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The media hypes Amazon’s new tablet “Kindle Fire” (see the commercial above) as the first credible competitor to Apple’s iPad. And some, such as Forbes’ Timothy B. Lee, celebrate the Kindle Fire as “the Triumph of Open Source“. Comparing the tablet market to the early PC market, where “the 1980s were a period of intense competition and rapid innovation, followed by the 1990s when Windows became utterly dominant and the pace of innovation slowed”, Lee argues that

[t]hings are different now because both the browser and OS markets are becoming dominated by open source software. In the browser market, the two fastest-growing browsers—Safari and Chrome—are both built on top of WebKit, an open source project started by Apple. And now Amazon’s new browser, called Silk, is also built on WebKit. It’s unlikely Amazon would have entered the browser market if they’d had to build a browser from scratch.

This leads him to the conclusion that, even if the market may be dominated by a single platform such as Android or WebKit, there will still be competition between several companies that build products based upon the underlying, shared code. Read the rest of this entry »

As my stay here at the Social Science Research Center (WZB) draws to a close, I am happy to present some of the work I did during summer. In preparation for the upcoming First Berlin Symposium on Internet and Society, October 25-28, I wrote a paper entitled “The Digital Public Domain: Relevance and Regulation” (PDF). The following is taken from the abstract:

After clarifying the notion and different areas of the (digital) „public domain“ – specifically with reference to related terms such as public goods and (anti-)commons –, the paper engages in discussing literature on its relevance for society in general and economic innovation in particular. […] How effective these abstract potentials of the public domain are utilized depends on the respective public domain regulation. […] In the last section, the paper presents open research questions and makes some preliminary suggestions for potential research strategies.

At the symposium, the paper will be discussed in workshop on October 26, chaired by Martin Kretschmer and with comments provided by Felix Stalder and Juan Carlos de Martin. Of course, comments prior to this workshop are most welcome!

(leonhard)

This blog is supposed to deal with issues related to governance across borders. So why devote so much space to the results of a regional election in Germany? The answer is twofold.

Logo of the Pirate Parties International meta-organization

First, as mentioned already in yesterdays FAQ (see “Boarding Berlin“), the Pirate Party’s election win in Berlin would not have been possible without its relations to a much broader and transnational movement. For one, these are fellow pirate parties in over 40 different countries, most of which are members of the meta-organization (Ahrne and Brunsson 2008) Pirate Parties International. For another, the pirate party movement is itself only one of several related and partly overlapping social movements inspired by the new technological possibilities of Internet and digital technologies.

Most these movements address regulation that is considered incompatible or even harmful to new technology-related freedoms, often related to surveillance and intellectual property regulation. And all of these movements are transnational in both perspective and activism. Wikipedia, for example, lists five “movements” in the field of “Intellectual property reform activism”, namely the Access to Knowledge MovementAnti-CopyrightCultural Environmentalism, the Free Culture Movement, and the Free Software Movement. Prominent transnational organizations within these movements include, as pioneers, the Free Software Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well as more recent examples such as Creative Commons or the Wikimedia Foundation. In a way, the pirate party movement can be considered the political arm of these movements – even though not all of the movement members feel comfortable being associated with “Pirates” (see, for example, “Lessig on Abolitionism, Copyright Zealots & the Cultural Flatrate“). The similarity to the origins of the Green Party, which also emerged out of several interrelated envirnomentalist movements are in any case striking, not to forget that Jamie Boyle called for an “environmentalism for the net” already in 1997. Read the rest of this entry »

Wehende Piratenpartei-Flagge Returning to Berlin from the Creative Commons Global Summit 2011 in Warsaw (see live-blogposts on the event), the political landscape of the city has been shaken by a Pirate Party election success. Two years ago, the German Pirate Party won 2 percent in the German federal election (see “Pirate Parties: Transnational mobilization and German elections“). Today, they boarded Berlin’s state parliament with 8.9 percent of the votes and 15 seats (see English Wikipedia). This is the first time the German Pirate Party was able to enter a state parliament, proving that the 2009 election results were not just a flash in the pan.

The dimension of the win was completely unexepected even for the Pirate Party, which is best illustrated by the following fun fact: the Berlin Pirate Party had only nominated 15 candidates for the state-wide election, all of which are now members of the parliament; had the Pirate Party won only one more seat it would not have been able to fill it.

The following Q&A is meant to give some background information to a non-German-speaking audience.

Is the success of the pirate party in Berlin only a regional exception?

Yes and No. Yes, because at least so far the German Pirate Party has only succeeded in urban areas and not at all on the state level –  even in city-states such as Hamburg it had not gotten more than 2.1 percent (see graph below). For now, the dimension of the election success of the Pirate Party in Berlin is a regional peculiarity.

No, because the German Pirate Party is part of a transnational movement critical of the prevalent regime of strong intellectual property rights protection (see, again, “Pirate Parties: Transnational mobilization and German elections“), which manifests in currently 22 official registered and about 25 still unregistered national pirate parties. Read the rest of this entry »

This post has been written “live” at the Creative Commons Global Summit 2011, taking place from September 16-18 in Warsaw, Poland. 

Among the seemingly neverending issues connected with Creative Commons licenses is the NonCommercial module. In 2008, Creative Commons even did a large quantitative study entitled “Defining Noncommercial” (see “Standardizing via Polling? Creative Commons’ Study on Its Noncommercial-Clause”).

Reflecting on the results of these study, Creative Commons representative Mike Linksvayer emphasized that licensors say they are somewhat liberal in expectations of what licensees will do, which might explain lack of open disputes with regard to license interpretation in spite of the module’s ambiguity. With regard to license adoption numbers, Linksvayer showed graphs illustrating that NC is still the most popular license module while the license-mix is changing with a very slow downward trend in the use of the NC module.

Describing the upcomming license versioning process as “a once-in-a-deacade-or-more opportunity”, Linksvayer listed a number of issues that could be addressed within a new version 4.0 of the licenses. Read the rest of this entry »

This post has been written “live” at the Creative Commons Global Summit 2011, taking place from September 16-18 in Warsaw, Poland. 

Continuing the debate on license porting in the realm of Creative Commons (see “The End of the Porting Experiment?“), Paul Keller of CC Netherlands took a clear stance, calling for developing only one, global license in the future. In his talk, he mentioned the following advantages of the global approach:

  • Reducing (potential) incompatibilities
  • Forces us to take a consistent position on issues that are specific to certain regions (e.g. moral rights, database rights)
  • Will produce licenses that better meet users’ expectations
  • Will cover all jurisdictions, not ‘just’ 55
  • Has the potential to initiate a inter-jurisdictional discussion on the substance of the licenses
  • Frees time for other activities (community building, promoting adoption, policy work, implementation advice)

Keller was followed by Massimo Travostino from Creative Commons Italy, who added his opinion that the more a license is successfully “ported”, the more likely it is to create problems in other jurisdiction. Read the rest of this entry »

This post has been written “live” at the Creative Commons Global Summit 2011, taking place from September 16-18 in Warsaw, Poland. 

In the field of open content licensing, Creative Commons licenses have been the first and still are the only licenses that are adapted (“ported”) to local jurisdictions. Free/open source software licenses such as the GNU GPL, which had served as the role model for Creative Commons in the first place, are generally unported licenses. And also in the realm of Creative Commons, not all licenses are ported.

In the first session on the upcoming versioning process, Paul Keller (CC Netherlands)  mentioned the “no rights reserved” (CC0) license as an example for a Creative Commons license working without any adaption to local jurisdictions. Therefore, Keller argued, the laborious task of license porting could be abondoned as the licenses approach version 4.0. This statement was followed by several legal arguments with respect to the benefits and pitfalls of license porting.

Read the rest of this entry »

Recently, I’ve been writing a section about the history of microfinance for my dissertation. Having read around a bit, I feel the need to correct a myth that seems all too common among microfinance enthusiasts: that microfinance follows in the footsteps of German cooperative banking. I will admit this is becoming something of a pet peeve. But in fact, microfinance and the cooperative movement have very little in common. Here’s an explanation.

At least not all microfinance histories follow the simplistic story which casts microfinance as an invention of Muhammad Yunus in 1976, essentially saying microfinance has no history. But there is also an account of microfinance which I would call the over-historicised account, which sees microfinance as part of a very long history of credit. Mainly, the idea is that pilanthropists have been using credit to “do good” for aeons because the poor have always needed credit, so microfinance is just the modern iteration of this idea. Muhammad Yunus has even been compared to Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen (by Bernd Balkenhol at the ILO).

Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger ≠ from http://de.wikipedia.org Public license

Can you tell the difference? Muhammad Yunus; F. W. Raiffeisen

But I don’t think the poor have always needed credit (definitely not before the monetised economy), and I don’t believe microfinance really follows in the footsteps of, say, the Irish loan societies or the German cooperative movement. The particular for-profit financialised “social business” commercial enterprise which is modern microfinance bears very little resemblance to anything before it; it is distinctly a product of the financialised capitalism of our time.

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.
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