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Open Data, Open Society

Research project on public data openness in EU local administrations. [07jun10]

The project -- managed by Italian expert Marco Fioretti -- has three main phases. The first part will produce a report that discusses the role of fully accessible and reusable digital raw data in a truly open society, based on examples both from the European Union and the rest of the world. The second part of the project consists of an online survey to be launched this summer on the L.E.M website, to find out how many EU municipalities and regions are already making their raw data and procedures available in open formats and under open licenses. The final result will be another report, that analyzes the results of the survey and provides some guidelines and best practices for improving full access to public digital data.

Along with any comments or feedback, the author is primarily looking for real world stories of local businesses that:

- (worldwide) started and are sustainable just because the public data they need was made available by some public administration
- (preferably, but not only in the EU) cannot start at all, or have higher, unnecessary expenses, just because they need public data that are not publicly available at no cost.

Click here for more details.

"Copyright dogmatism wins a battle, not the war"

EP adopts "Enforcement of intellectual property" report.[05jun10]

On Tuesday, June 1st, the JURI committee of the European Parliament, adopted the Gallo report on the "Enforcement of intellectual property". As explained on La Quadrature du Net, this "ultra-repressive, dogmatic approach of a continued war against the sharing of cultural works over the Internet has prevailed in the JURI committee of the European Parliament."

Though the Gallo report is a non-legislative text, it shows that the Parliament may be unable to appreciate the need to reform copyright and its enforcement in a direction that serves the development of a creative economy and society. Whether or not the final report is adopted in its present form, citizens will express their views on the upcoming legislative projects and value policy makers who demonstrate their independence and forward thinking.

"The Gallo report shows how powerful the lobbying of a few anachronic industries can be on the European Parliament. Their influence on policy-making runs counter to the general interest and prevents the EP from exploring paths to a new creative economy. It must be offset in the next fights: the upcoming discussion of the ACTA agreement, the discussions on new criminal sanctions with the future revival of the IPRED2 directive, etc. Measures designed to enforce obsolete business models at the expense of fundamental freedoms won't bring any good to authors or to their public and must be continuously opposed", concludes Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for citizen initiative La Quadrature du Net.

Read more at La Quadrature du Net.

Digital Agenda for Europe

How to make every European "digital"? [02jun10]

Recently the the European Commission launched the Digital Agenda for Europe, an ambitious action plan for a digital economy. The Digital Agenda will contribute significantly to the EU's economic growth and spread the benefits of the digital era to all sections of society.

The Digital Agenda for Europe proposes a number of collective actions which must start now and continue over the next decade if we are to make "every European digital" – a digitally-empowered individual, with secure online rights and privacy protection, equipped to benefit from a vibrant and integrated digital EU market-place. Making this happen will require the active involvement of national, regional and local actors from all parts of society: government and business, citizen groups in all sectors from health and education to transport and energy, thinkers and - above all - doers.

The European Commission office in each country will be holding at least one session on the Digital Agenda for Europe.

More info: Digital Agenda for Europe.

When Copyright Goes Bad

A short film about the ongoing fight for fairer copyright laws. [26may10]

Last month Consumer International released a 14-minute documentary (available on YouTube) detailing the rise of copyright as a global consumer rights issue and the ongoing fight for fairer copyright laws.

The film features interviews with Electronic Frontier Foundation's Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann, Professor Michael Geist from the University of Ottawa Law School, Sunil Abraham from the Centre for Internet and Society, Hank Schocklee, co-founder of Public Enemy, and more.

"When Copyright Goes Bad" is released under a Creative Commons license, and is also available in English, French and Spanish.

"Where are the cuts?"

After the UK election, public spending under scrutiny. [24may10]

The Where Does My Money Go? project -- a free, interactive online tool launched last December by the Open Knowledge Foundation -- has been revamped after the UK election, with reductions in public spending now at the top of the Government agenda.

The project allows the public to explore data on UK public spending over the past 6 years, in an intuitive way using maps, timelines and graphs. The latest release includes:

- A new mini-app called ‘Where are the cuts?‘ which will capture and visualise spending cuts as they happen.

- A new dashboard for visualising and exploring spending by region, type or over time - breaking down the jargon to make it easier to understand official spending categories.

- A new Where Does My Money Go? data store. This houses all the cleaned-up, nicely formatted data, sourced from many different government departments, and makes it available both via the web and and an API, enabling others to reuse, investigate and re-present the data.

For more information, please check this OKF blog entry.

"Two Paths For The Future of Text"

Author S.B. Johnson talks about words that "could be copied, re-arranged, put to surprising new uses". [20May10]

In a recent lecture at Columbia University's Journalism School, US author Steven Berlin Jonhson addressed, among other things, the issue of today's web as a "commonplace" as opposed to a glass box. Therefore, he explained, «the force that enables these unlikely encounters between people of different persuasions, the force that makes the web a space of serendipity and discovery, is precisely the open, combinatorial, connective nature of the medium. So when we choose to take our text out of that medium, when we keep our words from being copied, linked, indexed, that’s a choice with real civic consequences that are not to be taken lightly.»

«When text is free to combine in new, surprising ways, new forms of value are created. Value for consumers searching for information, value for advertisers trying to share their messages with consumers searching for related topics, value for content creators who want an audience. And of course, value to the entity that serves as the middleman between all those different groups.»

Read the entire lecture transcript here.

Copyright rules need to return to their roots

A crucial step to protect creativity, suggests The Economist. [11apr10]

The Apr 8th print edition of the weekly The Economist includes an opinion column titled: Copyright and wrong: Why the rules on copyright need to return to their roots. Expanding on the Copyrights and wrongs section launched last year, here is this column's opening:

«WHEN Parliament decided, in 1709, to create a law that would protect books from piracy, the London-based publishers and booksellers who had been pushing for such protection were overjoyed. When Queen Anne gave her assent on April 10th the following year—300 years ago this week—to “An act for the encouragement of learning” they were less enthused. Parliament had given them rights, but it had set a time limit on them: 21 years for books already in print and 14 years for new ones, with an additional 14 years if the author was still alive when the first term ran out. After that, the material would enter the public domain so that anyone could reproduce it. The lawmakers intended thus to balance the incentive to create with the interest that society has in free access to knowledge and art. The Statute of Anne thus helped nurture and channel the spate of inventiveness that Enlightenment society and its successors have since enjoyed.

Over the past 50 years, however, that balance has shifted. Largely thanks to the entertainment industry’s lawyers and lobbyists, copyright’s scope and duration have vastly increased. In America, copyright holders get 95 years’ protection as a result of an extension granted in 1998, derided by critics as the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act”. They are now calling for even greater protection, and there have been efforts to introduce similar terms in Europe. Such arguments should be resisted: it is time to tip the balance back.»

Along with the full article, it is interesting to read the over 40 comments posted so far by its readers.

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