Igeneric Thoughts Archives: Legal Issues

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Creative Commons project in Scotland gets formal launch from Lessig tomorrow


April 1, 2018

Work to translate the Creative Commons licences to Scots law is now well underway, and Lawrence Lessig will be launching their activity during a lecture in Edinburgh tomorrow.

Cyberlaw: who controls access to ideas on the net? is part of this year's Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 14:47 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Creative Commons licences in England & Wales...


March 16, 2018

(Near?) final versions of the Creative Commons licences for England and Wales are now available online, and their availability is being celebrated at the October Gallery in London. Silicon.com's Sylvia Carr also reports on the development of the licences...

Many congratulations to all concerned in what's been a long process.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 19:49 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Lawrence Lessig on C-SPAN tonight


March 3, 2018

Creative Commons' Lawrence Lessig is talking in Library of Congress' Digital Future series tonight, and his talk is being broadcast over C-SPAN.

You can either stay up to watch him at 23:30 on Thursday (GMT), or join me in watching the archived version at a sensible time tomorrow.

Lessig's talk joins earlier presentations from Brewster Kahle and David Weinberger amongst others.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 09:41 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Let's see if Creative Commons licences work for the public sector!


February 25, 2018

I've been interested in Creative Commons and its various licences for some time, and have been keen to explore the extent to which they might make use and re-use of publicly funded content easier.

Today, the Common Information Environment releases an ITT inviting people to address exactly this.

Up to £40,000 is available for quite a focussed piece of work, and we look forward to receiving a good selection of bids that help to advance our understanding of this space.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 10:55 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

A day for intellectual property, copyright and culture


February 3, 2018

Whilst MLA's David Dawson and myself were at Portcullis House, in an All-Party Internet Group and IPPR seminar on “Digital Rights and Digital Heritage: preserving creativity in the Internet era”, Government Ministers Patricia Hewitt and Tessa Jowell were elsewhere in London announcing a major conference on Intellectual Property, to be hosted under the UK's presidency of the European Union later this year.

IPPR's Will Davies, who was one of those organising the APIG/IPPR event, mentioned it on his Blog last month, and will be putting a report and the presentations up shortly. A meeting summary is now available from IPPR [PDF download].

Creative Commons got a number of mentions, as did Apple's iTunes Music Store, and there was a lot of discussion around the need to educate the public as to what they can and cannot do with other people's intellectual property.

A copyright law specialist, for example, pointed out that you are not actually allowed to make a personal recording of a CD you own, in order to play it on a cassette player in your car. I had always thought you were allowed to. To my mind, this raises one of the biggest hurdles to effectively educating the public. As was said at the meeting, most people are basically good and basically honest. They recognise the right of artists, musicians etc to earn a fair wage, and to profit from the fact that they've done something that you and I think is worth owning. Large areas of the law, though, are basically stupid. How can I explain to a six year old that it is 'wrong' for him to make a single copy of a CD he has bought in order that he can listen to it in the car?

We can explain right and wrong. We can explain that commercially produced content has an associated cost, and that much of that cost is reinvested to produce the next film or song. The six year old understands that. The population understands that. Waving big legal sticks, and criminalising someone who wants to make a copy of some content they have paid for, in order that they can use it in a different way that is not itself illegal (playing songs on cassettes in cars is OK) doesn't help.

Who said “the law is an ass” ? Sometimes, they have a point.

As we move into the digital realm, too, it becomes increasingly possible for content owners to use Digital Rights Management (DRM) solutions in order to become increasingly draconian in their interpretation of the law. It may be illegal to make a copy of a CD onto a cassette for personal use, but we all do it. In the digital realm, the DRM associated with the music may physically make this impossible for the home user. So what do we do? Buy multiple copies of the songs in different formats for the different devices we want to play them on? Or, angry at the unreasonableness of such an approach, feel ourselves 'forced' into criminality and a visit to our nearest P2P download site...?

An update... Just read this on one of the excellent blogs maintained by Jupiter's team of analysts.

“I just came back from my daughter's school play auditions. Kids from the local elementary, middle and high schools will perform in the play, which I won't name.

Holy copyright! The authors are taking pennies from babies. The local cluster of schools hasn't done a play since 1992, and PTA organizers chose the same one to perform. Back then, the volunteer mom producer got rights for three performances in a big hall for $120. To secure rights for the same play in the same hall for the same number of performances would cost more than $1,300, she told me this evening as she fanned through the inch-thick contract. Seeing as how the money is coming out of depleted PTA funds and play ticket sales, there won't be three performances. Not for shelling out 1,300 bucks.”

The law is an ass.

Richard Allan MP, the Lib Dem spokesman on IT, and Lloyd Shepherd from The Guardian are amongst those also blogging the event, where David Dawson gave a good plug for our new MORI report.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 10:21 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Creative Commons information in the UK


January 14, 2018

Mike Linksvayer over at Creative Commons draws my attention to an event in London on 25 January; Creative Commons, Copyright, Contracts... and you!. It's being organised by Own It, and they've also produced a fact sheet (PDF download).

The event appears to be aimed mainly at TV/video/film, but there's a fine line between them and the sorts of creative content being placed online by cultural and educational institutions...

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 08:16 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (1)

Digital Rights and Heritage event


January 13, 2018

Will Davies blogs an upcoming IPPR/APIG event, Digital Rights and Heritage, taking place at Portcullis House on 2 February.

David Dawson, from Igeneric member the Museums Libraries & Archives Council (MLA), will be amongst those speaking, as will Oliver Gerhardt from the BBC Creative Archive.

I wonder how prominent Creative Commons will be in the discussion... and if the English & Welsh or Scottish versions will have been launched by then?!

I have high hopes for Creative Commons in the cultural heritage sphere, as a realistic and practical way to sort out the mess that rights statements on publicly funded, 'freely accessible' content currently presents to the bemused (at best) end user.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 20:26 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Interview with new Director of Creative Commons' “Science Commons”


December 21, 2004

John Wilbanks, the new Director of the Creative Commons' Science Commons, is interviewed in Open Access now.

The abstract states

“Science Commons is a new project exploring legal and technical mechanisms to remove the barriers that inhibit the sharing of scientific information. John Wilbanks has just been appointed as the Executive Director of Science Commons. He talked to Open Access Now about his new job and his aspirations for Science Commons.”

Science Commons aims to provide easier access to a wide range of scholarly literature, much of which is hidden behind unnecessarily complex licensing arrangements.

There are some interesting synergies with activity in the UK, specifically the JISC-funded FAIR Programme and the recent report from a House of Commons Select Committee.

Information from the Creative Commons weblog.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 23:19 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Firefox browser comes with ability to search for content licensed under Creative Commons


November 23, 2004

The Creative Commons weblog draws my attention to an ability of the cross-platform Firefox web browser that I hadn't noticed.

Like Safari and other modern browsers, Firefox includes a 'Search' box in the menu bar. By default (like Safari) typing a term here sends it as a search to Google. However, clicking in Firefox's search box drops down a list of targets, including Creative Commons. Choosing this target and entering a search submits it to Creative Commons' list of content licensed for reuse under one of their licences.

A useful feature, and I wonder how heavily it's being used?

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 07:51 | Make or Read Comments(2) | TrackBack (0)

Declaring rights over metadata via the Open Archives Protocol


November 4, 2004

Stephen Downes over at OLDaily draws my attention to a new draft document from the Open Archives Initiative.

The draft specification illustrates how one might embed links within OAI Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) metadata in order to refer to an external encoding of rights declarations such as those offered by Creative Commons.

As the document says,

“The Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) provides a mechanism for data providers to expose metadata for harvesting over the Web. This metadata is disseminated in OAI-PMH records. Metadata harvested from one or more data providers using the OAI-PMH can be used by service providers for the creation of services (e.g. search, browse) based on the harvested data.

Data providers might want to associate rights expressions with the metadata to indicate how it may be used, shared, and modified after it has been harvested. This specification defines how rights information pertaining to the metadata should be included in responses to OAI-PMH requests”

The specification is neutral as to the actual system of rights expressions used, but demonstrates the concepts using Creative Commons.

Item from the OLDaily RSS feed.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 08:21 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (4)

Protecting Children Online - whilst not restricting freedoms for all


November 2, 2004

Various media channels (including The Register, the BBC News site, and the Today programme on Radio 4) have today been covering a story about the need to increase child safety online through a range of measures from provision of a source of expertise upon which law enforcement agencies can draw to increased availability of tools and knowledge to assist parents in protecting their own children.

I attended an ippr/NCH event at the House of Lords this afternoon, at which the Children's Charities' Coalition for Internet Safety released their manifesto for Child Safety Online (PDF file).

The meeting was Chaired by Brian White MP, Chair of EURIM, and speakers included Oliver Goggins MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office and Chair of the Home Office Internet Task Force for Child Safety on the Internet), John Carr (NCH, representing the Coalition), Mike Galvin (Director Internet Operations at BT), and freelance journalist Bill Thompson.

Speaking first, John Carr pointed to some of the successes of the Coalition and of the Internet Task Force. 94% of children online, for example, are now aware that people with whom they are conversing in Internet Chat rooms may not be who they claim to be. As well as being a success for the work of John and his colleagues, this statistic should surely remind us that young people aren't daft; given access to education, they absorb it, and apply it in situations in which they later find themselves.

He also pointed to a proposal amongst mobile telephone companies in the UK, whereby they are encouraging the rating of sites carrying material unsuitable for minors, and will block access to those sites from the phones of young people. In an additional step, they are apparently intending to assume that any phone belongs to a minor unless its owner declares themselves to be an adult, and opts in to accessing adult content.

Oliver Goggins MP spoke of the distinctions between self regulation of Internet Service Providers by themselves and their peers as opposed to regulation by Government in the form of legislation. There is a similar distinction to be made (for the ISPs and for us as end-users) between taking responsibility for our own actions (surely a good thing?) and simply complying with what someone else tells us to do. If we only ever comply, how do we learn to think for ourselves, and avoid future mistakes?

Mike Galvin from BT started by making a point that I'm sure the other speakers probably agreed with, but didn't say. It's a point that often gets overlooked in debates such as this, where the perceived need to focus attention upon the bad, the frightening, and the worst case leads us to forget the norm; there is useful, high quality content online, and millions of children and young people access online services every day in order to learn, to be entertained, to communicate, and to enrich their lives, all without coming to any harm.

Finally, Bill Thompson spoke to stir the debate a little. He suggested that public and political debate on this topic was being dominated by the voice of the Children's Charities, driven by their mission to protect children. He challenged some of what they were attempting, but mainly appealed for other voices to be heard in the debate. As well as hearing those who sought to protect children, the debate also needed to be informed by those who sought to protect the Internet and all that it offers, for example.

He argued, compellingly I thought, that the most important solution to the problem was in education; in teaching children to think, to take responsibility, and to grow into Internet-using adults, rather than wrapping them around with firewalls, walled gardens and the like that shielded them totally from the reality of the online environment.

He cited the example of his children, arguing that he would no more prevent his daughter from researching material for her homework online (in case she came across inappropriate or dangerous content or behaviour) than he would stop his son playing rugby at school (in case he broke an arm). He has a point.

The session concluded with a wide-ranging debate in which a number of contrasting views were put forward. As a good proponent of Joined Up Government, I highlighted the Ofcom Media Literacy work that I blogged earlier today. This work, it seems to me, has real potential to deliver useful and well-adjusted members of the Knowledge Society, but it can't just be Ofcom. It'll need the Home Office, DfES, and other agencies to be involved as well. We're increasingly seeing ICT awareness described as the third Literacy (after reading/writing and Numeracy). If it's true - and it must be - let's start devoting serious effort to it, and consider all of the issues, rather than simply whipping up hysteria around the bogey-men that lurk online (and off!).

Update - Will Davies today posted the text of Bill Thompson's presentation, and an ippr summary of the event (both PDF downloads).

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 22:20 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (1)

UK Creative Commons licences discussed in The Guardian


October 29, 2004

Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing draws my attention to a piece by Becky Hogge in yesterday's The Guardian.

She discusses some background to the Creative Commons licences, in advance of next week's unveiling of the UK version.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 12:33 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Explaining Creative Commons... ...and the Common Information Environment!


October 21, 2004

Cory Doctorow draws my attention to Jason Fried's call for help in succinctly explaining the value proposition behind the Creative Commons. He's seeking a good summary in 20 words or less, and there are some interesting efforts in the comments to his post.

I quite like

To encourage creative sharing, without giving too much away

Igeneric, too, needs a short, snappy description. The best I've managed to date runs to 454 words, and appeared in Ariadne;

“Museums, Libraries, Archives, educational establishments, the health sector, and various facets of central and local government together create, manage and deliver a wealth of authoritative online information alongside their physical offerings with which many may be more familiar. Currently, the full value of this information is far from being realised, as it can be difficult to find and, once found, will often appear fragmented unless the needs of the user happen to fall squarely within the remit of a single institution or Web site.

Working under the umbrella of the Common Information Environment, a number of UK agencies are cooperating to nurture an open environment in which information and information-powered services may be disclosed, discovered, embedded, used and reused in a manner that meets the needs and aspirations of the user, rather than just the originating organisation. Underpinned by a shared vision and widely accepted standards, guidelines and procedures, the Common Information Environment unleashes information into new markets, and creates opportunity for Igeneric partners and for others in building a wide range of value-added services on this information for markets new and old.

Information has a crucial role to play in meeting the needs of the UK's population, in fulfilling their desire to understand where they come from, where they fit within the world of today, where they might go, and of what they might be capable. Additionally, Government priorities for the Knowledge Economy, Education, e-Skilling, aspiration-raising, e-Government, provision of compelling content to drive take-up of broadband and more are all clearly met.

The Igeneric is not a new search engine to compete with Google. Nor is it a portal onto all of our knowledge. Rather, it is collaborative work towards a culture in which existing and future organisations presume the need to be joined up - to be part of the digital aquifer of national interest information - from the outset, and work for that, rather than continuing the trend of building multitudinous silos of data, each fronted by a different Web interface, and each ignorant of related data in neighbouring silos.

When realised, the vision is one from which everyone benefits. The end user, for whom this content has been produced, is able to find it, and to work with related offerings from very different organisations. The information-holding organisations are better able to meet the needs of their existing users, have access to a wide range of comparable material from their peers, and are visible in new ways to a whole new set of potential beneficiaries.

In the Knowledge Economy, ready access to high quality, high value information must become a right and an expectation for all. The Igeneric is a large part of the process by which we all get there.”

Can anyone do better?

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 09:44 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

UK version of Creative Commons launched


October 4, 2004

Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig spoke today at the launch of a UK version of the increasingly popular Creative Commons licence. This licence, importantly, takes a very different view to protecting rights owners in that the emphasis is upon outlining what actions a user is allowed to take rather than starting from the perspective of restricting use.

The licence is being used by the BBC for their Creative Archive, will shortly be applied to the Igeneric site and blogs, and is attracting increasing levels of interest around the world.

Several types of licence exist, depending upon whether the licenser wishes to allow commercial use, the creation of derivative works, etc, and each of these has a simple name, a short summary page online (the Commons Deed), and links to the more comprehensive human or machine-readable legalese. This web site and associated blogs, for example, will probably be licenced under an Attribution licence, with a summary page like this and (US law in this example) legalese like this.

Lessig is, amongst other things, Chair of the Creative Commons activity, and spoke about the importance of sharing and retelling throughout our culture. He recognised the way in which technology had made this easier, but pointed to the need to reinforce the right for all of us to participate in this “Digital Remix”, and not to be constrained through unreasonably increased protectionism on the part of a few rights holders in the Digital Age. He presented a number of powerful, compelling, and funny examples to support his point, recognising the importance of defending the rights of creators, whilst not overreacting by criminalising so much of what all of us do every day.

Lessig showed a short film to explain the Creative Commons, which outlined the fact that the Creative Commons licence exists to let rights owners pre-emptively and explicitly permit certain uses of their work, without any potential re-user having to contact the rights owner or their intermediary in order to request permission. The rights owner still holds Copyright, and has all the protections they previously had. The re-user is able to continue with their task, safe in the knowledge that they are permitted to do so, and without wasting time and money to enquire.

Who loses (other than the rights clearance agencies and their lawyers)?

Under the label of the Science Commons, the Creative Commons project is now active in the open access publishing arena, exploring the use of Creative Commons licences on scholarly publications and other academic works. Lessig quoted the example of the Public Library of Science, which is applying Creative Commons licences to their articles.

Damian Tambini from the University of Oxford then discussed the work that they have been doing on translating the existing Creative Commons licences for use in the UK.

The new UK (English law, presumably) version of the licence joins the original US version plus others from Brazil, Finland, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands, with a number more in preparation. The finished UK licence will be available on the Creative Commons site from 1 November 2004.

Item written in the auditorium as Lessig spoke, and posted over GPRS.

Creative Commons License
This post is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 13:28 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Pay per Use taken to a possible (and unwelcome) extreme


August 13, 2004

United States Congressman Rick Boucher, writing on Larry Lessig's blog, offers the following worrying thought...


"Whenever I speak with librarians about fair use or the Copyright Act more generally, I inevitably hear them express concerns that we run the risk of becoming a pay per use society, one in which content is available only for a fee. I am concerned that the bookmobiles we all grew up with and their modern day equivalents will go the way of the eight track and the reel-to-reel, replaced by a world in which access to information will depend on the ability to pay and, worse, a world in which a payment gets you only a license to view or listen to something, not to actually own it. But I know it is said by some technologists and economists that this is the way it should be, if only because it is the most efficient means of allocating something in a market economy.

In thinking about the future of my information availability in our society, am I right to be concerned about the emergence of pay per use as the norm?"


Will it go that far? What do we do now to prevent this becoming the 'obvious' next step from (the very useful) iTunes Music Store et al?

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 17:41 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

House of Commons report on the dissemination of scientific knowledge...


July 20, 2004

Scientific Publications: Free for All? was published today by the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee.

This report details the findings of the committee, following a wide-ranging exploration of issues around the dissemination of scholarly material.

One of the concerns raised by university-based researchers was the pricing model applied by the publishers of scientific journals, many of which are filled with papers freely submitted or refereed by university researchers whose institutions then have to pay in order to stock the journal in their library. A recommendation here is that universities be funded to set up institutional repositories of the electronic texts written and submitted by their members. This clearly builds upon a number of JISC-funded projects under the current FAIR Programme.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 13:49 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)


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