Side by side … and all places in between

I have just got back from a working trip to Dublin, but have been thinking while I was away about the comment that ‘ This is one of those debates where people on both sides are pretty well set with what they believe … everyone is talking, but not listening’.

If it’s true – it’s more than a shame, because one of the most striking recent developments is the number of people who have a foot in both camps – the traditional approach to ownership and the sharing economy – depending on what suits them best at any given time, and the number of ways of making this work. Bill Thompson who chaired the Unbounded Freedom launch, declared himself one of these happy hybrids, and there are many more examples of creative individuals who have chosen this route. Some business start-ups will value dissemination over royalties while they make a name for themselves, and then cash in on their reputations. Others will earn themselves a secure living in order to be able to share their ideas as they wish. Google and Microsoft are good at exploiting a judicious mix of both approaches in tandem, as are some governments. As cited in Unbounded Freedom, Cory Doctorow combines the two in one in the license for his third book, a Creative Commons Developing Nations License:

“[T}he Creative Commons Developing Nations License… means… that if you live in a country that’s not on the World Bank’s list of High-Income Countries, you get to do practically anything you want with this book. Be my guest. The sole restriction is that you may not export your work with my book beyond the developing world. Your Ukrainian film, Guyanese print edition, or Ghanaian translation can be freely exported within the developing world, but can’t be sent back to the rich world, where my paying customers are.”

Gilberto Gil, Brazil’s Minister of Culture in a recent interview at a WIPO conference, talks of the importance of showing everybody precisely this, ‘that we can go from all rights reserved to none, and places in between’.

http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/index.php?p=407&res=1024_ff&print=0

But for me, possibly the most important feature of this flexibility is that, however small or large-scale, it is necessarily based on individual choices, choices about who can become content-providers and where the value of any given act of intellectual production really lies.

This is where I disagree with Ehsan Masood, when he sees only two scenarios in which creative commons thinking could possibly reward producers of content – international agreements or revived forms of public ownership. He argues in his openDemocracy column:

Free dissemination systems such as open access and creative commons are good and should be supported. The most excluded in society will benefit from not having to pay. But creative commons is not the right alternative to rewarding content-creators and innovators. “


Content-producers are already being rewarded in many different, and as I hope I’ve suggested above – hybrid ways. In each case, these choices sharpen up people’s perception of the value of the intellectual property involved. Microsoft’s user-generated innovation is of value to all Microsoft users as well as to Microsoft, even if they are not ( at least for now) paid for their creative input. This is creating new categories – where dissemination is production – and where the consumer is the producer. It is tapping into huge resources of previously wasted talent – what Gil calls, ‘multiplying the possibilities for multiple players.’

This is bound to have a knock-on, viral effect on Ehsan’s ‘existing commercial structures’. Perhaps the most exciting potential effect it has is on citizenship and democracies. I can’t believe that in such a revitalised social fabric, scientific innovation would be allowed to become a ‘tax’ on the innovator – to use Clinton’s odd reversal of terms…

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized

13 Comments on “Side by side … and all places in between”


  1. (Guessing my first try got eaten by the moderation system because I had two links. Let’s try again with one link…)

    My comment may have been too much of a blanket statement. I was thinking of the back-and-forth in a couple of posts between Ian and Bob on the anti-Creative Commons side and myself and others on the pro side. I didn’t get the sense that we were working towards common ground. I know for myself I have to confess I was just trying to make my own arguments and not willing to concede much, so maybe my comment should be taken more as a condemnation of my own approach. I was also thinking of some of the more “hard core” pro-IP control sites I’ve been reading. I don’t think they’re willing to entertain the idea of any alternative to what we currently have.

    I appreciate that you’re trying to get a genuine debate going here and I didn’t mean to denigrate that, although I see that it can be read that way. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments here and am glad that Ian and Bob and others are speaking up for their beliefs. I’ll try being a better participant in these discussions 🙂

    On the lighter side, may I shamelessly promote my recent entry at Free Software Magazine that takes an exaggerated look at my fears of a tightly controlled IP future?

    5 ways to save on your monthly software rental bill in the year 2056

  2. Bob Croxford Says:

    “Free dissemination systems such as open access and creative commons are good and should be supported. The most excluded in society will benefit from not having to pay. But creative commons is not the right alternative to rewarding content-creators and innovators. “

    Likewise the most excluded in society will not be able to afford to produce any ‘cultural input’ because the rich dilletantes can afford to do it for free and swamp the market with spoilt middle class views.


  3. Both sides have their reasons which they find valid to themselves. I don’t want to deny them, but seek to understand their motivations better.

    Where does conflict occur in this “two-camp” situation?

    To me it occurs on two fronts:

    – within an individual who isn’t sure what the best way for him is to publish his works

    – the intellectual property legislation, which has to balance the cultural rights of society with the rights of the artists who seek to guarantee of their reward

    I’m glad that the advent of the Internet exposed this conflict on such a wide scale and with so much force. Now we have the chance to solve it in a much more insightful and global way than we have tried in the past. Which makes me think of the Internet as a wonderful catalyst to reevaluate so many aspects of our life, and to change them in a new light.

    Kudos to Mr. Gil, Brazil’s Minister of Culture for being open on this topic. As for our Bulgarian Minister of Culture, I’m not even sure that he is aware of the Creative Commons movement. Some of the more recent campaigns of our Ministry regarding IP law revealed that it is quite isolated from what is going on in our society.


  4. (Trying again — I think my previous attempts at posting this are running in to either the spam filter or the moderation filter for including 1 or 2 links. But I really wanted to say it, so here goes again, without links.)

    Responding to the opening of the post, my comment may have been too much of a blanket statement. I was thinking of the back-and-forth in a couple of posts between Ian and Bob on the anti-Creative Commons side and myself and others on the pro side. I didn’t get the sense that we were working towards common ground. I know for myself I have to confess I was just trying to make my own arguments and not willing to concede much, so maybe my comment should be taken more as a condemnation of my own approach. I was also thinking of some of the more “hard core” pro-IP control sites I’ve been reading. I don’t think they’re willing to entertain the idea of any alternative to what we currently have.

    I appreciate that you’re trying to get a genuine debate going here and I didn’t mean to denigrate that, although I see that it can be read that way. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments here and am glad that Ian and Bob and others are speaking up for their beliefs. I’ll try being a better participant in these discussions 🙂

    (And since writing that, there is now Bob’s comment. Do you think the excluded previously had such an open mike to share their non-spoilt middle class views?

  5. Bob Croxford Says:

    Scott said “I was also thinking of some of the more “hard core” pro-IP control sites I’ve been reading. I don’t think they’re willing to entertain the idea of any alternative to what we currently have.”

    Dear Scott

    What we currently have is relatively weak Copyright Law. There was lots left out of the UK 1988 Act even though a lot was put in which was missing from the 1953 Act before it. I claim to be the first person to have made a submission to the Whitford Committee which led to the 1988 Act on behalf of AFAEP.

    One of the basic provisions of the 1988 Act is that Copyright belongs in the first instance to the creator, unless negotiated away in advance. This gave all creators the ‘Right’ to do what they want with their work. They can sell it at a negotiated fee or give it away if they want.

    My objection to the ideas of the ‘FREE IP’ movement is twofold. 1/ You don’t need to change the law, nor do you need to suggest that there is anything intrinsically wrong with the way Copyright Law works. 2/ There is no evidence that I can see that ‘Free’ content encourages cultural development or the creation of original creative work to a greater degree than ‘reward’ content. The ‘Free’ movement uses false assumptions to erode something of value.


  6. Hi, Bob. When I talk about “free,” I’m thinking in terms of the free software mantra: “Free as in free speech, not free beer.” I don’t think it’s practical or desirable to restrict what happens with software or writing or music or any digital information once it is distributed. That’s where the freedom comes in — freedom to use what you receive as you want to.

    I don’t think that everything should be available free of charge, however, and I don’t think that anyone should be forced to freely distribute their work. I’m perfectly willing to accept that not all software and culture is going to be distributed freely (as in free speech, freedom to use!). Nor do I think I should be forced to endure onerous control mechanisms in the name of IP protection. I mainly want to make sure the option is there for those of us that want to create and use free software and free culture. And I’d like to have a healthy definition of fair use in order to use non-free material in a variety of ways both established and undiscovered.

    As far as reward, I think we’re in agreement. I want people (including myself!) to be rewarded for intellectual/creative work. By looking it as a question of freedom and not focusing on the word free (as in free beer), perhaps you can see that the goal isn’t for everything to be free of cost. For some people that may be true, but for many many others it is not. I think we disagree in the ways that rewards might be accomplished. I’ll concede that your way — the existing way — has proven to reward people for their work presently and in the past. The methods of reward for free culture are uncertain. (Free software, on the other hand, has been shown to have working business models.) Let’s not automatically assume any new system will be worse. It might even be better.

  7. drew Roberts Says:

    What I seriously don’t like is that the Pro Stronger Copyright bunch has to have statutory damages instead of trying to prove damages and they get laws enacted which can put you in jail for owning a knock-off CD or DVD which when you bought, you thought was an authorized copy.

    When those who are pushing for stronger copyrigths rise up and demand a change to such laws I may gain more respect for their positions.

    But when it is petty theft to go into a store an actaully steal a CD from the shelf, but you can get 5 years in jail for buying a knock off CD by mistake, something is VERY OUT OF WHACK!

    all the best,

    drew

  8. Bob Croxford Says:

    Dear Drew

    I know the 1988 Copyright Act fairly well and cannot remember anything about ‘5 years’ jail’. Can you point to me the para.?

    The only penalty described is six months for deliberate and conscious infringment. This would by definition have to be a second incident.

  9. Bob Croxford Says:

    Dear Scott

    How do you stand on the rights of a copyright owner wishing to control his/her copyright to avoid abuse?

    My friend Leif Skoogfors took the now infamous images of Jane Fonda and John Kerry at a Peace Rally. He has counted over 440 copyright violations of the three images which his agent had of that shoot.

    All of the copyright violations were on right wing websites aimed against Kerry in the run-up to the last US presidential election. John Kerry’s advisors estimated that the effect of the photo on all those anti-Kerry sites cost him about half percent of the vote. Knowing how close both Bush elections were it is just possible that the violation of copyright in this case has changed the world dramatically for the worst.

    Leif is a committed Democrat and when I saw him in London earlier this year it was obvious that the episode was seriously affecting his wellbeing.


  10. I think the Bush presidency is almost entirely repugnant, but I also think that is beside the point. If our goal was to prevent bad outcomes (Bush being elected), it may have been helpful also to prevent Fox News from broadcasting, but I wouldn’t support that kind of suppression either. Freedom of information and freedom of speech can both lead to undesirable results, but I support both.

    I can imagine that Leif would be troubled that his work may have contributed to Kerry’s defeat. I hope it doesn’t continue to haunt him for long; I doubt the picture was a deciding factor. (Now if he worked at Diebold…) Even if the picture was the deciding factor, how could he possibly be held responsible or ethically accountable? The picture was the truth. It happened. Would we similarly object to a picture of W. snorting cocaine at a party in his youthfully indiscretionary 40s if it was used in violation of copyright by left wing websites? (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)

    Digital information that has no marginal cost to replicate just seems like speech to me. If someone speaks openly in public and their words reach my ears, should anyone get to say how I use that information? Similarly, if I receive a stream of digital bits, I just don’t see how anyone should have the right to own and control them. That’s how I see it, but let me say again I believe in working within the current system. I think things will move in the direction of freedom over time.

  11. drew Roberts Says:

    Bob,

    I am in the Bahamas, so our act is not your act I would assume.

    all the best,

    drew


  12. […] I have been spending time reading and commenting at other blogs about the subject of freedom, including more discussion in this post at Unbounded Freedom. I liked Bob’s question about the John Kerry picture and wonder if I should have been more circumspect in my reply when referring to El Presidente Bush. (Must… stay… out of… politics.) […]

  13. drew Roberts Says:

    Bob:

    “One of the basic provisions of the 1988 Act is that Copyright belongs in the first instance to the creator, unless negotiated away in advance.”

    Ah, now I like that, and I might even like if it could not be negotiated away in advance. With this change if it is currently not like this…

    Only where a copyright notice is placed on the work at the time of “publication”…

    Where a work is “published” with no notice, I would not object to a “copyleft” on that work instead of the traditional “All Rights Reserved” copyright that works get now.

    I would define publication to be any time you let someone else see the work not under signed contractual terms specifically relating to the work.

    If that would be to big a redefinition of publication, we could come up with a new term.

    all the best,

    drew


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: