“This is how you defend the internet”: Holmes Wilson from Fight for the Future at MIT Center for Civic Media

Liveblog: Holmes Wilson, a co-founder and co-director of Fight for the Future was speaking at the MIT Centre for Civic Media on internet activism. Fight for the Future was one of the driving organising forces behind the SOPA/PIPA protests. In this talk, Wilson discusses the strategy and challenges of organising the protests, and the potential that the huge energy accompanying the protests can be channeled for future campaigns.
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Wilson’s main point is that internet activism is hard, but not that hard – that the successes of the SOPA/PIPA protests can be replicated. He starts from the position that the internet gives people a massive new power of freedom of expression, but that power is inherently fragile. He then argues that in order to succeed in defending the internet, we need to make everyone an activist. Wilson is hopeful that it is not difficult to do this because “people are on our side”.


Agreeing on a fair price for free and open works

If a group of buyers of a book can get together, how much would it cost to buy the rights to make it free for everyone else?

One of the really interesting things I’m finding in this ongoing research about commons is that it is really difficult to agree on a price to release a work to the public for anyone to download for free. Approaching publishers with an offer to buy the right to publish a work for a certain amount of money, with no provision for future royalties, is a really tough process. As Eric Hellman from unglue.it explains, for publishers:

there’s no upside to setting a price. Because if they get their price, then they worry that they’ve set it too low. And if they didn’t – well…

Because “nobody knows” how successful any creative work is likely to be, it is hard for a publisher seeking to maximise revenue to agree on an up-front price that might displace future royalties. Of course, we might expect risk-averse publishers to prefer the certainty of an up-front price, but the very fact that people are willing to pay that price might suggest that there is demand for the work, and more revenue might be available on the market. I have heard from a few authors how difficult it is to get conventional publishers to agree on a price to make a work available in an open access due to this fundamental uncertainty of demand.

How to archive for the future? Daniel Caron and Eric Mechoulan at Berkman

Liveblogged from lunch talk at Berkman

Daniel Caron explains that disintermediation makes things much more difficult for archives. Previously, archives waited for material to come to them – saw their role as beginning after the selection process. Now, if archives are to be able to perform effectively, they need to be much more active in the selection of material. There are three big effects of disintermediated digital publishing:

  1. “Here comes everybody” – there are fewer filters that archives can rely on to select works;
  2. There are fewer official interventions in the organisation of material – classification and description;
  3. Access has also become more direct and less mediated – people no longer want to talk to people behind a counter to access archives.

Archives are struggling to triage or select material – they have gone from receiving easily understandable information to a superabundance of information:

As literacy and technological capacity increase, we go from relatively meaningful, understandable and masterable traces to noise.


Interview with Eric Hellman, founder of Unglue.it

Unglue.it is a crowdfunding platform that allows users (‘ungluers’) to contribute to the costs of publishing open access books. So far, the site has ‘unglued’ three books. The most influential of these is Ruth Finegan’s “Oral Literature in Africa“, a classic research monograph first published in 1970, which has had significant scholarly impact. The other Read more about Interview with Eric Hellman, founder of Unglue.it[…]

Drake IP 2013: Nic Suzor, Crowdfunding the Commons

At the Drake IP Roundtable 2013, I presented about my current research, looking at examples of collective action in free and open cultural production across the creative industries (see more detail). Slides available here. I noted that consortia-based open access are examples of ‘peaceful revolutions’ (Suber) that challenge the assumptions of copyright law. These models Read more about Drake IP 2013: Nic Suzor, Crowdfunding the Commons[…]

Drake IP 2013: Joshua Sarnoff, “Rethinking application drafting and examination”

Liveblogged from Drake IP Roundtable 2013. Joshua Sarnoff considers that we need a “Meta-theory” of reform in patent: this is not just about a better utilitarian calculus, but also fairness. The Patent Office is concerned with backlog of patents. There is a tradeoff between faster processing and reduced quality decisions. There are avenues congress, courts, Read more about Drake IP 2013: Joshua Sarnoff, “Rethinking application drafting and examination”[…]

Karen Sandrik, “Formality in patent licensing”

Liveblogged from Drake IP Roundtable 2013. Karen Sandrik asks what is the role of the common law in patent law right now? Argues we need a formal but forgiving approach. Where an inventor assigns a patent to a company, we need a formal but forgiving approach; when a firm assigns a patent to another firm, Read more about Karen Sandrik, “Formality in patent licensing”[…]

Drake IP 2013: Keith Robinson, “The aftermath of Akamai”

Liveblogged from Drake IP Roundtable 2013. Considers joint infringement of a method claim. There was a patent covering something like the iTunes system, with four steps performed by at least three companies. Because no entity performed all of the steps, the patent is not easily enforceable. Defendants may say: “We may perform steps A,B,C, but Read more about Drake IP 2013: Keith Robinson, “The aftermath of Akamai”[…]

Drake IP 2013: William Hubbard, “The competitive advantage of weak patents”

Liveblogged from Drake IP Roundtable 2013. William Hubbard argues that weaker US patents may improve US competitive advantage. What makes companies competitive? Two relevant issues: Factor conditions – materials, labour; but also advanced factors: information, highly educated labour, specialised infrastructure. Domestic rivalry – domestic rivalry turns out to be more important for global competitiveness because: Read more about Drake IP 2013: William Hubbard, “The competitive advantage of weak patents”[…]

Drake IP 2013: Sarah Burstein, “Costly Designs”

Liveblogged from Drake IP Roundtable 2013. Sarah Burstein discusses the costly screens model and its applicability to designs. The model divides the world based on private and social value of IP rights. Masur & Fagundes posit that there are no patents that had low private but high social value. Low value patents are just a Read more about Drake IP 2013: Sarah Burstein, “Costly Designs”[…]