Sunday, April 29, 2007


MIT recently hosted an incredibly successful conference on Creativity, Ownership, and Collaboration in the Digital Age. As part of their bi-annual Media in Transition event, MIT gathered an impressive group of people to discuss various aspects of digital media, authorship, intellectual property, and similar subjects. Wendy Gordon was in attendance as well, and her thoughts on fair use were poignant, esp when she noted that today's IP pactices are a cylce of Lather. Rinse. Repeat: 1) increased risk aversion for both users and producers, 2) More licensing, 3) More judicial intervention...leading of course back to increased risk aversion...

Here's a sampling of their agenda, which impressed me by its attention to legal aspects of the digital age, specifically copyright law:

Hal Abelson, MIT
Pat Aufderheide, American University
Wendy Gordon, Boston University
Gordon Quinn, Kartemquin Films
Moderator: William Uricchio, MIT

  • Second Life
Burcu Bakioglu, Hacking and Griefing as Acts that Create Performative Narratives in Second Life
Jeffrey Bardzell, Creativity, HCI and Fashion Design in Second Life
Brent Britton, Virtual Ownership
Mary Hopper, The Knowledge Gates to Second Life
Moderator: Alice J. Robison

  • Copyright 2: Politics and Ethics
Giovanni Boccia Artieri, Fabio Giglietto, Luca Rossi, Ownership in the Digital Age: A Sociological Approach
Dion Dennis, Mapping the Digital Prohibition Movement
John McMurria, Compulsory Licensing and the Collective Ethics of Creative Compensation Adejoke Oyewunmi, Exploitation of Traditional Cultural Knowledge in Contemporary Societies
Moderator: Candis Callison

Pat Aufderheide
Renee Hobbs
Moderator: Henry Jenkins

Broadcasting the Republican and Democratic Conventions

Lawrence Lessig has been a big advocate in working to convince both the Republican and Democratice National Conventions to broadcast their speeches, following the example of C-SPAN. An impressive group of advocates, from a range of platforms, has signed petitions to representatives of both parties. Yet it seems that the hugest hurdle is not necessiarly the parties, but actually MSNBC, who apparently regulates the use of their recorded debates. An exhaustiv, and extremely exessive and opressive list:


(The following rules apply to all media organizations that are not part of NBC)

News organizations, including radio, network television, cable television and local television may use excerpts of"The South Carolina Democratic Candidates Debate" subject to the following restrictions (internet use is not permitted):

1. An unobstructed onscreen credit "MSNBC" must appear during each debate excerpt and remain on screen for the entire excerpt.

2. Each debate excerpt must be introduced with an audio credit to MSNBC.

3. No excerpt may air in any medium until the live debate concludes at 8:30 pm ET.

4. No more than a combined total of 2 minutes of excerpts may be chosen for use during the period from the end of the live debate (8:30 pm ET) until 1:00 am ET on Friday, April 27. After 1:00 am ET, Friday, April 27, a total of 10 minutes may be selected (including any excerpts aired before 1:00AM). The selected excerpts may air as often as desired but the total of excerpts chosen may not exceed the limits outlined.

5. No excerpts may be aired after 8:30 pm on Saturday, May 26th. Excerpts may not be archived. Any further use of excerpts is by express permission of MSNBC only.

6. All debate excerpts must be taped directly from MSNBC™s cablecast or obtained directly from MSNBC and may not be obtained from other sources, such as satellite or other forms of transmission. No portions of the live event not aired by MSNBC may be used.

A feed of MSNBC™s telecast of the debate will be provided (details below), additionally limited audio/video mults will be available on site in the media center.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Libel Case against Google and Wikipedia

Former Canadian Green Party campaign manager Wayne Crookes has filed a libel suit against content providers Google (Blogspot) and Wikipedia. He claims that these sites have hosted negative material about his person and have been the source of defamation.

Is this a free speech question? Blogspot is a blogging service, meaning that users are posting content. Similarly, Wikipedia is a content provider to which all users are free to edit. In both of these cases, neithre Google nor Wikipedia have made explicit attempts to defame Crookes. Instead, they are providing the framework for other users to make such comments.

The lawsuit should be filed, if at all, at individual posters and not to the service providers. If Canada has a similar law to the DMCA, then Google and Wikipedia should be safe. They had no means to know of the material on their servers, nor did they receive explicit requests to remove the material. Good luck, Crookes.

The European Digital Library

The EU is continuing its progress towards developing the European Digital Library, a networked collection of Europe's cultural works. One of the biggest obstacles facing further advancement has been copyright law. The EU Observer reported that part of the blockade has been cleared, and that the initiative is well on its way to digitalizing more texts. Interestingly, Google has been listed as a large broker in this deal, specifically in digitalizing orphaned works. Are they planning on extending their Google Books project to include works on the EDL? Equally curious is whether Google will receive ad revenue from searches conducted by its service. Has the EU sorted out a bigger deal with the internet company?

Fortunately several large libraries in the U.S. are in full support of digitalizing orphaned works. These works, which are still under copyright's protection but do not have a reachable holder, have for a long time been disenfranchised. Google's wide-scale scanning project has helped revitalize the use of orphaned works and has even generated interest in getting out-of-print books back into production.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


An anonymous post on Craigslist has been the cause of quite some headache to a homeowner in Washington state. In response to a listing that literally declared, "Come and take what you want," truckloads of property were carried off, leaving the home stripped and its owner still in the dark.

This recent case is one of many "civil matters" that have facilitated by the online classified. The police have resolved to treat the incident outside of criminal courts, for reasons not clearly articulated. While many criminal offenses spurred by Craigslist have been put on trial, such as prostitution, drug dealing, and gambling, the open-house posting has not resulted in any criminal charges.

Why is that?

Well, fortunately the blame is not being pointed to the service provider. Coming down hard on Craigslist for facilitating the post would not be the proper solution. It would cripple the speed and openness of info exchange that we have come to expect from the internet. Online classified ads should be treated similarly to content hosting sites such as YouTube, where the service provider is not held responsible for content uploaded by individual users unless properly notified to remove it.

But in this case of invited burglary, who is responsible? Certainly the poster, who initiated the theft and provided information alerting users to the vulnerability of the house. A subpoena for the identity of the poster is thoroughly justified. They seem to me to be the true party at fault.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Google announces Gmail Paper

Google has broken the mold once again. In an industry-shaking maneuver, Google announced today that it will be the first email service provider to print, organize, and send its customers emails...for free. The service, called Gmail Paper, will be provided at no cost to users, other than the obligatory advertisements located discretely on the back of the printed pages.

Gone are the days of intangible internet archives, Google claims. Users can request as many printed emails as they wish. There will be no charge for shipping and handling.

What accounts for this generosity? Certainly Google must plan to make a profit off of Gmail Paper in some manner. Albeit the company's pledge to not be evil, one cannot help but feel uneasy when inspecting the gift horse. After all, the advertisements seem subtle enough, but what's to prevent snoopy employees or other prying eyes from reading the contents and selling the information to advertising firms, or worse, the government? Google offers no clear privacy policy.

Responses to Google's radical program range the gauntlet. The most provocative have come from a certain April Folery, and she insists that Gmail Paper will be a thriving and lucrative business model. We can expect Yahoo to follow suit.