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While around the globe copyright critics advocate the adoption of Creative Commons licenses as a way for enabling remix and non-commercial file-sharing, in Europe a second solution is debated more and more intensively: a so-called “culture flat rate”. Internet users should be mandated to pay a fixed amount per month and in return be allowed to non-commercially remix and share copyrighted files. Of course, differently to the private regulation approach of Creative Commons, such a “culture tax” would require legislative changes.

Technically, most countries already have a minor form of such a culture tax called private copying levies: a special tax or levy is charged on purchases of recordable media – in some cases also on recording or copying devices – and then redistributed to rights holders via copyright collectives. Regularly copying levies are justified as being a compensation for limitations and exceptions to copyright such as the right to make a private copy (see, for example, the US Audio Home Recording Act).

Compared to other aspects of copyright regulation, which are increasingly harmonized across jurisdictions in the course of international treaties such as the WTO’s TRIPS agreement, copying levies still vary significantly from country to country – both in terms of the types of devices and recordable media covered and in terms of levy levels. And these differences are far from being diminished, as recent developments in the neighbouring countries Germany and Austria illustrate: while in Germany the Association of Computer Manufacturers and a consortium of different collecting societies agreed on a new copying levy on any computer with a recording device (German press release), the Austrian supreme court of justice ruled against a similar levy (Austrian supreme court ruling, German).

In his contribution (PDF) to last year’s Free Culture Research Workshop at Harvard’s Berkman Center, the German media sociologist and activist Volker Grassmuck, argues in favor of a “Culture Flat-Rate to end copyright extremism and bring information freedom and remuneration for authors to the Internet.” He describes the model as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Books are the most traditional of all copyrightable works. Copyright as a legal institution was developed particularly for protecting authors and publishers of books. Over the years, copyrights have been granted to creators of all kinds of works, ranging from music over films to software. While most of these other types of copyrighted works are strongly affected by new forms of content production and distribution in the course of the so-called “digital revolution”, books seem to have been relatively immune to the very same technological changes – at least until Google started with the mass digitization of books and Amazon launched its increasingly popular e-book-reader “Kindle” (see “Google Books and the Kindle Controversy: Merging Conflict Arenas?“).

Especially Google Book Search (GBS) has inspired intense controversies between supporters, painting the highly optimistic picture of universal access to all books ever published for virtually everybody, and adversaries, fearing the rise of a knowledge monopolist, who exploits authors, publishers and readers alike. The best and most comprehensive comparison of both lines of argumentation I have encountered so far is a recent piece by Berkeley’s Pamela Samuelson titled “Google Book Search and the Future of Books in Cyberspace” (PDF).

After identifying overly restrictive copyright as the major impediment for any mass digitization project, Samuelson turns to the pros and cons of the GBS settlement in its current, amended version. As optimistic predictions she lists the following: Read the rest of this entry »

This post is provided by our “guest blogger” Glenn Morgan. Glenn Morgan is Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Associate Dean for Research at Warwick Business School.

The last few weeks have seen a number of news stories indicating that the broad agreement reached by the G20 in early 2009 regarding the regulation of Over the Counter (OTC) derivatives is breaking down. On January 5th 2010, for example, the Financial Times titled ‘Cracks in transatlantic derivatives rules‘. In the UK, the Financial Services Authority and the Treasury published in December 2009, a report on regulation of these marketswhich, whilst couched in supportive language, made a number of criticisms of the Commission of the European Communities document on this topic published in October 2009 .

Meanwhile in the US, the US Treasury is aiming to achieve legislation on this topic; in Congress, the House has agreed a draft bill which differs again in some respects from both the UK and the EU and the Senate is due to consider the issue this month. Most recently, non-financial companies in the EU under the aegis of the European Association of Corporate Treasurers have protested strongly about some of the existing proposals in a letter addressed to the EU Commission on the grounds that they will financially penalize them .

The result is a somewhat confusing situation in which the danger is that regulation will not be coherent across the main financial markets and regulatory arbitrage will emerge, potentially paving the way for a further destabilisation of the global economy.  Many of these debates and differences appear very technical but as I have sought to show in a recent article on ‘Legitimacy in financial markets: credit default swaps in the current crisis’ in Socio-Economic Review, underlying them are major issues of politics and power.

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Paul David Hewson, better known under his stage name Bono Vox as a frontman of the rock band U2, is undisputedly one of the world’s best-known philantropists. He holds – and expresses – pointed opinions on a huge variety of subjects, leading him to the foundation of his organization DATA, an acronym for “Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa”.  So it was no surprise, when in his recent New York Times op-ed he addressed issues covered by this blog. Of his piece “Ten for the Next Ten” especially number 2 dealing with intelletual property caught my attention:

“A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators — in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who can’t live off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us — and the people this reverse Robin Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.”

Is it really true that the biggest losers of file-sharing are the creators? Bloggers at the UK Times come to different conclusions in their recent analysis, presenting the following “graph the record industry doesn’t want you to see”: Read the rest of this entry »

Many believe that global markets are a new phenomenon. But that is not the case. Not only had the late 19th century already reached a level of global trade and financial flows which approached that of today, but there have been long distance trading circuits across jurisdictions and continents which date back as far as medieval times. In the 12th and 13th century, the Italian city states of Venice and Genoa maintained long distance trading networks that reached as far as North Africa and Central Asia, providing the basis for ‘global’ markets for luxury goods, such as spices and silk.  In the North, the Hanseatic League formed a federation of trading cities along the coastlines of the Northern and Baltic Sea generating cross-border markets for bulk goods such as fish, salt, grain and wood.

These markets were transnational in the sense of their interconnecting economic actors from multiple political jurisdictions (i.e. kingdoms and city states) across the world into a multilayered system of rules and regulations which governed their exchange relationships.

Economic historians have produced a rich literature on these markets which is also instructive for economic sociologist studying the governance of contemporary ‘global’ markets. In a recently published article I combine both approaches to analyse how key coordination problems were resolved in medieval long-distance trading systems.

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When we started our blog with one year ago in January 2009 many things were unclear: Will it work out to subsume very different empirical fields under the heading of transnational governance? Will we manage to find enough time for blogging? Will blogging influence our research? What issues will be of greatest interest?

At least regarding the last question, our open source blogging software WordPress provides some data, which we present in form of the all-too popular end-of-the-year-listings:

Top 5 blog posts 2009 (in terms of visitors):

  1. Pirate Parties: Transnational mobilization and German elections
  2. Fair Value Accounting and the ‘Inactivity’ of Markets
  3. Fair Value Accounting in Retreat?
  4. The Kindle Controversy: No Right to be a Reader?
  5. Accounting at the G20 London summit: Watering down or walking the talk?

Top 5 search terms guiding visitors to our blog in 2009:

  1. Kindle controversy
  2. Fair value accounting
  3. Transnational governance
  4. Copyright example
  5. Epistemic community

Top 5 tags attached to blog posts in 2009:

  1. Creative Commons
  2. Microfinance / Microcredit
  3. Copyright / Copyright Regime
  4. Development
  5. Transnational governance

Top 5 series started in 2009:

  1. Microcredit Myths (4 posts)
  2. Kindle Controversy (3 posts)
  3. Eastern Frontiers (2 posts)
  4. Transnational Studies and Governance (2 posts)
  5. Wikimania Preview (2 posts)

In total we published 64 posts in 2009, with a total of 63 comments attached to them. While this means we reached our self-imposed goal of publishing at least one post per week, we hope to improve our comment-per-article ratio above the current average of 1 in our second blogging year 2010.

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
January 2010

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