CC Talks With: Severed Fifth

Greg Grossmeier, October 21st, 2008

Written, performed, recorded and produced entirely by Jono Bacon, the album touches a range of political and social topics, driven by a brutal, thundering style with pounding double bass drumming, grinding guitars and guttural vocals. The album was recorded in Jono’s home studio in central England and combines a range of styles. Pre-release listening sessions have resulted in comparisons to Metallica, Cannibal Corpse, Slayer, Pantera, Decapitated and Hatebreed.

Jono Bacon, the one man band behind Severed Fifth, released the inaugural album Denied by Reign today. This metal album is trying to bring the idea of Free Culture licensing to the world of metal music. We previously discussed here the announcement of the idea back in June of this year. It is a testament to Jono’s enthusiasm for this project how quickly he was able to write, record, and master this first album while also doing his full time job as Community Manager for Ubuntu.

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Trailer for “RiP: A Remix Manifesto” Released

Cameron Parkins, October 20th, 2008

The new trailer for RiP: A Remix Manifesto – the Girl Talk featuring, community edited documentary that focuses on copyright and remix culture – was posted online recently and looks to be coming along excellently. The trailer features clips with Greg Gillis, Cory Doctorow, Lawrence Lessig, and a slew of other big names in the copyright/remix world. From Opensource Cinema:

Imagine a world where ideas and culture, from “Happy Birthday” to Mickey Mouse, are horded under lock and key by copyright laws. Even ideas that could lead to a cure for cancer would be off-limits. Stop imagining now, because this is the world you live in. Although pop culture giants such as Walt Disney and the Rolling Stones built on the past to produce their art, the door is closing behind them.

I’ve been making a documentary for over 6 years that explores this issue: RiP: A Remix Manifesto.

Digital technology has opened up an unprecedented global economy of ideas. RiP explores the robber barons and revolutionaries squaring off across this new frontier as the film journeys from the hallways of Washington to the favelas of Brazil. Our central protagonist is Gregg Gillis, the Pittsburgh biomedical engineer who moonlights as Girl Talk, a mash-up artist rearranging the pop charts’ DNA with his incongruous entirely sample based songs. Along the way, I met key figures on the complexities of intellectual property in the digital era, among them Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, culture critic Cory Doctorow, Brazilian musician and Minister of Cultural Affairs Gilberto Gil, and Jammie Thomas, the single mom successfully sued by the RIAA for illegal downloading.

Footage from the film is being continuously posted to RiP’s remix site for viewers to see an remix – similarly the soundtrack is being created collaboratively online by the ccMixter community.


EVENT: “Fair Use and The Future of the Commons”, Los Angeles 10/27

Cameron Parkins, October 20th, 2008

Image above courtesy of Wordle

For those based in Los Angeles, USC’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy is hosting a day long event, Fair Use and The Future of the Commons, next Monday (10/27) that focuses on fair use, copyright reform, and the notion of the ‘commons’. The entire lineup looks fascinating and CC’s Creative Director, Eric Steuer, will be speaking on a panel discussion titled “Agents of Change”. From IML:

With fear, uncertainty and misinformation dominating the discourse of copyright and intellectual property, Fair Use has become one of the most vexing issues in today’s academic landscape. This day-long event at USC’s Annenberg Research Park addresses these issues head-on with a series of presentations and discussions with key players in the advancement and redefinition of fair use, coupled with a faculty showcase and hands-on workshops at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy. The goal of this event is to bring clarity to questions of fair use for scholars and educators working with copyrighted media for research, teaching and electronic publication. We believe this event will facilitate some much-needed discussion of the state of contemporary Fair Use and where we should be setting our sights for the future. The event is free and open to the public – further details and schedule to be announced soon!

The event will take place at Kerckhoff Hall in the Annenberg Research Park (Google Map) between 9AM-6PM and is free and open to the public.

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EVENT: Lawrence Lessig’s “Remix” Launch Party, San Francisco 10/29

Cameron Parkins, October 20th, 2008

CC founder Lawrence Lessig recently released a new book titled, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. The book will be his last solely devoted to the issues of copyright and in it, he aims to “map[] both a way back to the 19th century, and to the promise of the 21st” through the veil of copyright reform and content ownership. To celebrate, a book party is being held in San Francisco on October 29th, at which we will be present with a table brimming with schwag. Details below:

WHEN: October 29 2008
WHERE: W Hotel / 181 Third Street, San Francisco
WHEN: 6:30PM Reception / 7PM Program

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Commoner Letter #1: Eben Moglen

Melissa Reeder, October 20th, 2008

Last year we started a new campaign tradition — the Commoner Letter series. As I’ve said before, and will definitely say again, the campaign is about building support — rallying our community members around the importance of supporting Creative Commons and the openness our tools help enable. Over the next three months, five prominent members of the CC community will share with the world why they support CC. If you’re interested in CC and issues of openness and access, this list is for you.

This year’s line-up consists of Eben Moglen, of the Software Freedom Law Center; Renata Avila, Creative Commons Guatemala Project Lead; Jonathan Coulton, singer and songwriter who licenses all his work under CC; Richard Bookman, Associate Professor of Molecular & Cellular Pharmacology at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami; and Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia and member of CC’s Board of Directors.

We’re thrilled that the first letter in the series comes from Eben Moglen — Professor of Law and Legal History at Columbia University, and the Founder, Director-Counsel and Chairman of Software Freedom Law Center.

Free Software and Creative Commons

Having spent so much of my life working as a lawyer for the Free Software movement, I feel a special bond with the work of Creative Commons, and it is therefore a great privilege to write on behalf of CC.

In the twenty-first century, computer software is as necessary a tool of creation as pen, ink and paper; as chalk and clay and tubes of paint. Software is also as necessary to the distribution of creative works as copper wire, lighting and publicity. The goal of the Free Software movement was to make software for every purpose that everyone would be free to copy, modify and share. In pursuing that goal, the hackers who make free software were also enabling free culture. We have been together from the very beginning, technology and art.

The legal arrangements of the free software movement—Richard Stallman’s profound invention of the copyleft—are at the root of the “Share Alike” conception so important to the future of Creative Commons. Millions of writers, photographers, researchers, musicians, Wikipedians, hackers, teachers, and other humans work happily and freely in commons nourished by the principle of sharing. The beginning of the process was Larry Lessig’s wonderful insight into how to bring the principles of reasoning about sharing developed in the philosophy of Richard Stallman to the much wider scope of cultural production beyond software. Larry’s ideas ignited the Creative Commons beacon, to which creative people the world over have rallied, coming together to reshape copyright through voluntary action into a system for promoting sharing.

Principles are still the heart of both movements, and every compromise brings, as it should, controversy. I understand why, for those to whom the principles of freedom are always the first and only priority, Creative Commons has seemed a large and possibly too various collection of licensing models and approaches to the subject of free culture. For me, that diversity of outlook and intention has always been the particular glory of Creative Commons: that by definition it must be as large and indistinct in its outlines as the impossibly vast extent of human culture-making itself. And yet, despite all the differences of opinion, there is still an unshaken central commitment: awareness of the overarching importance to all cultural expression of the freedom to share.

All of us will have much to cooperate on in the near future. Everyone who inhabits the Web realizes, for example, that audio and video need to be more deeply embedded in the ordinary experience of building and using it. The immense outpouring of creativity that lies just ahead depends on freeing multimedia technology from shackles imposed on it by the patent system. Dozens of companies claim to “own” different parts of the technology for digital representation of audiovisual material on the Web. The thicket of licensing restrictions they place on their various “patented inventions” is largely responsible for all the incompatibilities; the plug-ins you have to download that only work sometimes on some material; and the inhibition of all sorts of wonderful, useful, beautiful and thought-provoking possibilities.

The Web has grown so magnificently because it was made of free software and free cultural activity—it enabled us to share, and our sharing made it the amazing starting-point that it is. But if we are going to achieve even just the next step in our new exploration of humanity that is Webspace, we’re going to have to make sure that freedom isn’t crushed by media companies with patents trying to prevent the future.

Working for the freedom of codecs and other multimedia software is just one example of the efforts we will all need to make together to ensure the freedom to share. Supporting Creative Commons isn’t just something I feel I ought to do; it’s something we all have to do. I hope you will join with me in supporting Creative Commons with your money, with your energy, and with your creative power. There’s nothing we can’t do if we share.

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Safe Creative wants to double your donation

Melissa Reeder, October 20th, 2008

Last Wednesday we launched the 2008 fundraising campaign, with the goal of raising $500,000 by the end of the year. I know — times are hard and that’s a lot of money. So, in order to give you more “bang for your buck,” so to speak, we’ve teamed up with Safe Creative to give you a way to double the value of your contribution. For the next 2 weeks, Safe Creative will be matching every donation dollar for dollar — up to $4000.

Safe Creative is a very cool project working to build a global intellectual property registry for creators to use (for free) to accredit the rights of their work. When you register your work with Safe Creative, you are given the option to CC license your work. So, if you want to register your work, which helps protect you as the creator, check them out. For more information (besides their website) check out the presentation that they gave at CC’s inaugural Tech Summit. We couldn’t be more excited to have them participate in this campaign — continuing to show the world their support for Creative Commons and for a global sharing culture. Show your support too by giving today!


An Interview with Frances Pinter of Bloomsbury Academic

Jane Park, October 20th, 2008

© Frances Pinter

Recently, we had a chance to speak with Frances Pinter, Publisher of Bloomsbury Academic, a new imprint launched by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc last month. Frances has been in the publishing industry since she was 23, when she started her own academic publishing house, Pinter Publishers. She comes to Bloomsbury Academic as the former Publishing Director of the Soros Foundation, where she “directed major projects aimed at reforming publishing in Central & Eastern Europe,” “pioneered ventures offering libraries affordable digital access to thousands of learned journals,” and “enabled the digital publication of a major Russian encyclopedia.”

The new publishing model consists of releasing works for free online through a Creative Commons or other open license, and then offering print-on-demand (POD) copies at reasonable prices. The University of Michigan’s Espresso Book Machine adheres to this model at $10 per public domain book, as does Flatworld Knowledge and Bloomsbury Plc, a leading European publisher housing works such as Harry Potter, takes a similar step with Bloomsbury Academic, which will publish works in the Humanities and Social Sciences exclusively under non-commercial CC licenses. Their first title, Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy, will be available for download soon, and is authored by our very own Lawrence Lessig, board member and former CEO of Creative Commons.

In a follow-up conversation over email, I asked Frances questions that cropped up during a phone call with our Executive Director, Ahrash Bissell, some eight time zones apart (from San Francisco to London). Her responses are below.

You have a lot of experience in publishing, having started your own academic publishing house, Pinter Publishers, at the age of 23. You’re also coming from the Soros Foundation, which supports open society activities. How did your prior experiences lead you to your current role as publisher for Bloomsbury Academic? Was there something specific about your first publishing enterprise that inspired your current commitment to publishing reform and the open book model?

At Pinter Publishers I was always interested in what was new coming out of the social sciences. One list that we pioneered thirty years ago was around the social and economic implications of new technology. Now all and more (and in some cases less) than what was predicted then has, or is, coming true. Working in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union while at the Soros Foundation gave me an insight into how stultifying closed societies were, and how important it is to level the playing field when it comes to access to knowledge. Now I’m in a position to make a contribution to taking forward some of the new business approaches in the digital age and improve access to knowledge. It is a thrilling opportunity.

Can you say a few words about Bloomsbury Academic and how it’s a departure from the Bloomsbury Publishing model? What prompted the folks at Bloomsbury to develop this new initiative?

Bloomsbury Publishing Plc is a wonderful company full of the best of traditional publishing values. Now that they’ve been so successful with Harry Potter, they are looking to diversify and specialize, and academic publishing has become a priority. Of course, the idea of putting the complete content of a book online is still seen as radical by many in the publishing industry. However, the Bloomsbury people took a look beyond the horizon and could see that something other than the traditional business models needed to be tested. I brought them the idea of allowing content to be online through a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial license (CC BY-NC), with enough early evidence that this would work. We’ll now see whether it [works] on a larger scale and within the confines of a company that must stay commercial to survive.

Our business model is simple. We may lose some print sales because of free access, but we will gain other sales because more people will want the print edition. Librarians know that most people do not want to read a 300 page book on screen and that once you have more than two or three people printing out a book in a university, it is cheaper to just buy a copy for the library – and it is much more environmentally friendly. We will also have flexibility on how we produce the printed copies – whether through traditional printing methods or print on demand (POD). We hope to show that digital and print [copies] can co-exist for certain types of publications for some time to come, and be financially sustainable.

On your website, Bloomsbury Academic is described as “employing the latest solutions in digital publishing.” What problems are the solutions addressing? In other words, what are the current challenges in publishing? How is Bloomsbury Academic hoping to overcome these challenges? And more specifically, what are the latest solutions being employed?

We are still working on our platform, and it will be some time before it is fully operational. However, for academic material the metadata is crucial. Search, interoperability are all key factors. Yet, how to set something up in this transition period that will be flexible enough to adapt while standards are settling down is the key challenge.

Why did Bloomsbury Academic choose Creative Commons licensing, as opposed to other open content licensing, for its new imprint? How do you think Bloomsbury Academic’s goals are similar to Creative Commons’?

Creative Commons is the best known license for this kind of publishing. There are still some issues with it, such as defining very precisely what is ‘commercial’. However, we felt that on balance it was best to go with a license that had such wide recognition. One reason for putting the whole text online free of charge is to avoid all the fuss and confusion that arises when publishers allow odd excerpts online and free downloads for limited periods etc. This may be good PR, but better to have a policy that is more focused on delivering what authors and readers want – which is to use the Web as a library. This is especially true of academic works.

In the early 2000s battle lines were drawn between publishers who sought refuge behind copyright laws and academics who were pushing for open access. I thought this was unfortunate because too much energy was spent hurling abuse across the trenches. I think much has changed recently and both sides realise that a) the added value that the publishing process brings is desirable b) this costs money whether done inside a publishing house or outside of it and c) that by working out some new models together we might just get to where we need to be more quickly than otherwise. I’m getting lots of cooperation from all sides and actually everyone wants our business model to work.

I have heard that you are spearheading pilot projects testing “the viability of CC licensing” in South Africa and Uganda. How is that going?

PALM – Africa is a project funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada. PALM stands for Publishing and Alternative Licensing Models. We were aiming to introduce open content licensing and its benefits to a wide range of publishers. There were a few precedents, indeed, the HSRC Press in Cape Town has been a lone pioneer in this area for a few years now. And New Vision, a Ugandan newspaper saw their sales double when they put their content online free of charge – though they hadn’t actually licensed it. Now they are fans of Creative Commons.. So far the interest by commercial and non-commercial publishers has greatly exceeded our expectations. There is still another year to go with the PALM Project, but your readers can find out more from

Interoperability is a major issue when it comes to open content licensing, especially in education as educators and researchers are looking not only to access materials, but to be able to remix, reformat, and redistribute the materials so that they are effective within diverse cultural, individual and institutional contexts. What are your thoughts on this? How does Bloomsbury Academic plan to address the issue of interoperability?

Interoperability on a technical level is important. The extent to which authors want to allow remix and reformatting is something we will encourage but I can see that in certain instances this may not be what an author wants. Our approach will be to let authors have the option to choose the no derivatives option if they wish, but I hope this won’t be needed in most cases.

Lastly, what can we expect from Bloomsbury Academic in the future?

Firstly, you can expect something right away, at least in some parts of the world. We are publishing this month the book REMIX: Making Art and Culture Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, by Lawrence Lessig. I have to say, this is not the typical type of book for Bloomsbury Academic – but it does illustrate the strength of the company behind me. Larry had already signed a contract with Penguin Press for the USA and Canada. His agent was about to start selling the UK and Commonwealth rights this autumn. The book was offered to me even though we only opened our doors on September the 5th. I grabbed it and we put it through the so called ‘trade’ channels of Bloomsbury, meaning that we could publish in paperback and were able to get it stocked in bookstores. Penguin and Bloomsbury will be competing with one another in the rest of the world – which we in publishing refer to as an ‘open market’. Our edition is less expensive – so I hope good old market forces will be on our side!

However, most of our books will be scholarly books for the academic market and our core sales will be to libraries, though I hope individual scholars and students will also purchase our books when they want a break from reading on screen. I am in the process of hiring staff and setting up systems, and the first titles in the social sciences and humanities can be expected some time in 2009.

I’m planning a number of series that cut across subject areas that are relevant in today’s world. For instance I’d like to publish a series on access to knowledge that covers all aspects of intellectual property rights and how they impact access to medicine, arts and culture, access to knowledge and the coming vexed issues around nanotechnology. I think there is a lot of fundamental social research that can help explain the unease people are feeling about the way our world is going. And, of course, we will feature development studies. It is important for developing countries to share their research with the rest of the world and for audiences that do not have access to printed materials to be able to access research that has policy implications for them.

For more about Frances’ view of the new publishing model, see her presentation–“The Transformation of Academic Publishing in the Digital Era“–given at the Oxford Internet Institute.

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Lab Waste: Short Documentary on Waste in Bioscience Laboratories

Cameron Parkins, October 17th, 2008

Lab Waste is a short documentary that focuses on the seemingly unavoidable problem of laboratory created waste. Bioscience labs need sterile and untouched materials to experiment with in order to keep their results accurate. As such they are unable to reuse their materials, which are most often only used once. From Lab Waste:

We’ve all been told to reduce, reuse, and recycle when it comes to our households. But in the lab, unless there is an underlying money issue, this rarely comes into play. In cell biology or molecular biology labs the emphasis is on working sterile, quickly and reproducibly. So companies have been selling all these incredibly useful products to life science labs: sterile plastic tubes of all shapes and sizes, single wrap multi-well tissue culture plates, sterile plastic dishes, sterile pipettes. All these products make it a lot easier to do the required work. I can’t even imagine how you could work in a cell culture lab without them, but they do create a lot of waste.

I made this video as a creative outlet and to try and raise some awareness of all the disposables in the lab, and give some mild suggestions on how to reduce the pile of trash by a tiny amount. Every bit helps, right?

The interesting CC story behind Lab Waste is not only that it is released under a CC BY-NC-SA license but also that the creator, Eva Amsen, used CC-licensed images found on Flickr in the piece. Some of these images were released under a CC BY-SA license, meaning that including them in a CC BY-NC-SA work would violate the original works’ SA condition.

As a result, Amsen contacted these photographers individually, asking them permission to use their works outside of their chosen (CC BY-SA) license – a permission they granted to her. This is a great example of how CC licenses still have flexibility to work outside of their original terms through creator-to-creator contact. We refer to this ability often in discussions on the licensing potential of non-commercially licensed works – this is another example fit to illustrate that point (via WorldChanging).

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SoundCloud Integrates CC-Licensing

Cameron Parkins, October 17th, 2008

SoundCloud, a new media sharing site aimed at musicians, has been receiving heaps of great press since going live last week. SoundCloud allows musicians to post their works easily, share them securely, interact with other musicians in a collaborative fashion, check stats on song listens/comments, and utilize a bevy of other useful features. Excitingly for the CC-community, SoundCloud announced today that users can now upload their works under a CC license or a public domain declaration. From SoundCloud:

The CC license support on SoundCloud is pretty straight-forward. You can pick a license when you upload a track, and you can set a default license in your settings. There are three main modes; All Rights Reserved, Some Rights Reserved, and No Rights Reserved. The default is All Rights Reserved, which means you own all rights to the works you upload.

You can also select the Some Rights Reserved-option which will give you a nice interface where you can assemble your Creative Commons license. You can select whether Commercial use is ok, whether derivative works are ok, or whether derivative works should be “shared” alike, meaning derivative works should be shared under the same conditions. Read more about CC licenses here.
Lastly, there’s the No Rights Reserved-option if you want to let anybody do anything they like with your music.

A cool thing is that we’ve also got RDFa support so that all license information will be properly encoded for machine-reading directly in the track pages.

We are super excited to see this sort of support happen as it should greatly increase the functionality of SoundCloud for CC-using musicians and open the doors for a new repository of CC-licensed music. That SoundCloud has successfully implemented RDFa (making them one of the first CC-using content directories to do so) is similarly exciting. Learn more about SoundCloud here and if you are CC-using musician, try it out for yourself.


U of Michigan Library Adopts CC Licenses

Jane Park, October 16th, 2008

In another innovative move, the University of Michigan Library has adopted CC licensing for all of its own content. Any work that is produced by the library itself, and to which the University of Michigan holds the copyrights, will be released under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial license (CC BY-NC). This allows anyone, including you, to access, adapt, remix, reproduce, and redistribute the library’s works for noncommercial purposes. This is fantastic news for educators, researchers, and students, who often dread the laborious task of obtaining permissions to synthesize diverse works with just as diverse (not to mention tricky) rights attached to them. From their press release:

The University of Michigan Library has decided to adopt Creative Common Attribution-Non-Commercial licenses for all works created by the Library for which the Regents of the University of Michigan hold the copyrights. These works include bibliographies, research guides, lesson plans, and technology tutorials. We believe that the adoption of Creative Commons licenses is perfectly aligned with our mission, “to contribute to the common good by collecting, organizing, preserving, communicating, and sharing the record of human knowledge.”

University Librarian Paul Courant said, “Using Creative Commons licenses is another way the University Library can act on its commitment to the public good. By marking our copyrighted content as available for reuse, we offer the University community and the public a rich set of educational resources free from traditional permissions barriers.”

Recall that they also recently installed the Espresso Book Machine, which prints on demand copies of over 2 million public domain books. Now they can add even more works to the mix! What will the Library be up to next? Thanks to Molly Kleinman for alerting us to the good news.


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