Barcelona-based avant/improv/appropriation/noise CD-R and now netlabel Hazard Records celebrates its 15th anniversary today (March 25). All of their releases are dedicated to the public domain (recent ones using CC0; for the trivia-oriented, note their pre-CC “no rights reserved” in the cover image above). I’ve been a dedicated listener since not long after they started uploading to the Internet Archive in 2004, 76 albums as of now, with one more each of the next four weeks coming in celebration of the anniversary. My top 4 easy listening recommendations…
Unfortunately many Hazard Records albums on the Internet Archive don’t have embedded artist/album/title metadata in the ogg/mp3/flac downloads; this being one of the main motivations behind my wishlist for that site. But nobody downloads anymore and the Internet Archive has a passable (for now, if you’re not totally expecting uninterrupted play across pages that newer sites support) embedded player, used in this post and on the site. Listen, enjoy, and share…links.
Now Blender Foundation (who primarily make the free software Blender 3D modeling, animation, video editing, and more program; they use open movie projects to push the software forward) is working on a feature-length animated film, Gooseberry, which would mark a new milestone (Sita Sings the Blues will surely remain the best feature length free film of any sort, but was made with non-free software and is 2D).
They have an ambitious crowdfunding goal of €500,000 to support the project. I pledged and hope you’ll join me. A few interesting bits from the campaign FAQ:
What quality can we expect? Like, compared to Sintel, or a Pixar movie?
As magic number for budget calculations, I use the “Months of work per minute of film”. This is including writing, coders, art, production.
For Big Buck Bunny that was 6. For Sintel it was 10. For Gooseberry we daringly want to go to 15 even. For a Disney or Pixar film, this number is easily 300 to 500. Go figure! But our film will be better than Sintel or BBB for sure.
What is this “exploitation window”
Even though everything will be free/open source, we will reserve for the final movie (renders, final edit, grade) a short period of exploitation. That ‘window’ is 3 months, starting at the official premiere (our own, or on film festival). Film distributors can pay us for the exclusive rights to show the film in theaters during that period. Or TV stations, or Netflix! After that, all gates go open and we release it as CC-BY for everyone.
I can’t complain about the non-free “exploitation window”, as there’s zero infrastructure for marketing and distributing free-as-in-freedom films; in the short term, the window might get the film to a wider audience and thus build its cultural relevance and value as a free film after the window. The existence of free and culturally relevant films will be a huge help to any eventual such marketing and distribution infrastructure, so best of luck to the Gooseberry team in all respects.
A 3D animated short film based in free/libre software, Tube is also a new experiment in distributed collaboration. It plays on the ancient Gilgamesh poem, in a variant of the hero’s progress that becomes the animation’s own frames.
Sympathy for the Strawberry is not one of my favorite Sonic Youth tracks, but the above titles made me think of it. I would heavily contribute to a crowdfunded free-as-in-freedom album by a reunited band sans Thurston Moore, call it Free Sonic Youth. Which part (free or Thurston-free) is most unlikely?
I vaguely recall in 1997 when David Bowie issued celebrity bonds, recently chronicled at a fan blog. I didn’t see them as a big deal: celebrity artists already had front-loaded payment via contract with record or other media companies, and their catalogs trade-able via ownership by the same, mostly public, companies. I suspect that despite the gimmick of individual celebrity bonds not taking off, an even larger proportion of such artists’ careers are effectively securitized these days, as their contracts with public companies are broader in scope (360 deals, covering live performance and everything else, in addition to recording sales and licensing). Am I wrong?
I recall more clearly a 2002 Bowie quote mentioned by the fan blog:
The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it’s not going to happen. I’m fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing…Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. So it’s like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again.
A lot of ambiguity and contradiction can be read into that quote, but “I’m fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years” taken alone is unambiguous, and turned out to be totally wrong. I didn’t think Bowie’s prediction was sound in 2002. Had I written down a prediction in 2002, it probably would’ve involved muddling along, with only minor differences from my prediction of last year. But I may not have expected essentially no change at all, in any direction.
In hindsight, this is unsurprising: the free/open/[semi]commons has offered zero product (noting that the product is marketing and distribution, not cultural works) competition to proprietary popular culture, and near zero policy competition, excepting last minute rearguard actions. Both “sides” have stayed well within their comfort zones, far from changing copyright (utilitarian works, digital delivery of locked-down entertainment). What trend I can make out does not look good: innovation is happening faster on the locked-down delivery side, in part because that side has less of a problem with a vision of info regulation constrained to the domain of copyright, and it doesn’t have an informal side which largely serves as a marketing and price discrimination mechanism for its opposite.
It was and is sad that the first thing to come to mind regarding the “absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music” is with regard to copyrestriction rents rather than changes in what one hears due to culture and technology (eg new genres and instruments), admitting there is an interplay, especially among industry and culture.
One idle speculation about this interplay I’ve made for many years, but don’t recall writing about: to what extent has copyrestriction, through encouraging the creation of new works with exclusive rents, made culture less shared — not only in the sense that all cannot access and use the culture around them — but also in the sense of being more fragmented across subcultures, and especially across generations? At the same time, copyrestriction probably encourages mass spectacle, which is anti-fragmentary, though distasteful to me.
But I’m fairly confident that however we muddle through the future of info regulation — even in the unlikely event of copyrestriction dystopia or abolition (perhaps dystopia from the perspective of copyright advocates; I would love to see a dystopian future story from that perspective) — the sounds enjoyed by many will both be very different from those enjoyed today, but also not at all a transformation of everything we ever thought about music.
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”).
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.)
Opus is now an open source, royalty-free IETF standard. See Mozilla and Xiph announcements and congratulations to all involved.
This is a pretty big deal. It seems that Opus is superior to all existing audio codecs in quality and latency for any given bitrate. I will guess that for some large number of years it will be the no-brainer audio codec to use in any embedded application.
Will it replace the ancient (almost ancient enough for relevant patents to expire) but ubiquitous MP3 for non-embedded uses (i.e., where users can interact with files via multiple applications, such as on-disk music libraries)? If I were betting I’d have to bet no, but surely long-term it has a better chance than any free audio codec since Vorbis in the late 1990s. Vorbis never gained wide use outside some classes of embedded applications and free software advocates, but it surely played a big role in suppressing licensing demands from MP3 patent holders. Opus puts a stake through the heart of future audio codec licensing demands, unless some other monopoly can be leveraged (by Apple) to make another codec competitive.
Also, Opus is a great brand. Which doesn’t include an exclamation point. The title of this post merely expresses excitement.
I published an Opus-encoded file July 30. Firefox ≥15 supports Opus, which meant beta at the time, and now means general release.
To publish your own Opus encoded audio files, use opus-tools for encoding, and add a line like the below to your web server’s .htaccess file (or equivalent configuration):
AddType audio/ogg .opus
Hopefully the obvious large community sites (Wikimedia Commons and Internet Archive) will accept and support Opus uploads as soon as possible. Unlike their slow action on WebM. Speaking of which the Mozilla announcement mentions “working on the same thing for video”. I can’t tell whether this means submitting WebM (probably more specifically the VP8 codec) to the IETF or something else, but good luck and thank you in all cases. [Update: The proposed video codec charter starts from some requirements not mentioning any particular code; my wholly uniformed wild guess is that it will be another venue for VP8 and H.264 camps to argue.] [Update 20120913: Or maybe “same thing for video” means Daala.] [Update 20120914: Greg Maxwell comments with a precise answer below.]
Currently the first autocompletion result upon typing “no copyright” into YouTube’s search is “no copyright law in the universe is going to stop me”, which is apparently a string used in the description of 108 videos on YouTube, and the title of at least one. It seems this phrase is primarily an anti-SOPA expression rather than an admonition to not take down whatever video is described.
Andy Baio pointed out late last year that disclaimers of intent to infringe others’ copyrights and claims of fair use frequently appear in the descriptions of videos on YouTube. He noted 489,000 and 664,000 results for the queries "no copyright" and "copyright" "section 107". Those numbers may have grown significantly in the last nearly 3 months, but should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Yesterday for me, “no copyright” obtained 906,000, while today YouTube has said both 972,000 and 3,850,000 to the same query. For “copyright” “section 107”, yesterday 771,000, today 418,000. I don’t know how many videos were on YouTube 3 months ago, but yesterday an empty query claimed 567,000,000; today I’ve seen 537,000,000 and 550,000,000 — maybe on the order of 1% of videos have some sort of copyright disclaimer. But there are variations that might not be picked up by the queries Baio used, including for example two of the descriptions I posted a few days ago.
Although they’re probably completely useless in preventing automated takedowns and in court (though it’s not entirely clear they ought be useless in either case), as expression they’re at the very least interesting, and perhaps more. Though they can be seen as “voodoo charms”, so can the ubiquitous “all rights reserved”, and even meaningful public copyright licenses can be seen as such to the extent they are misunderstood or totemic. My main objection to the disclaimers Baio brought attention to is that they’re clutter to the extent they crowd out writing or reading other information about works; and just about anything else is more useful, from provenance to expressions of appreciation, eg “In my opinion, one of the greatest songs of the ’80s.”
But my first reaction to such disclaimers is the wish that they would be more expressive, even substantial. Regarding the latter, in many cases the uploader has added something to or rearranged the work in question — e.g., where the work is a song, the addition of images, or the performance of a cover. How often does the uploader grant permissions to use whatever expression they’ve added? (I don’t know; one aggregate tool for exploring such might be the addition of &creativecommons=1 to the aforementioned queries, which will limit results to those marked as CC-BY.) One fairly well known case of something like this is Girl Talk’s All Day:
All Day by Girl Talk is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license. The CC license does not interfere with the rights you have under the fair use doctrine, which gives you permission to make certain uses of the work even for commercial purposes. Also, the CC license does not grant rights to non-transformative use of the source material Girl Talk used to make the album.
Too bad with the NonCommercial condition, and I really don’t like Girl Talk’s music (for something kind of similar that I prefer aesthetically and in terms of permissions granted, check out xmarx), but otherwise that’s a great statement.
Over the past few months someone or some people have made me aware of another example, one that replaces disclaimers with demands. You can see some of this on my English Wikipedia user talk page (start at “Common IP” — unfortunately webcitation.org doesn’t pass through internal links, so you’ll have to scroll down). It may appear that my correspondent is religious and communicating poorly through automated translation between Russian and English, but there’s a kernel of something interesting there. If I understand correctly, they think that without listening to the Beatles, one cannot develop morally (that comes from elsewhere, not on my talk page) and that per a variety of United Nations declarations concerning human rights and especially cultural diversity, anyone has the legal right and moral duty to share Beatles material. As far as I know they started this campaign at beatles1.ru and moved on to other sites, including Wikipedia. It is pretty clear that they’re not looking for links to beatles1.ru or some other site they control — I think they’re sincerely promoting something they believe in, not a money-making scam.
The flaws in their campaign are legion, not least of which is that there could hardly be a worse body of work than that of the Beatles around which to plead for rights to share in the name of cultural diversity. As the Beatles are one of if not the most popular acts ever, the most obvious conclusion is that more Beatles exposure must lower global cultural diversity. On the related issue of cultural preservation, super-famous material like that of the Beatles is going to survive for a long time in spite of copyright restrictions, even vigorously enforced (see James Joyce).
As to their persistent requests for some kind of permission from me to proceed with their campaign, I say two things:
As far as the copyright regime is concerned, the permissions I have to grant to you are nil.
As far as demands made in the name of human rights, no human requires permission from any other to pursue those. Godspeed to you, or perhaps I should say, Beatlespeed!
I want to thank my correspondent for causing me to look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent documents. The way they address “intellectual property”, to the extent that they do, is more curious than I would’ve thought. I leave that to a future post.
displayed under FAIR USE doctrine, pursuant to 17 USC S.107: “…the fair use of a copyrighted work…for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” THANKS AND CREDITS to Sir Master Steve Albini and Rapeman
Uploaded by albecatoblepaII on Jan 3, 2012 /81 views
From the album “Customs” (1989). In my opinion, one of the greatest songs of the ’80s.
p.s. I still wish I could recall who sang “Satan isn’t boring, he’s very talkative … Satan doesn’t need Sonic Youth around anyhow.”
Update 20120512: I was thinking of “Satan’s Buddies” by Couch Flambeau:
Uploaded by StripperTweets on Mar 7, 2010 /595 views
Last week I saw a play version of Little Brother. I winced throughout, perhaps due to over-familiarity with the topics and locale, and there are just so many ways a story with its characteristics (heavy handed politics that I agree with, written for adolescents, set in near future) can embarrass me. Had there been any room for the nuance of apathy, a few bars of Saturday Night Holocaust would’ve been great to work into the play. But the acting and other stuff making up the play seemed well done, I’m glad that people are trying to make art about issues that I care about, and I’d recommend seeing the play (extended to Feb 25 in San Francisco) for anyone less sensitive.
I frequently complain that free/libre/open software and nearby aren’t taken seriously as being important to a free and otherwise good society and that advocates have completely failed to demonstrate this importance. Well, much more is needed, but the above talks give me hope, and Sandler in front of as many people as possible would be great progress.
I took the above photo near the beginning of 2011. It has spent most of the year near the top (currently #2) of my photos hosted at Flickr ranked by their interestingness metric. Every other photo in the 200 they rank (sadly I don’t think anyone not logged in as me can see this list) has some combination of being on other people’s lists of favorites, comments, or large number of views. The above photo has none of that. Prior to this post it has only been viewed 33 times by other people, according to Flickr, and I don’t think that number has changed in some time. Their (not revealed) code must find something about the image itself interesting. Is their algorithm inaccurate? In any case the image is appropriate as the world of 2011 is ending, and in 2012 I absolutely will migrate my personal media hosting to something autonomous, as since last year someone (happens to be a friend and colleague) has taken on the mantle of building media sharing for the federated social web.
Speaking of which, I’ve spent more time thinking about social science-y stuff in 2011 than I have in at least several years. I’ll probably have plenty to say regarding this on a range of topics next year, but for now I’ll state one narrow “professionally-related” conclusion: free/libre/open software/culture/etc advocates (me included) have done a wholly inadequate job of characterizing why our preferences matter, both to the general public and to specialists in every social science.
I haven’t done much programming in several years, and not full time in about a decade. This has been making me feel like my brain is rotting, and contributes to my lack of prototyping various services that I want to exist. Though I’d been fiddling (that may be generous) with Scala for a couple years, I was never really super excited about tying myself to the JVM. I know and deeply respect lots of people who doing great things with Python, and I’ve occasionally used it for scripts over the past several years because of that, but it leaves me totally non-enthused. I’ve done enough programming in languages that are uglier but more or less the same, time for something new. For a couple months I’ve been learning Haskell and doing some prototyping using the Yesod web framework (apparently I had heard of Haskell in 2005 but I didn’t look at it closely until last year). I haven’t made as much progress as I’d like, mostly due to unrelated distractions. The biggest substantive hurdle has not been Haskell (and the concepts it stands for), but a lack of Yesod examples and documentation. This seems to be a common complaint. Yesod is rapidly moving to a 1.0 release, documentation is prioritized, and I expect to be really productive with it over the coming year. Thanks to the people who make Yesod and those who have been making Haskell for two decades.
Finally, in 2011 I had the pleasure of getting to know just a little bit some people working to make my neighborhood a better place, attending a conference with my sister, seeing one of my brothers start a new job and the other a new gallery, and with my wife of continuing to grow up (in that respect, the “better half” cliche definitely applies). Now for this world to end!