ATT & Cargo Cults


Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia Image by One Laptop Per Child (CC by)


As BoingBoing reports, a leaked memo indicates that AT&T will introduce a creepy and stupid policy: If a user is suspected of copyright infringement (by which means is unclear – Hadopi style maybe?) repeatedly, AT&T will block access to Youtube and other sites and instead re-direct that user to an “on-line education tutorial”, and only after completing said tutorial will allow their users again to access the web as they please.

All the enforcement issues and the details of this particular instance aside, the political implications of what’s been going on in the world of copyright enforcement over the last 10-15 years are so creepy and skewed that it’s hard to believe we’re still even talking about this. And that a company would still even consider the option to screw their customers without a legal warrant or equivalent, just like that. When did that become acceptable?

I’m guessing that in 10 years or so we’ll look back at this era and laugh about it like today we laugh about Cargo Cults.

Unless, that is, we won’t be laughing about it because this is still going on, but then it’d be a world I wouldn’t want to live in.

Catch up to the 21st century some time soon & find business models where you get paid voluntarily without suing or surveilling anyone?

More on Boingboing.

Share your instagrams / defaults matter


by David R. Politi, licensed under Creative Commons by-nc license

I love the idea of, a tool to license your Instagram photos under a Creative Commons license. It’s a simple way to share your photos, not as in over-share your personal live but as in allow others to build on (and with) your creative works.

Defaults matter: Since most services don’t allow for easy CC-licensing (Flickr being one of the few services that implemented that a long time ago), most photos uploaded aren’t shared under licenses that allow for example bloggers to post a photo on their personal blogs to illustrate their articles. Like the wonderfully gross one you see above, courtesy of David R. Politi, who licensed it as Creative Commons by-nc via

More startups should think about the long play and the role they play in the larger ecosystem. Implementing a tool to license content under more permissive licenses than the get out of my backyard model that is “all rights reserved” (which the law defaults to, if the author doesn’t state a different intent) might bring some extra work with it, but it also allows for easy, massive contributions to the shared commons that we all on the web profit from.

Until then, I’m glad that simple tools like help us with a workaround. My personal workaround so far is, by the way, via the fantastic IFTTT: IFTTT checks for new uploads in my Instagram stream, then uploads them to my Flickr account. There, as mentioned above, my default license is Creative Commons (by-nc-sa), so you can use my photos for non-commercial uses like your personal blog. Plus, unlike at Instagram that is built primarily to make instantaneous sharing easy, it’s easier to search Flickr streams and embed photos. Admittedly, it takes some effort to pipe your photos across the web like that.

So I’m quite happy about tools that make sharing easier, and that hopefully get more companies to build sharing into their products, in responsible, user-controlled, non-creepy ways.

What could’ve entered the Public Domain on Jan 1, 2012 – but hasn’t


culture is not a crime

Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain shared a list of works that could have entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2012 – under the law that existed until 1987. It features works like Rebels Without A Cause, The Body Snatchers and Tolkien’s The Return of the King, to name just a few.

US copyright law in 1978 protected cultural works for 28 years after publication, with an option to add another 28 years. Now that period has been lobbied to a ridiculous 70 years – after the death of the author.

Think about this for a moment: Instead of making sure the author gets a certain window of opportunity to exclusively exploit their work commercially (in other words: to make some money of their work in order to produce more), that right now extends pretty much indefinitely and can be transferred to an heir or, as far as I know, even a company.

This, of course, is good news for the rights holders. It also means tremendous losses for society, producers of culture, innovation, and any one of us. These works can’t be used, can’t enrich our culture. They are, for lack of a better word, locked away. And a good chunk don’t even have a known author who might profit of their copyright, they’re so-called orphan works – author unknown, work inaccessible.

And here’s some concrete numbers from Duke:

If the pre-1978 law were still in effect, we could have seen 85% of the works created in 1983 enter the public domain on January 1, 2012. Imagine what that would mean to our archives, our libraries, our schools and our culture. Such works could be digitized, preserved, and made available for education, for research, for future creators. Instead, they will remain under copyright for decades to come, perhaps even into the next century. Think of the cultural harm that does. In addition, because most of these works are orphan works — works that are still presumably under copyright, but commercially unavailable and with no identifiable copyright holder — no one is benefiting from continued protection, while the works remain both commercially unavailable and culturally off limits.

Think of the damage. In fact, read about the damage. The Duke article refers to two articles that tell a pretty clear story:

There’s not that much we can do about copyright as it is, except to bring it up with your local law maker of choice. And, of course, to support those who fight the good cause here, namely organizations like the EFF – have you donated yet?

Image by Dawn Endico. Some rights reserved.

How I tried (and failed at) legally buying music in Germany


Please note: What’s about to follow is a rant. It’s also advice to music labels. Short-short version, dear content traders: Make your stuff more easily available.

This is a story of a sucky customer experience. As customers and experts alike will tell you, users like to rock, not to suck.

Buying music online is supposedly easy. Or so you’d think. And indeed it can be, as I learned from the awesome music subscription at, where I get 30 tracks per month. (I love it!) Alas, doesn’t have access to all the music out there, so if you’re looking for something in particular you might end up with zero search results there.

I just tried to buy the new Gnarls Barkley album, The Odd Couple. Sadly, didn’t have it. But hey, it’s 2008 and the labels aren’t the stupid, slow & bullying giants they once were, right?


So let me try to briefly describe my journey – trying to buy a normal, major-label pop album.

First up, iTunes, as linked to from the original Gnarls Barkley website. I’m sure there it would have worked, but since iTunes writes your email address into the files you buy, I don’t really feel like buying there. I don’t know if having my email address in my music would cause any harm as of now, but I’m almost sure any kind of (even stripped-down) DRM is inherently evil and will lead to trouble at some point. There goes iTunes.

Second stop, 7digital, “The Home of MP3 Downloads”. 7digital has the album, even though the price (7.99 British Pounds) seems a bit steep for a digital download. But ok, I’m willing to cough up the price for a regular physical CD even though distribution costs equal nearly zero for the label. Why not. Hey, you need to sign up to their service instead of just buying through your credit card. Ok. Wow, even the newsletter signup is opt-in. Unless, of course, you don’t fill out all the form fields – after showing me an error message, the newsletter was suddenly ticked, I didn’t notice after having it checked beforehand and clicked, and all of a sudden had a 7digital account and a newsletter I didn’t want. As a user, I simply didn’t want to feel like being tricked into a newsletter while buying a simple music album and, slightly grumpy at this point, canceled the purchase.

Third, good ol’ amazon. The US version,, offers The Odd Couple for an amazing $5.00. How awesome is that? I was already sold. I even agreed to download the Amazon Download Manager. For whatever reason I would need that I still haven’t figured out. After it was installed and I clicked the Buy button — nothing. Not living in the US, I’m excluded from music downloads. Books aren’t a problem, neither are electronics. But digital goods, those zeros and ones, no way.

Fourth, disappointed from the experience, I went back to the German amazon store, I could have spared myself the effort: In Germany, Amazon doesn’t sell music downloads.

From there it went downhill. Where I found DRM-free Gnarls Barkley music, it was their old album, which is great, but wasn’t what I was looking for.

My conclusion? I tried to pay you money for music. I tried hard, and annoyingly long. As long as this kind of effort doesn’t allow for a legal, DRM-free download, the music industry has no reason whatsoever to complain about losing sales. As bloggers and press people learn early on: Make your stuff available. Make it easy to get it. That is the first and most important rule when trying to increase your reach and your sales, or when you simply want to get your message out. Music labels, learn this lesson. If you hide your goods or don’t bother making them more convenient to use, those regular folks out there (us!) won’t bother either.

Re:publica 08 #3 (Law)


One of the best panels My favorite panel at re:publica was Henning Krieg‘s panel on law and blogging. At pretty much every other conference I missed out on Henning’s quite famous talks, and it was no surprise to find the room packed to the limits. Relaxed, informal and funny presentation, a lot of value for the regular blogger like yours truly. What about the infamous German imprint (“Impressum”), what kind of content am I allowed to use on my blog, who has rights to this photo, and what will a German judge count as an insult? Plenty of questions from the audience, lots of answers. If nothing else, the audience sure learned that the law can’t quite keep up with technology and common practice.

The slides are already online, but Henning is also planning a series of posts specifically about blogging and law. So keep an eye on his blog, (That is, if you’re interested in German blogging law and are fluent in German, of course.)

How Creative Commons Can Interact With Commerce


Over the last couple of years, Creative Commons licenses have become pretty widely adopted in the non-commercial field. (You’ll find a great number of blogs and podcasts under a non-commercial Creative Commons license.)

But what about commercial use? Are Creative Commons licenses the natural enemy of commercially used contents? By no means, quite the contrary. Here’s a great video explaining why Creative Commons and Commercial mix pretty well, and how:

Too deep into the topic already? Cross-posted from my work for, here’s an interview with Michelle Thorne of Creative Commons International. Michelle gives us the basics on Creative Commons:


A Swarm of Angels: Poster release


If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you might be familiar a film project I find to be really neat: A Swarm of Angels (former posts of mine here) will be a real, and radical, innovation: It’ll be big-ass, professionally produced movie funded (in terms of both money and creativity) by a community of film fans, the so-called Swarm. It’ll be released for re-mixing under a Creative Commons license.

A Swarm of Angels: The Unfold poster by Jonathan ValienteIt’s a great project which I think really takes community-involvement to a new level: As a member, you can get directly give your input at all levels, even script development. In between things, promo materials are developed, and later voted about. The best get used. One vote I’d like to point out is one out of a whole bunch of votes: The teaser poster vote. You can see a short-list of five poster drafts here.

My favorite? Jonathan Valiente’s poster design.

As soon as registration opens up again, you can join The Swarm here.