Archive for November, 2010

Book launch ‘The Telekommunist Manifesto’ by Dymitri Kleiner

Posted: November 16, 2010 at 12:38 am  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Dymitri Kleiner is used to writing code, not books. However the texts that he was spreading around the Internet, inspired a lot of practitioners in the field of the free and open. One of those practisioners and friend of Dymitri, Matteo Pasquinelli, eventually took the effort in gathering all of Dymitri’s texts that were scattered online. It took a long time to finally connect the pieces and transform the texts into a book. Now finally, The Telekommunist Manifesto is ready to be presented.

About the publication
The Telekommunist Manifesto is a key contribution to commons-based, collaborative and shared forms of cultural production and economic distribution. Dymitri Kleiner goes beyond understanding conflict and property in an age of international telecommunications, copyright and capitalisation of intellectual property in that he offers alternatives to truly grasp the revolutionary potential of the internet for a free society. The alternatives are reflected in the idea of ‘venture communism’, a new model in which workers organize themselves and buy back little sections of capitalism, step by step. Also copyfarleft is proposed as an alternative to the creative commons (or ‘copy-just-right’ as Dymitri coins it). Copyfarleft truly enables workers to create and produce by explicitly allowing commercial use.

In his presentation earlier that day a rather intense discussion was raised about the copyfarleft and Dymitri’s critique on the creative commons. I would recommend everyone interested in free culture and copyright to read The Telekommunist Manifesto in order to try and understand the perspective of an activist and practitioner in the field. You can download the .pdf here.

Dymtri Kleiner, The Telekommunist. Network Notebooks 03, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, 2010. ISBN: 978-90-816021-2-9.

Simona Levi: "Power is always using the name of freedom to do the nasty thing"

Posted: November 15, 2010 at 1:57 am  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Last, but surely not least in the session of “Critique of the Free and Open” is Simona Levi, multidisciplinary artist, director of Conservas and arts festival INn MOTION. She is also co-founder of EXGAE and organiser of the Free Culture Forum Barcelona.

Earlier, professor Yann Moulier-Boutang, Nate Tkacz and Dymitri Kleiner talked about the (Creative) commons, the capitalist industry behind it and the public domain in trying to define ‘free and open’. Simona agrees with that ‘the open and free’ have to be discussed, but she also, being a profound activist, stresses that we have to fight for our civil right in a digital era.

Propaganda and fear
Simona addresses the politics behind legislation that prohibits or limits sharing: Laws that are against piracy. The propaganda that is accompanying these laws install and provocate fear for not being free, while paradoxically at the same time taking the freedom to create, share and innovate away. Simona explains that we shouldn’t therefor be surprised to see the (ab)use of the word freedom by the Tea Party (in an earlier presentation by Nate Tkacz) or by Berlusconi and his ‘People of Liberty’-party, these are the politics behind freedom.

The new role of the artist
One of the main arguments of the capitalist industry is that free means free in the sense that no money will be earned by the artist. “Artists will starve and everything will become a mess.” However, Simona explains that this is simply not true. Free doesn’t mean that you don’t have to pay the value of the thing. During the INn MOTION festival, for example, every artist was paid.

So, the discussion isn’t really about money, it’s about cultural consumption. We shouldn’t discuss what we can do to feed the artist, but how the artists can capture the core of the problem and attribute to the revolution. Artist will have to go back to their roots and away from the multinational. They have to understand that they are the base of “cleaning the consciousness”. Meaning that they should fulfill their duty in transforming the brain and reclaim this privilege that is taken over by propaganda. “That’s why artists are there. If not, fuck the artist”.

“We can not fuck around with the free and open”
Once more Simona stresses the importance of defending the Internet from the hands of those that are trying to limit our liberty. Action needs to be taken to define our own definition of free and open. Sharing in this sense is very important, according to Simona, because it lies at the base of all innovation, creation and education. “How else can we build a common imaginary that will lead us to victory? We ourselves have to force the government, Microsoft and others to enable us to share, create and truly be free.”

Simona wraps up with the words “Power is always using the name of freedom to do the nasty thing.” Toghether we can change this if we’re prepared to fight.

Take a look at the various projects Simona Levi is involved with to see the practical and critical side of fighting for freedom and openness:
- FC Forum’s Charter: For innovation, creativity and access to knowledge. Also citizen’s and artist’s rights in the digital era are discussed.
- EXGAE organizes the biggest Free/Libre culture event ever that is against the commercialisation of culture: OXCARS.
- Simona speech at the Forum for Creative Europe.

Europeana – Aggregating Europe's cultural heritage

Posted: November 15, 2010 at 12:41 am  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Former worker at Knowledgeland, Harry Verwayen started off his presentation by mentioning what he would not cover in his talk, namely viable revenue models to apply in this day and age (since according to Verwayen, this has been greatly covered on Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly’s blog). Thereafter, Verwayen directly mentions what he finds an effective business model for publishing: dual licensing, wherein “what you sell is the legitimacy.” This is also the approach in the Europeana initiative, which was funded by the European Union, and supported by many European cultural institutions.

Europeana logoAfter the Europeana project was commissioned in 2005, five years later the portal had expanded with an developer API and with a large network of participating institutions. Also, the entire platform is published as open-source. Currently, the platform holds over 13 million digitized cultural objects, that are aggregated from the different databases. While users can freely access the content (be it images, texts, sounds or videos), the records are indirectly advertisements as they contain links to the original archives.

By opening up these archives to the public, cultural content can easily get distributed across multiple sources (via the API), or it can engage end-users to “participate and work with the material.” Working with the material would for example mean investigating a very specific topic within just one platform, like reports in newspapers in France during the first World War. With such an aggregator, we might also more easily gain insights into which archives ‘privileges’ which topic.

Thereafter, Verwayen elaborated on the cost and benefits. As the portal relies on advertising, visibility is key for getting the traffic going. Therefore, one of the approaches is to upload material to large open platforms (for example, Flickr has a cost-ratio of 1:160). Another indirect benefit is that of using open-source code, which reduces the costs for other institutions to participate in the project. Most importantly, value is generated by putting the material into the public domain, which at Knowledgeland resulted in a cost-ratio of 2:3.

But, according to Verwayen, the “problem is not funding”, it’s rather “how to sustain digitalization and rights.” Roughly, the archived content falls under three categories. The first one, ‘digitization’ is the ‘easiest’ to digitize, since the rights expired or didn’t have any license to begin with (mostly classics). Secondly, there’s ‘digitization and rights’, this category is more troublesome since the content is often protected by copyright-holders who are hard to trace. Thirdly, there’s the ‘rights’ category wherein the cultural object is already digital (or digitized) but copyrighted.

In conclusion, Verwayen raises the question of how to formulate a sharing licenses that’s more compromising towards cultural archives. Also, how to organise the collective funding (by museums, institutions and governments)? How to ensure the continuation of digital heritage by these stakeholders, and (finally) how to work on revenue models for copyrighted cultural objects with have low intrinsic value? These are a few of the open questions that will affect the sustainability of initiatives like that of Europeana.

Vodo and the Sintel Project: The Commons and the Community

Posted: November 14, 2010 at 11:19 pm  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The pre-conference in Hilversum provided a stage for Dolf Veenvliet as member of the Blender Organization, and Jamie King of the P2P sharing platform VODO to talk about the commons, crowdfunding, and the community. The two presentations provided a perfect showcase of how open standards can provide a platform for creating and distributing content.

Dolf Veenvliet (Blender Foundation)   Open Movie Projects and Software

The Blender Organization used the free open source 3D content creation suite Blender for creating a 3D animation. Sintel is a independently produced short film, initiated by the Blender Foundation as a means to further improve and validate the Blender application. The project was funded by donations from the community and several financial film funds in The Netherlands.

The Blender community is really involved and are eager to contribute to the application, the community itself, and the ongoing projects. Not only in a financial sense by funding the production, but also by providing models when the team didn’t had the resources to create them themselves. Dolf Veenvliet is confident that people are willing to invest in cool projects and are willing to get involved; crowdfunding is the new way for creating a production.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dolf Veenvliet: "Do something awesome (or at least, something notable)"

Posted: November 14, 2010 at 11:13 pm  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , , , , ,

The presentation by the Dutch 3D artist Dolf Veenvliet would likely fall under the category of most pragmatic ones of the three day conference. Veenvliet started of by elaborating on the latest landmark production from the Blender Foundation (of which he is a member), namely the fantasy feature film called ‘Sintel’. After showing the trailer, Veenvliet explained the course of pre-production and production of the film. Besides the funding by the Dutch Film Fund, a substantial part of the costs were covered by the pre-orders of the DVD. What’s remarkable here is that, in this stage, the film was merely a textual synopsis posted on the Blender community web site. According to Veenvliet, the community is so willingly to donate because they know “things get done” when the money’s there.

After Sintel was released in September, the film reached an incredible amount of views and downloads. Over the months, it has been watched on YouTube over 2 million times, and downloaded over 5 million times, while previous Blender Foundation films (i.e the Pixar-esque ‘Big Buck Bunny’ (2008), or philosophic mini-epos ‘Elephant’s Dream’) stagnated at about 1 million over a whole year.

One of the common misunderstandings of film projects initiated by the Blender Foundation is that the production itself is an open-source trajectory. Instead, the director still has a leading role in what to include in terms of storytelling and visuals. In this process, a large group of content producers (ranging from amateur to professional) contributed by submitting 3d models of characters, scenery or animation, all under the Creative Commons license.

While the production of these films is not entirely democratic, Veenvliet for the remainder of the presentation, very much stressed the point of the benefits of making your work (and source files) accessible for a world-wide audience. For example, by posting a 3d-model of a humanoid robot called ‘Petunia‘, other artists took this model and started animating it. The story of the crowd-sourcing project was eventually featured by i.e the MIT newspaper and the Dutch NRC newspaper.

In conclusion, protecting one’s work as an artist is a safe, but orthodox way to go. At the same time, alternative production methods like Veenvliet’s prove to become increasingly viable as a source of income (for example, crowd-funded), as well as a platform for content exchange. Doing things in public might not pay off immediately, but by contributing work within a peer network, future productions might as well feature your carefully crafted models.

Public Debate: Future of the Public Domain in Europe

Posted: November 14, 2010 at 11:12 pm  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday session, 20.30– 22.30

Documents and sources on the Public Domain

Paul Keller from Kennisland opened the session with a bit of historical context: the 1990 Proposal for a Hypertext Project by sir Tim Berners-Lee. From the very beginning the internet has been a place of debate about what should and what shouldn’t be in the public domain – an influential text was the discussion started by Eric Kluitenberg on the nettime mailing list Frequently Asked Questions About the Public Domain.
James Boyle’s influential book from 2008, The Public Domain, has been the groundwork for anyone talking, thinking and/or reflecting on the subject since.
In the framework of the Communia project, the Public Domain Manifesto was published, which led to an official charter for the European Library Project Europeana: the Public Domain Charter.

Creative commons have become the public domain mark, but meanwhile many answers prevail, such as who should take care of this public domain and what infrastructures can we revert to.

James Boyle: Problems of the Public Domain

In his Skype session, Professor of Law at Duke Law School James Boyle laid out three main problems in discussions of the Public Domain debate – and what could be a number of solutions to them:

On the conceptual level, an essential task is to make politicians, institutional bodies and citizens aware about the ecology of knowledge, whereby a key driver for creativity stems from the interaction of the free and the controlled: We get creativity by control over the realm of the free – in culture, science, politics, etc. More common, however, seems to be an understanding that takes a universal stand only for the free. Yet, one may neglect the balance between the two realms on basis of such a conceptualization. Boyle illustrates this giving the example of a lawyer who believed that every breach of copyright may be understood as a violation of Human Rights and who was shocked by the idea that some people may see this very differently.

The second problem seems to be a cultural one. In the first place, when the copyright terms were extended, we applied the most speech-restrictive set of laws on most of 20th century culture. Since there is no speech-enhancing part of copyright law that could allow access and translation, we are denying ourselves access to most cultural expressions – even to orphaned works. Currently, 90% of creative and scientific materials are commercially unavailable but their copyright is still extended – the benefit of royalties for authors applies only to a very small fraction of historically produced documents. More often, there is no benefit to anyone.

Meanwhile, with e-culture rapidly growing and researchers looking less and less at off-line sources, the pyramid of knowledge seems to have been inversed: books have become the realm of the inaccessible. While spatial distance rendered inaccessibility before, actors such as Google now redefined access as immediate and disconnected from spatial fixation of cultural expressions.

The choice of where to publish what is persistently laid in the hands of the author – and without the conscious choice of an author none of us will have access to a wok produced by a contemporary in our lifetime. Free culture, public domain culture, will not contain any work made by our contemporaries unless they actively stipulated it – it is copyrighted by default. In such a way, we have cut ourselves off from our collective heritage, while generative production was always made by remixing.

The last problem identified by Boyle is based on the realm of science. The public domain is an essential component of scientific undertakings. While there are assumptions that issues around copyrights function better in this realm due to the relevance of technological progress and the resulting shorter term for patents of 20 years (in comparison to copyright terms of lifetime + 70 years), this seems not to hold true.

Referring to Berners-Lee, Boyle points out that the web was envisioned for science. As a tool to link and share scientific material, forming sets of hypertext links: a web of connections that would enable human knowledge to flourish. What we are confronted with now however, is that it works great for consumption and personal interests, yet for science the web hasn’t progressed very much: most literature is locked-up behind fire- or paying walls, which makes a dense set of connections to other online material impossible. Yet, the power of internet lies in these connections. Further, current copyright law regulates items which are not even covered by copyright law in the first place, such as footnotes. They are merely regulated by a technological accident, made exclusive by walls of payments.

Next to this, what we see is an expansion of the range of scientific subject matter. In the EU, the Database Directive had no empirical benefit to database industry while imposing economically inefficient structures on scientists and citizens. At the same time, we see an expansion of patent rights to cover new developments such as gene sequencing or synthetic biology, whereby fears exist that these expanded realms of intellectual property inhibit new scientific fields to grow. Could foundational truths established in new areas be protected under patent law?

Now what can be done to alleviate these processes? In the political sphere, orphan rights legislation could be feasible, since expansions of copyrighted material that is economically inaccessible is an embarrassment to cultural industries. Other stimuli lie in private hacks/privately created solutions such as general licenses in software, Creative Commons licenses expanding copyright by individual authors as open commons or maybe even Google books as an example for private initiatives. Playing into the political and privately constructed commons as alternatives, there seems to be an enormous role for public education. Initiatives such as the public domain manifesto and Communia are extremely valuable and in more domains, from music sampling over software development to libraries and the sciences, people need to realise what public domain means – and what it means if it’s taken away from them.

Bas Savenije: Challenges for libraries in the digital era

On basis of James Boyle’s talk, Keller notes that librarians may have become the keepers and custodians of material that is generally difficult to access, opening the podium for Bas Savenije, Director General of the Dutch Royal Library, Koninklijke Bibliotheek. In his talk, Savenije reflects on the changing role and challenges that libraries are confronted with in connection to current developments regarding the public domain.

Savenije makes the observation that our current generation more and more seems to perceive that knowledge which is not digitally accessible is non-existent. Documents which are not yet digitalised may therefore be threatened to be forgotten. To counter this, libraries increasingly turn to digital content and digitalisation of their stock. Currently, about 4 mil. items are preserved by the National Library of the Netherlands which is aiming for their full digitalisation. However, Savenije points out that current calculations estimate that digitalisation until 2013 would cover approximately only 10%. What reasons hinder the digitalisation progress?

The first obstacle is the lack of financial funding for such undertakings, as grants are often made available only for specific purposes such as the digitalisation of parliamentarian papers of the Netherlands or newspapers for research purposes. On the European level, there is money available to build infrastructures or better access but when it comes to the actual digitalisation of books, there is a lack of funding.

A way of dealing with these circumstances is seeking for public-private partnerships, as recently happened with Google. This cooperation however was based on three conditions: 1) everything that is in the public domain in print, should be in the public domain digitally forever; 2) there should be no exclusivity of the documents to Google as a contractor and 3) there would be no non-disclosure agreements. On basis of this agreement, the digital material is now available for almost any educational or research purposes as long as it is not commercial. A dilemma remains: old manuscripts are not digitalised by Google due to matters of insurance for these vulnerable manuscripts. But public-private partnerships with companies that take care of these materials often run under different conditions that may create exclusivity.

A specialised company like ProQuest, taking care of such projects for example for the National Library of Denmark, grants free accessibility to the documents only per country – access from anywhere else is locked behind a paywall for 10-15 years. Yet without such commercial partnerships, it is questionable to what degree the necessary progress towards digitalisation can be accomplished.

A second obstacle of course is copyright. Solutions to legal regulations, e.g. around orphan works, are being developed in various EU-countries in the form of extended collective licensing. A case which helped to gain attention for this issue was the Google Books Settlement as it brought discussions about copyright and issues of open access for scientific information on the European agenda.

Digital born content presents another challenge to the workings of libraries, as it demands quite different approaches to collection and preservation. Is the traditional task of libraries to cover everything ‘published’, i.e. in an operational definition any document that is published with an ISBN number, still valid? With the Library of Congress’ move towards tweet collection, should the National Library of the Netherlands collect tweets as well? Or would it rather be the task of the National Archive? How about scientific blogs? Common definitions of ‘publication’ do seem to fall short under the current wealth of data creation. Connected to this are the implications of the organizational diversity of heritage bodies facing these developments. Current publications sometimes work with annotated data models, integrating text and expressions of research-relevant data, audio and visual files in different media. How can the division of media over different organizations integrate multimedia? Since partial, media-based data collection would ruin the data, how does one arrange cooperation and build inclusive infrastructures?

Further, different types of libraries serving different parts of society are being funded by different sources. Being as a consequence different systems, how do the users of these libraries get access to data that is not available in ‘their’ specific library? An approach is needed that grants integrated access to data across territorial separation. It seems thus that the trend goes towards a National Digital Library with one common back-office where every library should provide access to their own community. While we have great examples such as Europeana, a big challenge is the envisioning of a ‘Nederlandeana’ that has a common infrastructure and responds to the changes across all domains induced by the Internet. Another issue remains securing the sustainability of such undertakings; however due to temporal reasons, this was not further elaborated upon.

James Boyle responds to the apparent dilemma of the increasing access to data connected to a shift towards integration of territoriality into the international public domain. How can one address these developments? According to Boyle, the first best solution would be to shorten copyright laws to about 8 to 17 years which seems to be optimal terms. However, that does essentially not remove territoriality. The second best solution then would be private or public-private initiatives, which would however also likely be territorial. An interesting case is that of Google, as the Google Booksearch Settlement may open up a market for competitors and thereby introduce new challenges for the public domain aside from territoriality. The adoption of the second best solution to Boyle seems more reasonable due to the potential of public licensing to achieve great things.

Bas Savenije adds that on a European level, the issues such as territoriality are being addressed several times per year in meetings of different National Libraries or Research Libraries. Conditions for public-private partnerships have been translated into a draft paper that is still being worked on. Responding to a question from the audience about the libraries’ access to interface and search-functions developed by private partners, Savenije mentions that own data bodies are larger that the database of scans produced by Google and thus need to be developed independently: “I hope we can be as good as Google is in that”.

Lucie Guibault: The European Dimension

European directive on copyright: recent discussion on public domain – including the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

The digital agenda plays decisive role in stimulating discussion of the public domain. The piling up of rights may be counterintuitive and counterproductive, which is why the European Union plays an important role in a new wave of public domain discussions – focused in the thematic network COMMUNIA, which discusses what the public domain means for science, for the public and for the general interest.

A working group has been working on an adaption of the public domain manifesto, which is meant to take a bold and provocative stand against copyright law. When attempting to define what copyright law is, we notice that lots of writing on the public domain is US-based (Duke University, et al.). Communia puts it on the map of the European discussions.

The manifesto proposes a split between structural public domain (both works whose protection has expired and all works that aren’t copyrightable) and voluntary sharing of information (creative commons, …). It proposes the adoption and development of the public domain mark and includes a number of general principles:

  • We should be able to freely build upon all information that is available out there: Public domain should be the rule and copyright the exception.
  • Most info is not original enough or copyright protectable so should freely flow.
  • What is in the public domain should remain in the public domain
  • Copyright is a right limited in time.

Simona Levi: Citizens’ and artists’ rights in the digital era

Simona Levi, Director of Conservas and involved in the annual oXcars, shares her point of view on public domain issues with a stronger focus on the position of contemporary producers of cultural goods and reflects on the immediate challenges and contributions of the artist in relation the public domain. Levi is connected to the FCForum, a platform and think-tank which understands itself as an international, action-oriented space to build and coordinate tools that enable civil society to answer to urgent political changes in the cultural sector. The FCForum brings together voices from liberal culture interest groups, yet explicitly also reaches out to the general audience to prevent the absorption by institutional bodies. In 2009, the FCForum set up the first Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge, a legal companion supporting work in the cultural domain by addressing copyright legislation in the digital era.

In 2010, the main focus of the forum was how to generate and defend new economic models for the digital era. Issues of the public domain are thereby especially approached from the understanding of the artists’ work being seated in shared spaces. The current charter 2.0.1 ‘Citizens’ and artists’ Rights in the Digital Age’ has particularly a practical focus, trying to challenge and influence political decision making on local and European level. While the points addressed in the charter are obvious and logic to those working in the artistic field, they may sadly not be to political bodies.

Some of the points mentioned by Levi are then:

  • Copyright terms should not exceed the minimum term set by the Berne convention (30 years), on the long term it should be shortened to about 8-17 years.
  • Jurisdiction should allow every publication to directly enter into the public domain.
  • Results of work and development funded by public money should be made accessible to everyone.
  • Research funded by educational institutions should be made accessible to the public.
  • There should be no restriction on the freedom to access, link or index any work that is already freely accessible to the public online, even if it not published under a shareable licence, an issue touching on the issue of private/non-private copying legislation.

According to Levi, another problem is posed by the legal framework around quoting, which is not allowed in many parts of Europe if the goal does not serve pedagogical or investigative reasons. Even if content creators support the quoting of their work, these limitations remain in power.

One major problem is connected to collecting societies. The problem here lies in the fact that there is few control on these bodies. They collect financial support in a public manner, yet redistribution of this money for their members works in a problematic way, since only a fraction of these members can vote on these decisions, based on royalties brought into the organization. This means that artists with a lower ability to bring financial assets into the group are essentially excluded from decision making. As a last point, Levi notes that they restrict the application of free licensing in the cultural industries and thereby silence potential interests of the artist in engaging with the pubic domain.


Charlotte Hess: Protection of access in knowledge – In need of a movement.

Charlotte Hess, Associate Dean for Research, Collections & Scholarly Communication at Syracuse University Library and internationally renown commons theorists, briefly reacts to the different positions that have been mapped out by the previous speakers.

While she recognizes that there is still a much to do about issues such as open access, it seems that Europe however is on a good track concerning these developments. In 2001, the first conference ever on the public domain had been organised by James Boyle and Hess points out how important and influential his contribution also through his work on the intellectual enclosure movement had been. What is needed for now seems to be a movement similar to the Environmental movement, something that could draw together all sorts of different people to protect our access to knowledge.

While much of the issues we are facing in this context are based in the realm of law, there certainly is also a general lack of awareness, neglecting negotiating and fighting any of the legal restriction. Yet, in a world where the dominance of corporations is so strong, the youth needs to be encouraged to go into the political arena instead of being swallowed by corporate entities.

Marietje Schaake is a member of the European parliament on behalf of D66, member of the committee on culture, media and education and co-founder of the Intergroup on New Media of European Parliament members.

In the closing part of the Public Debate, she discussed what the European Parliament can do for the public domain and what the sentiment in the parliament is towards the public domain. Overall, due to heavy lobbywork, the suggestion is raised that counterfeiting and breaches of copyright are to be the next war after terrorism. Currently, the odds are against reform of copyright law – there’s a strong lobby in favor of keeping and strengthening the status quo and a severe lack of knowledge about public domain issues.

A lot can be done though, to influence the existing wave:

  • present facts & studies about the impact of new technologies
  • have artists proclaim their trust: conservative lobby currently seems to defend creativity
  • present data: seeming neutral helps alleviate the image of being “squatters of the internet who want to kill innovation”

We need to find a way to open up a polarized climate where it’s safer to choose the establishment, if we want to secure an internet and knowledge culture that relies on principles of the public domain.

Collaborative tools for videos on Wikipedia

Posted: November 14, 2010 at 10:00 pm  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , , , , ,

Michael Dale (Wikimedia Foundation)  Video on Wikipedia

Michael Dale is an advocate for open standard and free video formats for the web. The past two years he has lead open source development for video on Wikipedia. To realize open web video Dale has worked closely with the Mozilla Foundation, Kaltura, and the Open Video Alliance. During the open video pre-conference Michael provided the audience a first technical insight into the possibilities of open video and collaborative video editing tools for Wikipedia.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rufus Pollock and open data

Posted: November 14, 2010 at 9:05 pm  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , , , ,

Rufus Pollock intervention in the Open Content, tools and technology panel was different by all means to the rest of the session, not only because he finally couldn’t be in Amsterdam and had to join via Skype, but because the approach and topic were quite different.

He gave a very brief talk and left aside video to focus in data in general, reminding the audience after several presentations about video and open audiovisual content that there’s more to fight for when it comes to the open culture.
He started asking the audience to try to find online information on the public spending of each one’s country in education, health or culture…only to show that the information, allegedly public, was far from being easily accessible. (The answer, at one of his projects:

This, beyond being an example to make evident the lack of accessibility to public data, is an example of some of the content that can also be found in other of Rufus’ projects: CKAN (comprehensive knowledge archive network). This project is a key example of the idea Rufus Pollock centered on: the need to create an open data ecosystem. How can we allow the people to plug together data with different tools?

That is what the open knowledge foundation is trying to find out; how to break the barriers between different countries and databases available in a central easily accessible place, or, in other words, how to plug in together all the datasets from different sources?
And once at that point, it’s really important to remember that the information should be not only accessible, but also open (with everything that implies in relation of the use you can make of that data).

But before we get at that point where we have a frame for collaborative work where data can be broken into pieces and then put together again governments and institutions need to be convinced of the advantages of it. Pollock appeals to the crowd’s intelligence, pointing how it’s been previously proven that people coming up with ideas and applications that they could have never thought of.

Rufus Pollock is a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow, an Associate of the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law at the University of Cambridge and a Director of the Open Knowledge Foundation which he co-founded in 2004. He has worked extensively as a scholar and developer on the social, legal and technological issues related to the creation and sharing of knowledge.
You can hear the entire talk here: MP3
Or watch the presentation here.

Video on Wikipedia – Ben Moskowitz and Michael Dale

Posted: November 14, 2010 at 9:00 pm  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday 11 November, Hilversum
by Serena Westra
After the lunch, the pre-conference seminar continues with three parallel working groups. I joined the working group ‘Video on Wikipedia’, which was moderated by Ben Moskowitz and Michael Dale. This working group was held in a smaller room where all the attenders, about 14, sat around a table. Ben and Michael introduce themselves. Before starting the discussion on video on Wikipedia, they ask us to introduce ourselves and explain our interest in this workshop. There is a big variety of people in the room, from video journalists to hackers and from students to researchers.

Ben starts the discussion. He wants to get rid of the top-down structure of video and broadcasting, and spread video. But how can you do this? Open source software can play a significant role in the solution. ‘We don’t need the entire community to use open source software, as long as a part does.’ There needs to be a standard system and browsers need to support it. The structures needs to be collaborative. Video is already used in Wikipedia. It is working, but can we go beyond it? There are three questions Ben Moskovitz and Michael Dale want to address in the discussion about video on Wikipedia.

First, how do we get content and where does it come from?

Some people in the room try to give an answer to this question, but it is hard to find one that fits. For example, the content can come from the users, like in YouTube, but as Ben says: ‘Wikipedia will never be YouTube.’ How can we convince the mass to spend time on video for Wikipedia? This is incredibly difficult, the tools are immature and there are some technical complications and Wikimedia cultural implications. ‘The people [of Wikimedia Foundation] are very consistent, could be good or bad.’ Another problem is that the best users who contribute to Wikipedia, are a bit resistant about video coming on Wikipedia. Some think it should be purely text based. Geert Lovink disagrees with this point: ‘It was never purely texted based, there has always been use of images and maps’.

There are some other solutions, like Geert Lovink suggests: ‘Maybe we can start with some experts as an example, like TED does only in a slightly different way. It needs to be open.’ Some one else agrees that there are some good examples that work already, like Open Images and Beeld en Geluid. Maybe we can work with them?

Another problem is that if you want to build on this software, you need a really solid base. Wikipedia doesn’t really have this. Do you want to change this too? As Michael Dale points out, Wikipedia is experimenting with software to solve this problem. This is more valuable that something perfect planned to him. Video should be accessible for people all over the world.

The second question of the addressed in the workshop is: What should/will be the relationship between the encyclopaedia and video?

Wikipedia is a genre, it is relatively fixt. Video is going to blow this away. It has to be verified, but how do you use the Wikipedia policy on video? Is it own research? You filmed it. How can you use NPOV [natural point of view] on video? Maybe the existing rules need to be set a side for video. For example, the users could decide if something is neutral. Or, the video can be seen as an artefact. They have a specific point of view, but are a part of a certain context.

What the role of video on Wikipedia will be is a difficult question. The video can be an illustration, supplanting the article or be something else? The people in the workshop can’t come to a perfect answer to this question. I guess we have to wait and see how it will turn out in a few years.

The last question addressed in the workshop was: Can the collaborative editing model work with video?

Michael wonders if the open, collaborative editing model of Wikipedia can really work on video. Ben answering this question: ‘no, I’m sorry Michael but I don’t think so.’ But Michael is not so sure about this: ‘the tools can change as well.’ For example, the collaborative model can be realised through editing the basic time line. Everybody can provide a time line; maybe an user can choose the best one. Another example, suggested by Michael, is to create subsections. When you divide the video in smaller bits, which people can own, it is easier to use a collaborative model.
Beside that, according to Geert Lovink, tv, radio and film has always been collaborative. That is what the credits is all about: to see who collaborated.
Another attender of the workshop suggests the sandbox idea: person A has an idea and makes a raw version, person B has a the right technical equipment and can make the movie thanks to the creativity of person A.

However, the problem is not a technical one, as Michael discovered, but a social one. Will the users come? And how will they use it? According to Ben, video will be based on conflict. The video whit the most time and effort invested in it will win.

To find out how video on Wikipedia really works, the group is divided in two parts. The first group is taking a look at the technical elements of Wikipedia, the second group wants to post a video on Wikipedia. By the end of the workshop, they have uploaded two videos. One of them replaced an existing article on the online encyclopaedia, as a small experiment how it works and how long it stands. The second video addresses a new subject on Wikipedia where no article existed about yet.

As Ben and Michael concluded in their workshop, the direction of video on Wikipedia is not clear yet and will show in one and a half or two years. I think we just have to wait and see!

example of video on wikipedia: Polar bear

The best of the Oxcars

Posted: November 14, 2010 at 7:22 pm  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , , , ,

After three days of intense discussion and with a reduced audience, the Economies of the Commons 2 conference was closed with the best session that could have possibly done it.

With the screening of “The best of the Oxcars”, a compilation of three big gala-performances over the last three years in Barcelona defined by the collective behind them, EXGAE as “The biggest event of free culture ever”, the Oxcars renew the concept of award ceremony.

The idea and the goal of these galas celebrated with around 2000 attendants each year is not to award, but to show open initiatives in the most varied and bizarre categories (from Animation, films or TV shows to “granted lawsuit”). At the same time, they educate the audience in the terms and advantages of free culture –interesting reminder on how free culture is not “gratis” culture with a mixed tone of humor and activism.

Looking at the list of winners and awards, we can see recognition to great open initiatives such as the Blender foundation or Guillermo Zapata’s “Lo que tu quieras oír” short film. (Whatever you want to hear) At the same time, there was also room to showcase the works and creations of individuals who defy the all mighty rights collection associations, like the SGAE, the biggest of these associations in Spain, one of the most hated institutions of the country. But participatory culture was also present in this showcase under the motto “do it at home, it’s legal”.

But if there’s something to be missed in this last session is a better explanation of what lies beyond this fun performance. Simona Levi, member of the EXGAE collective that presented and commented the video mentioned the hundreds of thousands of responses from the civil society against laws cutting users rights and how in 2009 the pressure of internet users got the minister of culture to be released of his duties.
Nevertheless, for an international audience unaware of the extremes the greed of SGAE can reach or the mafia-like behaviors that keep artists and creators scared of open in some times, maybe that was not enough.

I think it’s important that the international community, and specially the international open content community realizes the extreme situation that Spain faces, with law projects to allow disconnection from the internet to users who make “illegal downloads” (although Spanish law recognizes the right to private copy). It is exactly that situation, that limit situation to the users rights that encourages a cornered society to fight, while the government (no matter the name of the minister of it’s theoretically left-winged) keeps siding with abusive collectors and proprietary-closed culture.

To finish giving some supporting substance to the critic, I’d like to point out the video also had time to mention the case of a shop tender from Barcelona who was sued for 100.000€ by the SGAE for playing music in her store and after six years of court, finally won her case. This, together with the fact that the digital levy the SGAE has been collecting for years (taxing everybody that bought paper, printers, hard drives or anything that might eventually be used for piracy) is being declared illegal and over 1 billion € will have to be returned helps us keep the hope that, even in Spain, it’s not too late for the open culture.

If you want to know more about the Oxcars awards and EXGAE, or just have a fun time watching some of the prizes, I recommend you have a look at their website.