Creative Commons

Enclosing the Commons of the Mind

James Boyle:
Here are 2 points I wish people would understand.

1.) We are the first generation to deny our own culture to ourselves.

2.) No work created during your lifetime will, without conscious action by its creator, become available for you to build upon.

via Twitter: 1, 2.

More at The Public Domain: "We have dragged all of culture into copyright, and kept it there even if the owners wouldn’t have wanted to renew."

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Intellectual Property: a Digital Rights Campaign

I'm grateful to James Governor for digging a bit further than me, visiting the National Consumer Council's website (as opposed to stopping with the BBC's report — see below). The NCC is dedicating time and energy to digital rights:

There is a new section to the website which summarises the NCC's work on innovation and intellectual property (IP). We argue that the view of consumers — as being at the end of the value chain, choosing from the products and services offered by providers — is outdated, and that this is reflected in IP law...

More information about the NCC's work on IP here:

Traditionally, businesses and policy-makers have tended to think of consumers as being at the end of the value chain, choosing from the range of products and services offered by providers. This does not describe how value is created in a modern economy and the role consumers can, and do, play in innovation and the co-creation of products and services.

This outdated view of the role of consumers is reflected in intellectual property (IP) law which gives rights to owners to control the use of innovations and ideas, and describes public and consumer fair access and use rights as exclusions and exceptions.

In addition, powerful business lobbies have been able to exert considerable influence on the development of IP law. This has increased the level of protection of IP rights and reduced public and consumer access and use rights.

This is not just bad for consumers, it is bad for society, as it constrains the ability of everyone to access important resources, and stifles the sorts of consumer creativity that can enhance economic growth.

The NCC has a page about the Digital Rights Campaign of the Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs:

On 10 November 2005, BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, launched a campaign for consumer rights in the digital environments calling for the following rights to be enshrined in EU law:

  • the right to choice, knowledge and cultural diversity
  • the right to the principle of 'technical neutrality' — defend and maintain consumer rights to the digital environment
  • the right to benefit from technological innovations without abusive restrictions
  • the right to interoperability of content and devices
  • the right to the protection of privacy
  • the right not to be criminalised

In addition, the declaration calls for:

  • industry to desist from legal action against P2P downloaders to allow the market to find solutions for the on-line development of audio/visual distribution
  • action to ensure that DRM users respect consumer privacy and fair use rights

The set of six bulleted points constitutes the BEUC's proposed Consumers' Digital Rights.

James quotes the BEUC's position statement:

BEUC believes that the European publishing sector is crucial to the building of a knowledge-based economy. However, blindly ‘enhancing’, ‘supporting’ and ‘extending’ the copyright protection regime may confer unjustified monopoly privileges, impede competition, potentially impose unfair costs on consumers and risk to inhibit creativity. Do we want a society in which the free exchange of ideas - on which our society thrives - remains possible or do we want access to content curtailed by excessive copyright regulation and abusive use of DRMs? The report correctly states about copyright and DRMs that “widespread acceptance by consumers is still lacking”. The reason for this is (at least) twofold: Firstly, DRMs are restricting consumers legitimate use of copyrighted (and non-copyrighted) material. According to the Commission, publishers also regard DRM as a technology with increased control over content and more precise definitions of the rights associated to the assets they commercialise. These “rights” go beyond what is asserted by intellectual property law and we deplore the lack of discussion on potential adverse effects on consumers, and the eventual need to guarantee consumers rights in relation to the works they legally purchase.

He also found their online petition. To echo James: please go sign it.

As the BEUC puts it elsewhere (1/ here and 2/ here) on their website:

Under the heading of Digital Rights Management (DRM) new technologies are being used to limit or prohibit perfectly legitimate practices. “Exemplary" legal cases are being prosecuted and users threatened with huge penalties for downloading music or films on the Internet. The industry hides behind the artists that it claims to defend, alienating their fans and supporters. We know that there is a serious global problem of piracy. Consumers should not buy counterfeit copies of CDs and DVDs; too often these products are made in large numbers by organised criminal, and probably also terrorist, gangs. On the other hand, private consumers are not criminals or terrorists and the industry must stop portraying them as such. The time has come to guarantee consumers certain basic rights in the digital world, and to tell them what they can do with their digital hardware/content. This is our message in this campaign.

We urge policy makers to endorse the 6 Consumers Digital Rights, and demand:

  • A legal framework that will encourage new means of exposure and distribution of digital content, while guaranteeing remuneration to artists, creators and performers and providing consumers and the public with new means of access, discovery and new uses;
  • A new balance between exclusive rights in the exploitation of digital content and public interest objectives in using and sharing such content, taking into account the new possibilities of content usage enabled by technical progress;
  • That industry desist from legal action against P2P downloaders to allow the market to find solutions for the on-line development of audio/visual distribution that takes due account of the public interest and the interest of artists, creators and performers;
  • Action to find solutions on how consumers can effectively exercise their private use rights and to guarantee that users of DRMs respect the legitimate interest of consumers in their personal autonomy and private sphere;
  • Mechanisms to ensure that TPMs or DRMs, which restrict uses legally exempted from copyright or not falling under copyright, do not benefit from legal protection;
  • A review of the EU legal framework on consumer protection and intellectual property in view of the 6 consumers rights demands expressed in this Declaration.

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Copy Rights

James Governor's MonkChips — What about My Copy Rights? Towards a declaration of digital independence:

If anyone out there likes the idea of a call for Copy Rights, then let me know or blog about it or whatever. If the snowball rolls downhill then we can perhaps formalise a declaration of some kind …

I like. Plus, as was said at the inaugural meeting of ORG, we've got to find the language that will catch the imagination of the music-loving public: 'the importance of language in making an argument. Rhetoric and framing require strong simple images to fall back on'.

More about working towards A Declaration of Copy Rights at James Governor's site … towards 'a positive framework for intellectual property protection, rather than a negative complaint'.

Update — from BBC News:

A UK consumer watchdog has called for new laws to protect users' rights to use digital music and movies. The National Consumer Council (NCC) said anti-piracy efforts were eroding established rights to digital media. …

It made its comments to a parliamentary inquiry into technologies that limit what people can do with CDs, DVDs and downloaded media. In its submission to the inquiry, the NCC said many consumers were regularly running up against the restrictions record companies and film makers put on their products. The consumer group said people were finding that they could not make compilations for their own use or easily move digital copies between different devices.

In its statement to the inquiry it said the digital locks put on content were "constraining the legitimate consumer use of digital content". Also being undermined were rights established by consumer protection and data protection laws, it said. "Consumers face security risks to their equipment, limitations on their use of products, poor information when purchasing products and unfair contract terms," said Jill Johnstone, the NCC's director of policy.

She added that the group had little faith that self-regulation by media makers would protect consumer rights.

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Oxford and the Internet

We're very lucky, based where we are, to have access to what's going on in, at and around Oxford. I'm about to blog about yesterday's seminar at the Oxford Internet Institute, but have just spotted these dates for 2006 in the University Gazette:

Professor Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation, will deliver his inaugural lecture at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, 25 April, in the Examination Schools. Subject: 'The future of the Internet—and how to stop it.'

Professor Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation, will lecture at 5.30 p.m. on the following Mondays in the Oxford Internet Institute, 1 St Giles'.

  • 27 Feb.: 'Code is law: technological complements to copyright.'
  • 6 Mar.: 'Jurisdiction and the Internet.'

Open Rights Group

To London, to the inaugural meeting of the ORG, the Open Rights Group at 01Zero-One (Hopkins Street, Soho). The theme? 'Digital Rights in the UK: Your Rights, Your Issues'.

The evening was introduced by Suw Charman, Executive Director of ORG, who asked Jonathan Zittrain, Chair in Internet Governance and Regulation, Oxford University (Co-Founder, Berkman Center for Internet & Society) to say some words. He was impressive and I look forward to meeting him again tomorrow morning at the OII. He spoke about how the launch of ORG was 'not a moment too soon', the future of the net being so uncertain. After Suw had spoken about ORG, Lloyd Davies (some of us had already seen more of him than we'd bargained for) took over and ran the evening, centred around a number of "conversations": eg, how we should/could engage lawyers; how we engage MPs and MEPs; how we make the ORG an organisation that does for Britain and British law what the EFF does for the US; tackling the challenge of copyright law (including working for the abolition of Crown Copyright) … The ORG has much to do to establish and define itself, but is already being heard. It has my £5 a month and I hope to hear a lot more from it as it works with like-minded organisations (such as The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure) in the area of digital rights.

The need for the ORG is in part summed up (via email) by Danny O'Brien: 'The emergence of new communications technologies has radically changed the civil rights landscape in our society. Privacy, intellectual property, and access to knowledge are just some of the areas where digital rights are being eroded by government and big business.'

As of today, the Wikipedia entry for ORG runs:

The Open Rights Group (Org) is a UK-based organisation that hopes to preserve digital rights and freedoms by serving as a hub for other cyber-rights groups campaigning on similar digital rights issues. Like the EFF, it will campaign against the entertainment industry's attempts to limit what people can do with digital media, as well as highlighting a variety of privacy related issues. It will also provide information to the media and co-ordinate grassroots campaigns.

The organisation was started by Danny O'Brien, after speaking with people at UKUUG and the BBC's Open Tech 2005 and seeing the interest in a UK-based digital rights organisation.

O'Brien first publicised the organisation, and attempted to secure funding for it, with a pledge on PledgeBank, placed on July 24, 2005, with a deadline of December 25, 2005: "I will create a standing order of 5 pounds per month to support an organisation that will campaign for digital rights in the UK but only if 1,000 other people will too." The pledge reached 1000 people on 29 November 2005.

Just as the pledge reached maturity the organisation launched at a "sell-out" meeting in London's district of Soho. The same day controversial plans to surveil British road users as part of a new road taxation scheme were featured on the front page of The Times.


  • to raise awareness in the media of digital rights abuses
  • to provide a media clearinghouse, connecting journalists with experts and activists
  • to preserve and extend traditional civil liberties in the digital world
  • to collaborate with other digital rights and related organisations
  • to nurture a community of campaigning volunteers, from grassroots activists to technical and legal experts

It was a pleasure to catch up with Thomas again and with a number of acquaintances from previous conferences and meetings (notably, Suw, Stefan Magdalinski, Paula Le Dieu, Julian Bond, David Weinberger and, most unexpectedly, Jimmy Wales), and to meet for the first time others whose work I'd heard of. Central to the evening, though very modest, was Tom Steinberg, founder of My Society — see, WriteToThem and TheyWorkForYou — and associated with the Young Foundation (itself associated with the Skoll Centre, Saïd Business School). He explains PledgeBank here. He is a Demos author and there's a relevant BBC piece here.

I very much enjoyed talking to David Isenberg: there's a webcast available of his OII seminar (given yesterday), 'Who will run the internet?'. More about this soon.

Canter on Web 2.0

Matt Gertner:

… we should be wary of writing Web 2.0 off as vacuous before it has a realistic chance of achieving its potential, particularly since this is likely to take several years. … Web 2.0 may be a messy term, and it’s undeniably over- (and frequently mis-) used. But it’s still a useful way of encapsulating a real and important trend.

I'm all in favour of educated scepticism, but some reservations seem to fly in the face of what end-users are experiencing (and then to bring down the fundamentalist shutters on any further discussion). As usual, Richard MacManus has some sound reflections on the wave of anti-hype. (Incidentally, through his site I came across Michael Casey's LibraryCrunch and a posting there about libraries and Web 2.0 — something to which all schools and universities need to give a lot of thought.)

I've been reading Marc Canter's Breaking the Web Wide Open!: 'The online world is evolving into a new open web (sometimes called the Web 2.0), which is all about being personalized and customized for each user. Not only open source software, but open standards are becoming an essential component'.

Open standards mean sharing, empowering, and community support. Someone floats a new idea (or meme) and the community runs with it – with each person making their own contributions to the standard – evolving it without a moment's hesitation about "giving away their intellectual property." … The combination of Open APIs, standardized schemas for handling meta-data, and an industry which agrees on these standards are breaking the web wide open right now. So what new open standards should the web incumbents—and you—be watching? Keep an eye on the following developments:

Open Media
Microcontent Publishing
Open Social Networks
Open Communications
Device Management and Control

… Today's incumbents will have to adapt to the new openness of the Web 2.0. If they stick to their proprietary standards, code, and content, they'll become the new walled gardens—places users visit briefly to retrieve data and content from enclosed data silos, but not where users "live." The incumbents' revenue models will have to change. Instead of "owning" their users, users will know they own themselves, and will expect a return on their valuable identity and attention. Instead of being locked into incompatible media formats, users will expect easy access to digital content across many platforms.

The golden age of the web?

In today's Observer, Rafael Behr, Observer online editor, writes about the web-world:

In an era whose triumphant idea is capitalism, where success is generally measured in the accumulation of wealth, it is hard to conceive of a parallel society established and self-governed on principles of trust and common ownership. But it exists. The biggest aggregation of human experience and knowledge ever created belongs to everyone, it is available on demand and it is free.

But for how long? Ranged against the new culture of digital freedom is a strange coalition of spooks, suits and vandals. There are governments unable to resist the technology that can track our every move; there are corporations lusting after the attention of the 2 billion eyeballs focused on screens; and there are the spammers, clogging up the net with junk mail, hijacking computers to peddle trash. …

Noam Chomsky, linguist and media commentator, agrees: 'Major efforts are being made by the corporate owners and advertisers to shape the internet so that it will be mostly used for commerce, diversion and so on. Then those who wish to use it for information, political organising and other such activities will have a harder time.'

Not everyone is pessimistic. In fact, a lot of long-term web users are utopian about the future. All the hyperbole that was first draped around the web has proved inadequate. In the way it transforms and accelerates the communication of ideas between individuals and societies, it is about as big as the invention of the alphabet. And it is free. But for how long? The machinery of government and big business is only just beginning to understand the scale of the web. The culture of common purpose that prevails today is a product of neglect as much as design. The real gold rush has barely begun. To experience the sharing culture of the blogosphere today is like living in a commune built on an oil field. One day, the diggers will move in.

Ours is the last generation that will remember the analogue world and feel the difference between the two realms. For the next generation of digital natives, the web will be a slick, commercial machine. It will be just as big as the world we currently live in and it will be just as ruthless and as corrupt.

I hope I am wrong. I listen to today's web gurus, the people who preach freedom, and am fired with enthusiasm for the new digital society of the future. But I fear the odds are against them. An excess of idealism only seems to prove that the golden age of the web is, in fact, right now.

And so, Web 2.0

Doc Searls and Robert Scoble opened Reboot 7. By good fortune, I caught up with both of them a number of times over the days I was in Copenhagen and I'm delighted that Doc Searls has now posted this about Web 2.0:

So, since Web 2.0 is a hot concept, let's lock our new understanding to that meme. For that, I propose a goal: Make Web 2.0 the best possible commons for supporting free markets and free culture.

Here's a stab at it.

As I explained in a series of talks (Les Blogs, reboot7, Personal Democracy Forum and Syndicate, to name just four), we understand and speak about the Web in terms of four different metaphors. Those metaphors describe four very different Webs:

  1. When we say we "move" something called "content" through a "medium", addressing or "feeding" or "enclosing" it for "delivery" to "consumers" or "end users", we are saying the Web is a shipping system.
  2. When we "architect," "design," "construct" and "build" things called "sites" with "addresses" and "locations" (sometimes in a "commons") that get "visits" from "traffic," we're saying the Web is real estate.
  3. When we "write" and "author" things called "pages" of "hypertext" that we "post" or "publish" so others can "browse" them, we're saying the Web is a library of journals. Since we tend to group publishing with speech, the Web we talk about here is a place for expression.
  4. When we say we "perform," and we want our "audience" to have an "experience," we are saying the Web is a theater, or a place where entertainment takes place.

Doc links to a couple of sources (that I hadn't come across before) which are really illuminating about Web 2.0: mediatope's 'a cumulative Web 2.0 definition' and Richard MacManus' 'Web 2.0 Definition and Tagging' (his weblog, Read/Write Web, is clearly one worth watching). Via Richard MacManus I got to Adam Rifkin's 'Weblications'. The latter is very, very helpful:

… from desktop applications running on single-machines that helped individuals with productivity through word processing and spreadsheets and email, to enterprise applications in corporate data centers that helped workgroups and companies with productivity through automating business processes... and now to collaborative applications available to anyone from anywhere on the Internet, leveraging an increasingly-connected and ever-faster world. The web is the platform that subsumes the others.

… I have the feeling that we've turned a corner, and that more "only obvious in hindsight" web-based application tricks will be developed in the years to come -- thereby solidifying The Web As A Platform and continuing the spread of The Web Way as more users become True Believers who won't give up their web-based applications no matter how hard the "fat, rich client" camps try. As Joyce Park has said to me, "simplicity is its own revelation." It feels as if the world has had tremendous convergence on the thoughts in this post in 2004, and as a result the future looks very bright for The Web Way.

Doc concludes:

The two keys are free markets and free speech. These are concepts about which conservatives and progressives agree. They are also essential to the persistence of the Net we love and understand as a place that's built to support both.

That's why I say here that the metaphors we need to unite are 2 and 3: place and publishing.

If we make clear that Web 2.0 is about free markets AND free culture, we'll win a lot more arguments about both.

The BBC, Backstage … and what then?

Ben Metcalfe launched Backstage at Open Tech. His presentation can be downloaded here (PowerPoint) and an audio file can be downloaded via the Open Tech 05 site (the talk was one of those given in the Main Theatre). There's a very useful posting on Backstage about the raft of BBC News RSS feeds, including theme-led feeds.

What's happened to the conservative Auntie we grew up with? Earlier this year, Wired News carried a story entitled, 'The Beeb Shall Inherit the Earth' — by Cory: 'America's entertainment industry is committing slow, spectacular suicide, while one of Europe's biggest broadcasters -- the BBC -- is rushing headlong to the future, embracing innovation rather than fighting it. … With Backstage, BBC's online department takes all the goop in its content-management system -- breaking news, editorials and conferences -- and exposes it as a set of standard programming interfaces. Anyone who can hack a little Perl or Python can mix these into any kind of service they can imagine'. (Cory also sums up the BBC's developing relationship with amateur content providers, 'The BBC's news website is the first mainstream news-gathering organization in the Western world to solicit and give prominence to photographs and reporting provided by its visitors', and the Creative Archive — 'an attempt to digitize all the programming the BBC has commissioned, clear the copyrights and post it online with a Creative Commons-like license. This will allow Britons to download the BBC's content, distribute it and noncommercially remix it into their own films, music, gags, projects and school reports'.)

At Open Tech, I found myself sitting just across the aisle from Stef Magdalinski, author of Wikiproxy — the cause-of-origin of which was explained here (4 October, 2004):

News Online doesn’t engage with its users, it doesn’t provide tools that allow me, the licence payer, to slice and dice their stories, and by refusing to link from its body text, it fails to understand how hypertext works. Also, with its conservative link policy … that only connects the BBC to established brands, it snubs the wider web, the great teeming mass of creativity. Patrician is not authoritative. Aloof is not respected. Conservative and fearful is not engaging. The gap between the BBC’s utterly laudable self image and ambitions and delivery could not be any clearer than at News Online. Finally, by not really allowing user interaction or commenting, News Online forces that debate and activity away from its site, and out onto the wild wild web. I’ve known many people at the organisation since its very earliest days. There’s some incredible talent and ideas, and from what I hear, an equal amount of frustration at how difficult it is to get these ideas to fruition.

Wikiproxy is described by Stef Magdalinski as 'a proxy for the site, that does the following things: retrieves a page from News Online, and regexes out “Capitalised Phrases” and acronyms. It then tests these against a database of wikipedia topic titles. If the phrase is a topic in wikipedia, then it’s turned into a hyperlink; uses the technorati API to add a sidebar of links to blogs referencing the story. Now you can see who’s talking about the story from the story itself …'. And instead of suing him, the BBC went away and came back with Backstage.

Two of three Backstage-unleashed projects that Ben whipped through caught my attention (many more here):

I had to leave before the session in the late afternoon when Lee spoke about Headshift's work for the BBC 'that looked at how social tagging might work on BBC News to drive both social bookmarking and user-driven related stories'. This project (which Lee spoke about at Reboot, last month) strikes me as really interesting; there's more on it here and here.

So there's Backstage, BBC Open Source, the Creative Archive Licence Group ('The BBC, the bfi, Channel 4 and the Open University set up the Creative Archive Licence Group to make their archive content available for download under the terms of the Creative Archive Licence - a single, shared user licence scheme for the downloading of moving images, audio and stills') and also Action Network: 'The BBC runs Action Network as an open forum for people to influence issues they care about. Most of the content is written by the public and reflects their views. Content provided by the BBC is clearly marked'. Other signs of movement and change at the Beeb keep popping up: Mildly Diverting posted last week that the BBC had authorised the opportunity 'to watch 'The Mighty Boosh' on broadband. A WEEK BEFORE IT GOES OUT ON THE TELLY', and Paul Mason (Newsnight) blogged Gleneagles and G8 from outside the BBC.

What does all this amount to? To stick with Backstage for a moment, it is clearly a GOOD THING:

This is such a good idea and will, I hope, cement the BBC's leading role in innovating for public good within the mainstream media. It is the latest in a long line of developments that illustrate how the BBC has become a safe harbour for some clever people who are committed to building public value through online media. It also proves, I think, how the internet has revitalised the BBC's public service remit, which was previously becoming a bit lost amidst the management debates, multi-skilling and the growing obsession with competing with lower forms of commercial media. (Lee)

But before we all get too excited, both Lee and Lloyd Shepherd, Head of Development at Guardian Unlimited, have some cautionary words. The BBC is moving boldly, but hasn't declared itself a liberty hall. Under Backstage's terms of service,

You can’t redistribute BBC content; only the BBC can do that. And Backstage is an ideal way to encourage distribution of BBC content around the world (a fundamental tenet of the BBC’s public service charter) but click on a link and you’re back on a BBC page to look at the full content. The simple fact is that the BBC is not distributing full-text content by RSS; only headlines and snippets (this is even true of Backstage’s own RSS feeds). As the BBC itself has said, it expects 10 per cent of its website traffic to be coming from RSS by the end of this year. In other words, RSS is just another effective way of building audience and traffic, and Backstage is a very good way of getting BBC RSS feeds out into wider communities. (Lloyd Shepherd)

Nevertheless, and in the spirit of that well-worn line from Robert Frost's 'Mending Wall', Something there is that doesn't love a wall, something stirs. Stef Magdalinski said how he was 'inspired by meeting Jimmy Wales of', a venture and a vision that 'precisely illustrates how the collaborative, great unwashed web can create more value than ‘authoritative’ institutions', and it's great to see the BBC responding creatively, interpreting its remit in new ways for this new age. Definitely time not just to watch Auntie, then, but to join in.


Over a year ago, on a now defunct blog, I posted about this:

Warchalking is the practice of marking a series of symbols on sidewalks and walls to indicate nearby wireless access. That way, other computer users can pop open their laptops and connect to the Internet wirelessly. It was inspired by the practice of hobos during the Great Depression to use chalk marks to indicate which homes were friendly. First things first: Is this legal? Moral? Check out our Warchalking Legality FAQ for some thoughts.

(The last two links have been amended to run through the Wayback Machine, the original site,, itself now no longer existing.) I was reminded of warchalking by Doc Searls' post of today:

Posts and corrections about the early history of Matt Jones' warchalking, one of the greatest ideas that ever sort-of caught on. It was kind of a snowball that rolled fast, splatted all over everything and eventually melted (mostly, though not entirely) away, leaving a few logos here and there and otherwise generally improving the world.

Here's a presentation that shows what went down in London that weekend, in pictures.

The presentation Doc Searls links to is one that brings a lot of ideas and initiatives together (and his post also has a fine snowball-rhizome-Jungian sequence of reflections on blogging). For me, it's really clarified the picture of "where we're going" — or hope to be going, moguls and governments and vested interests "permitting" — and it's dated July 2002.