by Mike Masnick
Thu, Feb 3rd 2011 11:01am
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 31st 2011 11:47am
from the but-what-incentives-do-they-have-to-create-content? dept
However, Al Jazeera has embarked on a fascinating way to deal with all of this: it's released a lot of its reporting under a Creative Commons license. In fact, the media operation has set up a CC specific site, that archives and aggregates all of the Al Jazeera content that is free for anyone to use, with just an attribution. Thankfully, it's not even using a "non-commercial" license. Instead, the license just requires attribution for anyone to use the content in question.
This is pretty interesting for a variety of reasons. If you listen to the classic arguments concerning scarcity, some would probably argue that Al Jazeera should be keeping a tight leash on all this great content. It's in high demand right now, and given its extensive coverage and knowledgeable reporters on the ground, some might argue that now is the perfect time for Al Jazeera to be as restrictive as possible with its content. But the media operation seems to be thinking much longer term, recognizing that its coverage is being relied on by more and more people around the globe (with a huge influx of interest from the US). This is actually a chance for the company to grow its brand quite a bit, and maybe even push past some of the stereotypes and attacks from the US and a few other western countries. And the way to do that is to get more people seeing its content and recognizing that the content is worthwhile. Given all that, going Creative Commons (or something like it) makes perfect sense.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jan 26th 2011 7:03pm
from the hours?-days? dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 21st 2011 7:39pm
from the first-step dept
I once found a little excerpt from Balzac. He speaks about a young writer who stole some of his prose. The thing that almost made me weep, he said, "I was so happy when this young person took from me." Because that's what we want. We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can't steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that's how you will find your voice.While (of course), I always dislike the incorrect use of the term "stealing," I found this to be quite an insightful answer from someone who is certainly in a position to pretend otherwise. However, throughout history we've heard similar (if much less eloquent) claims from others. Ray Charles famously made similar points about copying his music (shamelessly) from others to create his own unique sound (and invent soul music in the process).
And that's how you begin. And then one day someone will steal from you. And Balzac said that in his book: It makes me so happy because it makes me immortal because I know that 200 years from now there will be people doing things that somehow I am part of. So the answer to your question is: Don't worry about whether it's appropriate to borrow or to take or do something like someone you admire because that's only the first step and you have to take the first step.
Immediately after this, he's asked about business models, and he notes:
This idea of Metallica or some rock n' roll singer being rich, that's not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I'm going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?While some will misinterpret this to mean that artists shouldn't make money, that's not what he's saying at all. He's saying it shouldn't be presumed that they automatically must make money -- or that if they are to make money, that it needs to come from the film directly.
In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you'd be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, "Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money." Because there are ways around it.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 14th 2011 6:32pm
from the economics-of-abundance dept
People advise me, "Why don't you just ask the companies for permission?" But the cost of asking for permission is extremely high. All of the artists are dead, so I can't ask their permission. And all of the works belong to these corporations, and the corporations won't talk to normal people. If they don't know who you are, they don't return your calls or they just give you the runaround. They will only talk to lawyers and music supervisors, people who are paid intermediaries.Paley does a nice job explaining why the idea of the "tragedy of the commons" really doesn't apply to ideas and content, even if it's one of the regular justifications for copyright, and how the more her work gets shared, the more valuable it becomes:
We tried for months to contact the copyright holders directly, and they wouldn't give us any information or respond to us, so I had to hire a lawyer to talk to them. Before I even got an estimate of what it would cost to license this music, I had to pay $15,000 to an intermediary. When I specified that the entire budget for the film was less than $200,000, they came back with the bargain-basement amount of $220,000 to use Hanshaw's music in my film. And before they would even talk to me about anything, I had to pay them $500 per song and sign a piece of paper promising not to make any money from it at film festivals, and that after one year, I wouldn't even be able to show it anymore.
Calling both a grassy field and ideas a "commons" is interesting, because one of them, the grassy field, is tangible and scarce, whereas the other one is not actually limited. A lot of the conversation that happens around imaginary property is that people think that itís real. The "enclosure of the commons" metaphor definitely works for both, but a grassy field is very different from culture in that there's only so much grassy field. A grassy field is actually real; if, for example, you take a bulldozer to your grassy field, then the grassy field is ruined. But if you take your bulldozer to a copy of your work, then there are all these other copies. It doesn't affect the idea. It only affects one copy. So the concept of the "tragedy of the commons" doesn't really apply to intellectual/cultural works at all.Another key point made in the article is debunking the whole "but, but plagiarism!" response to copyright discussions, whereby people confuse copyright and plagiarism. She first covers how the two are different, and then notes that someone copying her work without crediting her isn't as big a problem as many people think it is, because (1) it doesn't actually harm her actual work and (2) the more widely her work is actually shared, the more people will realize that the plagiarist plagiarized:
Real things are limited. If you don't take care of the field, or if you overgraze it, then there's not enough grass for the other sheep. With cultural works, it's the exact opposite. The more they're shared, the more valuable they become. People apply these ideas about scarcity to culture, and culture is not scarce. People are thinking of the "problem of abundance": the idea that people don't know what to do with abundance. But there is no tragedy of the cultural commons. I've read justifications of copyright where people say that if culture is shared too much the value of the work is diluted. Who came up with that idea? The opposite is true: works do not become less valuable the more they're shared; they become more valuable the more they're shared. What on earth are they talking about when they say that sharing dilutes the value of the work?
I do want my work to be credited to me, but I don't think it's important or necessary to have that legal component of it, because I really believe that a community enforces that much better than the law does. No one would be sued for plagiarizing Shakespeare. If I publish "Hamlet by Nina Paley," no one is going to sue me. The freer my work is, the less plagiarized it will be, because the more people know what it is. I think what's really cool about free culture is that it actually protects work much better from plagiarism.Anyway, those are just a few snippets. The full interview covers a lot more ground and is well worth reading for those interested in these topics.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 23rd 2010 7:39pm
from the the-value-of-earned-links dept
I have to admit that I was still a little skeptical of how big this would really be, but in the last year (and especially the last six months), I've really changed my mind -- and that's because we're seeing evidence of it directly. For years, our largest referrer every single day was Google. It wasn't even close. Every day, people came from Google (sometimes via searches, sometimes via things like Google Reader or iGoogle), and it simply dominated how people found us. Yet, these days, it's quite rare to see Google as the top referrer to Techdirt on any given day. Instead, it seems that every day we get an onslaught of traffic from at least one (and sometimes more) social communications platforms: StumbleUpon, Reddit, Twitter and Facebook now regularly come in as our biggest referrers. Google still drives a lot of traffic, but our traffic has certainly become a lot more diversified.
And while those companies certainly are not "competitors" to Google in the traditional sense, when it comes to the question of "the only way to be found online is Google," I can say empirically that's simply not true for us.
Along those lines, however, I should note that the reason those social communications systems work is because of people who like what we have to say and want to share it. That doesn't work if your content sucks, so if your content sucks, you may still have to rely on Google (but, even then, part of what Google tries to do is make sure the sucky content gets dropped down as well -- so the best solution might be to not have sucky content).
Related to all this, as we head into a brief holiday break (we'll be back next week, don't worry), I wanted to thank everyone who makes this community so fun and dynamic -- and certainly the folks who made this story possible by regularly sharing our stories on those other platforms. That's mighty kind of you, and it is greatly appreciated.
Finally, again, related to all of this, we never seem to post about the different ways to follow us online, even though most of you have probably figured it out on your own already. Of course, we have an RSS feed, a Twitter feed and a Facebook page (which often fails to update for reasons not at all clear to us). We also have an email list that sends out copies of each of the previous day's posts early in the morning (US time) the following day. You can sign up for that by putting your email address in the box in the upper righthand corner of this page. Feel free to follow us (or not) however you prefer, and thanks for being a part of the community.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 11th 2010 9:51pm
from the access-to-knowledge-and-information dept
As for the reasons why, Darnton quotes extensively from our founding fathers on the importance of access to knowledge. They talk up the importance of open access and sharing knowledge -- and even highlight technology's wonderful role in making that possible. And yet, today, rather than using technology to continue that tradition, many have fought against what the technology allows -- quite the contrary of what our founding fathers were excited about. It's rather unfortunate.
Behind the creation of the American republic was another republic, which made the Constitution thinkable. This was the Republic of Letters--an information system powered by the pen and the printing press, a realm of knowledge open to anyone who could read and write, a community of writers and readers without boundaries, police, or inequality of any kind, except that of talent. Like other men of the Enlightenment, the Founding Fathers believed that free access to knowledge was a crucial condition for a flourishing republic, and that the American republic would flourish if its citizens exercised their citizenship in the Republic of Letters.That said, I'd argue that focusing on a centralized method of doing so, whether it's Google or a university or Congress may still be the wrong way of doing it. Why not distribute the work. I would imagine that many people would be quite willing to contribute their time, their technology and their bandwidth in assisting the creation of a truly distributed, open and free digital library.
Of course, literacy was limited in the eighteenth century, and those who could read had limited access to books. There was an enormous gap between the hard realities of life two centuries ago and the ideals of the Founding Fathers. You could therefore accuse the Founders of utopianism. For my part, I believe that a strong dose of utopian idealism gave their thought its driving force. I think we should tap that force today, because what seemed utopian in the eighteenth century has now become possible. We can close the gap between the high ground of principle and the hardscrabble of everyday life. We can do so by creating a National Digital Library.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 1st 2010 6:41pm
Good Ideas Come From Sharing, Random Collisions And Openness, Not Hoarding And Bursts Of Inspiration
from the once-again dept
Entrepreneur and author Steven Johnson is about to come out with a new book on this particular topic, Where Good Ideas Come From and has been writing and speaking about some of what's in the book -- which highlights these same points. People have been submitting both his recent TED talk and his recent WSJ piece that makes these points clear:
The key thing is to allow those hunches to connect with other people's hunches. That's what often happens. You have half of an idea and someone else has the other half, and if you're in the right environment, they turn into something larger than the sum of their parts. So, in a sense, we often talk about the value of protecting intellectual property. You know, building barricades, having secretive R&D labs, patenting everything that we have, so that those ideas will 'remain valuable' and people will be incentivized to come up with more ideas. But I think there's a case to be made that we should spend at least as much time, if not more, valuing the premise of connecting ideas and not just protecting them.In the WSJ piece, he highlights an example of this in action:
Earlier this year, Nike announced a new Web-based marketplace it calls the GreenXchange, where it has publicly released more than 400 of its patents that involve environmentally friendly materials or technologies. The marketplace is a kind of hybrid of commercial self-interest and civic good. This makes it possible for outside firms to improve on those innovations, creating new value that Nike might ultimately be able to put to use itself in its own products.Of course, I think an even better example is the recent research on Alzheimer's that really only took off when everyone involved opened up their data and agreed to avoid patents. Or, how about the research on the human genome that compared patented and public domain gene research, and showed that the patents limited commercial viability. But when the genes were opened up to the public, much more value came out of it. The more you look, the more you find these results pretty much everywhere you look. And it's nearly impossible to find any evidence to support the idea of a "flash of genius" for key innovations in history. In fact, almost every key innovation in history has been shown to have come about to multiple people at once, as ideas are shared and the general progress of knowledge and innovation pushes forward.
In a sense, Nike is widening the network of minds who are actively thinking about how to make its ideas more useful, without adding any more employees. But some of its innovations might well turn out to be advantageous to industries or markets in which it has no competitive involvement whatsoever. By keeping its eco-friendly ideas behind a veil of secrecy, Nike was holding back ideas that might, in another context, contribute to a sustainable future--without any real commercial justification.
This is important if you believe and support innovation. The fact that our entire regulatory system for innovation is based on a disproved theory that makes innovation more difficult should be seen as a serious problem and one worth fixing as quickly as possible.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 23rd 2010 6:33pm
from the gotta-go-with-the-librarians-here... dept
by Derek Kerton
Thu, Aug 26th 2010 6:03pm
from the that-train-has-already-sailed dept
"Stealth Mode" is the name of a start-up strategy where the founding team develops their product and business in secret. The tactic is based on the fear that, if their idea were to get out, other companies would copy it, and the originators would face competitors. The use of Stealth Mode has swung in and out of fashion in Silicon Valley over the past decade, but was hottest during the tech bubble at the end of the last century. Back then, .com startups were so hot that investors would salivate over the latest stealthy startup, eager to throw some easy money at it. But whatever the fashion, with few exceptions, I think that running a startup in Stealth mode is short-sighted, arrogant, and counter-productive. Here's why:
- Founders who want to operate in stealth are usually of the opinion that their idea is soooo very unique, that to share it would be to divulge the crown jewels. There are two reasons that is naive:
- Your idea is almost certainly not unique. Someone else has had the same idea, and if it's any good, someone else is working on developing it.
- You are going to have to share your idea at some point in order to sell it, so your secrecy is short-lived at best.
- A consistent Techdirt posit is that execution is far more important than idea. Whether you reveal your idea or not, how you execute versus direct competitors and near substitutes will determine whether you succeed or not (see bullet 4).
- If execution is important, a critical part of execution is networking, getting your idea out there, meeting the right partners, employees, VCs, Angels, channels, and early adopters. In fact, this professional networking is the core of Silicon Valley culture, and "Stealth" is the antithesis of that culture. Ask yourself: Which culture worked better over the years: Silicon Valley's open idea sharing, or Route 128's tight secrecy and control?
- Stealth mode prevents the creation of any kind of buzz around your company. Early in a company's life, buzz among the tech community (VCs, executives, industry insiders) is very valuable. You want to be the first name that rolls off of someone's tongue when your startup sector is mentioned, like Admob was for mobile ads, Slingbox was for place-shifting, or Loopt was for social LBS. This gives you tremendous advantage in word-of-mouth mentions, as a "must check" comparable before a VC invests in a competitor, as a target for any large partner seeking to adopt similar technology, or a corporate M&A effort seeks to buy a sector leader.
- Stealth mode prevents feedback from savvy friends, the tech community, beta adopters. It limits the fresh thinking, free advice, and diversity of ideas that go into product cycles.
Partly as the result of this kind of thinking, Stealth Mode is out of fashion these days. Most VCs refuse to even sign NDAs with startups, not wanting to don legal handcuffs, while being less interested in a company that is counting on secrecy as one of the tenets of their success.
Part 2 - Case In Point: Checkpoint
I was reminded of the issue of stealth companies today when I read about CheckPoint at Wireless Week. CheckPoint is a startup that is in "Stealth Mode" and is building a mobile app for checking into retail stores, and then having the app suggest products to have a look at in that store. Wait... How is it that I can tell you what CheckPoint does if they are in Stealth? Well, I guess it's because stealth is such a lousy idea that the CEO himself revealed the company strategy to Wireless Week one month before coming out of stealth mode! Basically, with yesterday's Facebook's announcement that it is entering the location check-in sector, CheckPoint has realized that the party might be over before they even show up. They have missed out on the buzz grabbed by startups FourSquare and Gowalla as they dominated the sector before the giant Facebook stepped in to mop up.
CheckPoint's CEO tries to make the best of the situation by saying,
...[CheckPoint] has very little in common with them [FourSquare, Gowalla, Facebook] because they're primarily for social connections. CheckPoints is focused on tangible products and helping consumers connect with products that are interesting to them...There's no one really focusing on product in this space right now...
If he honestly thinks that, he really has been in hiding for too long! All of those Check-In services are clearly focused on driving product sales in the locations users visit. It's just that they are using your friends as the bait that makes the app sticky. First, get the bait, then move the product. CheckPoint's secret strategy is [shh] "First, push the in-store products, then offer discounts." It's like a scavenger hunt with discounts as the reward. I'm not saying it's a terrible idea, but I think the Facebook/FourSquare/Gowalla approach seems better.
Either way, CheckPoint's reaction to Facebook's sector entry is a cold reminder of the real threat for any startup: it's not that someone else will steal your idea - someone else probably already has it - nope, the real threat is that you will toil in obscurity as better-known and/or larger players execute on grabbing market share.