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.

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.

Changing to German ported version of CC (by-nc-sa) 3.0


Since I don’t believe in restricting the flow of information, or in DRM, this blog has been published under a Creative Commons license all along. And I’ve been absolutely happy with the way it went. The web is built on sharing and remixing, and that’s exactly what Creative Commons licenses allow for, easily:

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. Others can download and redistribute your work just like the by-nc-nd license, but they can also translate, make remixes, and produce new stories based on your work. All new work based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also be non-commercial in nature.

Licenses aren’t fixed, they change and evolve over time, and a while ago Creative Commons launched a version 3 of their license. So far, so good, but you may note that this license was the unported version.

I’ve been using the unported version until now for several reasons even though a German ported version has been around since July. (More on internationalization of CC licenses here – it’s more interesting, and way more complex than I ever expected.) The thinking was this: I’m based in Germany, but I blog in English and the vast majority of my readers is U.S.-based.

So now I’ve taken the step to use the German version of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Sharealike 3.0 license. Everything else stays exactly as it always has been: Feel free to use, remix and play with my content, as long as you link back to me. Also, if you’re planning on using my work commercially, you’ll need my agreement. (Get in touch.)

So here’s the code the Creative Commons license code generator provided:

Creative Commons License
The Waving Cat. Peter Bihr on Social Media, Web 2.0 & Digital Life by Peter Bihr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.