by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 27th 2012 8:01pm
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 24th 2012 11:59am
from the needs-some-work,-but... dept
The Free Internet Act: To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation by preventing the restriction of liberty and preventing the means of censorship. FIA will allow internet users to browse freely without any means of censorship, users have the right to free speech and to free knowledge; we govern the content of the internet, governments don't. However enforcements/laws must also be put into place to protect copyrighted content.Huffington Post has a good background article on how the bill was developed. Of course, as we noted when this originally started, there is something a bit naive about how they're going about it... but that's kind of what makes it exciting. It was that kind of naivete that actually enabled SOPA to be stopped. Most "experts" assumed it was a done deal and nothing could stop it. But along came folks such as the Reddit community who simply didn't know that SOPA couldn't be stopped... and they were instrumental in getting it stopped. So I'm excited to see what that same sort of open optimism can do on the proactive side, even if at points it feels naive or cringe-worthy.
Of course, at the same time, it's a little disappointing to see this:
"The idea is to aim high," the thread reads. "This is the same strategy employed by SOPA/ACTA pushers. We are aiming absurdly high, so that we can back down and reach a compromise."The power of the Reddit community was that it aimed high and achieved. The fact that it stood by its principles rather than "looking for a compromise" was what worked. If you go into a process looking for a compromise, that's what you'll get. If you go into a process looking for the absolutely best solution then you're more likely to get that. People shouldn't be approaching a bill about internet freedom as if it's a fight between multiple parties and compromise is needed. This should be about creating a solution that is really important and really good for everyone. Then no compromise is needed at all.
Either way, this is an interesting process to watch. I'm not sure it will actually go anywhere, but I love the enthusiasm and the proactive initiative...
Wed, Feb 15th 2012 9:54am
If People Like You And Your Work They'll Pay; If They Like Your Work, But Don't Like You, They'll Infringe
from the cthulhu-saves-your-games dept
If people like you and like your work, they'll buy your games. If they like your work but don't like you, they'll pirate them.The first half of this statement is at the heart of the idea of connecting with your fans. Part of this ability to connect with your fans is to be more open and human with them. We have seen repeatedly how artists sell more of their work and scarcities associated with their work as they become more human to their fan base. As fans come to trust you and feel that they can approach you directly, even if that is through email, Twitter or Facebook, they will be far more likely to trust you enough to part with their money. This trust is one of the keys to Double Fine's success and a key to the success of any game developer. Similarly, it was seen in the way Louis CK treated his fans.
The second half of this statement is a lesson that many larger publishers, developers and others in the entertainment industry have forgotten. Because of that, they are suffering the fallout. DRM and other methods that show how little the developer or publisher trusts its fans breeds contempt within the fan community. While those consumers may still like the product, they don't like the way they are treated. This is one of the driving factors behind piracy. To top off the problem, these creators and gatekeepers set up walls between themselves and their fans. They do everything to avoid contact with fans outside carefully orchestrated scenarios. This turns fans off and decreases the amount of trust they have for these individuals and companies.
It's often said that people will just get stuff for free if they can. But, clearly, that's not true. We've seen so many cases of content creators being supported by their fans at tremendous levels (such as the two cases mentioned above) that there's clearly more to it. And it seems that a key element is whether or not fans actually like you. Some people suggest that the disconnect with piracy is that people value the work, but won't pay for it. But a more accurate realization may be that people value the work... but don't value the creator if the creator doesn't value them. When the two sides value each other, it seems people are more than willing to pay.
by Glyn Moody
Tue, Feb 14th 2012 12:09am
from the sharing-the-knowledge dept
Open e-textbooks are hardly new: Techdirt has been reporting on the pioneer in this market, Flat World Knowledge, for several years now. But a new entrant called OpenStax College is noteworthy for a number of reasons:
OpenStax College is a nonprofit organization committed to improving student access to quality learning materials. Our free textbooks are developed and peer-reviewed by educators to ensure they are readable, accurate, and meet the scope and sequence requirements of your course. Through our partnerships with companies and foundations committed to reducing costs for students, OpenStax College is working to improve access to higher education for all. OpenStax College is an initiative of Rice University and is made possible through the generous support of several philanthropic foundations.
Those foundations include the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, probably the leading philanthropic organization in the field of open education, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But the Rice connection is just as important as the funding.
Although MIT is known as a pioneer of sharing its courses freely online through its OpenCourseWare project, arguably Rice University went even further with its highly-modular Connexions program, which offers what it calls "frictionless remixing". The use of small learning modules, together with a permissive cc-by license for everything, allows educators and publishers to create their own courses by drawing on Connexions' material.
Given that the founder of Connexions, Richard Baraniuk, is also the Director of OpenStax College, it's hardly a surprise that the same cc-by licensing applies to the latter's textbooks. Still, that's a step beyond Flat World Knowledge, which allows textbooks to be modified, but under the more restrictive cc by-nc-sa license. Even though OpenStax College is a non-profit, and Flat World Knowledge a company, both adopt the same business model: the e-textbooks are given away, while printed copies and supplementary materials require payment -- a classic example of using abundance to make money from associated scarcities.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 13th 2012 8:40am
from the make-it-happen dept
So it was nice to see so many people at Midem respond positively to my "totally positive" message about where some key opportunities were, by having them focus on how being more awesome to fans and treating them as human really has amazing results.
Separately, while I was at Midem I also did a much more technical "Midem Academy" session that was designed to be a hands-on interactive discussion about specific strategies for alternative business models that don't rely on copyright. That session was 50 minutes long and didn't have the same "entertainment" value, as I was told I had to use their limited Powerpoint format, rather than do my typical style (as seen above). Still, I quite enjoyed that discussion, and ended up spending almost as much time as we spent in the session talking to people and answering questions after the session. For some reason a lot of people were shy to ask questions to the whole group, but wanted to chat afterwards.
Finally, a couple weeks before that, I was in Washington DC for the Congressional Internet Caucus' State of the Net event, where there was a panel discussion/debate over SOPA, which was recently put online as well. That panel has myself and Steve Crocker (head of ICANN) talking about problems with SOPA/PIPA... and the MPAA's Paul Brigner and the US Chamber of Commerce's Steve Tepp defending SOPA. The panel may seem out-of-date, but it actually took place the day before the mass internet blackouts that effectively killed the bills. So, when this discussion happened, the bills (even in reduced form, without DNS issues) were still very much alive. At this point, the debate might be more interesting in a historical context, rather than a present one:
Either way, it was great to meet many Techdirt community members around the globe at these various events as well, and I hope to see more of you at future events.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 6th 2012 3:44am
from the yeah,-like-that-will-happen dept
The USTR needs to be more transparent and inclusive in the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty. The public should be informed by regular drafts of language released and open for comment. Members of Technological and on line civil rights groups should be invited to the negotiations.It doesn't have many signatures yet, but perhaps we can help change that...
Of course, as I was finishing up this post, I discovered that there's actually another, similar petition that probably should be signed as well. This one asks the White House to stop participating in the TPP negotiations, which is a much stronger request, and unlikely to actually get agreement from the White House (it also has some silly stuff about "the 1%" which is kinda off topic). I think the more straightforward request that any negotiation actually be open makes a lot more sense. But, either way, it's good to see more people recognizing that the TPP is the next big problem when it comes to Hollywood expanding copyright laws against the will of the public that it will impact. Help make sure the White House knows this is a concern by signing one or both of these petitions.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 30th 2012 1:16pm
from the what-can't-it-do... dept
A specific sub-Reddit has been set up, where different people are discussing different thoughts on what such a bill might include and other issues related to the bill's central concept: guaranteeing a free internet.
Again, there's a big hill to climb here to make this into any sort of reality, but there's something really amazing and compelling about this self-forming group taking the initiative to try to not just drive the debate, but to actually craft legislation that would protect internet freedom. As much as I've been impressed by the process of the Wyden/Issa proposed OPEN bill, in which they put it up on a platform that allowed the public to crowdsource thoughts on a bill, they still started with a bill suggested in Congress. What happens when a bill is crowdsourced from scratch? Possibly nothing at all, but as an experiment, it will be fascinating to watch...
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 30th 2012 6:30am
from the let's-dispense-with-the-doom-&-gloom dept
Today, in Cannes, at the Midem conference, I did a presentation that was something of a follow up to the presentation I did here three years ago, about how Trent Reznor's experiments represented the future of music business models. This time, the presentation coincided with the release of a new research paper that we've spent the past few months working on, sponsored by CCIA and Engine Advocacy, in which we did a thorough look at the true state of the entertainment industry. For years, we've been hearing doom and gloom reports about how the industry is dying, how customers just want stuff for free, about analog dollars turning into digital dimes... and (all too frequently) about how new laws are needed to save these industries.
Yet, what we find when looking through the research -- from a variety of sources to corroborate and back up any research we found -- is that the overall entertainment ecosystem is in a real renaissance period. The sky truly is rising, not falling: the industry is growing both in terms of revenue and content. We split the report up into video & film, books, music and video games -- and all four segments are showing significant growth (not shrinking) over the last decade. All of them are showing tremendous opportunity. The amount of content that they're all producing is growing at an astounding rate (which again, is the most important thing). But revenue, too, is growing. Equally important is that rather than consumers just wanting to get stuff for free, they have continually spent a greater portion of their income on entertainment -- with the percentage increasing by 15% from 2000 to 2008.
This all points to the fact that what is happening within the industry is not a challenge of a business getting smaller -- quite the opposite. It's about the challenge of an industry getting larger, but doing so in ways that route around the existing structures.
- Entertainment spending as a function of income went up by 15% from 2000 to 2008
- Employment in the entertainment sector grew by 20% -- with indie artists seeing 43% growth.
- The overall entertainment industry grew 66% from 1998 to 2010.
- The amount of content being produced in music, movies, books and video games is growing at an incredible pace.
- For consumers, today is an age of absolute abundance in entertainment. More content is available in more ways than ever before. If we simply go by the terms of the US Constitution’s clause from which copyright came, it seems clear that the "progress of science and the useful arts" is being promoted -- even as copyright is often being ignored or foregone. There is just a tremendous amount of content, a tremendous variety of content, it's more accessible to more people than ever before.
- For content creators, it is an age of amazing new opportunity. Traditionally, to take part in the entertainment industry, you had no choice but to go through a gatekeeper, which served to keep the vast majority of people who wished to be content creators from ever making any money at all from content creation. Today, that is no longer true. More people are making more money from creating content than ever before -- with much of that coming via new tools that have allowed artists to use the internet to create, promote, distribute and monetize their works.
- For the traditional middlemen, the internet represents both a challenge and an opportunity. There is no doubt that the internet has eaten away at some traditional means by which these businesses made money. But, as the data shows, there is more money going into the overall market, more content being created, and many new ways to make money. That shows that there is a business model challenge -- and a marketing challenge -- but much more opportunity in the long run. The key challenge for business is in figuring out how to capture more of the greater revenue being generated by the wider entertainment industry. Legacy players certainly face a lot more competition (and fewer reasons that artists have to do deals with them) -- which can explain some of the public complaints about the "death" of various industries -- but overall, it's clear that by embracing new opportunities, there are plenty of ways to succeed.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 5th 2012 12:05pm
from the really,-mitch? dept
Specifically, he uses the example of the ongoing ITC case filed against Apple & RIM by Kodak to explain why OPEN is no good. His particular concern is the length of time it's taking the ITC to rule on the case:
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) recently reported that it will delay ruling on an important patent infringement claim brought by well-known camera company Kodak against smartphone makers Apple and Research In Motion (RIM). The case, originally filed in January 2010, now anticipates a ruling in September 2012. The delay now means that the ITC will have taken 33 months to decide on a high-stakes and time-sensitive issue. So this is the expedited process SOPA opponents are embracing as an alternative in the proposed OPEN bill?This is both disingenuous and obnoxious at the same time. First of all, as Glazier must know, but apparently is too intellectually dishonest to admit, a patent case involves some very different issues, involving some pretty specific efforts around figuring out exactly what a patent really covers. You don't have to deal with "claim construction" in a copyright case. But in a patent dispute -- in a federal court or at the ITC -- there's a big, long, complicated claim construction process to determine the actual boundaries of what's covered in a patent. Then there's the process (somewhat complicated) of figuring out if the products in question actually do infringe on the patent.
Copyright is different than patents. And while there does need to be a careful analysis of whether or not a copyright is infringed, the process is very different than with patents, and can absolutely be expedited, if need be.
Why in the world would we shift enforcement against these sites from the Department of Justice and others who are well-versed in these issues to the ITC, which focuses on patents and clearly does not operate on the short time frame necessary to be effective? In addition, the remedy traditionally offered by the ITC an exclusion order to prevent foreign criminals from accessing the US market is precluded under the OPEN Act.Oh really? This would be the same "well-versed" experts at the DOJ who have been censoring multiple websites on no legal basis for over a year? The same "well-versed" experts at the DOJ who finally had to give back Dajaz1.com after an entire year in which it refused any and all due process?
I'm sorry, but I think there's more than enough evidence that the DOJ isn't that "well-versed" in these issues, and that when it acts in a "short time frame" it makes significant and serious mistakes. Similarly, where was that vaunted "short time frame" when it came time to admit that it totally screwed up and seized and censored a blog without legal basis? It took Dajaz1 over a year to get its domain name back, despite no legal action being taken against it. Multiple other sites are still being held. So, forgive me for questioning (1) if the DOJ is really that well-versed, (2) really should be operating on such a "short time frame" or (3) really does operate on such a "short time frame" when it comes to admitting it screwed up. And, the story of Dajaz1 seems like a pretty damn perfect example of why "an exclusion order" is a dangerous remedy. When you screw it up, you make a serious mess of things.
Realistically, what Glazier is making clear here, is that the RIAA wants a "censor first, ask questions later" approach to any site it doesn't like, no matter how legal it might actually be. That's scary. As the Dajaz1 case pretty clearly demonstrated, the damage such an approach creates is something we should all be against. Look, censoring a website is not something that should be done lightly. If we're going to have such a remedy in the law, it should be a slow process that takes time to review to make sure mistakes aren't made. Unfortunately, the current law and the laws that the RIAA wants appear to take the opposite approach: censor first, then take your damn sweet time in ever reviewing those censor orders.
by Glyn Moody
Fri, Dec 30th 2011 12:26am
from the why-use-anything-else? dept
One of the striking features of some of the most successful startups over the last ten years companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter is that their infrastructure is based almost entirely around open source. Of course, that shouldn't really be surprising: open source allows people to get prototypes up and running for the price of a PC, which is great for trying out ideas with live code. And yet despite these zero-cost origins, open source software scales up to supercomputing levels - the perfect solution for startups that hope to grow.
Today, no startup would consider doing it any other way, which means that the initial competitive advantage of taking the open source route has largely vanished. So the question for entrepreneurs looking to ride the next wave becomes: what's next for commoditization? This fascinating post by Ed Freyfogle on the blog of the property search engine Nestoria suggests it might be swapping out proprietary mapping services for those based on the collaborative open data project OpenStreetMap (OSM):
this week we went live with a significant change to our service - in most countries we've moved away from Google maps and are now relying exclusively on OpenStreetMap maps served by MapQuest.
Freyfogle then goes on to explain the four key reasons why Nestoria decided to make that move:
1. The maps are equal or better
That mirrors earlier moves to open source, which matches closed-source software is most areas, and bests it in many Web servers, for example. It's a reflection of the quality of OSM that Nestoria did not have to compromise on quality in order to make the move.
in many places of the world, particularly the European countries we were focused on, OSM maps are of equal or better quality than any other widely available mapping service.
2. It's another visible way for us to support open data
Again, this is very similar to the attitude of companies that use open source. Google, Facebook and Twitter, among others, have all released significant quantities of their home-grown code as open source, recognizing that the stronger the overall ecosystem, the better it is for them too.
Our service does nothing more (and nothing less!) than aggregate data from many different sources and present it in an easy to use format. We benefit greatly from open data, and as such we want to do our part (within the limited resources of a start-up) to help the open data movement.
3. Google introduced charging for map usage
This basically meant that Nestoria would have to start paying for something that it had until then been able to use for free. That obviously helped concentrate people's minds, and doubtless encouraged them to take a look at the practicalities of moving to services based on OpenStreetMap's data.
Earlier this year Google announced that they would begin introducing limits to the use of Google maps by commercial websites.
4. The tools are ready.
A crucially important issue. Even if all the others had been present, without the tools and the emerging ecosystem they imply the move from Google Maps to OpenStreetMap would have been hard, if not impossible, for most companies. It's the availability of these tools and the incredible richness of the underlying OpenStreetMap data, of course - that makes it likely that others will be able to follow Nestoria's move here, adopting and adapting OpenStreetMap just as people adopted and adapted open source a decade ago, with the results we see today.
Despite all of this, we would not have been technically able to make the switch unless there was a solid set of tools and services around OSM that made the switch possible.