Upcoming Event: Digital Mix at Yale Law

Public Knowledge and Yale’s Information Society Project have an event coming up this Friday:

Digital Mix — Don’t waste culture, recycle art!

[…] Digital Mix, a one-of-a-kind musical event, brings the avant-garde of music to the future of law in the digital age. The event is sponsored by the Yale Information Society Project, a center for the study of law and technology at Yale Law School, and Public Knowledge, a new public-interest advocacy organization dedicated to fortifying and defending a vibrant information commons. Digital Mix will celebrate DJ culture and raise awareness of the laws that threaten it to a new community- mixing musical performance with prominent speakers.

DJ Spooky, a virtuoso DJ and leading spokesman for the art and intellectual movement of DJ culture, will headline the event with a musical performance and presentation of his art. Mark Hosler of Negativland, a legend in the art of digital appropriation, will show video clips of recent Negativland projects and discuss his long experience with the clash of copyright law and art. Mike Godwin of Public Knowledge, a leading advocate of the public interest in information and cultural policy, will talk about the latest legal and legislative challenges to democratic culture. Finally, Nelson Pavlosky, of the Free Culture, will talk about the efforts of students across campuses to organize and support these issues.

Neologism: Marxist-Lessigism

From Legal Affairs: Marxist-Lessigism [via IP News Blog] [pdf] [Note: Donna’s “lament” that Yochai goes unmentioned is spot on!]

ON THE OTHER HAND, WHILE LESSIG’S PROPOSED I.P. REFORM stops well short of the destruction of private property, it stirs a Marxian debate in a much more interesting and crucial sense. For starters, it is clear that I.P. reform is a conflict involving a significant class struggle. There are I.P. haves and I.P. have-nots. And in a world where the means of production are increasingly controlled by intellectual property, the dynamics exist for significant conflict. But the majority of the I.P. have-nots are in the developing world, which is why the globalization debate often involves intellectual property. Any Marxist-Lessigist revolution therefore is likely to be mediated through the cordon sanitaire of international trade, and through the World Trade Organization. The prospect of I.P.-induced violence, at least in the United States, is unlikely.

But more than this, I.P. reform arises out of a genuine Marxism, that of the open source movement. Open source, or “copyleft,” as the movement is often called, involves the transfer of the means of cultural and creative production from capital to the worker. It is usually thought to be limited to computer software. The Linux operating system was created by thousands of programmers and has been freely distributed on the understanding that others might amend, fix, improve, and extend it. But while software might be the paradigmatic example of open source, the revolution it promises reaches much further. […]

Though Bill Gates recognizes Linux as a threat to Windows, it is easy to miss the truly revolutionary nature of this type of cultural production. If you give people the opportunity to create, they will do so, even without economic incentives. The core justification for intellectual property protection is that, without it, no one would have any reason to produce cultural, creative content. They would undertake a rational calculus and go off to become tax attorneys. But the dynamism of the open source movement shows that this fundamental justification doesn’t hold. Many people will produce creative content even outside what we can think of as the capitalist underpinnings of I.P. It’s a small step to go from this to a Marxist revolution: The open source movement promises to put the means of creative production back in the hands of the people, not in the hands of those with capital.

The Chinese Internet

Beijing Loves the Web Until the Web Talks Back

[A]s the number of people online in China has quintupled over the last four years, the government has shown itself to be committed to two concrete, and sometimes competing, goals: strategically deploying the Internet to economic advantage, while clamping down – with surveillance, filters and prison sentences – on undesirable content and use.

Both trends, experts say, are likely to continue.

[…] The report [from Reporters Without Borders] also noted that the Internet, in its Chinese manifestation, is purposly built for social control and monitoring.

“There are just five backbones or hubs through which all traffic must pass,” the report noted. “No matter what I.S.P. is chosen by Internet users, their e-mails and the files they download and send must pass through these hubs.”

The OpenNet Initiative – an international partnership linking Internet and legal research centers at the University of Toronto, Harvard Law School and Cambridge University – tracks state filtering and surveillance practices. According to the group’s most recent bulletins from China, the government has found new ways to filter search engine results. Sensitive keywords like “Falun Gong” or “Taiwan Independence” will often return no hits.

And with more interactive activities like blogging, online chat and message boards, the monitoring is intense and redundant.

[…] The kind of cultural and economic flourishing that the Internet has already wrought in China is irreversible, Mr. [Duncan] Clark [of BDA China] said.

Repercussions for a narrow range of sensitive topics, he acknowledged, are real – and often severe. But apart from these, “China’s Internet is a hothouse of content on a wide range of topics and interests,” Mr. Clark said, “especially those embraced by the teens and 20-somethings who make up the bulk of the online population still.

“China’s rapidly emerging middle classes, numbering tens if not hundreds of millions, are dependent on the Internet and the Internet is dependent on them,” he said. “There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle now, and no real attempt to do so.”

Brand X As The Tip Of The Iceberg

The NYTimes on the “information service”/”telecommunications service” quandry: 8-Year-Old Basic Law May Be Outdated Already

“There is a consensus that a train wreck is approaching, and that there need to be some changes,” said Blair Levin, a regulatory analyst at Legg Mason and former senior official at the Federal Communications Commission. “But there is no consensus about a myriad of details.”

Mr. Levin said that perhaps the two most difficult issues confronting the policy makers were how to fix the universal service program and the arrangements phone companies use to compensate each other for connecting their calls. “If those issues can be resolved, then many of the others would fall into place,” Mr. Levin said.

The industry leaders and the policy makers are deeply divided, though, over how to proceed. Some of the new providers of telephone service over the Internet say they should not be subject to the same interconnection fees as the traditional phone services. But some of the regional Bell companies oppose exempting those services from the connection fees.

Politics also plays a role. Top Republicans in the Senate prefer to shore up the universal service programs that serve rural areas. But Republican leaders in the House do not want to approve anything that might look like a tax on phone and Internet users.

So, What Do The Artists Think?

From Wired News: Study: Musicians Dig the Net (Update: See the table on page 19 of the Pew Report cited below!!)

Musicians believe the internet is an essential tool to help create and market their work, but at the same time more than half of artists say file sharing of unauthorized copies of music should be illegal, according to a new report.

The report, called “Artists, Musicians and the Internet,” found that only 28 percent of all artists surveyed consider file sharing to be a major threat to creative industries — contradicting the official stance of the lobbying arm of the record companies. About 43 percent agree that “file-sharing services aren’t really bad for artists, since they help to promote and distribute an artist’s work to a broad audience.”

Lots of interesting reading in the 61 page report, but here’s a notable set of statistics for you:

American artists have embraced the internet as a creative and inspiration-enhancing workspace where they can communicate, collaborate, and promote their work. They are considerably more wired than the rest of the American population.

More than three-quarters of all artists, 77%, and 83% of Paid Artists use the internet, compared to 63% of the entire population. Many site [sic] specific gains in their careers from their use of the internet.

  • 52% of all online artists and 59% of Paid Online Artists say they get ideas and inspiration for their work from searching online.

  • 30% of all online artists and 45% of Paid Online Artists say the internet is important in helping them create and/or distribute their art.
  • 23% of all online artists and 41% of Paid Online Artists say the internet has helped them in their creative pursuits and careers.
  • 4% of all online artists and 8% of Paid Online Artists say the internet has made it much harder for their work to get noticed.
  • 3% of all online artists and 6% of Paid Online Artists say the internet has had a major deleterious effect on their ability to protect their creative works.

Two-thirds of the musicians in our online survey say the internet is “very important” in helping them create and distribute their music. Fully 90% of these respondents use the internet to get ideas and inspiration; 87% use it to promote, advertise and post their music online; 83% offer free samples online and notable numbers report benefits from that such as higher CD sales, larger concert attendance, and more radio play; 77% have their own Web site; 69% sell their music somewhere online; 66% use the internet to collaborate with others. Many independent musicians, in particular, particular, see the internet as an alternative way to bypass traditional distribution outlets.

And, even more saliently:

Like most internet users, online artists are also active consumers of media content online. But most who download files say if they get content for free, they usually support the artist or author in other ways.

Half of all online artists in our sample say they listen to music online at a radio station, music store, recording artist or music service Web site, and 58% of Paid Online Artists say this. That number is significantly higher when compared to our recent measure of all online adults; just 34% of internet users say they listen to music online.

Of those artists who download music files (n=118), most think that downloading has not really changed the total amount they spend on music purchases like CDs, concerts, or other music products (58% say this). Another 29% say they think downloading has actually increased what they spend on music purchases overall, and 13% say it has decreased their purchases. Likewise, among artists who either download music or video files (n=139), 86% say that when they download files for free, they usually end up supporting the artist or author in other ways, such as buying a CD or book or going to a performance. Just over half of all artists who download music or video files say they can’t always tell if it’s legal or illegal to download media files from the internet. More than two-thirds of the sample said they don’t currently pay to download any type of media files, but they would if the price, quality and choice they want become available.

NYTimes coverage: Pew File-Sharing Survey Gives a Voice to Artists; BBC News: Musicians ‘upbeat’ about the net; WashPost: Musicians Sing Different Tune on File Sharing [pdf]; Slashdot: Musicians on Internet & Filesharing

Much later: Musician’s Group Questions Pew Survey

Innovation & Impediments

From today’s Boston Globe article on innovation in television technologies: Boston techies envision TV’s on-demand future [pdf]

At the end of a boisterous dinner, after several glasses of good red wine, technology entrepreneur John Landry pulled out his iPaq hand-held and beckoned me over to his side of the table.

“You’ll think this is cool,” he said. “We call it Tiny TiVo.”

Suddenly, his iPaq began playing the opening segment of the “Today” show, recorded that morning. For kicks, Landry had tweaked software made by his company, Adesso Systems of Boston, so that it would transfer television shows recorded on his home PC to his hand-held, allowing him to watch them whenever and wherever he wanted.

Illegal? Possibly. But cool? Definitely.