Zoopy integrates Creative Commons

I can’t believe I missed this. A year ago, Zoopy announced Creative Commons integration enabling users to retain copyright and choose their own licenses and sharing conditions. Very cool.  (Belated) congrats, Jason and the team 🙂 One suggestion, though: doesn’t look like there’s any explanation of CC in the drop-down menus or the terms. Probably a good idea to hyperlink the licenses to the code on cc.org like they do on Flickr.

“No known copyright restrictions”? Not really

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Pic: 'Untitled' by 'Unidentified photographer' but (still) copyrighted 'Smithsonian Institute'

I’m doing some research on what museums and cultural heritage institutions are doing to put their collections online and make them more accessible. A wonderful resource is Flickr Commons (wish we’d had it for our Heritage Day project!) with the goals of  1) increas(ing) access to publicly-held photography collections, and 2) providing a way for the general public to contribute information and knowledge.

Participating institutions have to make a public statement that there are “no known copyright restrictions” – in cases such as:

  1. The copyright is in the public domain because it has expired;
  2. The copyright was injected into the public domain for other reasons, such as failure to adhere to required formalities or conditions;
  3. The institution owns the copyright but is not interested in exercising control; or
  4. The institution has legal rights sufficient to authorize others to use the work without restrictions.

But the Smithsonian Institute’s Rights Statement is confusing. Instead of there being ‘unrestricted access’ and ‘no interest in controlling usage’, their statement indicates that they do, in fact, wish to exercise control, that there are, in fact, certain restrictions, and that your rights are limited to those that you already have according to fair use law in the United States (that’s according to the statement, but the FAQ adds to the confusion). Below are some exerpts from the notice:

‘Text and image files, audio and video clips, and other content on this website is the property of the Smithsonian Institution’

‘Fair use is permitted’ (so kind). They do specify what (they believe) constitutes fair use, but leave out online publication (putting it in the FAQ at the end of the page instead).

And then, most interesting:

‘Anyone wishing to use any of these files or images for commercial use, publication, or any purpose other than fair use as defined by law, must request and receive prior written permission from the Smithsonian Institution. Permission for such use is granted on a case-by-case basis at the sole discretion of Smithsonian’s Office of Product Development and Licensing. A usage fee may be assessed depending on the type and nature of the proposed use.’

So if you’re a community organisation wanting to build your own collections to spread access even further, this particular ‘commons’ is out of reach.

Don’t get me wrong – I think this is still a great initiative. But it really makes me realise how important it is to expose institutions who claim all the glory, when they are not quite there yet. For me, a real digital commons is one that fully enables downstream re-use and re-publishing. For the Smithsonian images, at least, Flickr Commons enables us to look but to definitely not to touch.

What is the ‘open web’?

‘We are helping make the Internet a place…
where you and your neighbors build the world you want.
that generates not only economic value, but also civic and social value.
that is optimized for multiple languages and locales.
that is trustworthy and has minimal risk for users.’
(Mozilla Foundation site)

Two weeks ago, Mark Surman from the Mozilla Foundation wrote to friends asking how they would explain the ‘open web’ if they had ‘a few inches on CNN or BBC’. Two days ago, he summarised the responses, saying that mostly he ‘got blank stares, which may mean I asked the question the wrong way. Or that it’s too abstract. Or just that people are busy.’

I felt the same way when I asked participants of the last iSummit to build ‘checklists on openness’ that would explain for people outside the movement exactly what constituted an ‘open web’ in their field/community and what practical steps they could take to practice openness in their own work.

Initially, people thought it was a great idea. But when we got down to business, I, too, got a lot of blank stares – thinking, too, that I’d framed the task in the wrong way, or that it was just a bad idea.

But reading Mark’s question, I can’t help but thinking that this is *not* ‘too abstract’ and that the blank stares have a lot to do with the fact that we do too much talking about licenses and products but not enough explaining and talking about what the philosophy means to ordinary people. We have some great organisations like Creative Commons and the Free Software Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation and Wikipedia that individually represent a lot about what the open web is about, but the branding of these orgs has meant that we often equate them as the epitome of openness, when, in fact, openness is much more complex, and reliant on an entire ecosystem of organisations, communities and individuals.

I think that the fact that we aren’t coming closer to working out what the ‘open web’ means is a result of this complexity and this complexity is based more on the need for many communities to work together to build these understandings rather than the fact that it is too difficult to quantify.

Right now, the open web is about the ‘cool factor’ which, although an important part of any movement building, leads us to focus on very small parts of the open web (i.e. licenses, copyright) rather than making us focus on the whole (i.e. transparency, community, collaboration).

I love the phrase in the Mozilla Foundation’s opening lines: ‘where you and your neighbors build the world you want.’ because I think that the most critical thing about the open web is that the concept/definition/explanation should be localised according to different contexts. In the same way that Wikipedia has different communities (language communities in this case) deciding (and changing their decisions about) what World War II is about, an explanation of the open web should accommodate different local, dynamic understandings of the concept.

This doesn’t mean that we will never get to a point where we can give an explanation about the open web on CNN or the BBC. It only means that we need to move to this question in a way that says upfront that, although we can have a global brand for the open web, that these explanations will always be local and dynamic, and should always invite people to question the current conceptualisation of the open web, rather than to just accept it.

Having said all that, if I had an inch on CNN or BBC to talk about the ‘open web’, this is what I would say (based on the mapping that I’ve started here):

‘Think of a place where you and your neighbors decide what the rules are and that the only rule is that there has to be a really good reason to keep people out;
Where you’re greeted with a big welcome mat that says ‘Please come in and play’ rather than ‘Keep out until you’re invited’;
Where you can prove yourself by doing and making things and showing them to the world, rather than waiting in a line to be chosen;
Where you can talk and build with people around the world who see your difference as an asset rather than a liability;
Where the default is to share, rather than to keep hold to yourself;
And where what you read, hear and see is always an invitation to participate and create, rather than a one-way broadcast.

Around the world, people are building a new place on the web that engenders the principles of transparency, openness, sharing, collaboration and participation. The open web is a conversation about how the world can be better, and how ordinary citizens can help build it as an example for others to follow.’

‘Pass it on’ says Jamie Oliver


Now this is clever. Jamie Oliver, in an effort to ‘get the country cooking again’, has launched a campaign called ‘Jamie’s Ministry of Food‘. The idea is to get people to start up small cooking schools all over the country by starting a ‘pass it on’ chain to teach Oliver’s simple recipes to friends. The name was inspired by a campaign during World War II in which the British government appointed the Ministry of Food to help families make the most of wartime rations by setting up a national network of ‘Food Advice’, educating the public about proper nutrition so they’d be healthy and fighting fit.

It’s great to see how intellectual property sharing methods are being used here. Oliver enables people to download high res logos (affiliating themselves to the campaign) to advertise their classes and has also given away recipes from his new book for free on his MySpace channel.

But the Terms and conditions on the campaign website are confusing. Everything on the site is restricted under copyright and trademark law, say the standard terms, ‘unless expressly stated otherwise’.

Intellectual Property Rights Including Copyright

  1. The names, images and logos identifying Jamie Oliver, Channel 4, all of our associated companies or third parties and any products and services are proprietary marks of these parties. Nothing in the Terms shall be construed as conferring to you any licence or right under any intellectual property right of all the above parties unless expressly stated otherwise.

‘Otherwise’ appears on this page where you can download ‘some cool logo’s to help you publicise your own Pass It On event’ but there is no detail on how far you are able to go here: use the logos on your website? use the logos offline only? use the logos if you are a commercial company in the food industry? offer the download from other sites?

The lack of detail is probably unimportant for most – but it is this lack of clarity that comes about the law is so completely out of synch with newly-accepted practice such as the non-commercial sharing of trademarks and copyright online.

What it also shows is how companies are having to experiment with practice methods of controlling their intellectual property without the aid of the law. A beautiful example of this is on the registration page of the site where Oliver asks that people ‘promise’ (without any reference to this in the legal Terms and conditions) that they only register to receive information if they are willing ‘to learn a recipe then Pass It On to at least two people’.

I’m looking forward to seeing the results!

Zakes Mda a copy thief?

Interesting article in the Mail & Guardian by Stephen Gray about the similarities between Mda’s Heart of Redness and Jeff Peires’s The Dead Will Arise. Mda had thought that the reference to Peires in the dedication of Heart of Redness would be enough, but American historian, Andrew Offenburger, traced so much of the text to Peires that he felt that this wasn’t sufficient (read sections of copied, paraphrased and sequential borrowing here).

Heart of Redness was ‘Seemingly… in reply to the challenge made by John Edgar Wideman, the African-American novelist, who had remarked that if South Africans could not produce fiction on their own writer’s gift of a theme — what used to be called “the national suicide of the Xhosas” — they were a lot of moegoes.’ 

Offenburger says: ‘What saddens me most about The Heart of Redness is that we readers of South African literature have lost an opportunity to read a substantial account–for the first time–of the Xhosa Cattle-Killing from the perspective of a Xhosa novelist. Instead, we are given another author’s paraphrased words and vision. And without clearly attributing how much of the novel originated in Peires’s text, most of us likely assume the material to be Mda’s.’

I find it interesting that Peires will not pursue the matter. He admires Mda’s location scouting and concurs with Mda that fiction-writers are traditionally irresponsible anyway, taking advantage of being shot of the disciplinary controls of academic discourse. So Peires will leave it at that.’

Slack(er) apology


Michael Moore has released his film, ‘Slacker Uprising‘ for free download to residents of North America. If you try to download from the website, you get a message saying ‘the lawyers tell us we are only allowed to offer the film to people residing in the United States or Canada’. If you go to Moore’s blog, you’ll read that ‘If you live outside the U.S. and Canada, I’m sorry that I don’t own the rights to make this film available to you for free. But it will be coming to a theater, video store or television network near you soon.’

My ‘recovering lawyer’ friend, Andrew, says that this is probably due to the fact that Moore has used copyrighted and trademarked media in the film that he has rights to publish under fair use in the U.S. (or fair dealing in Canada). He might also have bought rights to music used in the film only for the U.S. and Canada.

The “problem”, as they surely would have realised when they decided to release the film online, is that if this is an attempt to prevent “copyright infringement”, then it’s a poor one. Since Moore has ’embraced BitTorrent, and the official download is using the Pirate Bay tracker’ (I can only read what others have said about the download since I, too, am a resident of the Wild Wild South), anyone who has downloaded the film can make the torrent available to others (the torrent protocol has no methods for limiting by geographical location).

What irks me is that Moore, whose films are supposedly “anti-propaganda”, hasn’t acknowledged the irony of his film’s lack of availability to fans outside of north America. If he doesn’t get a distribution deal outside of north America, will the film ever be available to people outside of that region? And if it doesn’t (reviews of the film are not favorable) then I’ll add that one to the list of how the Internet is actually reducing access to information rather than increasing it globally.

Thanks for the link, Nathaniel!

‘David and GOLIATH’?


Gerhard Marx is suing Ireland Davenport and BMW for copyright infringement in the South African High Court on 9 October. Last night, prominent South African artists raised about $55,000 by auctioning off their works in a campaign called ‘david & GOLIATH‘. Owen Dean is representing Marx and has been quoted as saying that ‘his client has developed a reputation that might be held “in lesser esteem if it is known that is has been used for commercial purposes.”‘

commercial-archive probably has the best account of the story – including links to an entire archive of artists who use maps in their work. The similarities in the concept of the BMW ad, though, are remarkable and I’m going to be very interested in how BMW tries to argue this one out of court.