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The Wall Street Journal on “Sita Sings The Blues” and Profit Numbers

Cameron Parkins, December 1st, 2009


RamSitaGods, Nina Paley | CC BY-SA

Last week, The Wall Street Journal posted a fascinating article on the profits made by Nina Paley for her film Sita Sings The Blues. Widely available for free online under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license, Sita has garnered $55,000 to date, an impressive amount for a film that has spent nothing on promotion or adverting.

While this amount only conveys part of the story – the article leaves out the cost to make the film as well as Paley’s cost-of-living – it is inspiring to see such fiscal success from a work of open-cinema. Aurelia Schultz, current CC legal research volunteer, digs deeper with the numbers on her blog, making the following observation:

A better tally of how [Paley] has done would include how the Sita copyright issue and subsequent CC licensing have increased Nina’s income from her other works by increasing her visibility; how much she makes from speaking engagements (which she say are her most lucrative work); and how much more she would have paid out under her settlement agreement had she released the film in a more traditional manner. Since all of these things only add to what she has already made, it’s clear that releasing Sita under a Creative Commons license was a good choice for Nina.

For more information on Sita Sings the Blues be sure to read our interview with Nina Paley as well as check out our case study on the film itself.

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To Shoot An Elephant, CC BY-NC-SA Documentary, Wins Award at Festival dei Popoli

Cameron Parkins, November 20th, 2009

genesis_DARK_logoLast week To Shoot An Elephant, a CC Attribution-Share Alike CC Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike licensed documentary on life in the Gaza Strip, won the award for “Most Innovative Filmmaker” at Florence’s Festival dei Popoli. From the voting committee:

“After we watched this film we engaged in a long passionate discussion. This film never left us. We want to award the filmmakers for sharing with us an emotional, physical and stressful experience for being there and witnessing the horrors and destruction of the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip earlier this year.”

It is wonderful to see open source cinema receive these types of accolades, solidifying its place in the larger film landscape. Congratulations to film-makers Alberto Arce and Mohammed Rujailah on their win! You can learn more about To Shoot An Elephant at their website.

UPDATE: The film To Shoot An Elephant is licensed under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike license – the film’s website is licensed under a CC Attribution-Share Alike license.

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WikiEducator, Connexions, and MediaWiki join forces in OER Remix Project

Jane Park, November 20th, 2009

In case you haven’t heard, WikiEducator‘s Wayne Mackintosh announced earlier this week that they were joining forces with Connexions “to provide educators with greater freedom of choice to mix and match the best of two OER worlds, namely “producer-consumer” models with more traditional work flow approaches and commons-based peer production.” WikiEducator and Connexions are two collaborative OER projects that use Creative Commons licenses. While WikiEducator, licensed CC BY-SA, focuses “on building capacity in the use of Mediawiki and related free software technologies for mass-collaboration in the authoring of free content,” Connexions, licensed CC BY, focuses on the collaborative development, sharing, and publishing of modular educational content that can be easily integrated into larger collections or courses. According to the announcement, the two projects will partner “to build import export capability between the Connexions and WikiEducator/Mediawiki platforms.”

It’s definitely exciting to see these two OER projects working together, especially since the collaboration is being generously funded by a grant from one of our own biggest supporters, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. There are various ways you can tune into its progress, including visiting the project planning node, subscribing to the Connexions mailing list, or helping them develop use case scenarios.

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CC and the Google Book Settlement

Mike Linksvayer, November 16th, 2009

The is probably the copyright story of the year — it’s complex, contentious, involves big players and big subjects — the future of books, perhaps good and evil — resulting in a vast amount of advocacy, punditry and academic analysis.

It’s also a difficult item for Creative Commons to comment on. Both “sides” are clearly mostly correct. Wide access to digital copies of most books ever published would be a tremendous benefit to society — it’s practically an imperative that will happen in some fashion. It’s also the case that any particular arrangement to achieve such access should be judged in terms of how it serves the public interest, which includes consumer privacy, open competition, and indeed, access to books, among many other things. Furthermore, Creative Commons considers both Google and many of the parties submitting objections to the settlement (the Electronic Frontier Foundation is an obvious example) great friends and supporters of the commons.

We hope that a socially beneficial conclusion is reached. However, it’s important to remember why getting there is so contentious. Copyright has not kept up with the digital age — to the contrary, it has fought a rearguard action against the digital age, resulting in zero growth in the public domain, a vast number of inaccessible and often decaying orphan works, and a diminution of fair use. If any or all of these were addressed, Google and any other party would have much greater freedom to scan and make books available to the public — providing access to digital books would be subject to open competition, not arrived at via a complex and contentious settlement with lots of side effects.

Creative Commons was designed to not play the high cost, risk, and stakes game of litigation and lobbying to fix a broken copyright system. Instead, following the example of the free software movement, we offer a voluntary opt-in to a more reasonable copyright that works in the digital age. There are a huge number of examples that this works — voluntary, legal, scalable sharing powers communities as diverse as music remix, scientific publishing, open educational resources, and of course Wikipedia.

It’s also heartening to see that voluntary sharing can be a useful component of even contentious settlements and to see recognition of Creative Commons as the standard for sharing. We see this in Google’s proposed amended settlement, filed last Friday. The amended version (PDF) includes the following:

Alternative License Terms. In lieu of the basic features of Consumer Purchase set forth in Section 4.2(a) (Basic Features of Consumer Purchase), a Rightsholder may direct the Registry to make its Books available at no charge pursuant to one of several standard licenses or similar contractual permissions for use authorized by the Registry under which owners of works make their works available (e.g., Creative Commons Licenses), in which case such Books may be made available without the restrictions of such Section.

This has not been the first mention of Creative Commons licenses in the context of the Google Book Settlement. The settlement FAQ has long included an answer indicating a Creative Commons option would be available. Creative Commons has also been mentioned (and in a positive light) by settlement critics, for example in Pamela Samuelson’s paper on the settlement and in the Free Software Foundation’s provocative objection centering on the tension between the intentions of public copyright licensors and the potential for settlements to result in less freedom than the licensor intended.

Independent of the settlement, we happily noted a few months ago that Google had added Creative Commons licensing options to its Google Book Search partner program. This, like any voluntary sharing, or mechanism to facilitate such, is a positive development.

However you feel about the settlement, you can make a non-contentious contribution to a better future by using works in the commons and adding your own, preventing future gridlock. You can also make a financial contribution to the Creative Commons annual campaign to support the work we do to build infrastructure for sharing.

If you want to follow the Google Book Settlement play-by-play, New York Law School’s James Grimmelmann has the go-to blog. We’re proud to note that James was a Creative Commons legal intern in 2004, but can’t take any credit for his current productivity!

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CC Japan Release iPhone App for Into Infinity

Cameron Parkins, November 16th, 2009

On Friday, Creative Commons Japan and iPhone developer Appliya Studio released AudioVisual Mixer for Into Infinity, a free iPhone application specifically developed for the launch of the Into Infinity project in Japan (iTunes link). Into Infinity, which we have discussed numerous times, is a music and art project produced in collaboration between CC and non-profit web radio collective dublab.

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When opened, the application connects to a server where the project’s resources are stored, automatically downloading sound loops (“EAR”) that are paired with visual circles (“EYE”). An Into Infinity logo serves as an anchor point to trigger sounds – users can drag and move circles with their finger and when brought into the logo’s orbit the sounds start mixing, creating new derivative works on the fly. Users can then share these mixes instantly by posting to Twitter or sharing via e-mail from within the application.

All mixes generated by the application’s users are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, keeping in line with the project as a whole. The release also coincides with the addition of 50 “ear” sound loops and 50 “eye” visual circles from Japanese sound and visual artists. If you have an iPhone, download it today!

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AntWeb, Fedora Project, Wikitravel → CC BY-SA 3.0

Mike Linksvayer, November 9th, 2009

Demonstrating that June’s migration of Wikimedia sites to CC Attribution-ShareAlike as their main content liense was a signal of much greater interoperability among free and open content projects going forward and not merely an end in itself are recent announcements from the Fedora Project, AntWeb, and Wikitravel, all moved or moving to CC BY-SA 3.0. Each has a different story as to how and why they made the move.

The Fedora Project, best known for its community-centric and cutting-edge GNU/Linux distribution, but also committed to “leading the advancement of free, open software and content” (emphasis added, from the Fedora Project home page), has migrated all of its documentation and wiki content to CC BY-SA from the long-deprecated , via their contributor agreement. Among the reasons:

4. Other organizations that have content we can reuse in Fedora and contribute back to, such as Wikipedia and GNOME, have switched or are switching to the CC BY SA. Why does this matter? For one easy example, we can write a definitive history of Fedora, host it on Wikipedia as the upstream, then package it as part of the ‘about-fedora’ package.

5. If you’ve never looked at how much open content there is on e.g. flickr.com and Wikicommons, please look. For content authors, this is going from practically zero useful open media available to tens of millions of photographs, diagrams, and so forth that we can not only freely reuse, but we can contribute back to.

AntWeb, a project of the California Academy of Sciences that holds its own copyrights has changed its license from CC Attribution-NonCommercial to CC Attribution-ShareAlike, a change that has resulted in a major collaboration with Wikimedians and 30,000 ant images gracing Wikipedia articles. Waldir Pimenta guest-blogging with Brianna Laugher, writes:

I found the fantastic images from AntWeb, a project from The California Academy of Sciences, which aims to illustrate the enormous diversity of the ants of the world. I was especially happy to find that they were using a Creative Commons license — but soon after I was disappointed to find that the specific one they used (CC-BY-NC) was not appropriate for Wikipedia (or, more generally, free cultural works, and thus discouraged by Creative Commons itself).

So I sent them an email suggesting them to change the license. When they replied, I found out that they actuallly had been internally discussing license issues for quite a while. I kept in touch, and made sure to let them know the advantages of having their work showcased in such high-traffic websites as Wikipedia, Commons or WikiSpecies.

I like to think that my two cents helped in their decision, some time later, to not only change their license to CC-BY-SA, but also upload all their images to Commons themselves! This was part of their overall mission: “universal access to ant information”. Before, the AntWeb project focused only on digitization of content and development of the web portal; but now they also decided to “export” AntWeb content to improve access. Putting the images and associated metadata in Commons was an example their outreach initiatives.

Finally, Wikitravel, a very successful site that we’ve mentioned here many times (see founder Evan Prodromou’s letter in support of our 2007 fundraising campaign — which also works for 2009!) is building community consensus for upgrading from CC BY-SA 1.0 to CC BY-SA 3.0. Unfortunately 1.0 did not have an upgrade clause, a problem corrected in 2.0.

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ccMixter→ArtisTech Media

Mike Linksvayer, October 29th, 2009

ccMixter Only 5 years ago the benefits of CC-enabled remix — fully legal, easy, and respectful of both original artists, remixers, and fans (but not necessarily of those less and less useful strict divisions) — was mostly a vision, unrealized potential. ccMixter played a big part in changing that, beginning with its launch featuring tracks from the WIRED CD — the Gilberto Gil, David Byrne, the Beastie Boys, et al.

Since then, ccMixter has hosted remix contests and challenges from many top artists (check out DJ Vadim Remixes You, wrapping up next week). Many other music remix sites supporting CC licensing and garnering cool contests have also sprung up — seeing the potential of web-mediated, fully legal remix requires no imagination at this point — though there’s still a long way to go to realize its potential to change culture. However, the real strength of ccMixter (and a far leading indicator of cultural change on the horizon) is the ccMixter community and the many years of distributed yet very friendly collaboration embodied in that community. If reading is your thing, check out site admin/developer/mentor Victor Stone’s ccMixter memoir for a deep account of ccMixter’s nature, contributions, and lessons.

For some time CC has been thinking about how to take ccMixter to the next level and looking for just the right entity to do that.

Now, we’re very happy to announce that ccMixter will henceforth be run by ArtisTech Media. For details, see the transfer FAQ, Victor Stone’s take, and letter from Emily Richards, the CEO of ArtisTech Media:

I love ccMixter – exactly as it is. In all my years in music and tech, I’ve found ccMixter’s community to be the most positive, cohesive, and collaborative I’ve been a part of. The music collectively created at ccMixter is uniquely powerful, because of this amazing community of talented, visionary artists. Our goal at ArtisTech is to continue to help foster this talent and community as it grows. And for those seeking even more opportunity for their art, well, our aim is to help you find ways to share your music with the world, without disturbing the balance of this beautiful musical jewel we all love (ccMixter.org).

As the old saying goes ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ so we see no need to change things. We may add capacity to allow for larger file uploads and perhaps other improvements of a similar nature, but ccMixter belongs to all of us and it works so magically right now, as it is.

I first uploaded tracks to ccMixter in October 2006, based on the recommendation of ArtisTech co-founder, Jason Brock (spinningmerkaba). When I listened to my first group of remixes (by norelpref, Hundred Schools of Thought, Briareus and PorchCat) I knew I’d been lucky enough to stumble upon something extraordinary. More than three years later, I am more amazed by ccMixter than ever before.

The longstanding participation of Emily (known as Snowflake on ccMixter) and others in the ArtisTech team in the community was a huge plus — adding to the team’s great mix of business, music, and technology experience, and their great spirit and respectfulness.

So CC is really excited about this transition. We believe that in ArtisTech Media we’ve found just the right entity to take ccMixter to the next level, but only with maximum respect for the community and adherence to the forms of openness that have enabled the site and community so far.

If you’re already involved in the ccMixter community, we hope that after reading the FAQ and posts from Victor and Emily you’ll be convinced the long search was worthwhile and that you’re very excited to participate in ccMixter’s next step. If you’re not involved yet — check out the site!

p.s. A huge THANK YOU to all who have helped make this transition possible over the past year, in particular Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati for pro bono legal help, and CC’s General Counsel, Diane Peters.

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New CC-Licensed Feature Length Films from Sweden & Italy

Cameron Parkins, October 14th, 2009

nopCreating a feature films is a massive undertaking, and it is for this reason that we’re always so impressed to hear of film makers using CC licenses. Two recent examples are Nasty Old People from Swedish director Hanna Sköld and Torno Subito from Italian Simone Damianiunder.

“Nasty Old People” was released under our Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license and Torno Subito is available under our Attribution-Noncommercial license. What’s great about these licenses is that they both allow and encourage legal sharing and remixing as methods for promotion and encouraging fan engagement. The results are already beginning to appear: fans of Nasty Old People have raised donations amounting to 10% of the film’s loaned budget, and they’ve also created a Portugese translation of the film’s subtitles.

Over the years, there have been a number of CC-licensed feature films released, and we do our best to keep up with them all on our film wiki page, but please add to the wiki if you come across something we’ve missed.

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Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band Goes CC!

Fred Benenson, October 14th, 2009

YOPOB

Photo via yopob.com, All Rights Reserved

Yoko Ono wants you to remix her track “The Sun Is Down!” whose stems are released under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial license. You can download the sample pack which includes the track’s vocal effects, loops of bass, drums, sound effects, and Tenorion files.

But Yoko’s also running a contest to find the 10 best remixes. Here are the details:

Create your own remix of “The Sun Is Down!” by Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band, using as many or few of the samples from the pack and any original audio you wish to add.

When you have finished your mix, make an MP3 copy that’s as high quality as possible, but still under 10MB in size.

Email the MP3 of your mix, along with its name and your name, address, email and phone number to remix@YOPOB.com before 12 December 2009.

The Top Ten mixes will be decided by Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band.

The winners will receive special signed Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band prizes and will be featured on this site over the Xmas and New Year period.

Head over to Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band for the full contest details and to download the sample pack.

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Nobel Prize in Economics to Elinor Ostrom “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”

Mike Linksvayer, October 12th, 2009

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded today to Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson for their research on economic governance. Ostrom’s award is particularly exciting, for it cites her study of the commons. Commons? That sounds familiar!

Ostrom’s pioneering work mostly concerns the governance of common-pool resources — resources that are rivalrous (i.e., scarce, can be used up, unlike digital goods) yet need to be or should be governed as a commons — classically, things like water systems and the atmosphere. This work is cited by many scholars of non-rivalrous commons (e.g., knowledge commons) as laying the groundwork for their field. For example, a few excerpts from James Boyle’s recent book, The Public Domain, first from the acknowledgements (page ix):

Historical work by Carla Hesse, Martha Woodmansee, and Mark Rose has been central to my analysis, which also could not have existed but for work on the governance of the commons by Elinor Ostrom, Charlotte Hess, and Carol Rose.

Notes, page 264:

In the twentieth century, the negative effects of open access or common ownership received an environmental gloss thanks to the work of Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science 162 (1968): 1243–1248. However, work by scholars such as Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), and Carol Rose, “The Comedy of the Commons: Custom, Commerce, and Inherently Public Property,” University of Chicago Law Review 53 (1986): 711–781, have introduced considerable nuance to this idea. Some resources may be more efficiently used if they are held in common. In addition, nonlegal, customary, and norm-based forms of “regulation” often act to mitigate the theoretical dangers of overuse or under-investment.

Notes, page 266:

The possibility of producing “order without law” and thus sometimes governing the commons without tragedy has also fascinated scholars of contemporary land use. Robert C. Ellickson, Order without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991); Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

In 2003 Ostrom herself co-authored with Charlotte Hess a paper contextualizing knowledge commons and the study of other commons: Ideas, Artifacts, and Facilities: Information as a Common-Pool Resource. It includes a citation of Creative Commons, which was just about to launch its licenses at the time the paper was written:

An example of an effective grassroots initiative is that taken by the Public Library of Science (“PLS”), a nonprofit organization of scientists dedicated to making the world’s scientific and medical literature freely accessible “for the benefit of scientific progress, education and the public good.”126 PLS has so far encouraged over 30,888 scientists from 182 countries to sign its open letter to publishers to make their publications freely available on the web site PubMed Central.127 By September 2002, there were over eighty full-text journals available at this site.128 Another new collective action initiative is the Creative Commons129 founded by Lawrence Lessig, James Boyle, and others to promote “the innovative reuse of all sorts of intellectual works.”130 Their first project is to “offer the public a set of copyright licenses free of charge.”131

The entire paper is an excellent read.

Congratulations to Elinor Ostrom, and to the Nobel Prize committee for making an excellent choice, highly relevant in today’s world. Hopefully this will only be the first of many grand prizes for the study of the commons.

I might humbly suggest that one place to look for the next generation of such research is the Free Culture Research Workshop, held October 23 at Harvard. In July we posted the CFP.

If you want to support the commons in practice right now, I suggest a donation to our 2009 fundraising campaign!

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