Latest  News

Public domain and the commons revisited

"How shall we govern the commons?": this was the main question addressed by David Bollier in his recent luncheon talk at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society - member of the COMMUNIA Network. Bollier and the Center faculty discussed his new book, Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own, where he traces the origins of free software, Creative Commons licenses and the online “sharing economy”. They also examined how commoners assert differing notions of freedom, community boundaries, social norms and reliance on law to protect the integrity of their shared resources.

Blogging live from the event, Ethan Zuckerman reports that according to Bollier, "until roughly 2000 the public domain was the closest we had to the commons. Copyright traditionalists saw it as a junkyard, a wasteland of government documents and old sheet music." While David Weinberger, in another live post highlights the fact that "We have to find respectful relationships among private businesses and commons. Maybe we need new revenue models." In other words, concludes Bollier, "we need a new taxonomy of digital commons, in order to find ways to protect the integrity of the shared resource and the community itself."

Listen or watch the entire talk here (71 min). [14may09]

New study: Copyright exception for legalising file-sharing is feasible

A landmark study by the Institute of European Media Law (EML) found that a levy on Internet usage legalising non-commercial online exchanges of creative works conforms with German and European copyright law, even though it requires changes in both. The German and European factions of the Green Party who had commissioned the study will make the “culture flat-rate,” as the model is being called in Germany, an issue in their policies. The global debate on a new social contract between creatives and society is getting more pronounced by the day. Two models are emerging: a free-market approach based on private blanket licences and voluntary subscriptions, and a legal license approach based on exceptions in copyright law and mandatory levies, that now has been proven legally feasible and appropriate by the EML study.

Download here a pdf article (1.1MB, 30 pages) with more details and findings about the study. [12May09]

COMMUNIA Conference 2009: Online registration now open

It is now time to register for the Second COMMUNIA Conference (Torino, 28-30 June 2009): the fillable online form is ready here.

Also available are detailed procedures for booking your hotel (at special rates).

Please note that COMMUNIA members will not be charged the registration fee, but they need to pay for the gala dinner if attending. It is also essential to submit your online registration form by 12 June 2009: for organizational reasons, we need to know the exact number of participants at that date.

For more information and/or to register, please click here. [06may09]

Sound copyright term extension to pass EU first reading

Against widespread dissent and controversy, yesterday the European Parliament voted to allow sound copyright term extension to pass a first reading. The proposal now moves forward to the Council of Ministers where it is currently blocked by member states.

The press-release issued by The Open Rights Group and Sound Coyright explains: "4 out of the 7 main groups (ALDE, GREENS/EFA, NGL, IND/ DEM) together with a cross party platform of MEPs voted to reject the proposal. Internal opposition threatened the group positions of the two largest parties (PSE and EPP) as several national delegations and key MEPS also joined the fight to reject. We understand that, in total, 222 voted in favour of rejection, 370 against. The final vote was 317 in favour, 178 against, 37 abstentions. A key amendment to ensure benefits accrued only to performers was also rejected. [24apr09]

Full report on London Workshop (26-27 March 09)

The 5th Communia workshop started with two introductory presentations by Ian Angell and Tom Watson.

Ian Angell, Professor at the London School of Economics, gave a few lively examples on difficulties and costs involved with ‘rights clearance’ as a lecturer. While the scope of exceptions is often unclear, it is hard to understand what is a substantial use. If access is impossible, innovation will suffer and it will also create an exodus to alternative markets, like all forms of prohibition.

According to Tom Watson (UK Minister for Digital Engagement and Civil Service Issues), web-science has to be invented as a discipline, as computer science was invented to answer to a new technology which has an impact for society and education. His department is asking for a massive cultural change, based on 4 kinds of openness: feedback, conversation, information, innovation. He wants a decent easy-to-use licensing for government information to encourage the public to use and reuse, material should be free unless there is a reason to charge for it, and control should be available against abusive use. [21apr09]

Interactive map of all COMMUNIA Members

Members map Finally our worldwide interactive map including all COMMUNIA Members is up & running. It provides a quick overview of member countries and an easy way to look up their descriptions. Give it a try! [17apr09]

5th Communia Workshop: papers and presentations

London School of Economics Accessing, Using, Reusing Public Sector Content and Data

The 5th COMMUNIA workshop, co-organised on 26-27 March by the Open Knowledge Foundation and London School of Economics, focused on how we can unlock the huge potential of public sector material. It also examined the current obstacles to doing this -- legal, technological and social -- as well as how they can be overcome. In particular, much of the value of public sector material can only be realized if it is reused and interlinked -- both activities that are currently difficult for a variety of legal and technological reasons.

Across the world there is a growing recognition of the social and commercial value of public sector content and data: be that the text of laws, the holdings of public museums, or the geospatial and environmental information collected by government agencies. Moreover, it is likely that better access to and use of such information is central to improving governance and increasing democratic participation. Therefore, the event focused around the claim that, wherever possible: Public sector content and data should be made available, both legally and technically, for public re-use.

A range of presentations and policy recommendations from researchers, policy-makers, stakeholders and representatives from Europe, the United States and Australia is available from the download section and by clicking on the presentations titles in the agenda below. Policy recommendations and abstracts are also available as two separated downloadable documents and a full report can be accessed here.

India: Traditional Knowledge Digital Library

Photo under Creative Commons license, from:

In order to prevent the so-called yoga piracy, where people claim patents and/or copyrights on yoga postures and techniques (asanas) found in ancient texts that originate in India, the government has started scanning ancient texts and documenting yoga asanas. The information is being stored in the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, an electronic encyclopedia of India's traditional medicine, which will be made available to patent offices globally.

According to an article on Global Voices Online, so far 600 asanas have been added to the database, and the team plans to record at least 1,500 yoga postures by the end of this year. This database will be part of the world's first traditional knowledge digital library, which already includes over 200,000 medical formulations of Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani systems of medicine.[16march09]

Building Alexandria 2.0

Open Library Logo The current issue of the UK weekly The Economist has an interesting portrait of Brewster Kahle as The Internet's librarian, detailing his wider goal: to build the world’s largest digital library. The article also covers several related issues, including public domain books and universal knowledge access.

As we noted earlier, Kahle's Internet Archive wants to built a non-profit digital archive of free materials—books, films, concerts and so on—to rival the legendary Alexandrian library of antiquity. This - points out The Economist story - "has brought him into conflict with Google, the giant internet company which is pursuing a similar goal, but in a rather different (and more commercially oriented) way." [11march09]

“Federica 2.0”: open access to education, in Italy and elsewhere

Federica Logo, under Creative Commons license A comprehensive e-learning portal established in 2007 at Federico II University in Naples, Italy, is launching its release 2.0. Joining the Open Education Resources community, "Federica" provides free, open and easy access to an amazing collection of educational resources – not just for students of the local institution but for any Internet users worldwide.

After five years of research and innovation, Federica 2.0 now offers over 100 courses covering all 13 University departments — from Engineering to Medicine, Social Studies and Agriculture. Content currently available online include more than 2,000 lessons, 1,600 documents, 20,000 images, 300 videos, and 600 podcasts. Each online course provides access to lesson abstracts, research material, multimedia resources, video and audio files, extra Web hyperlinks. [10march09]

Members map
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map including all

Presentations, papers and other material related to COMMUNIA events are available in the download page

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