In the series “algorithm regulation”, we discuss the implications of the growing importance of technological algorithms as a means of regulation in the digital realm. 

The most important international copyright treaty, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, is quite clear with regard to registration requirements for copyright protection in its Article 5 (2)

“The enjoyment and the exercise of these rights shall not be subject to any formality”

copyright-symbol

The copyright symbol in Arial

In other words, for the 168 countries covered by the Berne Convention, registration provisions are not an option.* In the digital era, this ban is unfortunate for a number of reasons: Read the rest of this entry »

Over at his Open Enterprise Blog, Glyn Moody explains “Why Open Source is Replacing Open Standards” by quoting Linux Foundation’s Executive Director, Jim Zemlin, as follows:

Logo of the Linux Foundation

Logo of the Linux Foundation

The largest form of collaboration in the tech industry for 20 years was at standards development organisations – IEEE, ISO, W3C, these things – where in order for companies to interoperate, which was a requirement in tech, they would create a specification, and everyone would implement that. The tech sector is moving on to a world where, in the Internet of things [for example], do you want to have a 500-page specification that you hand to a light bulb manufacturer, or do you want source code that you can hand to that manufacturer that enables interoperability? I think that’s a permanent fixture. People have figured out for a particular non-differentiating infrastucture they want to work on that through open source, rather than creating a spec.

For Moody, replacing open standards with an open source approach brings two “huge advantages”, namely that (1) “compatibility is baked in” and that it (2) “not only saves money, it speeds up development and the pace of innovation”. Functionally, as Moody emphasizes, open source software still represents a standard, whose source code “both defines that standard, and does 99% of the work of implementing it.”

Read the rest of this entry »

“Blue Collar Professor” Shawn Humphrey is the initiator of the student-oriented Month of Microfinance and the Two Dollar Challenge. He teaches a variety of development-related courses in most fascinating ways, among other things having his students sleep in cardboard box shelters and (for better or worse) roping them into the operations of a Honduran microfinance institution.

Usually narrated in a personal, essayistic style, Humphrey’s blog offers candid and often bravely self-critical insights into the vicissitudes of trying to “do good” and “development” – and of teaching American students how/how not to do it. Even though they’re hardly always up my alley (as with the suggestion that “doing good” is a “market”) and not always palatable, Humphrey’s musings are ever thought-provoking, sometimes philosophical, and overall highly relevant given this blog’s consistent interest in ethical questions over social justice and philanthropy. It is my pleasure therefore (as the ninth instalment in our occasional series about great series on other blogs) to introduce “Do-Goodernomics / Do’s and Don’ts of Doing Good” with this reprinting of parts of some of my favourite posts.

We were just finishing up our conversation with Clementina when another van full of Gringos arrived. A middle-aged man in a ball cap and shades bounded over to us. “What are you all doing here?” he asked with a hint of accusation. I introduced myself and my students. I began a review of our microfinance program. And, somewhere between “no fees” and “no penalties” he lost interest.  “You know” he interrupted me. “Before we got here…,” there was a dramatic pause and a deep draw of breath “they had nothing.” He swept his hand over the small community of 30-plus families in makeshift shelters. “We built that meeting house. We built those two public restrooms. We are building that home.” He turned to place his eyes on my eyes. He removed his shades. He raised his cap. “You know without us I do not know whether or not they would have survived.”

Read the rest of this entry »

eutopia-logoAbout two years ago I blogged about zombie provisions of the failed ACTA treaty, which resurfaced in other treaties such the the“Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement” (CETA). In the new multingual Eutopia magazine I have now published an article on the currently debated Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP):

The dispute over the planned TTIP transatlantic free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States goes far beyond the treaty itself, the reason being the tradition in which TTIP is grounded.

It is merely the most recent acronym in a constantly expanding family of abbreviations, its best known members including GATT, TRIPS, GATS, MAI, ACTA, CETA and TPP*.

[…]

Read the rest of this entry »

The 31st EGOS Colloquium will take place from July 2–4, 2015 in Athens, Greece, and together with Georg von Krogh (ETH Zürich) and Richard Whittington (Oxford University) I will be convenor of a sub-theme on “Open Organizations for an Open Society? Practicing Openness in Innovation, Strategy and Beyond“. Please find the Call for Short Papers below, submission deadline is January 12, 2015:

EGOS2015-AthensOver the past decade, ‘openness’ has become one of the most imperative virtues of modern organizations. Originating in the field of open source software development (Raymond, 2001), we can observe increasing demands for all kinds of openness in fields such as open innovation (Chesbrough, 2006), open strategy (Whittington et al., 2011), open science (David, 1998) or open government (Janssen et al., 2012).

All these different ‘open paradigms’ share – and fuel – hopes of combining greater efficiency with more inclusive and transparent forms of organizing. In the context of open innovation, for instance, the literature anticipates technological (e.g. reduced production costs) and marketing (e.g. positive effects on reputation) benefits (Henkel et al., 2014). Open strategy, in turn, promises access to dispersed knowledge, with some even speaking of “democratizing strategy” (Stieger et al., 2013). In the realm of open government and open science, expected benefits are often connected with access to all kinds of open data (e.g. Molloy, 2011).

However, studies of openness in organizations also point to a number of potential weaknesses and pitfalls such as loss of knowledge and intellectual property (e.g. Henkel 2006; von Hippel & von Krogh, 2003). So, on the level of organizational practices, we need more research that addresses the challenges implied by greater openness in terms of organizational structures, boundaries and culture. And on a broader level, the boom of openness, as recently pointed out by Nathaniel Tkacz (2012), is curious within a supposedly already-open society (Popper, 1971). Why is there such a demand for openness and what does this tell us about society at large?

Read the rest of this entry »

In the series “algorithm regulation”, we discuss the implications of the growing importance of technological algorithms as a means of regulation in the digital realm. 

For a few hours today, Uber users could view their passenger rating thanks to a how-to posted by Aaron Landy. Uber gives both passengers and drivers ratings, probably by averaging the post-ride ratings each gets, and they affect whether riders can get picked up and whether drivers keep their jobs.

UberlogoPassenger ratings like these raise two kinds of concerns: first, that opaque and inaccessible metrics don’t allow for recourse or even explanation; and second that driver ratings aren’t very consistent or reliable raw material for those metrics.

You hear stories from people who missed a pickup because of buggy notifications, for example, and those people all of a sudden just can’t catch a cab. Any kind of technical error can skew the ratings, but because they’re invisible they’re also treated as infallible.

Read the rest of this entry »

This week the EU Commission published its report (PDF) on responses to the public consultation on EU copyright held earlier this year. The consultation had drawn a comparably high number of responses with a total of about 11,000 messages, not least due to initiatives such as fixcopyright.eu (targeting end users) and creatorsforeurope.eu (targeting authors and performers). While over at IPKat copyright buffs are already delving into the details of the report, I tried to have a look at the bigger picture here: what do we learn about the state of copyright at large? And what overall direction should copyright reform take? With regard to both questions the report is quite instructive because of its clear and straightforward structure.

The report is structured along the 80 questions of the consultation, which are distributed across 24 issue sections. Within each of these issue sections, the report distinguishes between the different stakeholder groups that took part in the consultation (see chart below).

consultation-stakeholders

Read the rest of this entry »

In the series “algorithm regulation”, we discuss the implications of the growing importance of technological algorithms as a means of regulation in the digital realm. 

Facebooks Edge Rank Algorithm (Source: http://goo.gl/zTrTbe)

Facebooks Edge Rank Algorithm (Source: http://goo.gl/zTrTbe)

In a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS), Adam Kramer and others published an article on “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks” with data derived from the world’s largest social network Facebook. The researchers was given the permission to manipulate the Facebook newsfeed in order to test how differences in terms of emotional direction of postings, i.e. more “happier” or more “sadder” updates, impact on people’s status updates. The study delivered two main results: First, emotions are “contagious” in that more happy postings inspired more happy postings and vice versa. Second, fewer emotional posts (in either direction) reduces posting frequency of Facebook users.

The publication of these results has incited furious debates with regard to research ethics, mainly criticizing that Facebook should have asked users to (more) explicitely consent in taking part in such an experiment. Susan Fiske, the Princeton University psychology professor who edited the study for publication, is quoted in an Atlantic article subtitled “It was probably legal. But was it ethical?” as follows:

“I was concerned,” Fiske told The Atlantic, “until I queried the authors and they said their local institutional review board had approved it—and apparently on the grounds that Facebook apparently manipulates people’s News Feeds all the time.”

Over at orgtheoryElizabeth Popp Berman agrees that “the whole idea is creepy” but also argues that Read the rest of this entry »

The Council of Europe has invited me to contribute the following input paper (PDF) on “Need for New Regulation to Enhance Creativity in the Digital Age: The Cases of User-generated Content and Cultural Heritage Institutions” for the Conference on “Creating an enabling environment for digital culture and for empowering citizens”, taking place 4-5 July 2014, Baku, Azerbaijan. 

logo-CoEIn the course of growing economic importance of knowledge and of technological change related with the Internet and digitization, regulations of knowledge and information goods have increasingly become an issue of transnational contestation. Particularly the role of copyright law has changed since virtually all forms of online communication and interaction requires copying and distributing content, thereby becoming copyright-related. In a way, copyright laws have become the core regulatory device for the digital information society in general and digital creative practices in particular.

At the same time, we can observe that regulatory struggles in the copyright realm date way back. Already Kant (1785) and Fichte (1793) distinguished between different functional groups affected by copyright laws, among which publisher/copyright owner, author/creator, and consumer/user represent the most important. These groups are still the ones most affected by copyright regulation, even though today copyright also covers cinematographic work and computer programs and it is possible to reproduce nearly all types of work in digital form. Balancing the interests of these groups is therefore still the main task for copyright regulators on the international and the national level.

And while technological change has always provided both opportunities for new forms of creativity and problems for pre-existing business models in the copyright realm (Wu 2010), the all-encompassing and highly dynamic impact of new digital technology on nearly all fields and types of creative activities brings with it enormous regulatory challenges. First, digitization makes it possible to distinguish between content and medium – a constellation that is of major importance for the copyrighted content industry since it sells CDs, DVDs, and books, not music, movies, or novels. From a regulation perspective, this means that new rules – be they publicly legislated or privately enforced via license agreements – tend to more directly address particular usage practices, affecting traditional knowledge brokers such as archives, libraries or museums. Second, loss- and lag-free copying of digital contents via personal computers and the Internet enable new forms of private copying and peer-to-peer distribution of content on a massive scale. The regulation challenge related to this issue is to allow for these new technologies to enfold while at the same time prevent a massive increase in copyright infringement due to piracy. Third, thanks to decreasing production and distribution costs, many more people actively engage in content creation and make their works accessible directly to the public (sometimes referred to as ‘user-generated content’), thereby often re-using and transforming pre-existing copyrighted works. How to regulate these new forms of derivative creativity and creative consumption is again a task for regulators to address. Read the rest of this entry »

Guest blogger Nina Engwicht discusses a controversial performance art project in Berlin aiming to help Syrian refugee children.

Arrival of Jewish refugee children, port of London, February 1939

(Wikimedia; CC-BY-SA-3.0-de)

“1 in 100” is the slogan of a nightly ironic talent show currently put on in Berlin by the activist performance artists of the group “Center for Political Beauty” (Zentrum für Politische Schönheit). One in a hundred Syrian children will be saved, is the promise. In order to help the German government decide which children should be rescued, the audience is requested to vote for a child they would like to see rescued from the civil war: “1 in 100! One child wins. The others can go on dying. (weitersterben).

The artists urge their audience not to make light of their responsibility, but to use their right to vote. The show’s web site (http://voting.1aus100.de/) displays pictures and videos of each child, many of them badly hurt, some of them crying, some of them starving. The video of “child number 2” shows a boy desperately crying after a bomb attack. From off-camera we hear a man, presumably his father, saying “My God. My God. My children are dead. My children are dead”, while the boy cries for his brothers and sisters. The campaign’s Facebook page presents all these candidates and informs readers about their respective chances: “Child Nr. 61 only has two votes. Call now!”
Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
October 2014
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