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At the end of the year, Time Magazine traditionally publishes “The Top 10 of Everything” online. Many of those lists contain videos and some lists, such as “Viral Videos“, “Talented Web Videos” or “Songs“, are exclusively composed out of web videos.

As discussed before on this blog (“This Post is Not Available in Your Country” and “Private Negotation of Public Goods: Collateral Damage(s)“), many user created videos that remix existing works are not available in certain areas of the world due to intervention of large rights holders such as SonyMusic or Warner Music Group. Looking at the three top 10 lists mentioned above, I put together the following graph showing how many of these videos were blocked in Germany:

statistics of blocked videos

Interesting detail: the 3 blocked videos in the category “Talented Web Videos” are ranked 1, 3 and 4 in the Times top 10 list. In other words: the most creative videos – at least according to Time Magazine – are blocked. In the description of the category, Time wrote the following:

“As this year’s list of the top viral videos clearly shows, not all that goes viral is great. The flipside is also sadly true: not all great videos go viral.” Read the rest of this entry »

In this interview, Professor Malcolm Harper analyses some of the underlying causes and consequences of the microfinance crisis in Andhra Pradesh. Professor Harper is chairman of the microfinance rating agency M-CRIL and editor of the volume “What’s wrong with Microfinance?”. He has been Professor of Business Development at Cranfield Business School, and as the former chairman of BASIX, significantly pioneered microfinance in India.

Professor Harper, you recently returned from India. How bad is the situation for the microfinance sector there?

I was in Delhi at a very large meeting of microfinance people, where of course Andhra Pradesh was being talked about a lot. I then spent some time in Orissa, in a village three kilometres from the Andhra Pradesh border. I called in on the local office – which previously I didn’t even know existed – of BASIX. And the local staff said there had been no trace of any repayment difficulties, even though the Andhra Pradesh border was so close by. This surprised me, and even they were rather surprised. Repayments were at the normal high level.

But I was running a course nearby and my students were interviewing various traders in the local market, and a few of them mentioned that one or two of the microfinance institutions, from which they had taken loans, had stopped making disbursements. And that of course has the seeds of trouble, because one reason why people repay is because they’re going to get another loan.

So it seems that the MFIs are having trouble refinancing themselves now, raising capital for their lending activities.

That’s inevitable, I think, because when the banks are beginning to wonder about the quality of their loans to the MFIs, they’re not about to release further loans. And that, of course, contributes to the problem, because – as I said – people repay mainly because they’re going to get another loan. Read the rest of this entry »

Harward law professer Lawrence Lessig is one of the most recognized copyright experts in the world. When giving public presentations, he regularly includes short video clips to make his point. Obviously, these video quotations are covered by the fair-use-clause in US copyright. Residing in Germany, however, YoutTube does not allow me watching the video of one of Lessig’s talks embedded below.  I stumbled upon the link to the video as a Slovenian colleague, Domen Bajde, recommends it to his students in a course on global business environments. When clicking on the link, YouTube just tells me that

“Dieses Video enthält Content von UMG. Es ist in deinem Land nicht verfügbar.” (translation: “This video contains content from UMG. It is not available in your country.”)

Previously on this blog, I have described how such problems arise as a consequence of (re-)negotiations between platform providers such as Google (the owner of YouTube) and rights holders, which demand a share from the platform’s ad revenues and hold content created and shared by users hostage (see “Private Negotation of Public Goods: Collateral Damage(s)“). The funny thing is how this erects new and increasingly ridiculous barriers in the seemingly global online world that are still tied to national borders. As an Austrian living in Germany, for example, I can only watch every second video shared by my Austrian friends via Facebook. Obviously, I am not the only one annoyed by this phenomenon. Paul Mutant, a Hungarian artist currently living in Brighton, U.K., converted his frustration into the great painting featured below. Read the rest of this entry »

In the past few weeks, I’ve been silent here about the microfinance crisis events in India. But why not let others do the talking? This blog published (what I think was) the first analysis of the A.P. events right after the crackdown ordinance; following up with a two-piece search for the underlying causes (1, 2). Most of the causes I speculated about at the time are pretty much turning out to be true:

  • interest rates were far too high and have been rushed down
  • the sector was under-, or practically un-, regulated (especially, if Kaushik Basu says so)
  • the borrowers were/are overindebted (far more than the MFIs were aware of, I assume)
  • and the profit motive created perverse incentives for MFIs.

One prediction I won’t make, though, is whether microfinance in India will pull through. That depends on politics in Delhi (bailout or not?) as much as it does on the adaptiveness (not the resilience, which means “no change”) of the sector. But I wouldn’t bet my money on an MFI in India at the moment, given the pessimism of Vijay Mahajan (“If this situation continues, there will be no microfinance sector in 2011.”) or the SKS’ shareholders (shares down by 52 percent).

The real surprise story of the week, however, were WikiLeaks’ diplo-inslults.

Or really, were they? Only the Americans are really making a big deal out of the leaked diplomatic cables. If anything, the now-public secret assesments of sundry politicians should provide a few good-natured jokes at upcoming international summits. Would-be Israel-nukester Ahmadinejad will hardly be insulted by being compared with “Hitler”, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle already had their share of laughs about “their” leaks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Steven Johnson, 2010: Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. New York: Riverhead Books.

Steven Johnson is all about crossing borders. His books deal with a great variety of topics, ranging from London’s most terrifying cholera epidemic  (“The Ghost Map“) to a praise of popular culture (“Everything Bad is Good for You“). And also in his most recent book, Steven Johnson crosses disciplinary and historical borders, when he, in his own words, “analyzed 300 of the most influential innovations in science, commerce and technology — from the discovery of vacuums to the vacuum tube to the vacuum cleaner”.

The list of reviews and summaries of the book availble online is endless, including a TED talk given by the author himself and a great video summary featured above. So I am not going to reproduce any of these but very selectively refer to one of the examples presented in the book that relates most to the issues discussed in this blog. This example is the web-based patent marketplace GreenXChange, where Nike publicly released more than 400 of its patents that involve environmentally friendly materials or technologies. Johnson discribes rationale and realization of the project as follows (p. 125):

“By keeping its eco-friendly ideas behind a veil of secrecy, Nike was holding back – without any real commercial justification – ideas that might, in another context, contribute to a sustainable future. In collaboration with Creative Commons, Nike released its patents under a modified license permitting use in ‘non-competitive’ fields.  (They also created a standardized, pre-negotiated contract for patents, thereby reducing the transaction costs of haggling over each patent license individually.)”

This is the first example, at least to my knowledge, where Creative Commons was active in standardizing licenses outside of the field of copyright regulation (see the respective announcement on its blog). Moreover, it demonstrates how similar problems and solutions in both so-called “hemispheres” of intellectual proporty – patents and copyright – might be after all. Hopefully, I will soon find the time to do some comparative studies on private regulation in both these fields.


The Book

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

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