Joost Poort: Conference Keynote Address – Invited Respondents

Posted: November 13, 2010 at 7:16 pm  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , ,

Joost Poort responses on the key note presentation of Charlotte Hess from an economic perspective. Poort is Economic Researcher at SEO on the market structure and regulation of infrastructures.  He explains that economist have a very strict definitions of public goods and that digitization turned many culture goods into public goods. The easy answer on the question of ownership that arises is to ask cultural finance, but it is not just about shifting money, it is also on welfare deduction. The consequence of deduction can easily be explained by the light house as an easy example of a public good. You can’t exclude people to use it. But even then, the people of the harbor has to fund it.
There are some other problems we see nowadays in the cultural sector. There is hope for a more or less voluntary contribution to a public good, when the users value it enough to give a contribution or donation. In addition Poort says that public information should be freely available.

To Poort the idea of the commons are changing trough technology. This change is notable in the cultural industry where a lot is happening at the same time while  sharing and cost redundant go hand in hand. According to Poort the definition of a public good is non rival and non exclusive in economic terms. Digitalization turned information sources into public goods. Traditional public goods are in the domain of public finance, the transformation from commercial goods to public goods does not mean the goods have to be under public funding.  A public good is never for free, a lot of money is involved of often hidden costs. Although this debate is not about equity, it is about public funding not solving the issue of public goods if all else fails. The example of the light house is given here. If the harbor stops funding the light house, who will lead the way for the ships to come and make use of the provided services the whole community benefits from? And when funding stops, different incomes should be explores just like the music business does not urn their income on selling CD’s, the money is earned nowadays with music concerts and performances.

To Poort a commons is an essence, rival but not exclusive therefore it is according to Poort probably not possible to give a closed definition in an economic perspective of the commons. The more good is shared, the more good is available while the value increases. But even if a public good is free, people are willing to pay if they can see ad value in it. A large percentage of people still buy CD’s after downloading, therefore a public good does not have to be for free. A suggested model can be of sponsoring or subscription such as the case with online music service Spotify. Or in the case user terms a trusted, save and easy payment structure such as the Apple app store can bring about payment for common goods. For Poort, public information should be free of use, including all information which is already paid for. But what happens if a common good is partly funded?

A wider perspective on the commons of public information Poort mentions the costs of privacy in accessing this information and protection of surveillance. When information is free of use and aces, it can also be used for different, including negative purposes.  A unwanted effect of free information for Poort is the car number plate mobile text massages request for car prices. Everyone who is interested can find out the price of a random car.  The debate of privacy and additional costs is slightly mentioned with this example.

Poort responses on the question that key note speaker Charlotte Hass raises of the role and goal for the library in this digital era. He states that the public libraries in the age of the E-Books technology will change and replace the old model for traditional library models do not work in the digital age as he says, 'I wanted to rent an e-book but it was out of stock'. Bas Savenije, Director General of the Dutch Royal Library in the Netherlands KB, responses to this comment by stating that the duty of the library should not only be to make E-Books available, but also to support the community in providing information. Public libraries should be more of a platform and service provider than finding place. Libraries should answer to the new need of the public to show their value to the commons.

Economies of the Commons 2

Posted: October 20, 2010 at 2:34 pm  |  By: margreet  |  Tags: , ,

Paying the costs of making things free

International conference, seminar and public evening programs

Amsterdam & Hilversum

November 11 - 13, 2010

Economies of the Commons 2 is a critical examination of the economics of on-line public domain and open access resources of information, knowledge, and media (the 'digital commons'). The past 10 years have seen the rise of a variety of such open content resources attracting millions of users, sometimes on a daily basis. The impact of projects such as Wikipedia, Images of the Future, and Europeana testify to the vibrancy of the new digital public domain.  No longer left to the exclusive domains of digital ‘insiders’, open content resources are rapidly becoming widely used and highly popular.

While protagonists of open content praise its low-cost accessibility and collaborative structures, critics claim it undermines the established "gate keeping" functions of authors, the academy, and professional institutions while lacking a reliable business model of its own. Economies of the Commons 2 provides a timely and crucial analysis of sustainable economic models that can promote and safeguard the online public domain. We want to find out what the new hybrid solutions are for archiving, access and reuse of on-line content that can both create viable markets and serve the public interest in a competitive global 21st century information economy.

Economies of the Commons 2 consists of an international seminar on Open Video hosted by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision on November 11 in Hilversum, a two day international conference and two public evening programs on November 12 and 13 at De Balie, centre for culture and politics in Amsterdam. The event builds upon the successful Economies of the Commons conference organised in April 2008.

Confirmed speakers include:

Charlotte Hess (Syracuse University - Keynote), Ben Moskowitz (Open Video Alliance), Simona Levi (Free Culture Forum), Bas Savenije (KB National library of the Netherlands), Yann Moulier Boutang (Multitudes), Peter B. Kaufman (Intelligent Television), Harry Verwayen (Europeana), James Boyle (Duke University), Jeff Ubois (DTN), Sandra Fauconnier (NIMK), Dymitri Kleiner (Telekommunisten), Nathaniel Tkacz (University of Melbourne), a.o.

Organisers:

Images for the Future Consortium / Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision / De Balie / Institute of Network Cultures / University of Amsterdam, Department of New Media.

For detailed program information check our website:

www.ecommons.eu

WHEN THE COPY’S NO EXCEPTION: Interview with Kennisland’s Paul Keller

Posted: June 10, 2010 at 1:52 pm  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , ,

Interview with Kennisland's Paul Keller on Creative Commons, Mick Jagger, and the changing role of the archive.

Go here to listen to the original interview of  May 18, 2010

Paul Keller, one of the founders of Creative Commons Nederlands, recently sat down with me to talk about freeing society’s creative silos, a conversation ranging from how we might circumvent stale copyright law to the surprisingly robust underground of p2p networks innovating in the margins.

Keller hails from Kennisland, a future-oriented Dutch think tank that puts its stake in an economy driven less by the production and circulation of 3-D goods than by creative knowledge flows. An overarching goal is to bolster society’s cultural commons and improve access as far as possible to these resources. Their partners include Creative Commons, Images for the Future, Communia, and Wikimedia.

Kennisland is working with several cultural heritage institutions on copyright issues. What have you found to be so deficient about the current copyright system?

Our aim at Kennisland has been to improve access as far as possible to digital cultural resources, to make them available under free licenses or without restrictions. Now if you decide to license something, you need to know who was involved in producing something, then you must find them and negotiate with them, and that's usually when it ends. Because with large diverse collections, it can be very difficult to find the people who own copyrights in your archive. So we’re looking to find practical solutions for existing projects, but also shaping policies and practices on the national level to overcome these hurdles. How can you align stakeholders so that material becomes available? All the talk about innovations taking place in the shadows, in an unregulated sphere that ignores copyright and the interest of authors - it's simply not an option for organizations funded by public money and run by boards with respectable retired ladies and gentleman. You need to negotiate these problems in a way that doesn't put too much burden on archives and respects the rights of the producers and authors involved.

For instance, copyright still is organized around national boundaries. Organizations may have permission to display something on the internet in France but not in Belgium. From the perspective of an internet user that is absurd, but if you don't have right to do so, and you risk being held liable, you probably won't make it available.

So how does Creative Commons then nuance the law to address the way digital technologies are changing cultural production and circulation?

Copyright law usually makes the distinction between private and public. Private is what I show in my own house, legally defined as people I have personal bonds with, in a close community. A public performance requires permission from the copyright holder, while with a private doesn’t. The internet has of course dramatically enlarged the range of our public. If I look at my flickr collection of pictures, hundreds of thousands of people have looked at them, while it it is still essentially the same collection that started its life in a shoe box on my shelf that maybe 5 people looked at back in the days. You can argue that the private has become global, and as a consequence this public-private distinction doesn't work well for triggering copyright anymore.

In place of this public/private distinction, the difference between commercial and non-commercial uses might be a much more relevant. In a way Creative Commons introduced this idea. The non-commercial sphere needs much less regulation and restrictions, and it is probably a good thing if copyright holders focus on generating income from commercial uses of their works. These days not making a copy of something is damn difficult to do. The unique is the exception and copies are the new normal. There needs to be some kind of acknowledgement of this, or the rules that govern copying will stop functioning.

You were one of the founders of Creative Commons Nederlands seven years ago. Can you talk to me about what effects its licenses may have had on the public domain since? What are some of your successes?

I don't see the main value of Creative Commons in licensing individual works, someone's blog that isn't that interesting to use in the first place. What’s more substantial is when a large platform like Flickr becomes tightly integrated with Creative Commons. Flickr is an amazing resource for freely licensed imagery that can be very useful in educational settings, and the cc licensed imagery there provides value to a large group of people. It’s becoming a real threat to professional photographers because you find so much freely licensed stock imagery there.

Another recent case was the decision of the Dutch government to release information published on government websites under CC0, a statement that the government doesn’t assert copyright at all. Here we see Creative Commons as a tool to support government policies about how we can best structure access to information in the networked environment. So we are trying to spread this idea that what’s important isn’t if it’s 3 or 17 videos become available, but that sharing information is beneficial to entire organizations, so that they start integrating these instruments into their platforms and procedures.

We see this happening more and more. One of the most signifficant projects we’ve done is with Buma/Stemera, the collective rights management organization for authors of musical works in the Netherlands, exploring if it is possible to combine collective rights management and individual rights management. When we started talking to them, they had the perception that we were working against them: you want to make stuff available for free, and we’re in the business of extracting money from people who want to use music, so you should get out of our way. Instead, we’ve come up with an understanding of how one approach can drive the other, the free availability of material can actually drive your ability to extract money.

So with the aid of Creative Commons, large amounts of digital objects are being released by massive silos, such as Flickr, Youtube, and the Dutch government, as you mentioned. How do you see this changing the role of the public archive?

We see a transformation of archives away from being the central place where we store stuff that no one uses, into resources that people actually want to use. In this process the real innovation probably isn’t happening at the central archiving nodes, but at the fringes of the network, in the distributive archive and metadata systems, where you make sure that I have access to what you archive, and you have access to what I archive. Peer-to-peer networks are a natural way of selecting what's worthy of being preserved and what's not. If there's at least one person assigning enough value to one object to keep it, then it's available to the entire community. There's no policy that says we can only conserve more of our glorious history. Underground bittorent communities that specialize in specific genres of film, for instance, are surprisingly responsible archives, operating outside the realm of copyright permission. It's fan driven, distributed and very responsive. One would expect those networks to do a lousy job of preserving, but in the end they can be far more complete than centralized systems that have to stick to the rules.

Copyright in this sense is like a one way mirror: one the one side you have this institutional world of archiving, and on the other side, you have these informal activities that are doing very interesting things but are invisible to the institutional players who can't look back through the mirror. From the perspective of these informal communities, institutions are still operating in structures based on a time when the main characteristic of the archives were thick walls, controlled temperatures and enough space to have everything in one place. The current copyright model does not enable them to fundamentally transform the way they grant access, and as a result a lot of material that could be available to society is hidden away.

There's a criticism of Creative Commons floating around that claims these licenses don't address how artists will make money once their content is offered up for free, and that it doesn't prevent companies from exploiting all this open content created by unpaid labor. How do you answer these complaints?

The criticism you refer to argues against this idea that free availability can be a good thing, because if something is given away free, how will the artist be paid? That's a relevant question, but Creative Commons isn't necessarily the organization with an answer to this. We are not making a claim that the Creative Commons licenses are the tool to use if your primary objective is to earn a living from producing artistic works. Creative Commons has always been careful to say we don't oblige people to use our licenses. Our licenses are tools that you can use if you have come to the conclusion that you want to share something.

Right now there is a much more fundamental problem with generating income from artistic production. In a recent interview with the BBC Mick Jagger stated that he is rather skeptical of the current discussion about how musicians can earn money from selling recordings of their music. He observes that in the history of modern music, the period from 1970 to 1997 is about the only period that a substantial group of musicians managed to earn a living by selling music as a recorded good. This period probably needs to be seen as an exception, while we are currently treating it as the rule. So How do you value the production of cultural goods in society of resource abundance, and what economic mechanisms can reimburse people who do that? How do we regulate it or not? What's the point of value creation when everyone has access to everything? Creative Commons, copyright - neither are the final answer to that question. We need to rethink this not from a rights-based perspective, but from an economical perspective. So far we haven't found the business model that will solve these discussions.

Earning money by selling cultural goods, where I give you a cultural good and you give me money, and this ends up being a good deal for the artist, is the absolute exception. So it’s probably more productive to look at what's wrong with copyright as an underlying system. Copyright currently justifies a simple binary transaction. I have cultural goods, you have money, and we do a proper exchange, or otherwise I’m in violation of copyright. Given that everybody can make copies of pretty much anything, this is clearly not the smartest system for organizing knowledge transfer or the distribution of cultural goods. Creative Commons is built on top of the existing copyright system to offer ways to escape these effects.

WHEN THE COPY'S NO EXCEPTION: Interview with Kennisland's Paul Keller

Posted: June 10, 2010 at 1:52 pm  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , ,

Interview with Kennisland's Paul Keller on Creative Commons, Mick Jagger, and the changing role of the archive.

Go here to listen to the original interview of  May 18, 2010

Paul Keller, one of the founders of Creative Commons Nederlands, recently sat down with me to talk about freeing society’s creative silos, a conversation ranging from how we might circumvent stale copyright law to the surprisingly robust underground of p2p networks innovating in the margins.

Keller hails from Kennisland, a future-oriented Dutch think tank that puts its stake in an economy driven less by the production and circulation of 3-D goods than by creative knowledge flows. An overarching goal is to bolster society’s cultural commons and improve access as far as possible to these resources. Their partners include Creative Commons, Images for the Future, Communia, and Wikimedia.

Kennisland is working with several cultural heritage institutions on copyright issues. What have you found to be so deficient about the current copyright system?

Our aim at Kennisland has been to improve access as far as possible to digital cultural resources, to make them available under free licenses or without restrictions. Now if you decide to license something, you need to know who was involved in producing something, then you must find them and negotiate with them, and that's usually when it ends. Because with large diverse collections, it can be very difficult to find the people who own copyrights in your archive. So we’re looking to find practical solutions for existing projects, but also shaping policies and practices on the national level to overcome these hurdles. How can you align stakeholders so that material becomes available? All the talk about innovations taking place in the shadows, in an unregulated sphere that ignores copyright and the interest of authors - it's simply not an option for organizations funded by public money and run by boards with respectable retired ladies and gentleman. You need to negotiate these problems in a way that doesn't put too much burden on archives and respects the rights of the producers and authors involved.

For instance, copyright still is organized around national boundaries. Organizations may have permission to display something on the internet in France but not in Belgium. From the perspective of an internet user that is absurd, but if you don't have right to do so, and you risk being held liable, you probably won't make it available.

So how does Creative Commons then nuance the law to address the way digital technologies are changing cultural production and circulation?

Copyright law usually makes the distinction between private and public. Private is what I show in my own house, legally defined as people I have personal bonds with, in a close community. A public performance requires permission from the copyright holder, while with a private doesn’t. The internet has of course dramatically enlarged the range of our public. If I look at my flickr collection of pictures, hundreds of thousands of people have looked at them, while it it is still essentially the same collection that started its life in a shoe box on my shelf that maybe 5 people looked at back in the days. You can argue that the private has become global, and as a consequence this public-private distinction doesn't work well for triggering copyright anymore.

In place of this public/private distinction, the difference between commercial and non-commercial uses might be a much more relevant. In a way Creative Commons introduced this idea. The non-commercial sphere needs much less regulation and restrictions, and it is probably a good thing if copyright holders focus on generating income from commercial uses of their works. These days not making a copy of something is damn difficult to do. The unique is the exception and copies are the new normal. There needs to be some kind of acknowledgement of this, or the rules that govern copying will stop functioning.

You were one of the founders of Creative Commons Nederlands seven years ago. Can you talk to me about what effects its licenses may have had on the public domain since? What are some of your successes?

I don't see the main value of Creative Commons in licensing individual works, someone's blog that isn't that interesting to use in the first place. What’s more substantial is when a large platform like Flickr becomes tightly integrated with Creative Commons. Flickr is an amazing resource for freely licensed imagery that can be very useful in educational settings, and the cc licensed imagery there provides value to a large group of people. It’s becoming a real threat to professional photographers because you find so much freely licensed stock imagery there.

Another recent case was the decision of the Dutch government to release information published on government websites under CC0, a statement that the government doesn’t assert copyright at all. Here we see Creative Commons as a tool to support government policies about how we can best structure access to information in the networked environment. So we are trying to spread this idea that what’s important isn’t if it’s 3 or 17 videos become available, but that sharing information is beneficial to entire organizations, so that they start integrating these instruments into their platforms and procedures.

We see this happening more and more. One of the most signifficant projects we’ve done is with Buma/Stemera, the collective rights management organization for authors of musical works in the Netherlands, exploring if it is possible to combine collective rights management and individual rights management. When we started talking to them, they had the perception that we were working against them: you want to make stuff available for free, and we’re in the business of extracting money from people who want to use music, so you should get out of our way. Instead, we’ve come up with an understanding of how one approach can drive the other, the free availability of material can actually drive your ability to extract money.

So with the aid of Creative Commons, large amounts of digital objects are being released by massive silos, such as Flickr, Youtube, and the Dutch government, as you mentioned. How do you see this changing the role of the public archive?

We see a transformation of archives away from being the central place where we store stuff that no one uses, into resources that people actually want to use. In this process the real innovation probably isn’t happening at the central archiving nodes, but at the fringes of the network, in the distributive archive and metadata systems, where you make sure that I have access to what you archive, and you have access to what I archive. Peer-to-peer networks are a natural way of selecting what's worthy of being preserved and what's not. If there's at least one person assigning enough value to one object to keep it, then it's available to the entire community. There's no policy that says we can only conserve more of our glorious history. Underground bittorent communities that specialize in specific genres of film, for instance, are surprisingly responsible archives, operating outside the realm of copyright permission. It's fan driven, distributed and very responsive. One would expect those networks to do a lousy job of preserving, but in the end they can be far more complete than centralized systems that have to stick to the rules.

Copyright in this sense is like a one way mirror: one the one side you have this institutional world of archiving, and on the other side, you have these informal activities that are doing very interesting things but are invisible to the institutional players who can't look back through the mirror. From the perspective of these informal communities, institutions are still operating in structures based on a time when the main characteristic of the archives were thick walls, controlled temperatures and enough space to have everything in one place. The current copyright model does not enable them to fundamentally transform the way they grant access, and as a result a lot of material that could be available to society is hidden away.

There's a criticism of Creative Commons floating around that claims these licenses don't address how artists will make money once their content is offered up for free, and that it doesn't prevent companies from exploiting all this open content created by unpaid labor. How do you answer these complaints?

The criticism you refer to argues against this idea that free availability can be a good thing, because if something is given away free, how will the artist be paid? That's a relevant question, but Creative Commons isn't necessarily the organization with an answer to this. We are not making a claim that the Creative Commons licenses are the tool to use if your primary objective is to earn a living from producing artistic works. Creative Commons has always been careful to say we don't oblige people to use our licenses. Our licenses are tools that you can use if you have come to the conclusion that you want to share something.

Right now there is a much more fundamental problem with generating income from artistic production. In a recent interview with the BBC Mick Jagger stated that he is rather skeptical of the current discussion about how musicians can earn money from selling recordings of their music. He observes that in the history of modern music, the period from 1970 to 1997 is about the only period that a substantial group of musicians managed to earn a living by selling music as a recorded good. This period probably needs to be seen as an exception, while we are currently treating it as the rule. So How do you value the production of cultural goods in society of resource abundance, and what economic mechanisms can reimburse people who do that? How do we regulate it or not? What's the point of value creation when everyone has access to everything? Creative Commons, copyright - neither are the final answer to that question. We need to rethink this not from a rights-based perspective, but from an economical perspective. So far we haven't found the business model that will solve these discussions.

Earning money by selling cultural goods, where I give you a cultural good and you give me money, and this ends up being a good deal for the artist, is the absolute exception. So it’s probably more productive to look at what's wrong with copyright as an underlying system. Copyright currently justifies a simple binary transaction. I have cultural goods, you have money, and we do a proper exchange, or otherwise I’m in violation of copyright. Given that everybody can make copies of pretty much anything, this is clearly not the smartest system for organizing knowledge transfer or the distribution of cultural goods. Creative Commons is built on top of the existing copyright system to offer ways to escape these effects.