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At the end of March I was invited speaker at a workshop on “Balancing Intellectual Property Claims and the Freedom of Art and Communication” at Bielefeld University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF). My talk was mainly based upon thoughts sketched out in two posts from the series on “Algorithm Regulation” on this blog:

Please find a video auf my talk and the respective slideshare embedded below:

Slides:

 

(leonhard)

Uibk-logo-miniOn February 1st I joined the Department of Organization and Learning at University of Innsbruck as a professor of business administration with a focus on organization. One of the most challenging and, at the same time, tempting tasks as a newly appointed professor is the opportunity to design at least some new courses from scratch. In particular, I was so lucky to being offered to teach the module on “Current Issues in Organization Studies”, which allowed me to design a course I have been wanting to give for a long time: “Open Organizations and Organizing Openness“.

The overall rationale for the structure of the course follows the imperative formulated by Tkacz (2012: 404, PDF) in his “critique of open politics”:

To describe the political organisation of all things open requires leaving the rhetoric of open behind.

As a consequence, the lecture part of the course is organized around different aspects or dimensions of organizational openness such as boundaries, transparency, participation or emergence. The respective readings only peripherally address the issue of openness but rather shall provide the building blocks for arriving at a more precise and theoretically grounded understanding of openness. Read the rest of this entry »

The dreadful state of copyright law in the digital age can be nicely illustrated by a thought experiment.* If one thinks back to 1980, it is hard to imagine how one could have committed a copyright violation with a book, an LP or a reel of film. Lending the book to a friend, duplicating parts – or even the whole book – on a photocopier, or staging a reading were all possible without clarifying rights. While copyright was already a complex matter at that time, until the internet it played little role in most people’s everyday lives.

Cover of the reader on "The Digital Society" by the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation

Cover of the reader on “The Digital Society” by the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation

Today everything is different. Anyone who uses a smartphone to video everyday experiences and share them with friends in a personal blog will hardly be able to avoid violating copyright. A couple of seconds of music or a poster in the background will suffice if “making publicly available” in the internet violates copyright. Many of the most creative digital artforms, such as remix and mashup, are almost impossible to disseminate by legal means, still less to commercialise. The use of even the briefest music or video sequence must be legally clarified, and in most cases this is much too complicated and expensive. Libraries, museums and archives battle with similar problems, preventing them from digitising their holdings.

Introducing a Right to Remix?

Apart from shorter copyright periods, there would be two other sensible approaches to solving this problem. Firstly, a European harmonisation and expansion of the catalogue of copyright limitations and exceptions would be sensible. The introduction of a de minimis or remix exemption modelled on the fair use clause in US copyright, combined with the forms of flat-fee reimbursement established in Europe, would enable new forms of recreational and remix creativity. Even for commercial publication of remixes and mashups all that would be required is to notify the relevant copyright collecting society (as is already the case for cover versions), in place of the complicated and expensive process of clarifying rights. Secondly, the establishment of a European register of works would simplify clarification of rights and restrict ongoing copyright protection (after an initial period) to cases where works are in fact still in commercial circulation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Blogging about organizational strategy and even using blogs as a strategy-making device is an increasingly common practice among (not only) young firms. For instance, in a paper* co-authored with Thomas Gegenhuber, we analyze strategy blogging as an open strategy practice that increases transparency of and involvement in strategy making, while at the same time adding to the corporate impression management repertoire.

Consequentially, it comes at no surprise that non-profit organizations such as Creative Commons, which heavily rely on external communities such as different groups of license users, also engage in strategy blogging. Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, started the series of strategy posts with general reflections on sharing, followed by suggestions for the overall mission and role of Creative Commons in his second post:

CC must recognize its various roles in a variety of diverse and active communities. We provide essential infrastructure for the Web, and are vital contributors and leaders in these global movements. The opportunity to realize the benefits of openness will come from showing how “open” is uniquely able to solve the challenges of our time. Our role is not just as providers of tools, but also as strategic partners, advocates, influencers, and supporters to quantify, evangelize, and demonstrate the benefits of open.

Only after announcing that Creative Commons had received a $10 million grant from the The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to implement the new strategy, Merkley identified “three specific areas” that Creative Commons will focus on (emphasis in original: Read the rest of this entry »

We are proud to present our traditional end-of-year statistics below.

Top 5 blog posts 2015 (in terms of views):

  1. Open Access and the Power of Editorial Boards: Why Elsevier Plays Hardball with Deviant Linguists
  2. Copyright, Creative Commons and other Calamities in Scientific Publishing
  3. Out in June: “The Political Economy of Microfinance: Financializing Poverty”
  4. How religious leaders may influence climate change regulation: The success of the papal encyclical Laudato Sii
  5. Will the Real Anonymous Please Stand Up? German Facebook Page Free Rides on #OpISIS

Top 5 search terms guiding visitors to our blog in 2015:

  1. lawrence lessig organizations founded
  2. Andhra Pradesh microfinance crisis (also #1 in 2011, 2012 & 2014, #2 in 2013)
  3. Methodological nationalism
  4. cc
  5. g20 2009

Top 5 countries our visitors came from in 2015 (last year’s position in brackets):

  1. United States (1)
  2. India (2)
  3. Germany (3)
  4. United Kingdom (4)
  5. Australia (-)

Top series in 2015:

  1. Excerpts from “The Political Economy of Microfinance: Financializing Poverty” (9 out of 9 posts in 2015)
  2. Bordercrossing Books (2/14)
  3. The Series Series (1/10)

In total we published 29 new posts in 2015, almost as many as in 2014 (30 posts); nevertheless, this means that we failed our new year’s resolution from last year by two posts. The number of views grew compared to last year and reached a total of 36,283. Interestingly wordpress.com introduced a distinction between “visitors” and “views” in 2012; in terms of visitors, 2015 actually has been our most successful year ever with 25,355 visitors, beating the count of 24,983 visitors in 2013.

govxborders-visitorstats2009-2015

 

(leonhard)

Is it dangerous to take a public domain picture from Wikipedia and use it on your blog or print it on a T-shirt? Last week the  COMMUNIA blog wrote about a copyright case in Germany where several users of public domain pictures received letters from the lawyers of Mannheim’s Reiss-Engelhorn museum. The letters demanded payment for the use of photos of public domain art works that had been uploaded to Wikipedia. The museum justifies this legal action by pointing to the costs of digitizing their artworks and the respective acquisition of some form of ancillary copyright protection for simple photographs (“Lichtbildschutz”, § 72 in the German copyright law). On Wikimedia Commons, the repository that hosts media for Wikipedia, there is already a separate category for “Images subject to Reiss Engelhorn lawsuit”.

screenshot-kategorie-REM-bilder-rechtsstreit

Amongst the several recipients of the letters were not only Wikimedia Germany and the Wikimedia Foundation, but also the online radio station detektor.fm and the non-profit website Musical&Co, which features music-related articles authored by children for children.  Read the rest of this entry »

opisis_anonymous_fotoIn Germany, the renewed interest and media attention on the so-called ‘hacker collective’ Anonymous in the course of its recent #OpISIS – activities targeting online resources of Daesh terrorist groups – has lead to discussions whether one of the most followed German Facebook pages that is labeled “Anonymous” actually and legitimately belongs to Anonymous.

In a way, this is exactly the question that Dennis Schoeneborn and I have addressed in our recent paper on  “Fluiditiy, Identity and Organizationality: The Communicative Constitution of Anonymous” (available open access until Dec. 4, 2015). If “Anonymous” is merely a label that anyone can pick up and use, how can some form of organizational identity and boundary be achieved? In short, if anyone can be Anonymous, who cannot speak on behalf of Anonymous? To address these questions, we investigated identity claims in the context of operations where the attribution of respective activities to Anonymous was disputed.

In the current debate, an article in Germany’s largest online news portal Spiegel Online illustrates how difficult drawing the line between ‘authentic’ or ‘real’ and ‘fake’ Anonymous communication can be. After emphasizing the huge numbers of additional followers a facebook page called “Anonymous.Kollektiv” allegedly run by Anonymous had received during #OpISIS (the page attracted 400.000 new fans within just one week in addition to their previous count of 1 million), the article points to the questionable content the site shares. Main topics are conspiracy theories, general criticism of “the lying media” (“Lügenpresse” in Germany) and many other more or less right-wing political issues. But then, at least conspiracy theories and criticism of mainstream media are also recurrent themes of many other social media accounts attributed to Anonymous. Read the rest of this entry »

Open Access logo

Open Access logo

The recent infight between the world’s largest academic publishing company, Elsevier, and (soon: former) editors of one of their journals over attempts to make the journal open access – that is, freely available online – demonstrates the potential power of editorial boards in shaping the digital future of academic publishing.

The academic publishing system runs on reputation. Researchers gain reputation by publishing in reputable journals, which are more read and cited than other journals. The better the reputation of a journal, the more prestigious is it to review and serve as a member of the editorial board. Of course, the related reputation dynamic is self-stabilizing and highly path dependent because prestigious journals get more submissions, have higher rejection rates, more prestigious authors and reviewers, all of which contributes to being cited more often, which in turn is the key reputation metric in most disciplines (see a paper by Jakob Kapeller and myself on this issue for the field of economics).

The path dependence of journal reputation in contempary academic publishing is one of the reasons – if not the main reason – why new open access journals face a steep uphill battle against incumbent journals. The few open access journals that managed to acquire substantial prestige such as some of Public Library of Science (PLoS) journals did so mostly because of the very high prestige of founding editors, including nobel laureates. It is also the reason why simply calling for researchers to switch to open access outlets won’t work. Since careers and funding depend on the proven ability to publish in established “top journals”, researchers in general and early-career researchers in particular have strong incentives to avoid newly founded open access outlets.

Read the rest of this entry »

While the recent Google Books ruling by the US Second Circuit has once again proven how the US copyright system is – thanks to its fair use provision – more flexible and adaptable to digital challenges than its European counterpart, in other fields the legal situation is very similar on both sides of the Atlantic. One such field is digital sampling in music, which is the topic of the book “Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling” by McLeod and DiCola (2011, Duke University Press).

Cover of the Book

Cover of the Book “Creative License” by Kembrey McLeod and Peter DiCola (2011, Duke University Press)

Sampling is a comparably recent practice where parts of sound recordings are reused in creating new works. According to McLeod and DiCola, “a good appropriated sample has […] a good quality of its own, and it has a strong reference that evokes cultural resonance as well” (p. 99, emphasis added). The latter of the two, cultural resonance, not only adds an additional meta-layer of cultural reference to a song but is also the main reason for legal calamities associated with sampling. As with remix practices more generally, a core characteristic of sampling is that the old remains visible within the new and is not hidden behind a (more or less transparent) veil of originality.

However, this visibility of creative raw materials – that is, samples of previous works – is considered as some form of creative “short-cut” by the courts, which require samplers to clear each and every sample they use, as small and tiny the portion of sound may be. McLeod and DiCola:

Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films held that no de minimis exception applied to sound recordings. […] [T]he bottom line was, as the ruling stated, ‘Get a license or do not sample.’” (pp. 139, 141)

In Germany, the decision “Metall auf Metall” by Germany’s highest court had identical consequences. The detrimental effects of such a restrictive application of current copyright to the artistic practice of sampling are the reason why sampling-based creativity suffers from permission culture.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chapter from the Book "Public Domain", edited by Dominik Landwehr

Chapter from the Book “Public Domain“, edited by Dominik Landwehr

Remixing has long since become a part of our daily lives. Today, when amateurs and artists work with images, texts and music, they are inspired and free. However, in many cases copyright law gets in their way.

During what turned out to be the not-so-hot summer of 2014, a wave of ice water crashed through the internet. Throughout the world, people were filming themselves as they poured buckets of cold water over their heads, sharing the results in social networks and then nominating their friends to perform this strange ritual, which was quickly dubbed the Ice Bucket Challenge. It was a digital chain letter of sorts that spread like wildfire through the internet. The whole thing was actually a call for donations to the ALS Association. ALS is a rare nerve disease.

But this is only a partial description of the phenomenon. In contrast to a chain letter, each ice water performance also had an individual note; it was a continuation of the general motif. In this sense, the Ice Bucket Challenge is also prototypical for digital remix culture.

An example of this remix character is a version of the Ice Bucket Challenge that is circulating in the internet: it is based on the Edvard Munch’s famous picture “The Scream”. The internet picture is a remix and lives off of an interaction between the old and the new. Without a clearly recognizable reference to Edvard Munch’s series of paintings “The Scream”, it would be as inexplicable as it would be without any previous knowledge of the Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon. This is the essence of a remix: the old, original work remains identifiable in the new work.

Ice-Bucket-Challenge version of Edvard Munch's "Scream", author unknown (via).

Ice-Bucket-Challenge version of Edvard Munch’s “Scream”, author unknown (via).

The example of the Ice Bucket Challenge is revealing. It illustrates how the internet and digital technologies have contributed to the rise in broadly disseminated – not to mention democratized – remix culture. As a mass phenomenon, this new remix culture is characterized by numerous contradictions. 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.
August 2020
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All texts on governance across borders are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.