2007 November

Commoner Letter #4 – Fred Benenson

Melissa Reeder, November 26th, 2007

Hi, my name is Fred Benenson. I’m a Free Culture activist, photographer, and a graduate student at NYU. I’ve been involved with CC (once as an intern, now as a fellow working for them in New York City) for a number of years, but let me start with the free culture student movement that I’m a part of. We’re now known as Students for Free Culture, and we’re a group of students loosely organized into chapters on university campuses around the world who are passionately interested in consequences of the intersection of media, copyright, the Internet and technology. While many of the actions we do are overtly political, we do not yet have a partisan affiliation. This makes our cause particularly viable on campuses as many people find that the issues and values we promote are intuitive but not tainted by partisan politics. We’ve done everything from street protests against DRM to conferences on Open Access to film remix contests. Part of our new goal is to establish free culture practices as priorities in the academic communities of campuses.

Everything we create from our blog, to the photos we take of the events we host, to the films we screen, is either licensed under Creative Commons or in the public domain. For example, in 2006 my group, Free Culture @ NYU, hosted a Creative Commons art show where all work was released under Creative Commons licenses. This enabled several other Free Culture chapters to re-use and remix the work to display in their own art shows. The work was also brought into Second Life so that another re-mixed art show could be hosted there.

I use Creative Commons licenses as examples to demonstrate that there are proactive, positive things people can do to help shift the rhetoric and criticism over copyright in the right direction. As a student who frequently discusses copyright issues, I’m often asked how I feel about file sharing and to be honest, it’s a difficult question to answer. I’m stuck between offering esoteric explanations regarding the nature of the Internet (that it itself is a file sharing application, so therefore I obviously endorse that kind of file sharing), to keeping my mouth shut so that an over-zealous reporter won’t pigeonhole us as anarchist students who just want their music for gratis. Creative Commons allows me to respond in a much more effective way: I can say that I support file sharing so long as the artists and musicians whose work is being shared license it under a Creative Commons or other equally permissive license. It is in this way that those interested in the future of free culture can then shift the debate from a question about purely hypothetical commercial loss to one about creators making positive decisions about how they want their work to be shared and reused.

As I write this I’m listening to Radiohead’s, “In Rainbows” and while I’m no music critic, I know this album is tremendously influential. Radiohead’s release makes it clear that artists can release work online, for free, while still requesting payment, and still support themselves. In a way, this action brings us one step closer towards realizing some of the goals of Creative Commons. By encouraging their fans to purchase and download their music in an unencumbered digital format for whatever price they choose, Radiohead has done something that many in the record industry have been too scared to do all along, something that Creative Commons is in the perfect position to promote. Soon, I hope, many more bands will be inspired by Radiohead’s actions and realize the benefits in offering their work online.

I support CC in a number of ways. First, I’m an activist and promote CC in the ways I’ve mentioned. Second, I volunteer for them whenever I get the chance. While starting Free Culture @ NYU, I volunteered to help CC during their first big benefit concert in New York. I’ve since organized Creative Commons Salons (and birthday parties) in New York and I routinely meet and speak to people working in culture and law in New York about CC. This work has really accelerated in the last year and it’s fantastic to see the amount of people who are seeking out more information about CC but also just “get” the concept right off the bat. This previous summer, I worked with Rhizome.org to help them integrate CC licenses into their ArtBase. This is an example of the kind of support I’m most interested in — offering the benefits of CC licenses to established cultural institutions who are beginning to understand the potential and opportunities of digital media distribution. And lastly, I also donate when I can and how I can. I love seeing the progress bar on CC’s support site grow at the end of every year knowing that the team will be supported for doing the fantastic work they do.

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CC Licensed Film is 5th Most Viewed Video on YouTube

Cameron Parkins, November 26th, 2007

Lo que tú Quieras Oír, the phenomenal Spanish short film we talked about earlier here, has recentlly broken into the “All Time Most Viewed” list on YouTube with upwards of 38,000,000 views! Lo que tú Quieras Oír is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA license.

Some major kudos are in order for the everyone involved in creating Lo que tú Quieras Oír and making it the success it is today. We can only hope that part of the short’s online success has been enhanced by this decision to utilize CC licensing, which allows its viewers to not only freely distribute the film, but also remix it as long as they give credit, do so with non-commercial intent, and share their new works under the same license. If you haven’t already (and the numbers would indicate that you have), be sure to check it out on YouTube or the film’s website.

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BayFF With Jonathan Zittrain

Cameron Parkins, November 26th, 2007

Our friends over at EFF are hosting an event this week featuring noted cyberlaw theorist Jonathan Zittrain, who will be delivering a presentation titled “The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It.” Zittrain “will cover the pitfalls and solutions he sees looking forward, as freedom in the Internet ecosystem becomes increasingly threatened by the spread of closed, “appliancized tools” and rash approaches to security challenges”.

It all happens this Wednesday, November 28 at 7:30 p.m at CNET Networks in San Francisco (235 2nd Street, SF CA, 94105). It is free and open to the public and if you are in the area, make sure you check it out – more info available here.

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CC Swag photo contest winner #2

Melissa Reeder, November 26th, 2007

The Currency of the Future

The second CC swag photo contest winner is Tama Leaver with his entry Cultural Capital. Congrats Tama!

There are 3 weeks left and 75 more entries needed to reach our goal of 100. By participating you are helping spread the word about Creative Commons and bringing attention to your own work – what more can you ask for in a contest? Thanks to everyone who has participated so far!

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Heaps of Positive Coverage for CC Licenses on German TV

Michelle Thorne, November 26th, 2007


We just ran a post about the German public broadcaster NDR, who recently announced it will release segments from some of its programs under a CC license. But the flood of positive feedback and media coverage has prompted us to write another article pointing to a few of the gems (mostly in German):

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Australia: Radio program on Creative Commons

Mike Linksvayer, November 23rd, 2007

The Law Report, a weekly program of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, broadcast a program on Creative Commons (mp3) featuring interviews and excerpts from a debate on CC at the Melbourne Writers Festival. The program features Cory Doctorow, CC Australia’s Jessica Coates, and CC skeptics.

Read more about the program and other recent appearances of CC Australia staff at Elliot Bledsoe’s CC Through The Looking Glass blog here and here.

Via CC Australia.

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Building a Rural Wireless Mesh Network

Mike Linksvayer, November 21st, 2007

A 44 page guide to Building a Rural Wireless Mesh Network:

Reliable, affordable and easy access to telecommunication services for all has been identified as key to social and economic development in Africa. Self-provisioning and community ownership of low cost, distributed infrastructure is becoming a viable alternative to increase the penetration of telecommunication services in rural Africa. The recent emergence of wireless mesh network technology (based on IEEE 802.11 a/b/g standards) can help to improve the delivery of telecommunication services in these regions.

The guide tries to simplfy the planning and building of a mesh network, using a step-by-step approach to setting up a infrastructure mesh node, or an access point using a Linksys WRT54gl and the Freifunk firmware or DD WRT firmware depending on the node type.

The first version of the guide was published earlier this month. I mention both because the guide is licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike and because it would be wonderful if the network layer turned out to be something that could also be peer produced, e.g., see a portion of Lawrence Lessig’s 2006 LinuxWorld keynote or portions of Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks, but that aspiration is largely untested. And there’s nothing like practical experience.


Newsweek suggests “Open Access for Dummies”

Mike Linksvayer, November 20th, 2007

Credit Where Credit is Due, an article in Newsweek, about use of text from Wikipedia by major publishers without compliance with Wikipedia’s license, includes quotes from CC CEO Lawrence Lessig on license interoperability:

The Free Software Foundation, which maintains Wikipedia’s GNU license, is teaming up with a popular rival licensing movement called Creative Commons to create an interoperable open source standard. “This has been my secret obsession and work for the last four years,” says Lawrence Lessig, a Creative Commons founder and Stanford University law professor. “Make the legal issues totally invisible to the average user who is trying to use free culture in a way that is responsible and trustable.” By making the two licenses interoperable, for example, users will be able to integrate text, photographs and music samples from Wikipedia with Creative Commons-licensed content on Flickr or jamendo. Posting, reprinting, sharing and otherwise licensing such material would simply require attribution (and not the actual clunky text of the license).

The article’s closes with an excellent suggestion:

It’s enough to suggest that, for penance, Wiley ought to commission “Open Access for Dummies.” Published under a Creative Commons license, naturally.

Read the whole article and previous writing of Lessig on interoperability and details of compatibility structures introduced in CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Firefox 3 Beta 1

Mike Linksvayer, November 20th, 2007

If you want to help test the next great version of Firefox, the browser with aspirations for the open web highly complementary with CC’s aspirations, read this post at the Mozilla Developer Center.

And a reminder that one of the many cool things about Firefox is that you can access CC Search from the Firefox search bar, as documented at the  (CC licensed) Firefox Knowledge Base.

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German public broadcaster adopts CC license

Michelle Thorne, November 20th, 2007

The Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), a public radio and television broadcaster belonging to Germany’s national broadcasting consortium ARD, announced today that they will begin to use CC licenses for some of their programs.

The political comedy show Extra 3 and critical media magazine Zapp will release segments of their program under a BY-NC-ND license as part of a pilot project lasting for six months.

More information can be found here (German) and in NDR’s official press release (German).

Thanks to Meike Richter, CC Project Leads John-Hendrik Weitzmann (Germany) & Paul Keller (Netherlands), and CC Creative Director Eric Steuer for their involvement in this great initiative!

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