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Writings - Open Content

This is a slightly more coherent version of a talk I gave at an EU panel: "Towards an Ecological Movement for Intellectual Property and Rights" (http://eco-reg.blogspot.com/)

We believe that the hysterical elevation of "intellectual property" to the current golden calf in business is a harmful fad, one that sidetracks the whole economy and is especially disastrous in the traditionally open fields of culture and science.

As with all popular fads, there is a countermovement, the Open Source/Open Content Movement. This movement provides their own creative works to the whole of mankind for free and open discussion and re-use.

PVL is active in the Open Source Community and has been building a wide range of open source tools and solutions for e-democracy, telecommunications and audiovisual media. The topic of this article is our platform for community media, an EU-funded project called streamonthefly.

While Streamonthefly was originally intended for the exchange of radio shows between small community media stations and the reuse of said shows on internet sites, it is also suited to be the platform for an Open Content Audio Server.

We aim to show that Open Content is not only boon for the totality of human knowledge and art in general, but that it also is a winning proposition to the individual artists.

To do that we will adapt the StreamontheFly platform to a general platform for the publication of open audio content and the commercial use of said content.

Open Content does not mean to give everything away for free. It does mean a different philosophy than the "You'll have to pay royalties when you think of our property"-mindset that has gripped most of the big publishing conglomerates.

How do we envision this to work? To answer this we need to look at the options the audience has to compensate the artist.

- Pay Once: This is the usual option if you buy a book or a CD or a painting.
- Pay-per-View: This is the option for a concert or performance - if you buy tickets beforehand.
- Subscription: For a recurring fee you are given access to a range of creative works.
- Tip-jar: The Streetperformer option, you are not required to pay, but you may, if you enjoyed the work
- Pool Payment: This is the option envisioned by the now defunct opencontent.org, whereby a work would be placed into the public domain after a certain amount of payment had been met by a pool of donors.

We are currently working through the various payment schemes to establish either one scheme best suited to the aims of the site, or, more probably we will be offering more than one scheme.

We will also offer artists their choice among the creative commons licenses.

What we will not offer is any kind of "Digital Rights Management". We have three reasons for that:

1) DRM is incompatible with the Creative Commons Licenses. There is a corresponding FAQ entry at the Creative Commons website which elaborates that point, so I will only point you there: http://creativecommons.org/faq#faq_entry_3323

2) DRM may actually be illegal. While some legislations are currently changing the laws in favour of DRM-content providers, DRM actually deprives the audience of standard rights which have been put in place for the greater common good:
- The right to a private copy and the enjoyment of the work in any uncommercial setting.
- The right to access the material you have bought by alternative means to compensate for disability.
- The right to excerpt and quote the work in a scientific or artistic context.
- The right to give away or resell what has become your property by buying.
- The right to enjoy the content even after the device it is keyed to is damaged, replaced or technologically obsolete.

3) DRM is harmful to your business. While the conventional wisdom purveyed by media corporations is that any copy equals a lost sale, this has been disproved in actual business transactions. Not only does open and unprotected content help your sales, DRM-protected content may actually hurt your sales. The following are articles and discussions by creators, publishers and retailers of electronic and traditional books showing the abovementioned trends.
- Eric Flint, a science-fiction author about his experiences making his work - currently in print and available for sale electronically at the same site available for free: http://www.baen.com/library/ and specifically about the impact on his income: http://www.baen.com/library/palaver6.htm
- National Academic Press: http://www.nap.edu/info/site.html (a longer article on this is quoted at http://www.baen.com/library/palaver10.htm

The venture will be hopefully on-line by the end of August 2003 and we will keep you posted on the progress.

In closing I want to remind you that piracy is a violent crime of robbery on the high seas. For the illegal commercial exploitation of artistic works there is already a perfect word: It's called counterfeiting. And the sharing of material over the internet is at best considered net-lifting.




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