The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries represent the closest approximation to an open world in modern times. … With immigration restrictions at a minimum, real freedom of international movement was a fact. The right of personal self-determination was reasonably secure for residents of Europe and the Americas, if not for other peoples ruled by them. Passports, which had fallen into disuse in much of the West, were required only in the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Bosnia/Herzegovina.
Why were borders then closed? In part Curtotti writes:
The growing influence on public policy of racist ideologies seeking to promote racially segregated national communities – including by excluding all regarded as incompatible with the prevailing racially defined national character.
All the more ironic:
We may note also further explicit and implicit reservation of state freedom in regard of freedom of movement and citizenship. The International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination provides that the Convention does not prohibit discrimination between citizens and non-citizens. Further matters of citizenship, nationalisation or naturalisation remain at the free discretion of the state (subject to the requirement of non-discrimination between non-citizens) (art 1.2, 1.3). This is of course an extraordinary provision in such a Convention. It suggests that a state has virtually no obligations of “non-discrimination” to persons outside the legal and geographical boundaries of the state – notwithstanding the correlation between race and nationality, the fact that historically many states have racially discriminated to influence their ethnic composition and that the very idea of the nation-state is strongly linked to the idea of race and ethnicity. The explicit inclusion of such exemptions of course merely serves to underline that the drafters were well aware of the correlation between race and citizenship. Discrimination against foreigners is given international legal sanction by this Convention.
Curtotti concludes noting the tension between state prerogative and the universality of human rights, and that discussion, then recognition of freedom of movement as a fundamental human right, rather than an glaring exception, can be the beginning of a very long process of rights implementation.
A Penny for Your Thoughts by Talllama is the winner, unanimously selected by the jury. It’s a fun transposition of exactly today’s copyright and debates (including wild mischaracterization) into a future with mind uploading. Quotes:
“My mom and dad would get upset at me.” He sent her a copy of his anxiety.
“Well my dad says copyright is stupid,” Helen said, sending back an emotion that was pitying yet vaguely contemptuous. “He says anyone who won’t pirate is a dummy.”
Timothy scowled at her. “My dad says that piracy is stealing.”
“My dad and I have trillions of books and thoughts, so we know better than you,” Helen said.
“You see, Timothy,” his father continued, “If people didn’t have an incentive to think or dream, they wouldn’t. And then no one would have any new thoughts. Everyone would stop thinking because there wouldn’t be any money in it.”
“But you said people had thoughts in 1920 even though there was no copyright.”
“Yes, you’re right. What I mean is that there were no professional thinkers in those days.”
“It would be bad if people stopped thinking,” Timothy said.
Lucy’s Irrevocable, Colossal, Terrible Mistake by Chris Sakkas tells a story in which releasing stuff under a free license has amazing results. Unfortunately free licenses aren’t magic, and it isn’t clear to me what the story says about the future of copyright. Quote:
An alternative bookshop in Sussex, on the other side of the world to Lucy, created a video ad with her favourite song as its backing track. The ad ended with a thanks to Lucy for releasing her music under a free, libre and open licence and a hyperlink. Hundreds more people visited her site, the passive consumers of big business! They used the donate button on her site to spray her with filthy lucre.
Perfect Memory by Jacinto Dávila describes a world of 2089 mediated by perfect memory of all non-intimate events and voting for assignment of credit; copyright plays what role in such future? Quote:
[Socio-mathematics] was also the source of an unprecedented and fundamental agreement. All the stakeholders of the world came, after many unfortunate and even bloody events, to negotiate a new framework for producing and sharing common knowledge. And the basis they found was that to preserve freedom, but also the health of the whole planet and its species, that knowledge had to be shared, easily and readily, among all the stakeholders.
That led to a rebuttal of so-called intellectual property and copyright laws and their replacement with a body of global law acknowledging our common heritage, codependent future and the fundamental right of knowledge everyone has.
Copyrights in Chopin’s future by Krzysztof Blachnicki (English translation by Wojciech Pędzich) has Chopin resurrected in 2015 through unspecified but expensive means, then exploited by and escaping from the current recording industry. A fun idea, but ultimately a stereotypical anti-recording-industry rant. Quote:
I hope that more people will have their own opinions instead of listening to the hissing of those snakes, sucking money out of artists to pay off their new automobiles. Wake up, folks, a good musician will earn his daily bread even if he decides to let his music go for free, for all to share. A poor man will be able to listen to real music, while a wealthy man will make the artist’s effort worthwhile. Isn’t it all about just that? Each may benefit, except the music companies which become redundant, so they turn to lies in order to keep themselves afloat.
What is an author? by refined quotes is a story in which all legal ideas are closely regulated and bland, “old art” outlawed so people consume new, legal stuff, the good stuff and real artists are underground, and with an additional twist that ideas take animal form. Quote:
You see? An artist is a little like an art producer. But he deals with the genuine ideas, as you see. He doesn’t buy them, like the law says he should. He just comes to places like this and spends his time with them. It’s a slow process. No one knows why precisely, but this crazy little ideas are in love with him, well, with all the artists.
The Ambiguous Future of Copyright by HOT TOCO is a snarky take on where copyright and computing are headed, presumably meaning to project ambiguous reception of Ubuntu/Canonical ten years into the future. Quote:
Friend2: “If I can extract info from this rant, I think Commonible, Ltd, is saying they’ve perfected trusted computing, fully protecting you from hacking and making ALL media available, fully compensating all value chains.”
Friend3 (quiet one): “I read about sth like this, Project Xanaxu. Real old stuff. The inventor thought the Web failed to transclude micropayments.”
500 Years of Copyright Law by Holovision embeds current copyright factoids in description of future eras. I can’t tell what its “Copynorm Exchange Decentralization Entente (CEDE)” regime consists of, but maybe that is also a current copyright factoid: someone reading a pamphlet describing copyright and mentioning a few acronyms (eg TRIPs) would not have much sense of the regime. Quote:
Attempts to put digital rights management into 3D printers were sooner or later unsuccessful against hardware hackers. There were open sourced 3D printers but many perceived them to be inferior to the commercially patented ones. When the commercial 3D printers were used to make other printers most companies left the marketplace. This left many still infringing the 3D printers with the excuse that the printers became “abandonware”.
Copyright Protest Song by Tom Konecki doesn’t seem to say anything about the future, but does capture various bits of complaint about the current regime. Quote:
Everybody wants only money and success
And none remembers the idea of open-access
To acquire knowledge and gather information
That is now the object of companies’ manipulation.
Copyright – Real Vision or fantastic vision? by Arkadiusz Janusz (English translation by Kuba Kwiatkowski) contains a proposal of the type “metadata and tracking will get everyone paid” explained in a parent-child lecture. Quote:
The file doesn’t contain a price, only points. In other words, the price is quoted in points. A point has a different monetary value for every country. Here, the minimum wage is about 1000 dollars. We divide the minimum wage by one thousand and receive the amount value of 1 point. If you download a movie, the server checks in which country you are, and converts the points into the appropriate price.
That’s why in our times, pirates are at on the verge of extinction. Most frequently, they’re maniacs or followers of some strange ideologies.
You can also read my review of last year’s future of copyright contest anthology, which links to each selection. This year’s selections are notably less dystopian and take less of a position on what the future of copyright ought be.
I enjoyed judging this year’s contest, and hope it and any future iterations achieve much greater visibility. Current copyright debates seem to me to have an incredibly short-term focus, which can’t be for the good when changes which have supposedly produced the current debate are only speeding up. Additionally, and my one complaint about the contest other than lack of fame, is that “copyright” is a deeply suboptimal frame for thinking about its, and our, future. I will try to address this point directly soon, but some of it can be read from my contest entry of last year (other forms of info regulation with different policy goals being much more pertinent than quibbling over the appropriateness of the word “copyright”).
The Open Hand Project looks like a good idea, and realistic — I couldn’t discern the latter at a glance, but it seems several projects to greatly decrease the cost and enhance the functionality of prosthetic hands through use of 3D printing exist (e.g., another advanced project and a mechanical-only one).
How many widely shared cultural references spring from recent free cultural works, apart from ? Zero? If anyone was to pursue a kill hollyweb project as I sketched out, manufacturing many — and reviving more found in old public domain works — would be part of the plan.
I’ve mentioned in writing peer production of (free) cultural relevance afewtimes over the past couple years, and probably will more soon. I think it may be a major missing tool holding back freedom. Clearly most knowledge goods can be created without exclusivity (and if we can’t build or perform the knowledge equivalents of pyramids or mass games without, consider what we gain instead), but creation is not primarily what proprietary vendors offer — rather promotion and distribution is. Isn’t it time to compete directly?
Last year I was impressed with Modern Poland Foundation’s crowdfunded (the prize set by donations) Future of Copyright contest — my entry and review of the winners/contest anthology. I’m honored to be on the jury for this year’s contest. Please donate (deadline July 7) to support the prize, enter your text or audiovisual work (less than 15,000 characters or 10 minutes; deadline July>August 1), and spread the word.
I really encourage reading last year’s anthology (each entry linked from my review, or all as a pdf) and note how broadly and provocatively “future of copyright” might be construed. Also, all entries are BY-SA licensed; some may be useful as remix material.
Addendum 20130706: The deadline for entering a work in the contest has been moved to August 1. The deadline for donating to support the prize is still the end of July 7, pacific time: 35 hours from the time I write this. Rules and donation info both on the same page, http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/future-of-copyright-contest-2-0
The nominal goal of US$500 has been met, but more support is welcome. If you’re into patron rewards, the $50 level is probably worthwhile — good for a printed book of the top entries. Last year I donated at a similar level and was surprised to receive a thin large format volume in hard binding, scanned above. (But I have no idea what the organizers have planned this year.)
Unlikely I’ll attend Wikimania 2013 in Hong Kong (I did last year in DC). In lieu of marking myself as an interested attendee of proposed sessions, my list of 32 particularly interesting-to-me proposals follows. I chose by opening the proposal page for each of the 331 submissions that looked interesting at first glance (about 50) and weeded out some of those.
I suspect many of these proposals might be interesting reading for anyone generally curious about possible futures of Wikipedia and related, similar, and complementary projects, but not following any of these things closely.
Long term, the only way the DRM threat is going to be put to rest is for free cultural works to become culturally relevant.
I’ve complained many a time that rearguard clicktivism against bad policy is not a winning strategy — especially when such campaigns don’t also promote free-as-in-freedom software and cultural works — because as I put it one of those times:
In a world in which most software and culture are free as in freedom there would be no constituency for attacking the Internet (apart from dictatorships and militarized law enforcement of supposed democracies)
But I’m at fault too for not laying out a specific plan for making some free works culturally relevant, let alone carrying out such a plan.
crowdfund minimum number of subscriptions needed to begin
subscriptions used to really nicely package/stream and promote free as in freedom video
start with 1 feature-length video selection each month (perhaps even quarter during a beta phase)
mix of contemporary (of which there isn’t much yet) and older public domain movies
limited, promoted releases concentrate subscription audience: focused increase of cultural relevance, one work at a time
given enough subscriptions, start funding new free videos
obviously videos would be DRM-free, in free formats, all software used free software, and all ancillary material also free-as-in-freedom
Good idea? Run with it, or if you’d like to subscribe or otherwise help create it in any way, fill out this 3 question survey. Bad idea, but still care? Let me know via the survey. Or mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact user mlinksva on some other usual channel.
“Kill Hollyweb” is in part a reference to the Y Combinator Request For Startups 9: Kill Hollywood. The plan above isn’t really a Kill Hollywood plan as it isn’t about replacing movies with some other form of entertainment.
More seriously, why not give a gift to all? Extrapolate a bit from notices found on individual works (examples abound, often stipulating a public license, but a see classic one, stipulating public domain):
Unless stated otherwise, everything by me, Mike Linksvayer, published anywhere, is hereby placed in the public domain.
Evocation and scalability before equivocation and specification of edge cases and mechanisms to handle them.
Other random acts of kindness, calculated acts generating positive externality, and atavistic art, all welcome.
I used to privately poke fun at the Open Knowledge Foundation for what seemed like a never-ending stream of half-baked projects (and domains, websites, lists, etc). I was wrong.
(I have also criticized OKF’s creation of a database-specific copyleft license, but recognize its existence is mostly Creative Commons’ fault, just as I criticize some of Creative Commons’ licenses but recognize that their existence is mostly due to a lack of vision on the part of free software activists.)
Some of those projects have become truly impressive (eg the Public Domain Review and CKAN, the latter being a “data portal” deployed by numerous governments in direct competition with proprietary “solutions”; hopefully my local government will eventually adopt the instance OpenOakland has set up). Some projects once deemed important seem relatively stagnant, but were way ahead of their time, if only because the non-software free/open universe painfully lags software (eg, KnowledgeForge). I haven’t kept track of most OKF projects, but whichever ones haven’t succeeded wildly don’t seem to have caused overall problems.
Also, in the past couple years, OKF has sprouted local groups around the world.
Why has the OKF succeeded, despite what seemed to me for a time chaotic behavior?
It has been a lean organization, structured to be able to easily expand and contract in terms of paid workers, allowing it to pursue on-mission projects rather than be dominated by permanent institutional fundraising.
It seems to have mostly brought already committed open activists/doers into the organization and its projects.
The network (eg local groups) seems to have grown fairly organically, rather than from a top-down vision to create an umbrella that all would attach themselves toview with great skepticism.
OKF is far from perfect (in particular I think it is too detached from free/open source software, to the detriment of open data and reducing my confidence it will continue to say on a fully Open course — through action and recruitment — one of their more ironic practices at this moment is the Google map at the top of their local groups page [Update: already fixed, see comments]). But it is an excellent organization, at this point probably the single best connection to all things Open, irrespective of field or geography.
Points 1-4 of my year-ago post, Which counterfactual public domain day? hold up well, but number 5 could be improved: it concerns optimal copyright term, which is a rather narrow issue, and viewed from an unhealthy side.
Instead, consider that in common language, and presumably to most people, “in the public domain” means something like “revealed to the public” or “not secret”, as the first definition currently presented by Google reflects:
public domains, plural
The state of belonging or being available to the public as a whole
Not subject to copyright
the photograph had been in the public domain for 15 years
a grazing permit on public domain
It’s not clear how Google’s computers selected those definitions, but they did a good job: “intellectual property” focused definitions seem to have largely crowded out the common usage in written down definitions.
The common “available to the public as a whole” understanding reflects why I have been more recently careful to stress that copyright policy is a small part of information policy and that reducing copyright restrictions (anti-sharing regulation), all the way to abolition, are in this broader context moderate reforms — more thoroughgoing reform would have to consider pro-sharing regulation (as I’ve said many times, broadly construed; choose the mechanisms that fit your ideological commitments) — requiring information revelation, eg of computer program source code.