Monthly Archives: September 2006

norms as regulators

I’m on a flight from Japan to New York for the Anderson event tonight. It is an ANA flight with wifi and ethernet jacks in at least the business/first class seats. There doesn’t seem to be any technical blocking (though I can’t get FTP to work very well). But interestingly, on the instruction sheet, it says:

ANA kindly requests that passengers refrain from using internet based voice applications and refrain from viewing objectionable material over the internet as it may disturb other passengers.

It is interesting (and refreshing) to see places where the authorities believe norms are a sufficient regulator. It is also interesting (and not surprising) to parse the “request.” Only the second restriction is explained — viewing porn, e.g., would disturb others. Fair enough. But the first restriction is not explained — until you flip the page to read about the telephone service the airplane offers (at about $10/minute).

(Note, the norm technique may also be what Google is doing on its fantastic new service giving free PDFs of works in the public domain. They too request the work not be used commercially.) Continue reading

Posted in new chicago school | 5 Comments

on the economies of culture

One of the most important conclusions that can be drawn from the work of Benkler, von Hippel, Weber (my review of both is here), and many others is that the Internet has reminded us that we live not just in one economy, but at least two. One economy is the traditional “commercial economy,” an economy regulated by the quid pro quo: I’ll do this (work, write, sing, etc.) in exchange for money. Another economy is (the names are many) the (a) amateur economy, (b) sharing economy, (c) social production economy, (d) noncommercial economy, or (e) p2p economy. This second economy (however you name it, I’m just going to call it the “second economy”) is the economy of Wikipedia, most FLOSS development, the work of amateur astronomers, etc. It has a different, more complicated logic too it than the commercial economy. If you tried to translate all interactions in this second economy into the frame of the commercial economy, you’d kill it.

Having now seen the extraordinary value of this second economy, I think most would agree we need to think lots about how best to encourage it — what techniques are needed to call it into life, how is it sustained, what makes it flourish. I don’t think anyone knows exactly how to do it well. Those living in real second economy communities (such as Wikipedia) have a good intuition about it.

But a second and also extremely difficult problem is how, or whether, the economies can be linked. Is there a way to cross over from the commercial to second economy? Is there a way to manage a hybrid economy — one that tries to manage this link.

The challenge of the hybrid economy is what Mozilla, RedHat, Second Life, MySpace are struggling with all the time. How can you continue to inspire the creative work of the second economy, while also expanding the value of the commercial economy? This is, in my view, a different challenge from the challenge of how you call this second economy into being, but obviously, they are related. But this challenge too is one I don’t think anyone yet understands fully.

As I watch Creative Commons develop, I’ve been encouraged by the experiments that try to find a way to preserve this second economy, while enabling links to the first. I wrote before about Yehuda Berlinger who had set IP law to verse. In that post, I nudged him to adopt a CC license. He did, but he did so in a very interesting way. As his site now reads:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License. Attribution should include a live link to this blog post, whenever possible; text link otherwise. License for commercial usage also available from the owner.

This idea is one we’re experimenting with at CC — a NC license that explicitly includes a link to another site to enable commercial licensing. It is one way to preserve the separation of these separate spheres. I’d be eager to hear about other ways you might think better.

But the important point to recognize is that this effort to preserve the separation is fundamentally different from the effort of many in the “free software” or “free content” movement who want all “free” licenses to permit any sort of use, commercial or not. Imho, they are simply ignoring an important reality about the difference between these two economies. Indeed, they’re making the opposite mistake that many in the commercial world make: Just as many commercial rights holders believe every single use of creative work ought to be regulated by copyright (see, e.g., the push to force what are plainly “fair uses” of copyrighted work on YouTube to pay the copyright owners), so too these advocates of “free content” would push everyone to treat everything as if it is free of copyright regulation (effectively, if not technically). Second economy sorts believe differently — that some uses should be free, and others should be with permission.

It is because I have enormous respect for those who make the latter mistake (and believe their motives are more likely pure) that I urge them to consider the radical simplification of social life they insist we push on the world. I like the dynamics of the second economy. Benkler has given it a theory. I think we should be working to support it, not pretending that it is not there.

The obvious reply (and the real puzzle for me) is FLOSS. I said at the start it effectively operated in the second economy. But the “free content” movement that I’m skeptical of is simply trying to push the norms of FLOSS into the content space. How could it then be any different?

In my view, the difference comes from the difference in nature of the stuff. Some cultural production can be collaborative in exactly the way FLOSS is — Wikipedia. But you need an argument to get from some to all. No doubt, I too need an argument that some is different from some. I don’t have that yet. But it is here that I think the really important discussion needs to happen.

Oh, and by the way, Yehuda has added Trademark Law to his verses. Continue reading

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IP Code, in verse

Yehuda Berlinger has a very clever remix of the U.S. IP Code — rendering both copyright law and patent law in verse. Now only if it were better licensed, someone might add some melody… Continue reading

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British Council on “Creative Commons Thinking”


The British Council and Counterpoint has a new publication, “Unbounded Freedom: A Guide to Creative Commons Thinking for Cultural Organizations,” written by Rosemary Bechler. The book will be launched Friday. There’s a discussion page on the author’s blog, which begins with a useful post addressing the question: “So why did I choose to licence my work in this way?” Continue reading

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“It was well for Pandora that she opened the box “: YouTube on user-generated content

YouTube has announced:

Sophisticated tools to help content owners identify their content on the site;
(1) Automated audio identification technology to help prevent works previously removed from the site at the request of the copyright owner from reappearing on the site;
(2) The opportunity to authorize and monetize the use of their works within the user-generated content on the site;
(3) Reporting and tracking systems for royalties, etc.

This is going to get very interesting. Continue reading

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FSF’s important step

The Free Software Foundation has launched a public discussion on proposed changes to the Free Document License, a license designed “can be used for any textual work” but which, in the world enriched by Wikipedia, now attempts to license all creative work. I’ll be studying the changes carefully, and will post my own comments, both here and there, but I really would encourage people to do the same. Please spread the word broadly.

This step continues the process the FSF launched with the GPLv3. And while that license has become increasingly controversial (see the Kernel Developers‘ post, the FSF’s response, Linus Torvald’s latest), there should be no controversy about the good work of FSF in running this licensing process so transparently. They’ve got very cool (GPLd) code enabling the public comments. We at CC are keen to get our hands on it (it’s not yet distributed) to use in later revisions of our licenses. (We’ve done comments before, but the old fashioned way).

The real challenge here will be Richard Stallman’s. His work helped launch important movements of freedom — free software, most directly; free culture, through inspiration, and examples such as Wikipedia. It also helped launch a movement he’s not happy about, the Open Source Software Movement. Much of the latter builds on the former. And these movements have been joined by many who share his values, some more, some less. (Again, see Torvalds). These movements have built much more than he, or any one person, could ever have done. So his challenge is whether he evolves these licenses in ways that fit his own views alone, recognizing those views deviate from many important parts of the movement he started. Or whether he evolves these licenses to support the communities they have enabled. This is not a choice of principle vs compromise. It is a choice about what principle should govern the guardians of these licenses.

I was struck as I’ve been thinking about this by an obvious analogy: At a recent launch of Creative Commons licenses in a Latin American country, an artist described what it was like to watch her work remixed on ccMixter. As she described, at first “it is mine”; then it becomes “less mine.” When “less mine,” it would be wrong, she suggested, for the artist to exercise the complete and personal control over the object as when it was just “mine.”

E.g., we all (should) see why it’s wrong for the Margaret Mitchell estate to threaten remixers of “Gone with the Wind” with lawsuits, that story having become so central to the culture of America, and especially the American south. Though I would certainly have supported her effort to sue a publisher who changed a final chapter when the book was first published. This difference in attitudes about ownership is, imho, all the difference in the world — hardest for the artists, or “owners” as some people like to say, to recognize. Continue reading

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but before I go to the Creative Commons Concert


Before the concert on Friday night, I’ll be on stage at the NYPL with my boss (one of many), Chris Anderson. This is the second time I’ve read his book; I liked it the first time; it gets better each time. It should be an interesting event. Tickets here. Continue reading

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they say an SVG is worth a thousand words…


David Goodger has created this SVG. The source is available here. This image is licensed CC BY-NC-SA. Others at his site are in the public domain. Continue reading

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Learning more about AMVs

Mimi Ito is conducting a survey of AMV creators and their practices. Read more here. Continue reading

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OneWeb Day, Today is

Read about it here. Continue reading

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