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November 02, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Remix Commons

Remix Reading, the group dedicated to promoting free culture and Creative Commons locally in the Reading area is expanding into four cities across the UK and establishing a new project, Remix Commons, to bring Creative Commoners together. Says Tom Chance:

We've got most of the infrastructure ready; we have people in Brighton, Deptford (East London), Leeds, Milton Keynes and Reading working on ways to promote free culture and Creative Commons locally; we have a bunch of events lined up over the next few months, and we're in touch with lots of other local arts organisations and local government people. Soon we'll unleash the coolest free culture network yet, creating a national repository of free content (on the Remix Commons web site) and a network of local projects providing a local energy and presence. You'll also be able to see, for example, all the work produced by people in Reading, to cement that local presence on the web. But... we need more techies! We're currently limping along with two people who barely have the time to maintain the current Remix Reading web site, let alone expand and support the network. People with PHP knowledge (especially Drupal), people who are good at maintaining a server, people who know how to run an icecast (webradio) server, people who are good in making HTML and CSS layouts, and so on, and so on. Just one or two extra technical hands with enthusiasm could make a huge impact. It should also be an interesting challenge as we expand and improve.
If you're interested in helping out, contact Tom at Remix Reading.

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October 26, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

New web host and URL

You might have noticed a bit of funkiness with the blog recently. This was because we've been moving hosts from a corner of my server to a proper hosted site with proper support people and a proper domain. If you have a link to the old blog, please update it to, and if you haven't linked to us, what on earth are you waiting for?! We will continue to tweak the blog over coming weeks, so don't worry if things go a bit pear-shaped once in a while. It's just me, breaking things behind the scenes and then hurriedly trying to fix them again before anyone notices.

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October 15, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Launch of the RSA's Adelphi Charter on Creativity, Innovation & Intellectual Property

Professor James Boyle John Howkins Sir John Sulston Paul Crake, Chair These are my notes from the speeches given to introduce the Adelphi Charter at the RSA, on Thurs 13 October. John Howkins The question that was in mind 3 or 4 years ago when they had the idea for the charter was a very simple question. Getting question right is essential for getting the right answers. What is intellectual property for? What is the purpose of intellectual property? Of copyright and patents? Hard to come up with an IP policy unless you know what you're doing it for. Several answers come to mind. The first answer is that they are to incentivise people, to motivate people to create work. This doesn't stand up to examination: e.g. algebra, the world wide web. Paintings didn't used to be copyrighted and yet the same amounts of skill etc. have been put into older paintings. The argument that if you make something you should have protection so you can make money of it seems like a good answer. Reward is important, but it doesn't really do it. Third argument is counterintuitive. It's to enable people to have access what others make. To use it and have access. E.g. patents require you to publish your work. How do you compromise and balance between the two? How do you decide where the limits are? IP - hardly any debate going on, hardly any evidence. There's a claim that we should have longer copyright term but there's no evidence one way or the other. RSA now producing some principles that would fit the public service that they identified to help creativity and innovation. No body likes the phrase 'intellectual property', it is a divisive phrase. So that's why they renamed it the Adelphi Charter. The charter is in two parts: - a set of principles that should be the foundation of any IP policy, that they should sustain a society's creativity and innovation - a list of public interest tests that they hope the government will adopt and subject their legislation to. [A short film describing the charter was then played.] Professor Jamie Boyle Alternatives to monopolies is prizes. Goal was to be banal, to make points that no one could argue with, but which in this bizarre world at the moment are seen as extreme. For example, the point that law and policy should be based on evidence and facts. What we should learn is not hostility towards IP, what it is is a tool which is constantly being re-examined. Is it doing its job? Some examples of applying the principles. In the US, you used to get 28 years copyright with 28 registered renewal. That was abolished and it became automatic. But only between 7 and 11 per cent were renewing. This means 89 per cent didn't want a renewal, so abolish balance for just 11 percent of people and content is locked up. Benefits small, costs high. Should never have happened. Software patents. Requires inventor to disclose details to a level that allows people to recreate things entirely. Information that might have been secret comes eventually into the public domain. Open source. Distributed creativity, GPL. Robust model, and economically robust model. US/WIPO says they are promoting IP rights not giving them away. But IP rights are a tool not an end. Broadcaster's Right. Another layer of rights above and beyond copyright where broadcasters have rights over what they broadcast. Theory is that broadcast will collapse without it, and that webcasters need it too. But 100 countries haven't adopted this existing right, but looking at what happened in those countries, to examine real evidence is anathema to the policy makers. Sir John Salston Wasn't always aware of the principles that we're discussing now. Involved in the Human Genome Project. The task of sequencing was completed a couple of years ago to the level currently possible, but understanding it is another matter. DNA is a 3,000 million letter code. Have a mass of knowledge that needs sharing and using for centuries to come. Some implications of it now is that we're better at medical, diagnostics where DNA has a bearing. Will be new drugs, new therapies, but that's not why it was done. It was the done because wanted a full understanding. Doing this was inevitable, but what was not inevitable was that the library was going to be open, because they only narrowly avoided a monopolistic source for this data which would have required a hefty fee to access this information. Having a proprietary monopolistic database at the centre of a business plan would have destroyed communication in this whole field, because it would have required to be successful a clamp down on the sharing of information. So scientists would be unable to talk to those who had not paid a fee, or even each other. This had an effect on Salston, that they had only so narrowly managed to get this information into the public domain. This attempt to privatise the human genome has many parallels which need fighting. Excessive enclosure throttles research and innovation, ethics, widens gap between rich and poor specially on a global scale, and this economic imbalance that arises as the rich enclose and get richer should give people pause. All endeavors of the human race. What are we here for? Exploration, research and understanding. So important not to throttle activities by focusing on what is marketable. Lynn Brindley, Chief Exec of the British Library There is evidence that some of the rubbish of 100 years ago is the centre of research today, and the role of libraries has been to look after that, and provide access. But what is that role in the digital age. The Charter provides a set of principles and a framework in which practical work can sit. Used to be that the scholarly information chain was very clear. But the internet has blown that to bits, so how do you cope with that? A particular issue is statutory mission to be the intellectual and scientific memory of the nation. What does that mean digitally? UK has taken some steps in terms of legal deposit, but it's complex, taking a long time, need to balance public's rights and those of the copyright holders. If we don't crack that there'll be no access to this material in 50 to 100 years time. Cory Doctorow, EFF Social contract for creativity and public access has ruptured. Napster came, but within months, was gone. The response to the response has been clear. Now 1 in 50 lawsuits in the US is the record industry suing a fan. The contract we're being offered now is unilateral and is being renegotiated without our permission. Industry sees value in everything, and there is value, but they are trying to get access to that value which before was on the public side of the copyright bargain. DRM is an attempt to make a grab at that public side. The Adelphi charter is a social contract that explicitly spells out the public side of the copyright bargain. [There was a Q&A afterwards, but I've not taken notes from that. Bit too verbose for me to distill out the points.] The RSA have published the charter in a pretty little pdf on their Adelphi Charter site, but frankly PDFs are a pain in the arse, so I'm copying the whole thing here, in toto.

Adelphi Charter on creativity, innovation and intellectual property Humanity

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October 08, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Links for 8 Oct 05

Time to clear out my browser and pass on a few URLs: Your Right To Know: Why we must cut the costly Crown copyright - Heather Brooke from The Times on why Crown copyright has just got to go. FT.Com: James Boyle More rights are wrong for webcasters - The Broadcasting and Webcasting Treaty is going to be a disaster for pretty much everyone, and has been drafted without any regard for the facts. Bill Thompson: Extending Copyright Term RSA Seminar - Bill blogs about the Lessig vs. the Industry seminar I also went to. New Statesment: Capitalising on Creativity - write up of a round-table discussion held by the Smith Institute about 'how Britain might capitalise on its creativity' (free downloadable PDF). Don't expect any dissenting voices. Virtual Rights Institute Annual Digital Identity & Human Rights Symposium in Costa Rica, 18 Nov. How I wish I had the budget... Wikipedia: Data Retention - good piece on Wikipedia about data retention, with sections that focus on the UK. Information Today: Open Content Alliance rises to the challenge of Google Print - Brewster Kahle and a bunch of others take up the Google Print baton and start scanning everything they can get their hands on. ZDnet: Tsunami appeal site 'hacker' found guilty - disgraceful conviction of Daniel Cuthbert simply for typing ../../../ into his browser to see if a site was phishing or not. Not good.

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October 01, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Should the term of copyright protection be extended or shortened in the UK?

RSA, IPPR, PCMLP Lecture Prof. Lawrence Lessig, Creative Commons John McVay, CEO of PACT (representing film and TV producers) Adam Singer, CEO of MCPS and the PRS (musicians' royalty collecting societies) Moderated by John Howkins, RSA My preamble I really enjoyed this debate, although I was a little surprised to see quite a lot of agreement between the panellists. Not sure how much of this was just out of a desire on the part of John McVay and Adam Singer not to get into a fierce debate in public, and how much was genuine agreement with the points that Larry Lessig was making. But I was pleased to see Adam and John take the stage with Larry - Adam joked a couple of times about how he'd get fired for publicly agreeing with Larry, and I there were definitely undercurrents that some of his constituents would likely not be happy with this event even taking place, so all credit to him for resisting pressure and helping make this debate happen. It would be easy to paint the industry as the antichrist, and in fact I have heard Adam described as just that (ironic, then, that he joked about how some people in the industry see Larry as the antichrist). But picking an extreme standpoint and sticking to it is not always the best way to progress towards a reasonable compromise and it was encouraging to see Adam acknowledging some of Larry's points as valid and to see Larry suggesting potential middle paths. I do have to disagree with Larry on one point, though. I don't think copyright term extension in the UK/Europe is inevitable. Maybe I'm just being optimistic, but software patents were defeated, and I think that we can defeat term extension too. But we need to start debating this in public now, not wait until it gets to a crucial juncture in parliament. So, now, on to the notes from the evening... Larry Lessig, Creative Commons RSA appropriate place for this discussion. It's remit is to encouraging new arts and invention, but through prizes rather than monopolies. In the 17th/18th centuries, monopolies were unpopular. Monopolies - such as those on golden thread or playing cards - were abused, and response to abuse was resistance to monopolies. Statute of Anne, to 'encourage learning', 14 years renewable once for new, 21 for existing work. 1731, interesting question was would copyrights expire? Publishers insisted copyright was perpetual, despite Statute of Anne, claiming that common law granted perpetuity. In 1735 they asked for a term extension but were defeated. In 1737 they asked again, and were again defeated. In 250 years since then, this history has been forgotten. Discussion of monopolies is not about limits or balance, specially in the context of copyright, instead have a race for increasing copyright term. Germany +70, 'to account for the war' Europe +70, to keep up with Germany USA +70, for 'harmonisation' But then in US corporate [sound recordings?] works was +95, but EU was +50. EU wants to harmonise now to +95 Mexico wants to go to +100, and Spain wants to match Mexico. Terms increase, never decrease. The radical arguments for terms are: - Radicals = Jack Valenti 'forever minus a day' - The Economist = 14 + 14, exactly as statute of Anne. Don't need to address the radical position. Extending the term for recordings, should it be +50, to +95? Two points. 1. Copyright is about encouragement, incentives, monopolies in exchange or creativity. Should we change terms should be about incentives to produce new creative works? Distinguish between prospective change of terms for a work not yet creative, and the retrospective change of terms for works that exist. For new works, the prospective increases: Is 50 years enough? Look at costs and benefits. How much more valuable is a 95 year stream of income over a 50 year stream of income? The difference between these two streams of income is tiny under any realistic calculation. 1% increase in value of 95 over 50 years. Is the 1% important? It could help... it's plausible. But the 'maybe' is the part that's important. This increase in incentive is so small it's implausible to imagine it would have an impact. Retrospective increases: No numbers to calculate at all. Benefits from the prospective of what copyright is to be about, producing incentives to create new work, the benefits are 0. Incentives are prospective. Anything we do about existing copyright cannot do anything to increase production from the past - Elvis can't create any more work in 1955 than he already has. Increasing terms doesn't increase incentive, but it will make people richer. Maybe the people use this money to make new work, but maybe they'll do up their house in the Bahamas instead. If the focus is on principle, there is no principled reason to extend copyright. But principles won't win. Larry thinks: We will extend copyright terms, despite principle. But there is a simple and obvious point about how that should be done. There is no reason to extend copyright terms indiscriminately and adopt a blanket term. Owners of Laurel and Hardy movies filed a brief saying "We make millions when you extend copyright, but if you don't strike down the act, there is a whole section of film history that will disappear, because the vast majority has no known owner. So no one will invest in restoring the work because someone may come forward and own it. Only when film is in the public domain does anyone invest in restoration. But the films will disintegrate, because the film stock cannot survive until it goes into public domain again." Vast majority of the work that would be affected is commercially unavailable - 98% of work is invisible to the current culture. If copyright is extended, it will remain invisible. 170,000 78s 383,000 vinyl records Are being digitising as they pass into the >public domain, but a tiny proportion has an owner. Shouldn't block access to the 98% for the benefit of the owners of the 2%. Instead, find ways to discriminate. Extend copyright only if it's needed. Proposal: if you want an extend term, then at 50 years file a form and attach

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September 27, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

But what about Scotland?

Just spoke to a group of ISPs at the UK Network Operators Forum conference about ORG (Ian spoke about data retention), and from the audience came a very important question. What about Scotland? Scotland has a different legal system, different legislation and its own parliament, so that means a whole different group of people we need to be talking to. We are keen to be inclusive, and didn't intentionally leave Scotland out, but we'll need to find our counterparts there. We are talking to Digital Rights Ireland already, but I am not aware of a similar group in Scotland (or Wales or Northern Ireland, for that matter.) If you know whom I should be talking to, point them out to me. Meantime I shall put some feelers out to try and find the right people.

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September 26, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Briefing for members of the European Parliament on data retention

Privacy International have put together an excellent open letter to all members of the European Parliament, addressing the current proposals on communications traffic data retention. It begins:

Dear Members of the European Parliament, We would like to take this opportunity to address you regarding the current proposals on communications data retention. As you are well aware, both the Council and the Commission have put forward proposals on data retention. It now appears that the policy is finally shifting to the first pillar away from the third. This does not mean that the policy has improved. Despite many edits over the last two years, both the Council and the Commission proposals continue to be invasive, illegal, illusory and illegitimate. These proposals continue to require the collection and logging of every telecommunication transaction of every individual within modern European society. Almost all human conduct in an information society generates traffic data. Therefore traffic data can be used to piece together a detailed picture of human conduct.[1] Under the various proposals, this data will be kept for between six months and four years. There are clear challenges for these proposals with respect to the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Charter on Fundamental Rights and national constitutions. The case still has not been made that retention is necessary in a democratic society.[2] The claimed need for harmonisation is premature at best and challenges democratic process.
The letter, which is well worth reading, has been endorsed by:
  • Association Electronique Libre, Belgium
  • BBA Switzerland
  • Bits of Freedom, the Netherlands
  • Chaos Computer Club, Germany
  • Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility - ES, Spain
  • Digital Rights, Denmark
  • EFFi, Finland
  • Forum InformatikerInnen f

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September 24, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP: No justification for data retention

On her website, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP worries that there has been no serious cost-benefit analysis of the UK's data retention proposalsfor Europe, and calls on other MEPs to question the necessity for such 'sloppy' legislation:

"[S]torage of everyone's phone, email and website use is costly as well as a massive invasion of privacy and increase in state surveillance, so the threshold for justification is a high one." "I am still worried by the absence of a serious cost-benefit analysis. Assertions are made about the need to keep records for a considerable time, but the evidence is thin. No decent rebuttal has been delivered of the case for a short retention time plus specific 'freezing orders' for communications records of suspects." "Since we will have the leverage to do so now, MEPs must probe the real necessity for invasive measures. Whilst EU-wide cooperation is crucial to stop terrorism and organised crime, Member States should first end cross-border turf wars and actually implement cooperative arrangements they've signed up to."

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