Author: admin

Nina Paley looking jazzy

QCO Artist-in-Residence Nina Paley’s interview with at Baixa Cultura, conducted by email with journalist and photographer André Solnik. The English below is the original; Baixa Cultura translated Nina’s answers.

1. When your interest on free culture has begun?

For a long time I thought copyright terms were too long and the law could use reform, but I didn’t really understand Free Culture until October 2008, after months on the film festival circuit with my then-illegal feature Sita Sings the Blues. Free Culture was too audacious a concept for me to think about clearly until then. One morning I finally got it — freeing my work would be better for the work — and I spent the next half-year preparing for a Free, legal release of SSTB. That finally happened in March 2009, when I finally cleared all the necessary (and bullshit) licenses at a cost of about $70,000 to myself.

2. Tell me in short why artists should free their work. Is it a good choice for both renowned and new artists?

From my article How To Free Your Work:

Why should you Free your work? To make it as easy as possible for people to share your work — as easy as possible for your work to reach eyeballs and ears and minds — to reach an audience. And to make it as easy as possible for audience support — including money — to reach you…. Copy restrictions place a barrier between you, the artist, and most forms of support. By removing the barriers of copyright, you make it possible to receive money and other kinds of support from your audience, both directly and through distributors, thereby increasing your chances of success.

3. Creative Commons has recently released the final draft of the version 4.0 of its licenses. What changes would you like to see? Do you think CC should keep on supporting the nonfree licenses?

Yes, CC should stop supporting the non-free licenses. What kind of “commons” is that?

4. Although they are probably the most known alternatives to more restrictive ones, they still remain unpopular compared to the “all rights reserved“. Why is that? Do you reckon people get confused by the many possibilities given by the CC licenses?

Most people who use CC licenses don’t understand what the different licenses mean; they just call all of them “Creative Commons” as if that means anything. CC’s modular system was a good idea, I see it as an experiment that was worth doing. But the results are in: it didn’t work. What we have now are a mess of incompatible licenses, most of which fail to contribute to any real “commons,” and an increase of confusion and misinformation.

You can’t really blame Creative Commons though — the problem is copyright law. Nothing can fix it at this point. Even CC-0, a valorous attempt to opt out of copyright, doesn’t work in practice, as my experience with the Film Board of Canada showed — even after placing SSTB under CC-0, their lawyers refused to accept it was really Public Domain, and made me sign a release anyway, just to allow one of their filmmakers to refer to it. I will be saddled forever with permissions paperwork even with CC-0. I’ll probably keep using CC-0, of course, but I have no expectation it will work as it’s supposed to.

5. The BY-NC-SA license, although nonfree, it’s pretty popular. Why do you think so? What are the main issues about licensing a work using it?

People are high-minded when they choose the -NC restriction, but it accomplishes exactly the opposite of their ideals. They want to “protect” their works from abusive exploitation from big corporate players. They don’t realize those big corporate players LOVE the -NC clause, because it’s a commercial monopoly. Big corporate players are all set up to deal with commercial monopolies: they have licensing departments and lawyers. It’s the big corporate players who can afford to license your -NC works. It’s your peers, small players with no legal departments and limited resources, who can’t. The -NC clause screws over your fellow artists and small players, while favoring big corporations.

The way to avoid abusive exploitation is to use CC-BY-SA, a Share-Alike license without the -NC restriction. This allows your peers to use the work without fear, as long as they keep it Free-as-in-Freedom. Big corporate monopoly players, however, are unwilling to release anything Freely: if they want to use your work, they’ll have to negotiate a waiver of the -SA clause. For this they will pay money. It works like a regular licensing deal: for $X you waive the -SA restriction and allow them to re-use the work without contributing to the community. I have had many corporate licensors offer me such contracts, although I didn’t sign any because I was such a Free license booster.

The only reason BY-NC-SA is popular is because people really haven’t thought it through.

6. Money seems to be one of the main worries artists have when they hear someone saying “free your work“. Is this “fear“ justified? Have you recovered all the money spent in the making of Sita Sings the Blues?

No, this fear is not justified. But your question sure is biased: “Have you recovered all the money spent in the making of Sita Sings the Blues?” As if with copyright I would have! I have made more money with Freeing my work than I ever did with copyright restrictions. Period. Where do people get this idea that putting a © on something will magically generate money? It doesn’t. If it did, I would fully support copyright, and be rich. Copyright is a “right to exclude,” not a right to make money. You are free to make money without copyright, and you stand a better chance to as well.

7. You have recently announced that SSTB is now in the public domain. Although now you are finally free of burocracy envolving copyright stuff and this action could help your movie to have more visibility, on the other side it could favour restricted modifications of your work (e.g.: a book inspired by SSTB released under “all rights reserved“). How do you weigh these two sides?

Eh, honestly I just don’t care any more. Let’s just put it out there and see what happens. If something terrible happens because I shared freely, I’ll learn from that. But I think it’s stupid to worry about what other people do, and try to control it, especially with broken laws. Even Free Share-Alike licenses require copyright law to be enforced, and copyright law is hopelessly broken. I don’t want to validate or support it in any way.

Licenses are not going to fix our problems. What is fixing our problems is increasing numbers of people simply ignoring copyright altogether. Instead of trying to get people to pay more attention to the law, as CC does, I’d rather encourage them to ignore the law in favor of focusing on the art. Licenses are the wrong solution. Art is the solution. Make art not law.

8. Are you keen on the free software movement as well? Any of your works was made using free softwares?

I’m attending the 2013 Libre Graphics Meeting in Madrid this year, to discuss building a good Free vector animation tool I can actually use. More in this article, It’s 2013. Do You Know Where My Free Vector Animation Software Is?

Lascaux Cave II: horse etc.

April 1, 2013 – AP.  Lawyers representing the 631 million known descendants of the painters of the famous Lascaux Cave paintings announced today a far-reaching plan to recover royalties from the more than 70 years of modern-era unlicensed reproduction of their ancestors’ work.

Said François Fraisant-Pître, who still lives in the area where his family painted aurochs and other fauna later driven extinct by more recent members of his family, “My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather understood the investment he was making for us, and it is to honor his memory that we now seek payment of the royalties that he rightfully expected to go to our benefit.”

The legal team emphasized that because the paintings were at least 17,000 years old, they could not be sure how many people had made copies in the intervening millennia, and that out of concern not to make any overly broad claims, they were only seeking payment for photographic and other reproductions dating from after the caves’ modern discovery in 1940.  “It is possible, of course, that others have entered the caves at various points in history and made use of this art,” said lead attorney Belinda Featherstonehaugh, herself a Lascaux descendant along with most of the population of the British Isles. “Of course, if we had any way to identify those infringers with certainty, we would attempt to recover royalties from their descendants today; however, without any reliable way to know who was there, we felt it best to err on the side of caution and discretion.”

Featherstonehaugh added that the families would be seeking additional compensatory damages from the estate of Georgia O’Keeffe, whose paintings of deer skulls and antlers from the American Southwest were “clearly derivative, and were made entirely without permission,” in the lawyer’s words.Lascaux Megaloceros

QuestionCopyright.org Executive Director Karl Fogel, however, criticized the recently announced enforcement effort, saying “This just shows how little has changed in seventeen thousand years.  The descendants may indeed have a valid legal claim, especially with the retroactive copyright term extensions of 7,500 B.C. and again in 600 A.D., plus the dropping of registration requirements at the start of the Holocene interglacial period.  But the suppressive effect this will have on the entire history of Western art is totally unjustifiable.”

“These lawyers and their clients,” Fogel went on to add “are just complete Neanderthals.  They can’t see, or won’t acknowledge, how the world has changed, how the economics of distribution have been completely upended by the arrival of the Internet.  They’re still stuck in the old model.”

 

 

 

 

 

Brain in jail.There’s been a persistent mistake in coverage of the Aaron Swartz case — a bad metaphor, but more serious than just a bad metaphor.  It’s a mis-framing that pulls people’s attention away from what actually happened and lures them into a familiar but wrong story.

This mistake has long been found in most coverage of anything related to unauthorized copying, including this case starting from Aaron’s arrest.  But it’s become even more noticeable now (and, to the many of us who care that Aaron’s life and work be represented accurately, more annoying) because there’s a particularly clear-cut example of it happening in many of the articles that focus on the prosecutorial overreach in this case.

I’m referring to the bizarre idea that when someone copies data, they’ve “taken” it from someone else, and that therefore it makes sense to talk about “returning” the data.

In Aaron’s case, journalists usually write some variant of this statement:

Aaron Swartz returned the data to JSTOR, and JSTOR then considered the matter over.

I don’t remember where I first encountered this misleading “returned the data” trope (there have been so many instances!), but one of the earliest times was in JSTOR’s own statement, from which some journalists may be unconsciously taking their cue:

“…Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011.” (JSTOR, Jan 2013)

(Or perhaps they’re taking their cue from U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, whose office initiated Aaron’s prosecution, and who said of it with almost wilful self-delusion “Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.”  No, I’m not kidding.  Yes, she really said that.)

The same odd framing started appearing in many places.  For example, here’s Rolling Stone:

“Among the most frustrating components of the ordeal was the fact that JSTOR, ostensibly the most overtly wronged party, had declined to press charges against Swartz after he returned the downloaded documents.”  (Rolling Stone, 16 Feb 2013)

There are so many other examples… this week, it happened in The New Yorker:

“Soon after his arrest, he returned the data he had taken, and JSTOR considered the matter settled” (The New Yorker, 11 Mar 2013)

I finally felt driven to write a letter, though it feels like bailing out the ocean at this point:

To the Editor,

Larissa MacFarquhar, in her article on the Aaron Swartz case (“Requiem for a Dream”, March 11th), perpetuates a common misunderstanding when she writes “Soon after his arrest, he returned the data he had taken, and JSTOR considered the matter settled”.

Aaron couldn’t have “returned” anything because he didn’t “take” anything.  His computer asked JSTOR’s servers to make copies of their data and send those copies to him, which they did.  The metaphor of “return” is nonsensical because JSTOR never lost anything in the first place.  Four pages later MacFarquhar quotes Swartz himself making this point: “…downloading isn’t stealing.  If I shoplift an album from my local record store, no one else can buy it.  But when I download a song, no one loses it and another person gets it.  There’s no ethical problem.”

What MacFarquhar should have written was that Aaron Swartz destroyed his copies of the data, and that JSTOR was satisfied with this destruction — a very different notion than that of “return”, but a much more accurate one.

 

-Karl Fogel

What can we do to get journalists to see that copying is not theft?  That data is not a physical object that needs to be “returned”?  That JSTOR was satisfied by copies of academic articles being destroyed, not returned?  That’s a pretty big difference: returning vs destroying.  It’s important to get it right.

Freedom.Author Leo Babauta at zenhabits.net/uncopyright:

I’ve made more money since releasing copyright, by far, than when I had copyright.

And:

In the 4+ years I’ve done this experiment, releasing copyright has not hurt me, the creator of the content, a single bit.

I think, in most cases, the protectionism that is touted by “anti-piracy” campaigns and lawsuits and lobbying actually hurts the artist. Limiting distribution to protect profits isn’t a good thing.

This is a writer who totally, completely gets it.  In fact, we’ll just reproduce the entire page here — it’s short, clear, and direct.  Leo says that in general he wants others to improve on his words, but we can’t improve on this:

Uncopyright

This entire blog, and all my ebooks, are uncopyrighted (since January 2008).

That means I’ve put them in the public domain, and released my copyright on all these works.

There is no need to email me for permission — use my content however you want! Email it, share it, reprint it with or without credit. Change it around, put in a bunch of swear words and attribute them to me. It’s OK.

Attribution is appreciated but not required.

I’d prefer people buy my ebooks, but if they want to share with friends, they have every right to do so.

Why I’m releasing copyright

I’m not a big fan of copyright laws, especially as they’re being applied by corporations, used to crack down on the little guys so they can continue their large profits.

Copyrights are often said to protect the artist, but in most cases the artist gets very little while the corporations make most of the money. In the 4+ years I’ve done this experiment, releasing copyright has not hurt me, the creator of the content, a single bit.

I think, in most cases, the protectionism that is touted by “anti-piracy” campaigns and lawsuits and lobbying actually hurts the artist. Limiting distribution to protect profits isn’t a good thing.

The lack of copyright, and blatant copying by other artists and even businesses, never hurt Leonardo da Vinci when it comes to images such as the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, or the Vitruvian Man. It’s never hurt Shakespeare. I doubt that it’s ever really hurt any artist (although I might just be ignorant here).

And while I’m certainly not da Vinci or Shakespeare, copyright hasn’t helped me, and uncopyright hasn’t hurt me. If someone feels like sharing my content on their blog, or in any other form for that matter, that’s a good thing for me. If someone wanted to share my ebook with 100 friends, I don’t see how that hurts me. My work is being spread to many more people than I could do myself. That’s something to celebrate, as I see it.

And if someone wants to take my work and improve upon it, as artists have been doing for centuries, I think that’s a wonderful thing. If they can take my favorite posts and make something funny or inspiring or thought-provoking or even sad … I say more power to them. The creative community only benefits from derivations and inspirations.

This isn’t a new concept, of course, and I’m freely ripping ideas off here. Which is kinda the point.

Counter arguments

There are a number of objects that will likely be brought up to this idea, and here are a few of my responses:

1. Google rank will go down. My understanding is that Google penalizes pages that have exact duplicates on other sites, when it comes to PageRank. But in 4+ years of uncopyright, I have had no loss in PageRank. Anyway, SEO isn’t important to me.

2. You’ll lose ebook revenues. If people buy my ebook and then distribute it to 20 people, and each of those distributes it to 20 more, and those to 20 more … I’ve lost $76,000 in ebook revenues. Perhaps. That’s if you agree with the assumption that all those people would have bought the ebook if it hadn’t been freely distributed. I don’t buy that. In this example, thousands of people are reading my work (and learning about Zen Habits) who wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s good for any content creator. Also: I’ve made more money since releasing copyright, by far, than when I had copyright.

3. Who knows what people will do with your work? Someone could take my work, turn it into a piece of crap, and put my name on it. They could translate it with all kinds of errors. They could … well, they could do just about anything. But that kind of thinking stems from a mind that wants to control content … while I am of the opinion that you can’t control it, and even if you can, it’s not a good thing. What if someone takes my work and turns it into something brilliant, and becomes the next James Joyce? Or more likely, what if they take the work and extend the concepts and make it even more useful, to even more people? Release control, and see what happens. People are wonderful, creative creatures. Let’s see what they can do.

4. What if someone publishes a book with all your content and makes a million dollars off it? I hope they at least give me credit. And my deepest desire is that they give some of that money to a good cause.

5. But … they’re stealing from you! You can’t steal what is given freely. I call this sharing, not piracy.

 


 

Okay, I guess there is one small tweak we could suggest:

It’s true that you can’t steal what’s freely given, but you also can’t steal what you don’t take away.  Even if Leo didn’t encourage sharing, making copies of his works (or anyone’s) would not be stealing, because copying is not theft.  Copying might be illegal, in some jurisdictions, but many things that are illegal are not stealing.  None of which changes the truth of what Leo says above, of course.

This web site is blocked.

Sound scary?

It’s about to happen in the U.S.  Actually, it already does, given that copyright enforcement is inherently censorship-based (something many legislators are curiously unable to say aloud).  But it’s about to get much worse: the SOPA / E-PARASITE and PROTECT-IP bills currently pending in the U.S. Congress would, among other things, make it easy for private sector monopolists to cut sites off from the Internet without even proving that illegal copying has taken place.  Join us and many others who are censoring their logos today to oppose these laws that would place the United States on a collision course with Internet freedom.

Sign the petition!

You’ll be in good company: Public Knowledge, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Free Software Foundation, Mozilla, Demand Progress, Fight For the Future, the Participatory Politics Foundation, Creative Commons, Wikimedia, and many more organizations (including us) have all stated their unequivocal opposition to these laws.  Even for-profit companies are putting their names on the line, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Yahoo, and AOL.

Giving monopolists control over the Internet’s address book is a terrible idea.  Apparently some elected officials in the U.S. are under the misimpression that they were elected by the copyright industry, not by human constituents.  Let’s correct that before it’s too late.

Want to learn more?  Read our previous article about it, or click on the infographic below:

How SOPA Works.

economics of artQCO Artist-in-Residence Nina Paley

Our artist-in-residence Nina Paley has started her first Kickstarter project — help her make her goal!

The result will be great little booklets that you can pass out to friends and colleagues who have questions about copyright.  When ready, they’ll be available from our store and, of course, they’ll be freely-licensed.  We’re planning to use Kickstarter for some other upcoming projects too; help us get started on the right foot, and help support Nina!

 

Here’s her description of the project:

I want to print at least a thousand Mimi & Eunice’s Intellectual Pooperty mini-books: Mimi & Eunice IP comics packaged into a 5.25″ x 3.5″ full-color 20-page booklet. The size is perfect for carrying in a wallet or purse, to conveniently produce whenever a conversation about art, culture and commerce starts going to crazy-town. How many times have you wanted to explain the problems of copyright simply and clearly? How many times have you longed to deflate pro-patent propaganda, but gotten into a convoluted abstract argument instead? Having these little books on hand can turn a heated debate into a friendly and entertaining conversation. I know, because I carry a prototype with me.

Unfortunately those print-on-demand prototypes cost $7 each to make. But by printing a large run on a regular press, the cost of each minibook drops to $3 or less (this is my cost, not retail). I should be able to get the per-book cost significantly lower (between $1 and $2), but I’m estimating $3 here to be cautious.The $3,000 is to pay for such a run. I will print as many mini-books as I can for $3,000 (or whatever I raise). The more booklets I can afford to print, the cheaper each booklet will be. Ideally each one will be so cheap they’ll be affordable to give away, or leave in laundromats and libraries a la Jack Chick tracts.

Finished books will be available in bulk at wholesale, and at the QuestionCopyright.org store.

To support this project, please go to its Kickstarter page.  Thanks!

–The QCO Team

Brandon Bell

This is a guest post by Brandon H. Bell, editor of Fantastique Unfettered, which he publishes under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license.  In this post he explains why.  We’re running it not because we agree with everything in it, but because we agree so strongly with his main points: that releasing works under freedom-friendly terms is compatible with profitability and helps deserving works avoid obscurity.  It’s great to see a small press fully embrace this.  The rest is by Brandon H. Bell…

Hail Caesar: Creative Commons and the Small Press

“It is not these well-fed long-haired men that I fear, but the pale and the hungry-looking.”
            –Julius Caesar

  1. Write story
  2. Get said story published
  3. Profit! Karma!

I believe short fiction is important. The small press magazine I edit (Fantastique Unfettered, aka FU) uses a Creative Commons license, CC-BY-SA, for reasons related to this view, and in service to the dual end-goals of money and karma on behalf of the writers we publish.

Our alignment cover of Fantastique Unfettered, Issue 1is not indie against corporate, small against large, or fan against pro. Those are foolish stances. Our alignment is one against obscurity [1], expressed via a pragmatism that acknowledges money may or may not follow our good karma. We certainly hope it does: our goal, after providing quality fiction to our readers, is to pay writers professional rates.

This article will appear in the second issue of FU, but I hope it’s not where you originally read it. You see, it carries the same CC-BY-SA license. A Creative Commons, Attribution, ShareAlike license, meaning that others can do pretty much anything they want with the article, but they must give attribution and release under the same. Each instance of a presentation, adaptation, or derivative of the article is, essentially, a finger pointed back at FU. Um, not that finger.

The old world-think of walled gardens and content farms suggests the only way forward is copyright extensions, possibly to perpetuity. Our old-thinkers recognize the current audience is merely the first audience. It’s a numbers game, and while individual creators will not make much to crow over statistically, the bulk IP of the mass of creators certainly will. These Caesars would own human culture, every song a commercial jingle, every myth protected by a (TM).

I’m not an ideologue; I’ve stated in blog posts that I don’t know how well CC-BY-SA scales, and for the Stephen Kings of the world, traditional copyright may be the only reasonable default for their work. Creative Commons is a tool, in a toolbox that includes traditional copyright, and I have no prohibition against the latter (though even if I reach “rockstar” level, I would ensure my work returns to the culture at some point).

With Aether Age (our first CC-BY-SA project, a shared world of space-faring Greeks and social revolutions in Egypt) we’ve made the work immediately available to the culture. The same is true of FU. The same will be true of my novella, Elegant Threat, to be released in the M-Brane Double #1 later this year. The New People by Alex Jeffers, the other half of the Double, will carry a traditional copyright. My first novel may carry a traditional copyright, depending on the publisher.

cover of Fantastique Unfettered, Issue 2Writers deserve to be paid for their work, and we hope that you, dear reader, will take an active interest in supporting short fiction. If not FU, then some other venue. As a writer, I hope to someday make loads of cash at my craft and to have people bemoan my place on the NYT list. That hack, they’ll complain as I laugh my way to the bank. (Yeah, it’s a writer thing.) So, a final reminder that our use of Creative Commons licensing is not purely ideological or a revolt against traditional publishing.

Creative Commons licensing does not rob writers of ownership of their work, the ability to publish it in anthologies, collections, or even to waive the license to accommodate incoming requests to publish/adapt under other terms.

The license is a tool to reach readers, and to proclaim cultural relevance to the future. Maybe our work, and work like it, becomes an island of open/libre culture in a future of copyrighted IP masquerading as culture. We intend to run FU much like a nonprofit (though it isn’t a nonprofit), to not profit off the periodical ourselves, but to use any incoming funds to make FU self-sustaining, then better pay our contributors.

CC-BY-SA is a tool for proactively freeing art to the culture, and will be right for some projects, and wrong for others. It is a tool for generating karma and reaching more readers. The other CC licenses and traditional copyright are also valid tools.

While the small press is a valuable part of the greater cultural ecosystem, big publishers (and big writers) are our heroes. Copyright is, ultimately, agnostic, insofar as it allows creators and their families to benefit from their work. The same is true of Creative Commons, and use of CC licenses does not preclude profitability.

It would be easy to stop there, with that pithy statement ignoring the real challenge we face in obscurity. The small press is a playground for the new, the odd, the possibly non-commercial (or not commercial right now), the niche. The small press bears the responsibility to pursue the mandates of a given niche while striving for a quality of content, presentation, and a dedication to the idea that if anyone should be hungry and unsatisfied with imitation and shallowness, the merely commercially viable, it is us.

To close on a theme, perhaps our Caesar is that societal voice addressed to those who would participate in the culture, that suggests: you are a consumer, only.

We have come not to praise Caesar, but to bury him.

Please steal this article and post anywhere you like, just provide attribution and keep it under the same license. Encourage others to do the same. [2]

Footnotes

[1] See the Tim O’Reilly article here http://openp2p.com/lpt/a/3015

[2] CC-BY-SA for the license, and for attribution: Brandon H. Bell, editor, Fantastique Unfettered, http://www.fantastique-unfettered.com/.

Contact Brandon at editors {_AT_} fantastique-unfettered.com and check out “our first CC-BY-SA project, The Aether Age: Helios, edited by Christopher Fletcher and myself and published by Hadley-Rille Books.”

law

Calling all law students — or at least the ones who weren’t planning to work for the RIAA later:

Our legal intern position is open! We’re looking for someone interested in learning more about copyright law and using it to promote freedom. Several of our projects have legal components, so the responsibilities of the position are varied. They will involve research in U.S. and international copyright law, non-profit law (federal and CA state), some trademark law, tracking legislative developments, some writing, etc. The minimum time commitment is about five hours a week, with more available if you want it. A New York City location is preferred but not required. There may be some limited travel (which we pay for), at your discretion.

The position is unpaid, but you would be working with an experienced lawyer (our counsel, Karen Sandler), and we’re happy to meet reasonable requirements for law school credit.

Interested? Contact us. We’ll keep the posting open until we get the right candidate — it could be you!

We’re very pleased to announce a $10,000 grant from the Kahle/Austin Foundation, received in the first few days of 2011!

Our team is still considering how best to allocate this New Year’s gift, but it will likely be divided between projects and fundraising (turns out it costs money to raise money, and we were right in the middle of a grantwriting effort, so this is perfect timing).

If you like our work, please consider joining Kahle/Austin in supporting us.  We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so donations are tax-deductible in the U.S.  Your support means we can make more Minute Memes, help other artists try out the freedom-friendly audience-distribution model used so successfully by our Artist-in-Residence Nina Paley, and do many other things to help make the world safe for sharing again.

Many thanks to the Kahle/Austin Foundation, and to our board member Brewster Kahle.

Swedish Pirate Party Flag   Portait of Anna Troberg   Portait of Rick Falkvinge

On January 1st, Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party and its leader for the past five years, stepped down, and Anna Troberg took over the reins.

This is significant for a few reasons. The Swedish Pirate Party is clearly here to stay — having won seats (yes, that’s plural, “seats”) in the European Parliament, they are now concentrating on in-country elections. The leadership transition is a sign of stability: Falkvinge recognized that what the party needed now was an organization builder with new ideas, felt he’d done his best work in founding the Party and leading it to its first victories, and moved on. By all accounts Anna Troberg is exactly the right person for the job.

Rick Falkvinge will now be able to concentrate on political evangelism full time at his English-language site: Falkvinge on Infopolicy. In his words:

“…I feel there has been a language barrier from the Swedish discussion, which is several years ahead, to the rest of the world. I want to bridge that.”

This is welcome news, because here in the U.S. we need more of what might be called the “Swedish School” of copyright reform.

To the extent that copyright debate here has moved in a positive direction at all, it’s been largely through the rhetoric of artistic freedom, so-called “fair use”, and worries about gigantic conglomerates holding cultural monopolies. Those are important concerns, but there’s another aspect that doesn’t get enough attention: strong copyright enforcement inherently means weak civil rights, because to enforce copyright restrictions in an age of networked computers means someone must watch what everyone’s downloading. This is what Nina Paley was getting at in her Copyright and Surveillance Minute Meme for the EFF, and it’s been a major part of the Swedish Pirate Party’s platform since day one — in fact it’s essentially why the party was founded in the first place.

We helped Falkvinge bring that message here on his U.S. West Coast tour in 2007, and it’s only become more important since then. Consider that in the name of enforcing publishers’ monopoly rights, Amazon had to keep track of what its customers were reading in order to erase books from customer’s e-book readers in 2009. That’s not an exceptional case, it’s a structural inevitability: in the digital age, content monopoly means user surveillance. How else could it be? There is no other way to enforce the monopoly. If you don’t want that world either, help us keep a better one.

We’ve got Falkvinge on Infopolicy in our right sidebar now. We hope you’ll watch the site, as we will be. And if Rick Falkvinge says something that strikes you as overly worried today, please make a note of it, wait a couple of years, and see how it looks then. Chances are he’s just a little bit ahead… as he was when he founded the Swedish Pirate Party.