Donna Wentworth
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About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

What Does "Copyfight" Mean?

Copyfight, the Solo Years: April 2002-March 2004

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Monthly Archives

March 31, 2008

Google Advanced Search Adds Licensing Info

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Riffing on the same theme as compfight, Google has added a feature to its advanced search that lets you find Web pages with explicit usage rights as a search parameter. The parameter lets you specify a few combinations of free to use, share, and modify.

Unfortunately, the feature is buried by default under a collapsed page region. It's one click to expand, but I wonder if many people - even advanced search users - will go that extra step. Most searchers I know are in a hurry to get results.

The search form provides a link to an explanation of Usage Rights, which includes a further link to Creative Commons. It's not exactly the kind of feature that will drive awareness and publicity, but it's a small step forward.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Tech

March 26, 2008

The Onion Explains FCC Censorship

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Onion Network News gives us a guideline for how to figure out whether the FCC will find something obscene or permissible. Maybe the Supreme Court should include this in their review.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Humor

Update on the Gaiman Experiment

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Neil Gaiman posted an update on the experiment of making American Gods free online to read. Numbers from Harper Collins, which is hosting the e-book, show a decent number of unique views and a fair number of page impressions. If their numbers and my math are right the average viewer is reading about 45 pages online, which is 1-2 chapters.

That's not much for a full-length novel, but apparently it's enough to interest people, since H-C reports that weekly sales of the book have gone up threefold since the start of the experiment. Sadly there's no way to correlate sales data with the free online read data. Perhaps it's new readers, perhaps it's people remembering they meant to buy it anyway, or replacing an old copy. Perhaps it's people dissatisfied with the cumbersome online interface but interested enough to invest their cash in getting a better interaction.

One experiment is just a data point and doesn't necessarily tell us a whole lot. However, the positive trends in all these numbers are probably good enough leverage for Gaiman to push the experiment further. We shall see. Meantime, it's probably not wrong to say "free books online sells more paper copies." I think that's what Cory said last year.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Interesting People

March 25, 2008

Sharing, Part of the Power of Everybody

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Clay Shirky gave a talk at the Berkman Center covering some of the ideas from his new book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. The video is online from Harvard under a Creative Commons license. The focus of the talk is Shirky's notions about the enabling power of the Net and along the way he has a lot of interesting things to say about sharing, including Napster and a variety of other collective sharings like American dubbings of Japanese anime.

There's a lot of power in sharing and Shirky points to several interesting examples of that power. The video is a bit long and definitely not high production value, but definitely worth the time. I need to read the underlying book to parse through the ideas more fully than I can get from a single talk.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Interesting People

March 20, 2008

March 17, 2008

March 14, 2008

Did IP and Hollywood Shenanigans Sink New Line?

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

File this under "rampant speculation." The headline is that New Line Cinema, maker of the Lord of the Rings movies, is calling it quits, with top execs out and assets being snapped up by Warner Brothers. Question: did the ongoing legal problems over those movies sink the studio?

End of last year it looked like New Line was in the clear, having finally settled its long-running legal battles with Peter Jackson, and green-lighting two "Hobbit"-based movies. But just about four weeks ago trouble broke out again with the Tolkien estate suing New Line for... well let's call it "cheating them blind."

Ironically, just about the time this suit was filed I pointed to an LA Times piece on how Disney had screwed over a naive young author. The Tolkein estate isn't young and it has lots of money to hire lawyers. Their primary claim seems to be the same, though - given the massive grosses taken in by the Rings movies they've been paid, um, let's see here... NOTHING.

I can't figure out from the various news stories whether WB is taking on all of New Line's debts and obligations or whether those will be shed the way New Line's 600 employees will be. Assuming that WB still wants to see the Hobbit movies made (on the "we will make another kajillion dollars this way" theory) then they'll probably come up with some kind of settlement that leaves them in clear control of the rights.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Rumor and Gossip

March 12, 2008

Artists and How to Support Them

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Kevin Kelly has caused a bit of a stir by putting out a model for patronage support of creative people. His concept is that of a "true fan" and the piece's title is "1,000 True Fans". The idea is that if a person was willing to spend about one day's salary (Kelly picks the arbitrary sum of $100) then an artist could be supported by one thousand such people.

This is on the surface a very attractive idea, not least because the numbers seem manageable. Most people well enough off to be regularly on the Net probably can manage a $100 donation. Most people can conceive of appealing to an audience of 1,000. It's almost the polar opposite of the mega-millions/blockbuster mentality that pervades so much corporate media production, from books to movies to music and so on.

Unfortunately the idea isn't as appealing once you dig past the ideal surface and into the gritty details. Probably the best counter-analysis I've read so far is John Scalzi's: "The Problem With 1,000 True Fans."

Scalzi starts from the point of being someone who probably has at least that many True Fans already. And then points out a number of uncomfortable things, such as those fans being drawn from a base population that is at least two orders of magnitude greater. And that even though the tens of thousands of well-off Netizens represents a good pool of people from which Fans may be drawn it's still a very small pool and quickly exhausted.

Just to pick my own personal favorite example, the south-by-southwest festival this month features over 2000 bands, interactive artists/designers, filmmakers, and other creative types. Supporting just that one festival by Kelly's patronage model would consume nearly a quarter-million True Fans. And that doesn't even scratch the surface of the vast sea of writers, musicians, and artists who would like to get paid and maybe even make a living from their creative work.

That doesn't make Kelly's idea stupid - it just makes it not-completely-thought-out, which is OK. Right now you can cast your eyes around the Web and find a hodgepodge of "Donate" buttons and similar mechanisms for fans to express their direct support of creative types; these also have their pros and cons. We need more big thoughts on how to develop alternatives to (that can co-exist with) large corporate funding.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Big Thoughts

March 4, 2008