Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, University of New South Wales
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Obama's transition website freely licensed... and the online commons quantification implications is the web site of Obama and Biden's transition to government, and they've licensed the content with a Creative Commons Attribution licence. Kudos.

But when I read about this on, I went to and couldn't find any reference to Creative Commons. I looked at the HTML source and there was no reference to Creative Commons. It turns out that there is a page on the site about copyright policy, and this has a statement that covers all other pages on the site.

If this kind of licensing (having one page on your site that states that all other pages are licensed, and then linking to that page from all other pages on the site) is common (and I think it is), it means that just counting links to Creative Commons (or any other licence, for that matter) gives you a pretty bad estimation of the number of licensed pages out there.

As an example of what I'm talking about, consider the following comparison:
So our naive methodology for quantifying the online commons - i.e. counting links to Creative Commons licences - says that of these two sites, which are about the same size, and are both wholly licensed with Creative Commons licences, the first one contributes 230 times as much to the commons as the second.

I beg to differ.

(For more on this topic, and some ways it can be tackled, see my paper from iSummit. And stay tuned for more.)

(via, via

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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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Tuesday, August 05, 2008


The trip home

iSummit finished on Friday, including a great commons research forum where all the research track people discussed the future of commons research. There's not much more to say about that day, except to apologise to someone, I don't know who, for stealing their Stanley knife while taking down some wierd scaffolded canvas cube at the end of the day.

After the day finished, we all went to this big park, Moerenuma park I think it was called. There was silly dancing, of which I took part, but some people didn't take part and instead took pictures. Somewhere on the internet, you can probably find a picture of me dancing crazily, and for those readers who don't already know what I look like, try Flickr.

Catherine (my partner; did I mention she took the week off to come with me to Japan?) and I spent the weekend in Sapporo. We were invited by Robert Guerra to go for a day trip to the coast, but Catherine wasn't feeling well so we just hung around Sapporo, went shopping, and ate (more) good ramen.

Then it was a train to New Chitose airport, flying to Tokyo, train to Narita, overnight flight back to Sydney, and domestic flight to Canberra. I can't say it was much fun, and it turns out that sleeping on a plane (economy class, at least) is hard, though I did watch two movies: Kung Fu Panda and Red Belt. The former was definitely the best, though the latter was worth watching too.

But actually I think the best thing about the trip home was on the train from Haneda (Tokyo) to Narita airport, as the sun was setting. I only caught a few glimpses, but they were memorable: a very red sun through thin white cloud.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008


iSummit '08 Presentation

I've done my presentation at iSummit in the research track. My paper should be available soon on the site too.

In the same session, there was also a great talk by Juan Carlos De Martin about geo-location of web pages, but it was actually broader than that and included quantification issues. Read more about that here.

Tomorrow, the research track is going to talk about the future of research about the commons. Stay tuned.

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iSummit 08...

I'm just about to leave my hotel room and catch a bus to the convention centre for the day's summitting, where I will later present my paper "New Methodologies for Quantifying Licence-based Commons On the Web". I'll blog more later (I promise!), but I figured I should say something, if only briefly.

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