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One famous quote of Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig claims that “[t]here is no art that doesn’t re-use.” In research, this principle is called “standing on the shoulders of giants” and meant to acknowledge that even the most original article largely builds upon previous achievements by numerous predecessors; a fact evidenced by an ever growing number of citations in current journal articles.

But what holds for the most pedantic researcher, namely that it is impossible to accurately give credit to all intellectual influences leading to an article, is even more true for novelists and musicians. In case of the former this regularly leads to heated debates about whether “borrowing” ideas or even passages from other books is mere plagiarism or some form of “intertextuality“. In Europe, for example, the Independent recapitulates at length the recent discussion whether the debut novel by German writer Helene Hegemann was plagiarism or “intertextual mixing“; in the second edition of her novel “Axolotl Roadkill”, Hegemann responded to critics by listing all her sources in an appendix.

Could it be that giving credit becomes more important when obviously building upon others’ works becomes both more common and more explicit? Developed particularly to allow mash-ups and remixing, all the different Creative Commons licenses, for instance, include the “attribution”-clause, which requires to give credit. In the realm of music, hip hop is probably best known for re-using – “sampling” – portions of existing sound recordings in creating new works. And again, giving credit is an essential part of hip hop culture, as was demonstrated by Eminem in his 2003 Grammy Award speech: Read the rest of this entry »

Not least because of ongoing research projects in the field of copyright regulation, nearly half of all posts that have been published in this blog so far fall into this category.  Among the issues discussed are private regulation in form of digital rights management (“DRM in the Music Industry: Revival or Retreat?“) or alternative licensing (“Alternative Licensing: Subverting or Supporting Copyright?“), copyright abolitionism (“Reflections on Abolitionsm: Copyright and Beyond“), the concept of a cultural flat-rate (“Extending Private Copying Levies: Approaching a Cultural Flat-rate?“), and, of course, piracy (“Internet Piracy: A Perfect Excuse?“).

All of these issues and many more will also be dealt with at the upcoming “3rd Free Culture Research Conference“, which will take place October 9-10, 2010 at Free University Berlin’s School of Business and Economics:

The Free Culture Research Conference presents a unique opportunity for scholars whose work contributes to the promotion, study or criticism of a Free Culture, to engage with a multidisciplinary group of academic peers and practitioners, identify the most important research opportunities and challenges, and attempt to chart the future of Free Culture. This event builds upon the successful workshop held in 2009 at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, organized and attended by renowned scholars and research institutions from the US, Europe and Asia.

This year’s conference theme is “Free Culture between Commons and Markets: Approaching the Hybrid Economy?“. Extended abstracts of 1,000 to 1,500 words can be submitted by May 31, 2010 (see “submission process“). Sigrid Quack and myself are proud members of the organizing committee.

(leonhard)

“Water, like oil, is finite. There is only so much ocean saltwater, glacier freshwater and water in the air, while global consumption is growing twice as fast as the world’s population.”

It would be hard to believe that anyone could view these facts as a positive thing. But add the story of Warren Buffet, former world’s richest man, buying the water treatment company Nalco for US$ 3.7 billion through his investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, and suddenly you get that “investing in water is an untapped opportunity”. So argues journalist Tatiana Serafin on mint.com in an article entitled “Invest Like a Billionaire: Water Is The New Gold“.

Serafin considers publicly traded water utilities firms a bargain, quoting another author as saying “utilities are cheaper than they have ever been”. Her conclusion is, “invest like Buffet”, even if you’re on a budget.

One could also think that viewing the so-called global water crisis – which I recently wrote about here on World Water Day – as a hot investment opportunity would require the shrewd and narrow-minded perspective of the investment banking profession. Yet even the Netherlands-based IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, an important resource centre in the water and development sphere, and at least not officially posing as a private sector think-tank, apparently agrees that water is “the new gold”. On its water and sanitation financing blog WASH news finance, the article quoted above was merely copied and uncritically reproduced.

This, among other cases from the NGO sector, shows how strategies of privatisation and commodification still heavily dominate development politics where they pertain to water. Though less aggressively and more subtly pursued now than the IFI-driven Structural Adjustment Programs and their successors, PRSPs, the new-millennium logic of privatisation is promoted instead by smaller, ostensibly unconnected agencies and through new, seemingly innovative means such as decentralisation, downscaling or microfinance – essentially a return to the days before the developmentalist state. Through blogs and social networks, the politics of liberalisation have adopted a postmodern aesthetic – as always arguing in the name of the poor – complete with Internet videos in HD.

Read the rest of this entry »

When EMI, the smallest of the “Big Four” major labels, announced to start selling its music without technological protection measures (“Digital Rights Management”, DRM) in 2007, the other three majors quickly saw no other possibility but to follow down this road. Flanked by Apple’s CEO Steven Jobs’s “Thoughts on Music”, this move brought an astonishingly unsuccessful decade of attempts by industry incumbents to establish DRM technologies to an end.

In theory, put forward for example by industry researchers such as Mark Stefik, DRM technologies should not only prevent illegal copying practices (“piracy”) but also allow new streams of revenue by tailoring prices individually to consumer’s needs. In praxis, however, this vision never became reality: while in the world of small and many independent labels DRM never was important (see, for example, the online-store “finetunes”, which was DRM-free from the beginning), the cartel of major labels first tried to develop industry-wide and all-embracing DRM standards in the realm of a so-called “Secure Digital Music Initiative” (SDMI). Remains of this bold attempt, which was silently shut down after only two years of existence in May 2001, can only be found in the Internet archive. Controversies between content owners and hardware producers about the necessary protection levels had delayed DRM development, whose outcome was then rejected by consumers, leading DRM-mastermind Stefik to conclude in 2007: “The situation reflects the core issue that current DRM provides no compelling benefits to consumers” (see the paper “DRM Inside”).

The only refugium, where DRM solutions still prevail, is the – far from thriving – field of mobile music: supported by all four major and hundreds of independent labels, Nokia’s bundling of phone hardware and music-flatrate entitled “comes with music” uses Microsoft’s “plays for sure” DRM solution. But even in this field DRM seems to be in retreat, since Nokia recently abandoned DRM when introducing “comes with music” in China. Ironically, Nokia spokesman Doug Dawson justified waiving copy protection measures with fighting piracy (see Economic Times):

“It’s unique for China where piracy has had a stronghold.”

Does this mean DRM measures against piracy do only make sense, where piracy is weak? While such paradox lines of reasoning seem to finally herald the end of DRM in the music industry, Michael Arrington at techcrunch nevertheless reports renewed attempts of introducing DRM through the backdoor – via watermarking and cloud computing: 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.
April 2010
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All texts on governance across borders are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.