Canadian author MCM has created a kid’s storybook and fable for the commons:
The Pig and the Box is about a pig who finds a magic box that can replicate anything you put into it. The pig becomes so protective of it, and so suspicious of anyone that wants to use it, that he makes people take their copied items home in special buckets that act as… well, they’re basically DRM. It’s like a fable, except the moral of the story is very modern in tone.
The book is licensed under the CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada license and published the sources — the book has already been translated into Chinese, Danish, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. A colouring book version is also available.
MCM has pledged free the pig from its repressive NonCommercial chains and release the book under the truly free (as defined by free software activists) Attribution-ShareAlike license — if he can raise $2000. Patrons who pledge $20 toward the cause will get a signed copy of the book.
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Inside cover of Pig and the Box by MCM.
MOD Films produces “remixable” film content and technology aimed at new cinema platforms. Through documentation and packaging of the film production, MOD helps to support future use of the films as digital video releases, in games, and as source material for online communities to play with.
Michela Ledwidge founded MOD Films in 2004 with a NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) Inventions and Innovations award. Inspired by the practice of game modding, MOD Films demonstrates how regular films could be given to the audience in a malleable form using Internet and video game technology.
Michela filmed her film Sanctuary in March 2006 – a sci-fi short about a sixteen year old girl who uses her avatar as a virtual reality superhero. All Sanctuary elements including hours of production footage, sound effects, dialogue, storyboards, concept drawings and still photos are being licensed to the public under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Licenses.
Amy “Rock and Roll” Rose of Creative Commons interviewed Michela to learn more about MOD Films and her experience in using CC licenses.
Amy Rose (“CC”): Why did you start MOD Films?
Michela Ledwidge (“ML”): There wasn’t a platform for the kind of films I wanted to make. The film industry approach to real storytelling is largely obsolete. It wastes too many resources. Filmmakers are supposed to buy into a monolithic system that tends not to do justice to their stories or their actual audience. You sell someone access to a film, and then what happens? We’re taking the opportunity to see if we can come up with a better, more sustainable, model, starting with a little film written with interactivity in mind. There have to be more ethical, ecological, and fun ways to develop, produce, distribute, and exhibit cinematic stories.
CC: What attracted you to the idea of using a Creative Commons license?
ML: It’s the most compatible framework for our aims, technically, commercially, and philosophically. Digital rights management, as opposed to digital rights enforcement, is a key part of what we do. I think the value of machine-readable licenses will be better appreciated over time. My personal interest goes well beyond the business. CC has changed the world for the better in widening the debate about how society views creativity. As an open business, we want more opportunities for people to be more creative using our stuff. We’ll survive if enough people know about and like what we do.
We’re developing a virtual studio approach using a “kitchen” analogy that fits pretty well with the “pick ‘n’ mix” CC approach. “Some Rights Reserved” licensing enables us to cook up, serve dishes, and share ingredients more widely. The opportunity to get in at the ground level and set up the kitchen with Sanctuary, ahead of the market, was an opportunity too good to refuse.
CC: Why did you choose the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license for Sanctuary?
ML: We chose a license to reflect the fact that we’re walking a fine line between open filmmaking and “All Rights Reserved” film-making. We still want our films in festivals and on retail shelves. We need to see a return for our investors if the model is to survive so we’re not simply giving material away. We’re trying to create a model that is sustainable, not just for our own livelihood but media professionals at large. Attribution is obviously essential for any credits system. The real opportunity I see here is to iteratively improve on the existing systems for attribution (e.g. how many people ACTUALLY worked on Matrix Reloaded post-production as opposed to who got a credit in the film?) and licensing by getting people to become less precious about their assets. Sanctuary is a pilot for a feature film so we’ve retained control over commercial exploitation mainly to attract producers to that larger project.
CC: Can you provide an overview of how a user might remix Sanctuary?
ML: The simplest way is to go back to the kitchen analogy I mentioned. We’re inviting the audience “inside” the production after the remixable release, after dinner so-to-speak, to play around with bits and create their own MODs. We’re trying not to pre-empt too much what these MODs might be and concentrate on making sure there are sufficient APIs and Web services available for developers to take advantage of. This is not just about video re-editing. We’re releasing EVERY asset, so who know? Most users may only ever experience remixing through existing MODs (like the DJ/VJ instrument MOD we’re developing) that they have downloaded (in the same way as more people watch YouTube videos than upload videos). But the whole point is to enable advanced use of the film’s architecture and asset library as to give people a chance to surprise us with their creativity. We’re providing the plug-in architecture and sample MODs that illustrate how to re-use the assets. We’re encouraging MOD communities to come and treat Sanctuary as a library using their existing software (e.g. Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Web-based video mixing sites like eyespot).
Sanctuary hasn’t been released yet (still in post production) but we do have over 100 people signed to our “beta band” community on Multiply (http://remixablefilms.multiply.com) and various software developers are working in tandem with us so that there will be 3rd party applications from day one of the release. We’re encouraging MOD’ers of all kinds to congregate there and bug us for pre-release stuff and get involved. We’re making this up as we go along!
CC: In April 2004, Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) refused dispensation to allow local actors to perform in Sanctuary. Could you discuss what you understand MEAA’s concerns with the film were and whether and/or how it was resolved?
ML: MEAA’s concern was that Creative Commons licensing relinquished too much control, to us the producers, and to the audience and that this could be to the detriment of actors involved. CC was deemed bad for business. MEAA put particular emphasis on the negative impact that remixing could have on our professional actors’ careers particularly “non-commercial advertising” — such as sampling video for use in Neo-Nazi commercials, abortion campaigns and user-generated pornography (their examples, not mine!). MEAA didn’t care that MOD Films, under the Australian CC license, retained the right to disallow any derived work which “prejudices the honour or reputation of the author” and chose to interpret our long term intentions as exploiting actors. It was a really embarrassing phase of the project because general ignorance about CC was largely the problem. Australian media professionals should really be up in arms about how they are represented on the world stage.
I do understand why there were concerns but ultimately we’re talking about a 12 minute pilot funded by an Inventions award, made up of willing and experienced Internet and film professionals who care passionately about exploring the future of film and moving things forward. I am very pro-union but only as long as a union is genuinely acting on behalf of its members, rather than simply protecting its own interests by sticking its head in the sand. When you get industries blocking innovation simply because it may move the goal posts, it’s very hard to be remain sympathetic.
The issue hasn’t been resolved. If the MEAA spokesman we deal with has his way, I doubt Creative Commons licensing and professional media will ever meet up again. MEAA really needs some new blood who understand the way the world is moving and can deal with real issues in a constructive way. Unfortunately from what I understand, I live in London, the controversy over Creative Commons is still raging in Australia. We got a bit of a backlash against the MEAA decision last year, and gained some local support from the Australian Film Commission (an Australian Government agency that ensures the preservation, creation and availability of Australian screen content) so as for Sanctuary, we’ve survived. Once the AFC got involved, the actors and their agents were more comfortable about signing up against the advice of the union. Given the power MEAA has over local production, I would never have attempted to shoot without some show of support from the industry.
We rescheduled and shot the film a few months later but much of our funding was wasted on dealing with this issue over several months. The film is still in post production with volunteers working on it. We made a bit of history with our CC contract clauses and the resulting 35mm film is totally cleared for re-use as a result but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Hopefully other producers will now benefit from us having broken the ice though.
We’ve documented the correspondence and paperwork in this discussion thread for future reference. http://modfilms.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=123
CC: Audiences also had the opportunity to enjoy a preview Sanctuary at the Cannes Film Festival, what was the reaction of festival attendees to the film and the idea of film remixing?
ML: The reaction to the story itself so far has been good. All the legal mucking about tends to obscure the fact that this is a good little sci-fi story that should happily stand on its own, even without all of this remix nonsense! The Cannes Feature Film Selection Committee wrote to us asking to see the film earlier in the year. Talking to “real film-makers” out there was a wonderful morale-booster. We’re definitely exploring the future and all this buzz is over an unreleased short film. We also got interest from a couple of distributors.
The reaction to the remix idea on its own has been pretty good but we’re not overestimating how many people will actually do stuff. I think it will take a while before people start engaging fully with this paradigm. People seem genuinely excited by the idea of a new form but of course everyone just wants to sit back and watch the finished film first. As do I! The real fun begins once people know the story of the superhero, the film is playing on a disk in your living room, and MODs are being downloaded from our web platform as you’re watching. So if you can help us get to that point, get in touch!No Comments »
The Future Exploration Network recently published a report on the future of media (pdf) that touches on many trends relevant to Creative Commons, including Creative Commons (and the report itself is CC licensed, of course):
Intellectual property and media
The Future of Media Strategic Framework is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike
2.5 License. This means that while Future Exploration Network retains copyright you can use it – even
for commercial purposes – as long as you attribute it to the creator. It also means, that if you think it
should be different or want to improve on it, you can do so as long as you release it under the same
license – feel free to do so! There are a plethora of dilemmas and thorny issues for media organizations to
resolve in how they protect their own content, as well as license user-submitted content. Locking content
down will in many cases prove to be less valuable than allowing it to be reused appropriately by other content
creators. A living content landscape benefits content creators far more than a rigid world.
What licenses do you offer for user-submitted content?
In which situations should media-generated content have Creative Commons or similar licenses that allow reuse and adaptation?
I’m giving a twenty minute presentation on Creative Commons and the future of media at a Future Exploration Network summit tomorrow evening in San Francisco. Fortunately it looks like I won’t need to spend much time on the basics!
“Framework” graphic from the report, read for explanation.
Ron Goldman and Richard P. Gabriel have published Innovation Happens Elsewhere, their 2005 book on open source software, online under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. The book covers the ins and outs of open source software development for business without using much jargon. Here’s the authors’ summary of who the book is for:
We wrote this book to help business executives understand when and how an open-source strategy can help them to achieve their company’s business goals. We also want to provide support for the managers charged with implementing that strategy in their day-to-day work running a project that makes use of open source.
The book is also aimed at the engineers who may need to work on open-source projects. We want to give them an idea of what they will experience and what will be expected of them. We also want to give them the information they will need to educate their managers and co-workers about open source.
One of the more novel parts of the book may be its comparison of open source and agile methodologies (a hot topic in software development).
IHE is all about software. One can imagine in the not too distant future someone writing an equally thorough and approachable Creativity Happens Elsewhere.No Comments »
JC de Martin from our CC Italy team recently drew our attention to the fact that one of the leading Italian newspapers – La Stampa – based in Torino, has just released its two cultural supplements, TuttoScienze (science) and TuttoLibri (books), with a Creative Commons license (Attribuzione-NonCommerciale-NonOpereDerivate 2.5). Great news!No Comments »
So we have four fabulous interns this summer – Amy, Katy, Margot & Asheesh. They have all been working closely with the CC team about the various projects that we have in the office right now and have been busily exploring Second Life & getting to know their SL selves. Here are some photos of them in world (looking a little like a virtual boy band, I must confess)…
As Jen posted yesterday, the CC interns are going to be in Second Life next Thursday, July 20 at 4pm PDT at our HQ on Kula Island, talking about what they have been working on this summer. If this is how crazy their virtual selves are – can’t wait for the discussions!No Comments »
These 4 talented students have been working on a variety of licensing projects with the CC staff. To show how innovative this summer has been, they will present their work in virtual space as the fourth event in our monthly Second Life series. Be ready for discussions about new ways that CC licenses can be used in architecture and designing, sampling music, writing, and technology. It’s going off at our HQ on Kula Island: Thursday, July 20 at 4pm PDT.No Comments »
Since last Septmeber Chinesepod has podcast a daily lesson in Mandarin Chinese under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Here’s a recent lesson on ordering vegetarian in China. The site has attracted a large following, with dozens of questions and helpful comments from fellow learners and Mandarin speakers on every post.
Silicon.com recently posted an interview with Chinesepod that reads like a “featured commoner” interview on this site:
silicon.com: Why are you giving away your product for free?
Horkoff: We realised last year that language training is extremely inconvenient – some people here have to travel across town in China for three nights a week to attend a class. There’s a different culture of language learning here.
What we do is on-demand training. We use web-based systems and community platforms. And we also have a subscription-based model.
To be honest we didn’t know how to design or service this. We had no real model to build it on. We put out a daily podcast and then we have a supplementary model too, that you pay for.
We’re seeing the model resemble an open source business, one with a free Creative Commons approach at the heart of the service. Meanwhile we find ways to make money on the edges with additional services and products.
The premium subscription has a scroll-over mouse option – over the Chinese characters. We have exercises, tests and a vocabulary builder. We give a one-week free trial so there’s no real risk to people seeing if they’re interested. The podcasts we give you forever – those are free.
Do you get annoyed that people rip your material off?
No. We encourage people to use our Creative Commons-licensed podcasts as it assists us with our product development and helps push our brand into the community.
We’ve had all kinds of crazy stories about how people are using it. There’s this hypnotist in the UK. He says he can increase memory retention by adding a hypnotic audio layer into the podcast. So he’s mashed up ChinesePod with his own hypnotic stuff to create his own version. There’s one guy in France who just cut out the English intros and put in French ones.
As long as you say it’s ChinesePod, at the end of the day you’re driving people back. We don’t have that much of a problem with it. I’m still waiting for the first thing to come out that violates the rules. We’ve found that people have come up with some really innovative uses.
Read the full interview at Silicon.com.
The people behind Chinesepod recently started Englishpod, a similar site for learning business-oriented English — also CC licensed!No Comments »
WpLicense, a plugin for the WordPress blogging system, has moved to the Creative Commons wiki. WpLicense allows you to select a Creative Commons license for your WordPress blog. Coinciding with the move an updated version, 0.6.0, is now available. This release adds support for including license information in your RSS2 and Atom feeds, so check it out.No Comments »
Working for Creative Commons has been a great experience with one exception: the telecommuting. I’ve realized over the past two years it’s just not for me. It’s not so much the distance as it is being by myself all the time; I prefer to be around people when I’m working. So when my former employer, Canterbury School, offered me a desk in their technology center where I could continue to work for Creative Commons, I jumped at the chance. Canterbury School is one of the leading college preparatory schools in northeast Indiana and has a strong computer science requirement for high school students (including Python).
I’ve been working in the new office since Monday, and it’s a nice change from working alone. Thanks to Canterbury for supporting Creative Commons so generously.No Comments »