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A Search for Comity in the Intellectual Property Wars: symposium at The New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, April 28-30, 2006 [slides, audio, transcripts]
download the report [PDF]
from the it's-still-yours-isn't-it dept
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Jun 8th 2011 2:42pm
Youtube (finally) introduced a Creative Commons licensing option for uploaders on June 2nd, allowing users to make their original works freely available to others to remix and build upon without worrying about infringement charges down the road. At this point it's only implemented a CC-BY option, but it expects to introduce others further down the road. The key to this license is that it allows others to use these licensed videos commercially, which has proven to be a sticking point for certain parties with a vested interest in keeping uploaded contributions licensed solely to the creator.
Two dissenting opinions appeared nearly immediately. The first argument against the CC-BY license appeared at the Viralfier blog, where Scott Burke has decided that CC licensing is the worst thing ever (or "evar"), running down 6 reasons why you shouldn't use this new option:
Take another example. MasterCard wants to use your sweet snowboarding video in a worldwide advertising campaign. Great! Except you already gave the rights away, when you tagged it with a Creative Commons license. You might get a brief attribution at the bottom of the ad — but wouldn’t you also want a licensing fee?
Well sure, Scott. Who wouldn't? But it's not as if the video was doing much on its own, all locked down and whatnot. And hindsight, while having perfect 20/20 vision, is hardly what one would call a "business model." There's also exposure and the fact that the original video still belongs to you.
His next point deals specifically with the "exposure" aspect, showing how that doesn't work either:
klaatu42‘s recent hit viral video, Ultimate Dog Tease (you know, “The maple kind?”), has received 35 million views to date, and his channel has 385,000 subscribers. The source video that it’s based off of, is by IcePrincessXXIV. klaatu42 gives her about as prominent a link as you can get in the video.
How many subscribers did that translate into for IcePrincessXXIV? 600. A full 0.15% of the action.
Those are admittedly terrible numbers, but is counting subscriptions really a viable measurement? I watch tons of videos (and see tons of overlaid ads) on Youtube and I think I'm subscribed to maybe two channels. (And that's just me. Add in my family and everything goes exponential.) Does this mean that someone's successful use of your video instantly translates to jacksquat on your end? I hardly think so.
Points 3 and 4 deal with two familiar "arguments," the first being that if you give something away for free, you obviously think your artwork is worth nothing. This fallacy is hardly worth arguing but can anyone out there think of anything valuable that's being given away for free as part of a hugely successful business model? (Try Googling it.) The other has to do with your limited legal recourse in cases where your video has been misused or infringed upon. Good point. Regular copyright holders never have these problems and their legal battles run very smoothly because of that fact!
The real reason for this post emerges in point 5, where Scott encourages readers to join Viralfier's closed beta. Because Viralfier is "a startup which is developing a 'game-changing toolkit for creating and marketing viral videos.'" Hmmm. Suddenly, this advice seems a tad off. (Point 6 seems to have something to do with making an 8-bit cat "cry." Double-hmmm.)
The second opinion is more of the same, but much briefer: Won't work. Too crowded. Not interested. I ingested several grains of salt (80% of my RDA for sodium) when greeted with "ReelSEO: The Online Video Marketing Guide" upon opening this link.
Of course, anti-CC sloganeering and misinformation-spreading is old news at this point. Another conflicted and interested party, ASCAP, spent part of last year trying to build a warchest to fight Creative Commons. The Portuguese Socialist Party attempted to outlaw CC licensing, thus making it illegal for artists to give their work away for free. Several others have also stepped up to the plate to take a swing at Creative Commons, claiming that it is "anti-artist" and that Creative Commons licensing "has put a large number of creatives out of business."
Why do they care? Or, more realistically, why do they pretend to care?
1. In their minds, art is always zero-sum. If someone takes your artwork and builds on it successfully, then it must logically follow that no one but this "someone" will ever be able to make money from that particular piece of art. Apparently, artwork can be "used up."
2. The gatekeepers and artists tied to these systems can't compete with free. This isn't necessarily the kept artists' fault. They often have no say in the matter. But because the industries aren't interested in competing with free, then the free option needs to be removed.
It gets uglier when you, as an artist, go head-to-head with this mindset. The accustations will fly. "You obviously feel your artwork is worth nothing." "Don't you care what happens to something you created?" "There's no legal recourse with Creative Commons." "You must be an idiot/untalented hack if you don't do things the way they've always been done."
I wonder why they just can't let artists distribute their art the way they want to, rather than using hyperbolic statements to FUD-up the debate or humiliate underinformed artists into doing things their way. Is creative work inherently "worthless" if you can't immediately apply a price tag to it? Why does it all boil down to "price" and "control"?
But the most irritating aspect of this so-called "debate" is the hypocrisy. All this effort on "behalf" of artists is nothing more than a completely condescending effort to save "ignorant" artists from themselves. And for what? A chance to play ball with a bunch of gatekeepers who care more for their profit margins and quarterly sales than they do about 99% of the artists they "represent?" It's one thing to run your own industry into the ground. It's quite another when you disparage other options solely to benefit your own system.
That goes for you, too, Viralifier and ReelSEO.
Still drawn from The Ray and Charles Eames film, The Information Machine, held in the Prelinger Library and hosted at Archive.org
Jaron Lanier's critique parses the mentality behind Anonymous, the DDOS, the cult of personality surrounding Assange, and the problem with the idea of forcing "transparency". This is dead-on: a must-read. One of three pages excerpted below - read the entire article in The Atlantic, here. (A version of this story first appeared in the German magazine Focus.)
via The Atlantic:
The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy: The Case of WikiLeaks
Dec 20 2010, 2:50 PM ET
By Jaron Lanier
The degree of sympathy in tech circles for both Wikileaks and Anonymous has surprised me. The most common take seems to be that the world needs cyber-pranksters to keep old-school centers of power, like governments and big companies, in check. Cyber-activists are perceived to be the underdogs, flawed and annoying, perhaps, but standing up to overbearing power.
It doesn't seem so to me. I actually take seriously the idea that the Internet can make non-traditional techie actors powerful.1 Therefore, I am less sympathetic to hackers when they use their newfound power arrogantly and non-constructively.
This is an interesting difference in perception. How can you tell when you are the underdog versus when you are powerful? When you get that perception wrong, you can behave quite badly quite easily.2
Every revolutionary these days must post a video online. So the group Anonymous, which avenged the perceived enemies of Wikileaks by ganging up on sites like MasterCard and PayPal, released theirs, a scratchy cyberpunk scrawl. In it, a digitized announcer condemns the attacked companies for the "crime of cutting people off from the global brain." This might seem like an odd bit of propaganda for those who aren't familiar with the world of nerd supremacy.
The ideology that drives a lot of the online world -- not just Wikileaks but also mainstream sites like Facebook -- is the idea that information in sufficiently large quantity automatically becomes Truth. For extremists, this means that the Internet is coming alive as a new, singular, global, post-human, superior life form. For more moderate sympathizers, if information is truth, and the truth will set you free, then adding more information to the Internet automatically makes the world better and people freer.
The one exception to be carved out is that technically skilled programmers are celebrated for erecting digital privacy curtains around themselves. Thus we didn't necessarily get to know where Mr. Assange was at a given moment, before his detention on rape-related charges, or what Facebook or Google know about you.
But leaving hypocrisy aside, is there something to the idea? If the number of secrets falls with each passing minute and gradually approaches zero, what does that do to the world? Would a world without secrets be fairer, or more compassionate? More efficient? Does it matter if some secrets are revealed before others?
It is often the case that microstructure influences macrostructure. In the case of digital systems, where the microstructure is bits that are either completely on or completely off, it is easiest to build big things that tend to peg completely one way or another. You can easily be completely anonymous online, or utterly revealed, but it is hard to find an in-between spot.
The strategy of Wikileaks, as explained in an essay by Julian Assange, is to make the world transparent, so that closed organizations are disabled, and open ones aren't hurt. But he's wrong. Actually, a free flow of digital information enables two diametrically opposed patterns: low-commitment anarchy on the one hand and absolute secrecy married to total ambition on the other.
While many individuals in Wikileaks would probably protest that they don't personally advocate radical ideas about transparency for everybody but hackers, architecture can force all our hands. This is exactly what happens in current online culture. Either everything is utterly out in the open, like a music file copied a thousand times or a light weight hagiography on Facebook, or it is perfectly protected, like the commercially valuable dossiers on each of us held by Facebook or the files saved for blackmail by Wikileaks.
The Wikileaks method punishes a nation -- or any human undertaking -- that falls short of absolute, total transparency, which is all human undertakings, but perversely rewards an absolute lack of transparency. Thus an iron-shut government doesn't have leaks to the site, but a mostly-open government does.
If the political world becomes a mirror of the Internet as we know it today, then the world will be restructured around opaque, digitally delineated power centers surrounded by a sea of chaotic, underachieving openness. Wikileaks is one prototype of a digital power center, but others include hedge funds and social networking sites.
This is the world we are headed to, it seems, since people are unable to resist becoming organized according to the digital architectures that connect us. The only way out is to change the architecture.
The Internet as it is, which supports the abilities of Anonymous and Wikileaks, is an outgrowth of a particular design history which was influenced in equal degrees by 1960s romanticism and cold war paranoia. It aligned the two poles of the bit to these two archetypal dramas. But the poles of the bit can be aligned with other things. The Internet can and must be redesigned to reflect a more moderate and realistically human-centered philosophy.
It is possible for tiny actions to occasionally have huge consequences on the Internet -- like the creation of a Facebook or a Wikileaks by tiny teams -- because many thousands of people over decades set up the underlying structure of that seeming magic trick.
It seems to cost nothing to send an email, so we spend billions of dollars on spam. The existing Internet design is centered on creating the illusion of no-cost effort. But there is no such thing. It's an illusion born of the idylls of youth, and leads to a distorted perception of the nature of responsibility. When there seems to be no cost, the idea of moderation doesn't seem sensible.
Openness in itself, as the prime driver of events, doesn't lead to achievement or creativity.
One problem is that information in oceanic magnitudes can confuse and confound as easily as it can clarify and empower, even when the information is correct. There is vastly more financial data set down in the world's computers than there ever has been before, including publically accessible data, and yet the economy is a mess. How can this be, if information is the solution?
A sufficiently copious flood of data creates an illusion of omniscience, and that illusion can make you stupid. Another way to put this is that a lot of information made available over the internet encourages players to think as if they had a God's eye view, looking down on the whole system.
A financier, for instance, might not be able to resist the temptations of access to seemingly endless data. If you can really look down on the whole market from on high, then you ought to be able to just pluck money out of it without risk, which leads to the notion of a highly computerized, data intensive, brobdingnagian hedge fund. This is fine, for a while, until other people start similar funds and the whole market becomes distorted.
The interesting similarity between Mr. Assange and a typical financier who overdid it is that both attempted to align themselves with a perceived God-like perspective and method made possible by the flow of vast information on the Internet, while both actually got crazy and absurd. Wikileaks and similar efforts could do for politics approximately what access to a lot of data did for finance in the run up to the recession.
Whom does Cablegate harm? This issue has been debated extensively elsewhere, but I do want to point something out about how to interpret the question. The details that are prematurely revealed in Cablegate are not essential knowledge for me, since I am not immediately involved in the events, and the contents of the leaks thus far haven't disrupted my worldview or my politics.
They are, however, potentially consequential to American diplomacy, which is often, if we are to believe the cables, both trickier and better intentioned then we might have feared. The contents might be extremely consequential, even deadly, to a hapless individual on the ground -- and we'll once again invoke the canonical unfortunate fellow in Afghanistan who translated for a US diplomat and counted on the USA to keep it secret. I don't know if he exists, but it seems to me that there must be analogs to him, at least.
Julian Assange, in defending his actions sees a vindicating contradiction in this difference: How can information be both dangerous and inconsequential, he asks? He sees information as an abstract free-standing thing, so to him, differences in perspective and circumstance mean nothing. This is how nerd supremacists think.
Continue to Page 2 on The Atlantic
Continue to Page 3 on The Atlantic
[Continued below is the last section of Page 3, too good not to include here]:
The point of Cablegate is to make it hard for diplomats to function. We know this is the point, since Julian Assange has described the strategy in his writing. He hopes to screw up the USA, which he considers a conspiracy of bastards, by screwing up the trust which glues the USA together. When you reveal what one person said in confidence to another, you screw up their relationships with other people. That's what Wikileaks has come to be about with the Cablegate episode, not the revelation of deeply scandalous secrets.
Yet the controversies around radical openness are usually framed around questioning the legitimacy of keeping regulated institutional secrets. Military, commercial, and diplomatic spheres sanction more secret keeping than we are used to in civilian life.
If the distinctions between these spheres fail, then what we will lose is civilian life, since the others are ultimately indispensible. Then we'd turn into a closed society. In closed societies, like North Korea, everyday life is militarized.
You might not agree that this is what would happen, because it might seem as though fewer secrets ought to always, always mean a more open society. If you think that, you are making the same mistake those programmers who resisted structure made long ago.
Anarchy and dictatorship are entwined in eternal resonance. One never exists for long without turning to the other, and then back again. The only way out is structure, also known as democracy.
We sanction secretive spheres in order to have our civilian sphere. We furthermore structure democracy so that the secretive spheres are contained and accountable to the civilian sphere, though that's not easy.
There is certainly an ever-present danger of betrayal. Too much power can accrue to those we have sanctioned to hold confidences, and thus we find that keeping a democracy alive is hard, imperfect, and infuriating work.
The flip side of responsibly held secrets, however, is trust. A perfectly open world, without secrets, would be a world without the need for trust, and therefore a world without trust. What a sad sterile place that would be: A perfect world for machines.
Continue on to read the footnotes.
Via email from Charles Ferguson:
[Many of us are] interested in / concerned about the Wikileaks situation and its broader context, including both its support and the legal and technological efforts to silence it. Recent events have raised many difficult and important questions including:
Symposium on Wikileaks and Internet Freedom
When: Saturday, December 11, 10:00am - 2:00pm*
Where: Riverpark: A Tom Colicchio Restaurant, 450 East 29th Street (East of 1st Ave, just before the FDR)
Emily Bell, Director of the Tow Centre of Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School
Esther Dyson, EDventure
Allison Fine, Co-author, The Networked Nonprofit
Charles Ferguson, Director, Inside Job and No End in Sight
Arianna Huffington, Co-founder and editor-in-chief, The Huffington Post
Jeff Jarvis, Professor, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
Andrew Keen, Author of the forthcoming book, Digital Vertigo: An Anti-Social Manifesto
Rebecca MacKinnon, Author of the forthcoming book, Consent of the Networked
Mark Pesce, Author and digital anthropologist
Andrew Rasiej, Co-founder, Personal Democracy Forum
Jack Rosenthal, Senior fellow, Atlantic Philanthropies
Carne Ross, Director, Independent Diplomat and former UK Diplomat
Douglas Rushkoff, Author, Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age
Micah L. Sifry, Co-founder, Personal Democracy Forum
Katrin Verclas, Principal, New Rights Group
Tom Watson, Author, CauseWired: Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World
Dave Winer, Editor, Scripting News and Visiting Scholar, NYU
Tickets are $10, and space is limited (tickets will not be available at the door). *Coffee and light refreshments will be served.
To register, please visit: http://pdfsymposium.eventbrite.com
The hashtag for the event is #pdfleaks
Image via Wired.
The Story So Far
Wikileaks is offering the diplomatic cables directly from their website, with 278 available from over 250,000 to be released in stages over the next few months. View them here, or any number of mirrors. Alternately, StateLogs lets you browse and search the complete collection.
The Guardian offered the best coverage, in my opinion, including a data dump of all the metadata in CSV format and on Google Fusion. The Guardian's liveblog from Monday showed how the story rolled out as it happened, and today's liveblog is an excellent up-to-the-minute list of the fallout.
Reuters country-by-country summary of the revelations in the release.
In a long interview with Forbes, Julian Assange says that half their leaks are from the private sector, they're getting an exponential increase in leaks, and are planning a leak for a major U.S. bank is up next in early 2011. Bank of America shares were down on the rumors. In today's interview with TIME, he says Hillary Clinton should step down.
If you're wondering about Assange's broader motivations for Wikileaks, this great post surfaces some of his earlier writing about hampering America's ability to keep secrets. (Or you can dig around yourself through his old blog, available from Archive.org.)
Personally, I'd love to hear more about James Ball, a data journalist who worked closely with Wikileaks to analyze the data. In this NBC Nightly News interview, he says he's not an employee, but in another Telegraph interview, says he's paid by Wikileaks. I'd love more details.
Marc Ambinder explains some of the technical details about how modern diplomatic cables are stored and transmitted. In short: PDFs in Outlook PST files transmitted over SIPRnet (which was disconnected last week) and then burned to a mislabeled CD while lip-syncing Lady Gaga.
You can download all the files yourself from the Pirate Bay.
Who supports Wikileaks?
Not many public figures!
Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. In an NBC interview, the Bradley Manning of the 1970s said the release was "useful... and the public deserves to know." And Noam Chomsky, who also assisted with the Pentagon Papers.
In the media, the Guardian's Simon Jenkins wrote a compelling column defending Wikileaks, saying, "It is for governments - not journalists - to guard public secrets, and there is no national jeopardy in WikiLeaks' revelations." Salon's Glenn Greenwald, Slate's Jack Schafer, and The Economist's Will Wilkinson also defended Wikileaks.
The newspapers that had access to the material didn't take a position, but obviously felt the material was newsworthy. The New York Times discussed the decision to publish, and responded to readers' questions today.
In one of my favorite articles so far, the New Yorker's Blake Eskin draws parallels to Facebook and other online privacy scandals.
It won't surprise many that Pirate Bay cofounder Peter Sunde positions it as a free speech issue.
With its heavy libertarian streak, I'm surprised more prominent people in technology haven't spoken up.
Who's against Wikileaks?
Most US politicians, left and right, came out forcefully against Wikileaks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: told reporters, "It is an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations, that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity."
NATO condemned the release, saying "it endangers civilians and military personnel... It is illegal, irresponsible and dangerous."
George W. Bush, Senator Joe Lieberman. Rick Santorum calls the Wikileaks release "terrorism." Mike Huckabee wants Assange executed. Sarah Palin wrote on Facebook that Julian Assange is "an anti-American operative with blood on his hands."
Most world governments denounced Wikileaks. China won't comment on the contents of the leak, but blocked access to Wikileaks, citing the preservation of US-China relations. The Russian government wants to destroy Wikileaks before they leak KGB info. In the UK, Downing Street and Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP (Chairman of the UK Intelligence and Security Committee and former Foreign Secretary).
Wikipedia cofounder (and critic) Larry Sanger wrote that, "I consider you enemies of the U.S. — not just the government, but the people." He expanded on his view in a larger essay, stating, "Julian Assange is no hero. He is a twit... He gives hackers a bad name."
In The Middle?
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims the release wasn't an accidental leak, but a psychological warfare campaign by the United States.
The Internet Responds
Taiwan's NMA News does the obligatory CG reenactment.
Dan Gillmor posed some thoughtful questions for Wikileaks, journalists, and the U.S. government.
Also: Julian Assange and Bradley Manning costumes from Halloween. (No Rule 34 yet, though.)
4chan could not be reached for comment.