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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 »

In the end, nothing happened. When the European parliament adopted a compromise version of MEP Julia Reda’s evaluation report of the EU copyright directive, the attempt of MEP Jean-Marie Cavada to restrict the right to publish pictures of buildings and artworks permanently installed in public places (“freedom of panorama”) was voted down by a huge margin. The majority that had supported the Cavada amendment in the legal affairs committee vanished under a storm of protest, spearheaded by Wikipedians fighting for their right to include pictures of buildings and artworks in their free encyclopedia.

However, while the final version of the report did not suggest restricting freedom of panorama, it did not include a specific provision to protect it, either. Instead, member countries would still be free in whether and how to implement such a limitation into their respective national copyright laws. In a way, this outcome is a typical example of the widespread copyright extremism in Europe, which blocks even the most sensible and moderate copyright reform proposals.

The overall spectrum of opinions in current copyright debates ranges from abolitionism, that is, proposals to discard copyright altogether, to copyright extremism on the other side. Copyright abolitionism is a position sparsely mentioned in regulatory conversations. While authors Joost Smiers and Marieke van Schindel, for instance, have managed to create some buzz around their book “No Copyright”, the attention was only short-lived and the discussion left no real lasting mark on the conversation overall. And abolitionist positions brought forward by libertarian researchers such as Michele Boldrin, David K. Levine and their colleagues have only played a very marginal role in scientific discourse, as well.

However, we observe that rhetoric around ratcheting up extreme copyright protections plays a major role in the mainstream of regulatory conversations around copyright, while rarely recognized and called out as extremism. Rather, even the most far reaching positions are considered perfectly legitimate when brought forward in committee hearings, policy papers or campaigns. In a way, current copyright discourse is heavily skewed towards the side of copyright extremism, which makes any moderate and balanced reform of copyright laws difficult, if not impossible. Taking a closer look at the relentless rhetoric of copyright extremism might therefore help to identify and address this problem.

Read the rest of this entry »

Anonymous_emblem.svg

Logo of “Anonymous”

It all began with a blog post back in 2012 entitled “Anonymous’ Boundaries: Expelling by Exposing” that I had prepared prior to a workshop on “organization as communication“. It describes how the so-called “hacker collective” Anonymous had expelled one of its self-identified members by exposing its full name, address and other contact information. The closing paragraph of this post reads as follows:

Of course, Anonymous is an extreme case. But exactly because of its distinctiveness I think there is a lot to learn about organizing practices in general.

After the workshop I teamed up with Dennis Schoeneborn and together we tried to harvest the explanatory potential of the case. Our joint efforts resulted in the paper “Fluidity, Identity and Organizationality: The Communicative Constitution of Anonymous”, which is now available as a pre-print version at Journal of Management Studies: Read the rest of this entry »

About a week ago I blogged about misleading information on Creative Commons licenses provided by one of the leading scientific publishing houses in the course of a textbook project I am involved in. In the closing paragraph, I wrote that “we plan to insist on including the respective figures in the volume”. After doing so, we have now received another table with “permission queries” from the publisher with even more disappointing misinformation. The query with regard to the photo of the Rana Plaza Collapse in full:

Although creative commons states that you can reproduce work commercially, it states that you can only do so by retaining the creative commons rights (aka no copyright) on the reproduction which would prohibit us from placing a copyright on the book. We also have no proof of who took the photograph which makes it too risky to include. We need to remove this photograph

Again, this is misleading on many different levels. First of all, “creative commons rights (aka no copyright)” is not just misleading but simply wrong. Creative Commons does not mean “no copyright”, it means “some rights reserved”. Actually, Creative Commons is entirely based and dependent on copyright; only someone who has the copyright of a work is able to (re-)license it under a Creative Commons license.

Read the rest of this entry »

google-good-or-badEllen P. Goodman (Rutgers University School of Law) and Julia Powles (University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law) have assembled 80 scholars (including myself) in support of an open letter to Google, which demands ”

Aggregate data about how Google is responding to the more than 250,000 requests to delist links, thought to contravene data protection laws, from name search results.

The letter mentions two main reasons why more transparency is needed:

(1) the public should be able to find out how digital platforms exercise their tremendous power over readily accessible information; and (2) implementation of the ruling will affect the future of the RTBF in Europe and elsewhere, and will more generally inform global efforts to accommodate privacy rights with other interests in data flows.

Read the letter in full, which ends with a long list of unanswered questions, over at the Guardian or at Medium.

(leonhard)

When publishing a scientific work or a textbook in a reputable publishing house, the final steps before publication usually involve signing over exclusive copyrights in a standardized manner. A standard clause in such copyright forms is that the author has to warrant that she either is the sole owner of the copyright in the contribution or has obtained the permission of the owners of the copyright (see Figure below, an excerpt of such a standard copyright form).

excerpt-copyright-form

While publishers thereby shift all responsibility with regard to rights clearing issues over to their authors, they regularly devote particular scrutiny to figures and tables. For any such figures and tables authors have to provide explicit permission statements. Even though including a properly referenced figure or table from another work in a scientific work or textbook could be – and probably often is – fair use (US copyright) or might be justified by exceptions for quotation, research and education (EU copyright), publishers refuse to take any risk that could be related to such a legal standpoint. Such a restrictive interpretation and enactment of copyright by publishers not only places unnecessary burdens on authors but also further worsens practicability of current copyright in academic contexts.

However, as I have learned in the course of contributing to a textbook with case studies on innovation and project networks, publishers might even decide to reject figures where permission is explicitly granted in form of a standardized Creative Commons license. In this particular case, in a spreadsheet entitled “permission queries”, the publisher listed all exhibits that were considered in any way problematic.

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One of the things that make blogs particularly interesting are series. The “series” series recommends series at related blogs. 

Logo of the AoM Interest Group Strategizing, Activities & Practices

Logo of the AoM Interest Group Strategizing, Activities & Practices

For some time now, the digital revolution has reached and changed everyday research practices. There is hardly any part of the research process for which no digital tool is available, starting from creating a mind map of your first idea (e.g. “Freemind”) over collecting (e.g. “Sitesucker”) and coding your data (e.g. “WebQDA”) to collaboratively annotating and writing (e.g. “eLaborate”). And while many of these digital tools require substantial financial investments, a growing number of tools is available open access and free of charge.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday the German comedian Jan Böhmerman claimed responsibility for a YouTube video where Yanis Varoufakis, the current Finance Minister of Greece, had allegedly stuck the finger to Germany. The video had been featured in Germany’s most popular Sunday evening talk show “Günther Jauch“. Confronted with this video as a guest of the show, Yanis Varoufakis denied the accuracy of the footage and instead claimed that the video had been “doctored”. However, most of the German media were convinced by the video, the German tabloid “Bild” even explicitly called Varoufakis a “Lügner” (“liar”):

In the video below (English subtitles start at 3:00 min), Böhmermann now describes in a very detailed manner how he and his team (allegedly?) had faked the segment of the video where Varoufakis shows his middle finger and claims that he had conspired with the organizers of the Croation conference where the video had been made to spread the fake version of the video.

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After we had published the edited volume “Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes“ based on a selection of blog posts in 2013 (the CC-licensed book is available as an on-demand-printed edition, as a PDF and as an Epub), we returned to blogging as usual in 2014. Please find our traditional end-of-year statistics below.

Top 5 blog posts 2014 (in terms of visitors):

  1. Measuring the “Adoption” of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs)*
  2. EU Commission’s Consultation Report Shows: Current Copyright is Unbalanced
  3. The State of IFRS in Africa: Is IFRS in Disarray?*
  4. The “invisible epidemic”: non-communicable diseases*
  5. In partial agreement with SKS on what caused the Indian Microfinance Crash

* also in the Top 5 of 2013

Top 5 search terms guiding visitors to our blog in 2014:

  1. Andhra Pradesh microfinance crisis (also #1 in 2011 & 2012, #2 in 2013)
  2. methodological nationalism
  3. feudal society trade map
  4. securitization (also #4 in 2013)
  5. google transnational

Top 5 countries our visitors came from in 2014 (last year’s position in brackets):

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

Top series in 2014:

  1. Algorithm Regulation (5 out of 10 posts in 2014)
  2. The Series Series (1/9)
  3. Wise Cartoons (1/6)

In total we published 30 new posts in 2014, which is only half of last year’s 61 and below our self-set goal of blogging about once a week on average. Seemingly, Phil completing his PhD (followed by an offline trecking tour) and myself becoming a father hurt our blogging statistics. Accordingly, we also received fewer comments and visitor numbers dropped, as well, but not too sharply, from over 40,000 in 2013 to about 34,000 in 2014. Our new year’s resolution is therefore to at least beat our 2014 numbers in 2015.

govxborder2014

(leonhard)

In the series “algorithm regulation”, we discuss the implications of the growing importance of technological algorithms as a means of regulation in the digital realm. 

In the last entry of this series I have described how YouTube’s Content ID system effectively re-introduces registration requirements into copyright, even though international treaties such as the Berne Convention forbid such requirements. With its most recent additions to YouTube’s rights management infrastructure, YouTube owner Google brings the former’s rights clearing services to a whole new level.

Previously, creators using copyrighted material such as contemporary pop music in one of their videos could only try to upload their videos and hope for the best (i.e. no recognition by the Content ID algorithm) or the second best (i.e. recognition by the Content ID algorithm but acceptance/monetization by rights holders). In any case, creators could only definitely know after making and uploading a video whether and how YouTube’s algorithms would react.

In a recent blog post, YouTube has announced substantial changes to this system:

But until now there was no way to know what would happen if you used a specific track until after you hit upload. Starting today, you can search the YouTube Audio Library to determine how using a particular track in your video will affect it on YouTube, specifically if it will stay live on YouTube or if any restrictions apply. You can uncross those uploading fingers now!

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 2021
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All texts on governance across borders are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.