Category Archives: Digital Commons

The Economic plus or minus of Fair Use

Fair use protects competition by guaranteeing that companies can reverse engineer software so that their products will work and ‘interoperate’ with the products of their competitors. Fair use guarantees journalists, scholars and ordinary citizens the right to quote and abstract from others’ writings, and so buttresses basic rights of free expression. And fair use guarantees that technological innovations such as the Internet itself, whose very function is to copy information from one place to another, can operate normally without running afoul of copyright law. Fair use thus helps to ensure that the benefits of copyright accrue to the public. It produces a multiplier effect without which we would all be poorer.

from Fair Use in the US Economy: Economic Contribution of Industries Relying on Fair Use (pdf), a report prepared for the Computer & Communications Industry Association. Commentary from Ars.

Is it that clear cut? Are most illegal downloaders expressing a desire for a fairer use, or are they simply digital criminals? Although the argument can be made the the music, tv and film industries are slow to adapt to competition in the digital era, they are, by at least some perspectives, making less money. Maybe a more relevant question is, will this issue be resolved through legislation, or simple economics consequences of the “darknet?”

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Filed under Business 2.0, Digital Commons, Fair Use

Web Widgets become serious business

The rise of widgets was caused by several factors including the adoption of RSS, the expansion of the blogosphere, growth of social networks, fashion of self-expression and the democratization of the web at large. Originally, the goal of widgets was to simply deliver a miniaturized version of a specific piece of content outside of the primary web site…A major development in the history of widgets occured just this week; the W3C published a draft of the first widget specification. The goal of this effort is to standardize how widgets are scripted, digitally signed, secured, packaged and deployed in a way that is device independent, follows W3C principles, and is as interoperable as possible with existing market-leading user agents on which widgets are run.

from The Evolution of Web Widgets: From Self-Expression to Media Companies at the Read/Write Web

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Filed under A Culture of Participation, A democratic medium?, Business 2.0, Digital Commons, Media Evolution, Productivity, Tools, web 2.0

Digital Sharecropping: Lessig warns of user-generated content exploitation

In May, Lucasfilm announced plans to enable fans of the “Star Wars” series to “remix” “Star Wars” video clips with their own creative work. Using an innovative Internet platform called Eyespot, these (re)creators can select video clips or other content and then add images or upload new content, whether images, video or music. Eyespot is one of many new technologies inviting “users” to do more than use the creativity they are consuming. Likewise, Lucasfilm is one of many companies recognizing that the more “users” use their creativity, the thicker the bonds are between consumers and the work consumed.

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A dark force, however, has influenced Lucasfilm’s adoption of Eyespot’s technology. A careful reading of Lucasfilm’s terms of use show that in exchange for the right to remix Lucasfilm’s creativity, the remixer has to give up all rights to what he produces. In particular, the remixer grants to Lucasfilm the “exclusive right” to the remix — including any commercial rights — for free.

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Hybrids are an important future of Internet growth. Businesses will have to think carefully about which terms will excite the masses to work for them for free. Competition will help define these terms. But if one more lawyer protected from the market may be permitted a prediction, I suggest sharecropping will not survive long as a successful strategy for the remixer.

Commentary from Lawrence Lessig for the Washington Post

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Filed under A Culture of Participation, A democratic medium?, Aggregate, Digital Commons, Electronic Storytelling, Fair Use, Same as it ever Was, Tools, User generated content, When New Meets Old

Google Maps help do-gooders

Google has launched an initiative to help charities and other nonprofit groups use maps and satellite images to raise awareness, recruit volunteers and encourage donations. The Google Earth Outreach program, announced late last month, represents a formalization of ad-hoc partnerships with organizations using the free software to publicize their works.

Read this AP item from the Nashua Telegraph. Previously from WNM: Mapping applications used by activists to raise awareness.

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Filed under A Culture of Participation, A democratic medium?, Connection/Isolation, Digital Commons, Technology, our Mirror, The Politics of New Media, Tools, Virtual Communities, web 2.0

Music acquired via P2P is valuable market research

The music industry has long blamed illegal file sharing for the slump in music sales. But now, a key part of the industry is trying to harness file sharing to boost its own bottom line. Earlier this year, Clear Channel Communications Inc.’s Premiere Radio Networks unit began marketing data on the most popular downloads from illegal file-sharing networks to help radio stations shape their playlists. The theory is that the songs attracting the most downloads online will also win the most listeners on the radio, helping stations sell more advertising. In turn, the service may even help the record labels, because radio airplay is still the biggest factor influencing record sales.

Read this item from the Wall Street Journal

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Filed under Business 2.0, Digital Commons, Fair Use, P2P (Peer to Peer), When New Meets Old

Crowdsourcing: Business v Users

I understand crowdsourcing as kind of an industrial age, corporatist framing of a cultural phenomenon. There’s human energy being expended here. A company can look at that as either a threat — to their copyrights and intellectual property or as some unwanted form of competition — or, if they see it positively, then they see it as almost this new affinity group population to be exploited as a resource. And I guess what I’m undecided on and debating internally is whether this is fine. In other words, am I naïve to think this isn’t the death knell for a community-oriented, collaborative, open source ethos? Has corporate America finally figured out the way to arrest this shift in the balance of power? Or do we let them believe they are doing this when actually it is human participation and collaboration going on, the kind of thing I would promote.

More from filmmaker Douglas Rushkoff from WIRED’s What Does Crowdsourcing Really Mean?

Subvert and Profit fills the niche market for ‘darker’ crowdsourced actions. Beginning by operating a black market for votes on social bookmarking services, S&P will bootstrap itself towards operating a full-fledged crowdsourcing marketplace for clandestine actions on the Internet. Striving to maintain our allure and underground appeal, we seek to represent the fundamentally subversive nature of the Internet….Our system has successfully placed a good deal of content on the front page of Digg. At this point, 2 out of 3 advertisements are successful, and we’re getting better. Ultimately our attempts are at the mercy of the Digg community. The average client buys 70 Diggs, though some clients prefer to gamble by purchasing 10-20, hoping that regular Digg users will carry them the rest of the way. We haven’t collected enough data from satisfied advertisers, though I’ve heard a story on Digg gets roughly 10,000 visitors. Once a blog I run under another name got over 30,000. All of this translates to organic marketing that is an order of magnitude cheaper than most other forms of Internet advertising.

More from “Ragnar Danneskjold” of Subvert & Profit from WIRED’s Exploring the Dark Side of Crowdsourcing

There are two ways that crowds are wise.

One way is that the crowds seem to average out certain kinds of nuttiness — which is sometimes a good thing and sometimes not, so I don’t want to just say that is a wonderful thing. I remember one of the examples in James Surowiecki’s book, The Wisdom of Crowds, where a State Fair type gambit was guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar to win a prize, or something like that. The averages were much closer to the answer than the individual guesses. I think there are times when there is wisdom in response averaging, and that is one way crowds can be wise or smart.

The other way is in diversity. It turns out that for a system like Innocentive we are playing off the diversity angle much more. I go back to the Archimedes example. If you just take the story at face value, and I realize that is impossible to do — but if you could reproduce the sitting in the bathtub part, how could I ever build that into my R&D function? But if I go out to the large numbers of individuals in the crowd, somebody is going to sit in their bathtub at the right point in time.

Read more from Dr. Alpheus Bingham, co-founder of research & development firm Innocentive in WIRED’s Using Crowd Power for R&D

Get more Crowdsourcing and Digg content from previous WNM mentions.

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Filed under A Culture of Participation, Business 2.0, Digital Commons, Media Evolution, Same as it ever Was, Social Media

Mapping applications used by activists to raise awareness

Three-dimensional maps from Google Earth are giving nonprofits new tools in their efforts to raise awareness of issues like deforestation and genocide….The popularity of mapping tools from Google and rival Microsoft has spurred nonprofits and other organizations to develop “layers” for the service that visually guide people to a cause. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year said it plans to use Google Earth to map out toxic wastelands.

Read this item from C|Net

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Filed under A Culture of Participation, A democratic medium?, Connection/Isolation, Digital Commons, Technology, our Mirror, The Politics of New Media, Tools, Virtual Communities, web 2.0