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Our shrinking commons

Today quoting from music or literature has come to be seen as theft. [18aug10]

In reviewing "Common as Air", a new book by Lewis Hyde, MacArthur Fellow and professor at Kenyon and Harvard, a story on Minneapolis's Star Tribune explains that «...we've moved radically far in a long process of intellectual enclosure, privatizing and shutting down a vigorous cultural commons».

Mark Kramer adds that «The United States' Founding Fathers supported far less restrictive commons than have come to pass... Copyrights and patents originated as brief trade-offs, minimal, transient monopolies granted to stimulate and reward invention».

While highlighting such path throughout US history and questioning these recent restrictions, "Common as Air" provides a «brilliant and absorbing account of the development of restrictive and enduring private ownership of shared experience. This new book develops, in Hyde's own words, "a model and defense of our 'cultural commons,' that vast store of unowned ideas, inventions and works of art that we have inherited from the past and that we continue to create.»

Read full review here.

Copyright uses and misuses in free software

The practice of copyright assignment applied to free software projects. [15aug10]

The issues around copyright assignment and free software have always been a controversial topic and have played a major part in many forks and schisms in free software projects. Copyright assignment can unify a project under common ownership, or it can be misused to impose control. Richard Hillesley looks at the uses and misuses of copyright assignment as it is applied to free software projects.

Copyright denotes ownership of code, it is regarded as property and as such it can be bought, sold or assigned. This applies to all copyrighted material, and is a weakness in all free software licensing, which is why the Free Software Foundation has always recommended that the ownership of GPL code be assigned to the FSF, which itself has caused ructions among some developers in the past, notably between the developers of Xemacs and GNU Emacs.

The GPL, or any other software licence, depends upon the framework of copyright law. Copyleft is a hack on copyright law that puts the rights and responsibilities back into the hands of the user.

Read more at H-online.

Brazil: Copyright Act to be reformed...

...and public consultation open until August 31st. [02aug10]

The Brazilian Copyright Act (Law 9.610/98) is going to be reformed. A public consultation is open until August the 31st, after an extension of the initial period of 45 days in order to expand the opportunity for participation.

More than 1,200 contributions about the proposed changes, which have sparked intense debate in the blogosphere and on Twitter, have been submitted since June 14th.

At the end of the consultation, the text will be redrafted based on the proposals made by the public. There is no deadline for the Executive to submit the project to the Congress.

More info [in Portuguese]: http://www.cultura.gov.br/consultadireitoautoral/

Open Book publishers

Free online access to UK academic works. [27jul10]

Open Book is an independent publisher run by academics for academics and for the readers of academic work. This UK-based Social Enterprise company publishes high quality, peer-reviewed monographs in the humanities and social sciences and ensures the widest possible distribution of its publications.

The Open Book website provides free online access to read digital versions of all publications, along with download of printable digital versions of both the entire book and individual book chapters, while allowing authors to maintain copyright on their own works.

More details: Openbookpublishers.com

Study of Open Access Publishing

Survey on practices and attitudes towards Open Access publishing. [20jul10]

This anonymous survey is being conducted by the SOAP (Study of Open Access Publishing) project, co-funded by the European Commission under the FP7 Grant Agreement Nr. 230220 (Science in Society Programme). The study is investigating publishing practices and attitudes towards Open Access publishing. More information about the SOAP project can be found on the project's public website.

This survey is primarily aimed at active researchers in public and private organisations, from all fields of the research in the sciences and humanities. It focuses on publication of research articles in peer-reviewed journals. It should take about 10-15 minutes to complete. Results will be made publicly available in the second half of 2010.

Click here to take the survey.

Copyright, Related Rights and the Public Domain

A scoping study by COMMUNIA member Prof. Severine Dusollier. [14jun10]

Within the activities of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Thematic Project on Intellectual Property and the Public Domain has just released a “Scoping Study on Copyright and Related Rights and the Public Domain” by COMMUNIA member Prof. Severine Dusollier (University of Namur, Belgium). The English version is now available as a PDF file.

The final recommendations, in particular, are focused on fostering a "positive protection of that could preserve Public Domain against privatisation", stressing the need to reinforce the existing protection of public domain works and to finalise key objectives for a robust public domain across the world.

Click here for more information.

Copyright and cultural diversity

A study on a 2005 UNESCO Convention for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. [09jun10]

The conclusions of a study completed by a Geneva-based lawfirm, which summarises the state of implementation of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (ratified by the EC in 2007), was presented to the Culture and Education Committee (CULT). The study focused on fields where the EU would be expected to provide leadership. A good deal of attention is paid to the regulatory implications of digital media and the research team adopts an emphatically critical approach to the idea of enhancing copyright.

During the workshop, the head of the study, Christophe Germann, said that while some copyright is necessary, the research team had come to the conclusion that too much copyright “is detrimental to diversity of cultural expression” and that policy-makers in the EU are generally overly exposed to lobbyists that “repeat the prevailing dogma about the need for better copyright law”. According to the assessment, policy-makers who only listen to the loudest and strongest voice fail to implement the parts of the Convention they consider most valuable; diversity of cultural expression is particularly threatened by IPRs “in markets that are dominated by big corporations exercising collective power as oligopolies”.

The study considered selective state aid mechanisms in the audiovisual field risky insofar as they not only represent an incentive to clientelism but also serve as a bad model for authoritarian regimes with regard to the possibility of covert censorship and inhibiting cultural entrepreneurship.

The UNESCO Study on EU implementation of the 2005 UNESCO Convention is available here, while a summary of the same study is available here. Additional material and more information are also available on the diversitystudy.eu website, with a French and German translations of its short version and the high level discussants' contributions to be released at the end of June 2010.

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