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Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Copysquare and Konomark

You know how sometimes you're not getting anything done and so even blogging about something you haven't thought about for a couple of months seems like progress? But I should have blogged about this by now anyway, and that's justification enough.

Back at iSummit '08, there was a presentation by Eric E. Johnson, Associate Professor at the University of North Dakota Law Faculty. In fact a full paper is available on the iSummit research track website, here.

You could read the full paper but I'm not expecting you to. I only browsed it myself. But I sat down for a while and talked to Eric, and his ideas were interesting. I think that's the thing that impressed me most about him. He was thinking outside the square (apropos, try to join these 9 dots with 4 straight lines, connected end-to-end; hint: start at a corner).

Hmm... I probably just lost half my readers, and I didn't even get to Copysquare and Konomark.

This is Konomark:

It's a way for you to say you're willing to share your intellectual property. It is not a licence. It is not a legal mechanism; it has no legal effect. It's the IP equivalent of this t-shirt. You don't want to grant an irrevocable licence to all, but if people ask you for permission to re-use or re-purpose your work, there's a good chance you'll say yes, and you certainly won't be offended that they asked. It's one brick in the foundation of a culture of sharing. I think Lessig would approve.

This is Copysquare:

Okay, that's just the icon. Copysquare is actually a licence. I'm not sure if it's fully developed yet, but it's close. It's main focus is for people who want to create small, quality creative works that can be included in larger productions, such as movies.

The example Eric gave is a cityscape scene in a TV show, where most of the show is filmed indoors, but there are these little clips that remind the viewer of the geographic location of the story. The show that springs to mind is House, MD. I'll quote Wikipedia:
Exterior shots of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital are actually of Princeton University's Frist Campus Center, which is the University's student center. Filming does not, however, take place there. Instead, it takes place on the FOX lot in Century City.
Here's what Eric E. Johnson said to explain the licence (from his blog post about it, also linked above):
Copysquare uses three basic license provisions to pursue its aims: (1) a requirement of notification, (2) a right to reject, and (3) “favored nations” treatment.
He goes on to give this paraphrasing of the licence:
"You can use my creative work – film footage, picture, sound effect, etc. – in your creative work, but you must notify me that you are doing so (the notification provision), give me a chance to opt out (the right to reject), and you need not pay me or credit me, but if you pay or provide credit to others for the same kind of contribution, you must pay me and credit me on an equal basis (the favored-nations provision).”
So say you were the person who took that aerial shot of the Princeton Campus. You put your stuff on the web and copysquare it. Someone uses it in their YouTube videos, uncredited, not-paid for, but lets you know first and so that's cool. Someone else tries to use it in a McCain campaign add, and you assert your right to reject. And the production crew from House, MD., use it, tell you, credit you (because they credit others) and pay you (because they pay others). And everyone is happy, except probably not McCain because he is way behind in the polls right now.

I'm not the law expert, but if it works like this, I think it's pretty neat. I like the favoured nations idea: if you're producing a work on a shoestring budget, use my contribution freely; but if you're paying others, pay me too. Note that this is not in fact about whether your project is for a commercial product. It's about whether it's a commercial production. The idea, as Eric explained to me, is that you're happy for small time players, say independent film producers, to use your work. But if there are credits in that independent film, you want to be in them. And if Hollywood is going to use your work, you want a little something financially, just like everyone else working on the film is getting.

Damn, I thought this was going to be a short blog post. Well, I guess it was for those of you who got distracted by the nine-dots puzzle and stopped reading. (Didn't try? There's still time.)

A commons of copysquared material?

So around about when Eric was giving his presentation at iSummit, I was thinking about how to define 'the commons' (for my purposes). It was something I wrote about in my paper and talked about in my presentation. And I realised that by my definition, konomark and copysquare material weren't included. In fact it's how I came to talk to Eric, and I put it to him that copysquare wasn't a commons based licence.

No surprise, he accepted my argument (it was, after all, only an argument from definition), but we both agreed that this doesn't make copysquare any less useful. Anything that helps the little guy get noticed, get credited, get paid if his work is useful enough, and promotes sharing, has got to be good.

It seems to me that konomark and copysquare each fill a niche in the sharing space. In fact niches that, before iSummit, I hadn't realised existed.

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Blogger pfctdayelise said:
They're quite clever. And indeed it now seems odd that they didn't exist before. Thanks for posting about them!
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