) files are binary blobs which don’t work well in version control systems (they *work* but not *well*). Impress (odp) and new Powerpoint (pptx) files are effectively zipped archives of xml and images. However, since it is zipped, bzr treats it as a binary. I only tested with bzr but don’t foresee any of the other systems behaving any differently.

Why would you want to use a VCS for your presentation files? Especially a DVCS like bzr/git/hg? COLLABORATION!

Some of you may know that I am currently working with Open.Michigan, a project at the University of Michigan that enables the creation of Open Educational Resources (OER). OER is effectively a broader term for the concept of Open CourseWare. Basically, everything used in education is a resource, not just presentations, and thus is useful for others to see, use, and remix. If you are curious to see what kinds of things we produce, see our Educommons installation.


Back to the topic at hand though: presentations and DVCS.

One of the major areas that the OER community could greatly improve upon is the area of remixing; taking the openly licensed materials and using them, adding new material, and creating something original. Remixing, in general, is enabled by having access to the source files of the material being worked with. Sure, you can use a PDF or a mp3 in a remix, but it is usually better to have the original .odt or multitrack file to work from. This is why Open.Michigan provides to the public the ppt files along with the pdfs of the presentations created through the OER program.

But lets leverage some of the tried and true methods of the FLOSS community in the OER community. One of the biggest and most fundamental benefits of the FLOSS world is that everyone has access to the source code, and can easily get it, edit it, and (hopefully) compile a new version of the program; effectively a “remix.” How does the FLOSS community lower the barriers and increase efficiency for that workflow? We provide public access to code repositories, instructions on building the software (documentation), and a bug tracker to inform what needs to be worked on next.

I want to mirror much of that to the OER community. One of the first things that needs to happen is to provide an easy way to manage multiple versions of a single resource (eg: presentation, video/audio, book). A VCS seems like the obvious choice. But there must be a better way than just managing binary blobs, right?

That is the part that I need to figure out next: how to utilize the power of a DVCS in this genre. Then I can move on to figuring out what a bug tracker for OER would look like (and if it is even needed). The documentation is actually already there, at least for Open.Michigan.

Do you have any ideas?

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Creative Commons and FLOSS

Tuesday night I gave a presentation at the Michigan!/usr/group (MUG) meeting about Creative Commons and its relationship with Free/Libre Open Source Software. I had a great time giving the presentation and judging from the amount and activity of the questions it seems like others enjoyed it, too!

I started off with a quick background on Creative Commons and what we do, in general. Then, after answering a ton of questions which were raised in the first 5 minutes, I went on to discuss CC’s role in the Free/Open Source Software community. Specifically, the FLOSS projects we develop and/or work on and how we can help others create awesome things.

If you weren’t there, you missed the opportunity to be a part of a great conversation between some great MUG members and I. But luckily, my slides are available online:

And, since Craig was nice enough to use my photo camera to record the presentation, we even have video! We only have 34 minutes of video, but that gets the majority of the talk. Apparently my camera records at a 1 gig per 10 minutes rate, we only got 34 minutes because it filled up my 4 gig memory card.

Thanks to everyone who came out, you made it fun.

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