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At this year’s Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest, which takes place October 25th-29th 2021, Konstantin Hondros and myself presented a working paper titled “Tinkering and Repurposing: How Open Source Vaccine Initiatives Alternatively Organize for Novelty“.

While the innovation brought forward by biotech and pharmaceutical companies was exceptional, many countries still lack access to vaccines. Public debates arose discussing alternative ways of handling IP in vaccine R&D beyond the prettified standards of the western dominated pharmaceutical industry.

Building upon literature on organizational isomorphism (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983) and literature about the emergence of novelty in organizations (Cattani, Ferriani, & Lanza, 2017), we argue that the westernized pharmaceutical industry – mainly in response to regulative standards – has developed highly isomorph organizational practices that might make the entering of outsiders, who apply alternative approaches to vaccine R&D (e.g., open source approaches), quite difficult. Puzzled by the question of how alternative ways of fostering novelty can be embraced and gain legitimacy in organizational fields deeply relying on isomorphism, we ask: how do open source vaccince R&D initiatives alternatively organize for novelty?

Source: PPT Presentation by Milena Leybold

We compare two empirical cases that both build on an open source practice: Vaccinuum and RaDVaC (Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative). Vaccinuum (formerly OpenVax) was initially focused in developing a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2  and is now trying to discover an “Ultra-Broad Spectrum Open Source Vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 Variants and Future Epidemics” through processes of repurposing of already existing, “widely-available, approved, licensed, widely-accepted, non-exclusively manufactured, off- patent, live attenuated vaccines“.

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Platform rule No. x, own drawing

In a recent blog post, Amy Thomas from the CREATe center at the University of Glasgow suggests that contractual provisions can have – not least detrimental – effects for creativity on digital platforms. She points to uncertainty of users generating content (UGC) on platforms as their creations are regulated by a complex and often confusing “combination of legal, technical and contractual features,“ and particularly issues rising from the multiple (contractual) terms and conditions every platform develops, the T&Cs. Platforms do not disclose properly what they are allowed to do with users’ creativity and related intellectual property (IP), and hide behind legalese contract provisions. Thomas concludes that the complex regulatory “tapestry” eventually leads to an imbalance between platforms and users, perceived regulatory uncertainty of users and even “legal mandates to change the law without the legislative process.“ Instead of fostering creativity, platforms’ regulatory environments put “users in a confusing, and potentially vulnerable, position.“

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We, that is Sigrid Quack, Konstantin Hondros, Katharina Zangerle and I, proudly present the article “Between Anxiety and Hope? How Actors Experience Regulatory Uncertainty in Creative Processes in Music and Pharmy”, which has recently been published in “Research in the Sociology of Organizations” (RSO) as part of a volume on “Organizing Creativity in the Innovation Journey”. Check out the abstract below:

Uncertainty about Intellectual Property Regulations (IPR) is prevalent in today’s knowledge-based and creative industries. While prior literature indicates that regulatory uncertainty affects creative processes, studies that systematically analyze the effects of IPR on the experiencing of involved actors in creative processes across fields are rare. We ask how core professional actor groups including creators, legal professionals and managers involved in creative processes experience regulatory uncertainty in the fields of music and pharma. By studying practices of engaging with, circumventing and avoiding regulatory uncertainty about IPR, we show how creative processes in both the music and pharma fields are entrenched with emotional-cognitive experiences such as anxiety, indifference and hope that vary by professional group. Our findings point toward managers and legal professionals observing, exposing and cultivating emotions by ascribing experiences to other actor groups. We conclude that comparing regulation-related emotions of involved actors across fields helps to develop a deeper understanding of the dynamics of creative processes.

In case you or your institution does not have access to RSO please do not hesitate to contact me so I can send you a copy of our article.

(Image, CC0)

This post is provided by Konstantin Hondros, post-doctoral researcher at University of Duisburg-Essen in the DFG-funded research project “Organizing Creativity under Regulatory Uncertainty: Alternative Approaches to Intellectual Property”.

Though “alternative” (both as an adjective and a noun) has widespread meaning in contemporary society, it is not generally clear, what constitutes and conveys something to be (an) “alternative”. This blogpost’s goal is to offer a more nuanced understanding of the concept and ask how this can guide the use of “alternative” as an analytical lens. To begin with, I give an etymological account, then I look at “alternatives” in philosophy and its significance for epistemology, finally, I describe how social sciences make use of “alternative” in an evaluative manner. While from a philosophical perspective, “alternative” is rather a logical operator, in the social sciences “alternative” evaluates institutions, practices, or beliefs. This evaluative use can be either positive and empowering, ambivalent and skeptical, or even negative and destabilizing. I argue that it is this umbrella-term’s multi-facetted and evaluative nature that makes it analytically fruitful for social sciences.

I thus develop the concept of alternative mainly for practical reasons. Our recently kicked-off DFG-funded project Organizing Creativity under Regulatory Uncertainty: Alternative Approaches to Intellectual Property pursues “alternatives” empirically. We take a closer look at how creative processes unfold when intellectual property (IP) is approached “alternatively” and what obstacles and uncertainties these processes encounter. We compare alternatives to the IP-regulations copyright and patent law with case studies from the music economy and the pharmaceutical industries. Differentiating “ alternatives” will inform our methodological and analytical proceeding as it will give as clearer picture of what we are actually dealing with empirically.

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The Covid-19 pandemic is, without doubt, one of the biggest societal challenges of our times. Since its outbreak in December 2019, more than 3 million people died due to or with a Covid-19 infection. The pandemic hits the world with disastrous side effects such as economies suffering from recurrent or constant lockdowns, children who can’t go to school, or rising case numbers of mentally ill people. The most promising solution to stop the pandemic: vaccination.

In December 2020, the first person got vaccinated with the officially authorized Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine “COMIRNATY” in UK and Russia started mass vaccination with the vaccine “Sputnik V”. Shortly after, other big pharmaceutical companies such as Moderna, Astrazeneca, Sinovac, or Johnson & Johnson managed to get marketing authorizations for their vaccines. However, the vaccination campaigns proceed slower than expected: the demand for vaccines exceeds the production capacities of the pharma companies. Further, vaccines are not globally distributed at comparable rates. Unequal access to vaccines is not just a matter of injustice but imbalances also increase the risk of mutations developing in non-vaccinated countries.

Overview of vaccination rates by April 28th, 2021 (the darker the more people got vaccinated)
Source: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/world/covid-vaccinations-tracker.html

In January 2021, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the imbalance of vaccine distribution as “a catastrophic moral failure” and asked countries of the Global North to lift intellectual property protections so that countries around the world could produce vaccines. Similarly, the People’s Vaccine Alliance proposes offering the Covid-19 vaccine as a common good:

Our best chance of all staying safe is to ensure a COVID-19 vaccine is available for all as a global common good. This will only be possible with a transformation in how vaccines are produced and distributed — pharmaceutical corporations must allow the COVID-19 vaccines to be produced as widely as possible by sharing their knowledge free from patents.
Instead they are protecting their monopolies and putting up barriers to restrict production and drive up prices, leaving us all in danger. No one company can produce enough for the whole world. So long as vaccine solutions are kept under lock and key, there won’t be enough to go around. We need a People’s Vaccine, not a profit vaccine.

https://peoplesvaccine.org

This raises the question of this blog post: wouldn’t it be possible to organize the development of an open source vaccine that could be produced and distributed all over the world? Fortunately, media articles and governmental statements provide us with a rich bunch of arguments, why this is not an option. Let’s have a look at those.

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Five years have passed since universities, universities of applied sciences and research institutions in Germany initiated terminating their contracts with the world’s largest scientific publisher, Elsevier (see also “‘The Garbage Strike Test’ Put to A Test in Germany: Already One Month Without Elsevier”). There are now almost 200 institutions that no longer have a contract and thus no direct access to Elsevier journals. The reason for this wave of cancellations was a combination of exorbitant price (increases) and the publisher’s refusal to switch to new open access publishing models.

However, it is precisely such new, quasi Germany-wide Open Access agreements that have been signed with the two next largest scientific publishing houses, Wiley (2019) and Springer Nature (2020), as part of „Project DEAL“. These agreements provide for all participating universities and research institutions to be granted access to the publishers‘ journals (archives) and for all articles written by their researchers to be freely and permanently accessible on the Internet worldwide. In turn, Publish & Read fees are charged for each published article. The contracts have been published in full on the web, including conditions (see contract with SpringerNature and contract with Wiley).

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In theory, publishing content financed by public and tax-like television licence fees under open content licenses should be a no-brainer. As with publicly funded research, open licenses improve distribution, allow for remix creativity and unlock access to popular free knowledge platforms such as Wikipedia.

In practice, however, advocates of open licenses in the realm of public-service media face several hurdles, such as:

  • Standard licensing procedures in the world of public-service media do not include open licensing options and are typically limited in time and in scope. Therefore, releasing material under an open license requires renewed rights clearing efforts with all right holders involved to reflect the conditions set out in open licenses — given the often high number of creators and right holders involved in video content production, this is a difficult, time-consuming, and costly task.
  • Standard remuneration rules can make open licensing unattractive for creators. One common provision, for example, requires public service broadcasters to pay repeated fees any time material is broadcast. With an open license, there are usually no required payments. As a result, remuneration schemes have to be changed to avoid or mitigate the loss of income for creators.
  • European Union competition law prohibits state subsidies that may distort competition. Usually, free and open licenses don’t pose a problem in terms of competition law as long as no special advantage for an individual market actor is associated with using an open license. Generally, public broadcasters act with great caution when it comes to competition rules and many have concerns regarding licensing arrangements that could potentially set off competition issues.
  • There are fears of information manipulation. In light of recent debates on disinformation and “fake news”, public-service media fear that the content they release might be deceivingly and fraudulently manipulated so as to misrepresent facts. While Creative Commons licenses generally permit the creation of derivative works or adaptations (unless the licensor chooses to release content under a NoDerivatives license) and attribution is a requirement for all CC licenses as is a link back to the original so users can see any changes made, they do not govern defamation, disinformation or fabrication of information, which are violations dealt with outside the scope of copyright. Still, there is a reticence in public media television to openly publish content due to such threats despite the aforementioned safeguards within the CC licenses.

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Today, concerns about academics’ contribution to the future of our planet are growing. While climate scientists have long recognized that their scholarly lifestyle is part of the  problem and have developed various kinds of solutions, management scholars are just beginning to more extensively reflect not just about their research agendas, but about their own behaviour as scholars. Management scholars’ environmental impact is not the only issue at stake. Rather, there are problems with a loss of meaningfulness in research work driven forward by rankings, not content, and with a rise of scientific misconduct. Arguably, these issues are related to the ways in which the scholarly community is organized.

The research network “Grand Challenges and New Forms of Organizing”, funded by the German Research Foundation, has taken it as its mission to unpack the reciprocal relationship between societal grand challenges and new forms of organizing. In the spirit of this research agenda, the network has also started to reflect about the challenge of making scholarship itself more sustainable again. During one of its workshops held in March 2019, the network formed working groups around four areas of sustainable scholarship that can be seen as highly interrelated and complementary, thus creating difficulties for change:

  1. How can we reduce our flying in the light of demands placed on visibility in international research communities?
  2. How can we make academic careers more sustainable and meaningful?
  3. Is the strong focus on theoretical novelty by our leading journals itself an unsustainable practice?
  4. What are alternatives to supporting the unsustainable business model of proprietary publishing?

Environmental impact of scholars Read the rest of this entry »

At a workshop on “Intellectual Property Ordering Beyond Borders” hosted by the newly founded Weizenbaum Institute in Berlin I was invited to give a talk on issues of transnationality and territoriality in the realm of private regulation via standards. This invitation provided me with the opportunity to bind together insights from several previous papers I had co-authored on the case of Creative Commons. Please find the slides of my talk below.

 

(leonhard)

March 12-15, 2019, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Creativity is one of the key concepts, yet among the most slippery ones of present-day Western societies. Today, the call for creativity spans far beyond typically “creative” fields and industries towards becoming a universal social norm. Creative processes, however, are fundamentally surrounded by uncertainty. It is difficult to know ex-ante what will become a creative idea and, due to its destructive force, it is also highly contested. This inherent uncertainty associated with creativity thus spills over to other social spheres, too.
The DFG-funded Research Unit “Organized Creativity” is studying creative processes in music and pharmaceuticals – as representatives for creativity in the arts and in the sciences. The goal of the unit is to understand in greater depth those practices of inducing and coping with uncertainty which are employed by various actors involved in creative processes.

Target Group
The Spring School provides space for exchange between advanced doctoral students, early postdocs and several senior scholars that do research on creativity either in the context of innovation research or in the fields of business and management studies, economic geography, psychology or sociology. Combining lectures from renowned scholars (Prof. Dr. Dr. Karin Knorr Cetina, Prof. David Stark, Ph.D., Prof. Dr. Gernot Grabher, Prof. Dr. Elke Schüßler, Prof. Dr. Jörg Sydow) with the presentation, discussion and development of individual papers, this call invites advanced doctoral students and early postdocs from all disciplines concerned with creativity and uncertainty to join our discussion in Berlin. The working language will be English. 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.
December 2021
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All texts on governance across borders are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.