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One of the things that make blogs particularly interesting are series. The “series” series recommends series at related blogs. This time I am recommending the series “12 for 2012” over at the 1709 blog, whose name refers to the first purpose-built copyright law, i.e. the Statute of Anne of 1709. 

In spite of several term extensions over the last century, copyright law is still temporally limited. After the copyright protection term expires, works enter into the public domain (see “The Digital Public Domain: Relevance and Regulation“). In Europe, copyright protections terms are very long, lasting 70 years after the death of the creator. When a work finally enters the public domain, anyone is free to reproduce, distribute and remix it without asking for permission.

Celebrating prominent bodies of works that fall into the public domain on January 1 2012, fellow blogger Miriam Levenson has recently started the series “12 for 2012“:

During each of the twelve days of Christmas, the 1709 Blog is bringing readers some information concerning an author, composer, artist or creator who died in 1941 and whose works fall into the public domain in 2012 in countries which operate a “life plus seventy years” term for copyright in authors’ works.

Today, for example, Miriam Levenson features Virginia Woolf: Read the rest of this entry »

This post is provided by our “guest blogger” Elke Schüßler. Elke Schüßler is postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Management at Freie Universität Berlin.

The 17th climate summit in Durban has just concluded and the target of developing binding decisions for greenhouse gas emission caps post-2012, when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol – the “only game in town”, as it is often called inside the climate policy community – will end, has moved further afar. The main outcome of a uniquely long and strenuous negotiation process in this South African city was to postpone the development of such a treaty to 2015.

In a previous blog entry, Leonhard Dobusch and I have analyzed the role of music industry conferences as so-called “field configuring events” and the role they play in the contestation and possibly innovation of copyright regulation. Together with Bettina Wittneben (WiSE Institute) and Charles-Clemens Rüling (Grenoble Ecole de Management), I am conducting a similar analysis of the role of climate summits in the field of international climate change policy.

This field was established by the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and has since been marked by a series of international policy conferences carrying forward the United Nation’s climate change negotiation process: the annual ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP) together with a series of mid-year ‘Meetings of the Subsidiary Bodies’ (SB) held in the context of the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Recent research has underlined the role of international conferences as “catalysts of change, especially as organizations and governments struggle to develop global solutions to complex problems” (Hardy & Maguire, 2010: 1358). Read the rest of this entry »

This is the first part of a three-part series on the regulation of securitization before and after the crisis. Why were the banks so affected by the run on the shadow banking sector, which was formally off-balance sheet? How can we explain the lack of regulation in the shadow banking sector? How did governments promote the expansion of the credit supply via the shadow banking system?

Securitization has had a very bad press reputation in recent years (but see “securitization is not that evil after all”), being related to overly complex re-securitizations, which became impossible to value during the financial crisis of 2007/2008. Before that crisis, securitization was en vogue, favored by most financial economists as a way to spread credit risk from banks into the financial markets, thereby increasing the resilience of the financial system as a whole (s. Bhattacharya et al 1997). The idea was to liquefy credits, to turn them into tradable assets, generating deep secondary markets in which traders could constantly readjust the amount of risk they held in their portfolio. Banks could refinance the credits they gave and thereby expand their lending. Credit would become cheaper, as the demand for securitized assets generated from credit increased, raising the available supply of credit.

Turning credits into tradable assets requires that the transfer of these assets into money is possible instantaneously and without loss of value. Otherwise, the entire idea of readjusting one’s portfolio to changing market circumstances; which is what underlies modern portfolio theory (also the Black-Scholes formula requires continuous adjustment of the traders position, which is why trading in continuous time is a necessary assumption for the pricing to work). Credits on banking books, in contrast, are held on the book of the banook  at historical cost accounting (s. Sigrids work on fair value accounting); i.e. not changing their value from the contracted valuethe moment the contract is signed. Only if banks undertake corrections in value to account for expected losses does the value of these credits in the books of the bank change.

In this blog I will look at the infrastructural preconditions of securitization (Special purpose entities, in the following SPEs) and the shifts in how they were proposed to be treated at an international level and how they were treated on a national level before the crisis and after the crisis. Before the crisis, there was pressure by the Committee of European Banking Supervisors to not force these SPEs on the balance sheet of banking groups (CEBS 2004). After the crisis, we can witness a 180° shift in the position of the financial stability board which states that it wants full prudential consolidation for sponsored SPEs. In my three blog entries I will have look at the impact these transnational recommendations had before the crisis on actions of national governments and will speculate about the fate of the current regulatory proposals in the future. Read the rest of this entry »

Tom Heinemann’s film “The Micro Debt” has received a lot of flak from the microfinance community. The documentary, posing a sharp critique of microfinance, features interviews with microfinance borrowers, proponents and critics on three continents. It deals particularly critically with the work of Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. One response to Heinemann’s criticism has been the production of counter-counter-knowledge (against Heinemann’s counter-knowledge), promoted via Youtube, courtesy of the world’s most trustworthy PR company. Another has been to draw into question Heinemann’s integrity as a journalist, referring to the film as “grossly inaccurate”, “false and defamatory”, and “digging for dirt”.

But “The Micro Debt” isn’t going away. It has been shown in over 14 different countries and awarded numerous prizes. Most recently, last Friday it was awarded the Lorenzo Natali Journalism Prize Grand Prize, a prestigious award for journalistic work granted by the European Union in co-operation with Reporters Without Borders. “The Micro Debt” was selected out of a field of 1,300 contenders and commended as “a shining example of world-class investigative journalism, challenging entrenched assumptions”.

Courtesy of the prize, “The Micro Debt” is now also viewable online.

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4

Tom Heinemann was vilified for not whistling everyone else’s tune; now, the Lorenzo Natali Prize is rehabilitating the film and the filmmaker. It shows that telling an unpopular story and confronting received wisdom is still what investigative and independent journalism is about. Conversely, what (if anything) has the world learned from microfinance promotion films like “To Catch a Dollar“? As for the claims of factual inaccuracy levied by Friends of Grameen against Heinemann, a short follow-up segment, to be aired early next year in Norway, may bring more clarity; watch this space.


CGAP is the World Bank’s (not-quite-so-)arm’s-length sub-organisation whose role is to promote microfinance. CGAP (“see-gap“) once stood for “Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest“, now it officially stands for “Consultative Group to Assist the Poor”. Actually, if nomen were to be omen, it should probably stand for “Consultative Group to assist (those who lend to) the Poor (and not-so poor)”.

So many functions … but can it cut?

I don’t expect CGAP to function as an independent evaluator of microfinance. What I do expect is that CGAP publications have minimum standards of research quality and logic.

The most recent CGAP report, entitled “Latest Findings from Randomized Evaluations of Microfinance” (Bauchet et. al.), however, is appalling on both counts. Nearly everything about this report is problematic. It is racked by wishful thinking – to paraphrase: “we may not have evidence that microfinance does what it was supposed to, but we still believe it works” – and it has a disturbing feel about it, which derives from: (1) what the authors have left out, and (2) the heavy tension between concern for the poor and patronising them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wikipedia provides an extensive list of plagiarism controversies, with examples ranging from Ciceros speeches against Mark Antony (1st century BCE) to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (see also: “Some Reflexions on Originality, Plagiarism, Intertextuality, and Remix“). What is still missing is a list of self-plagiarism controversies. In academia, the most recent self-plagiarism incident that received substantial attention was the case of the economist Bruno Frey (University of Zurich). The case has been meticulously documented by Olaf Storbeck, International Economics Correspondent with the German business daily Handelsblatt.

Today, I stumbled upon an article in the Austrian weekly profil, dealing with another field of alleged ‘self-plagiarism’: architecture. They juxtapose several buildings by famous architects such as Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind or Zaha Hadid. Due to copyright issues I cannot simply provide all the examples below, but with the help of Wikimedia commons I managed to reproduce two examples of alleged ‘self-plagiarism’ and one of mere ‘plagiarism’ presented in the Article:

Frank Gehry

Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

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.
December 2011
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