The IP Year, 2006-7

Tony Curzon Price
Tony Curzon Price
13 June 2007

by Tony Curzon Price at the iCommons summit 2007 in Croatia

I was at iCommons Rio in June 2006. The habitual morning's bodysurfing on Copa Cabana was even more memorable than watching Brazil watching Brazil in the football world cup. But really memorable was the sense of a global movement coalescing around freedom of content, opened by Gilberto Gil humming his Bajia ode to freedom, and closed by Heather Ford telling us of the plans for the year ahead.

So what has happened in the IP world during that year? I sent out a broad invitation for 200 words on the significant events and here they are. Send me your own, and I will add them.

My own IP year has been dominated by balancing the demands of building a community - which, I think, necessarily requires a degree of exclusivity - with the CC licensing that in part defines the community of openDemocracy. Under Creative Commons abundance, the only thing you will always lack is scarcity ...but there's more about that in my article here.


What has struck whom?

Eric Kansa, Executive Director, The Alexandria Archive Institute, Open Context: Community Data Sharing and Tagging

Dessi Pefeva, Creative Commons Bulgaria

Joshua S. Fouts, Director, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California

Eve Gray, International Policy Fellow, Open Society Institute (Budapest) Honorary Research Associate, Centre for Educational Technology, University of Cape Town

Carolina Botero, CC Co, Fundaci—n Karisma. Colombia

Helen King, Shuttleworth Foundation

Heather Ford, iCommons


Erik Kensa 

Our work in building the Commons has focused on low-cost, practical solutions to sharing research in areas ranging from archaeology and museum collections, to public health and ecological studies. When we started a few years ago, it was very lonely work and I often wondered if anyone really cared. The landscape has since changed dramatically, and I am struck with the explosive growth of important initiatives and infrastructure that are radically changing the way research is being generated and shared. The Open Access movement has fundamentally transformed scholarly communication and promises to make participation in the research process far more transparent, democratic, and inclusive. In the area of my greatest concern, ``open data'', we are seeing similar progress. Some well-publicized cases of abusive ``IP maximalism'' are helping to raise awareness among both researchers and the general public that over-protection threatens free discourse and exchange of ideas. Thus, we're coming to the 2007 iSummit with great optimism and confidence that the Commons will prevail and that science and scholarship will escape it's Ivory Tower prison and become a much richer part of everyone's lives.

Dessi Pefeva

The most important step towards Creative Commons lobbying in Bulgaria was our success in interesting at least some government officials in CC licenses. Of benefit also was the whole process of informing them about different options they have in managing the copyrights of the content on government websites.

In Bulgaria most of the public institutions do not explicitly state that their information is in the public domain. Instead, a general copyright notices confuses users, who do not know what exactly is copyrighted - the design, the content, the back-end etc.

As a result of our efforts, the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the content of its website under Creative Common Attribution 2.5 Bulgarian License in October 2006. Simultaneously, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the current Bulgarian Cabinet started a blog, again under CC-Attribution 2.5 License.

This was the first attempt in Bulgaria to introduce Creative Commons ideology to Government at a high level in the administration, and it was a real success. We hope this will prompt more government administrations to think about the issues related to copyrights in the digital world, and will encourage them to use CC as an informed choice.

Joshua Fouts

Since my meeting with you all in Rio last year, I have noticed a fundamental shift in the foreign policy world. Conversations with foreign ministry officials from China to the U.S. reveal an increasingly broad awareness of the importance of the Commons - especially an awareness of how it is important to the people. And, while this has not resulted in immediate policy changes, I find it positive that they are moving to address it.

Meanwhile, small, innovative grassroots movements such as FreeCulture have continued to grow and mature. Their growth this year has raised the awareness of DRM and related CC issues to a different pitch. Indeed, FreeCulture's efforts have unearthed a number of hidden CC issues Ð at USC I watched with interest the discovery of a CC issue around student films. We were fortunate enough to have Cory Doctorow in residence at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, who served as a tremendous catalyst for increasing such visibility on campus.

Most significant, perhaps, is that the Commons are being seen as a viable bridge for bringing disparate cultures together. This year we launched an effort with Pakistani musical movement Junoon, Magnatune, and the Brookings Institution to explore how using CC music on a global scale can help bring people together. In an era in which misunderstanding and conflict between peoples is at a level rivaling anything in a generation or more, music is a unique salve. If the Commons can help to facilitate that, there is hope indeed.

Eve Gray

What has changed in South Africa's iC/CC/IP world in the last twelve months?

Perhaps the strongest message that the large South African contingent came back with from the iCommons Summit in Rio last year was Gilberto Gil's ringing challenge to us to embrace our 'tropicalisms', using technology to take these traditions with us into the 21st century. Another resonance arose from the vigorous debate about the nature of the nodal networked community that the iCommons wanted to become, reminding me that the colonists at the turn of the 19th century encountered indigenous communities organised in just such a nodal networked society and were equally baffled. So the Commons is perhaps one of our 'tropicalisms'.

South Africa has been given a boost by the fact that we now have the iCommons head office in South Africa, giving us increased confidence and dynamism. A packed house of celebrating 'commoners' at Digital Freedoms party in Cape Town suggested that we have a large and lively community. And while a move to a more open dispensation in the country is a slow process, there are a number of signposts that suggest that we are reaching a tipping point. The funders are active; projects are being launched; the Academy of Science of South Africa, commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology, is implementing the recommendations of a report that advocates the adoption of Open Access publishing models; the government has committed itself to the roll-out of Open Source software in government departments and a Bill on Access to Scientific Data from Publicly Funded Research is about to be tabled in Parliament.

So, as one of our liberation chants would go: 'Viva! Forward the people! Forward!'

Carolina Botero

USA- COLOMBIA free trade agreement will substantially change the copyright system in the South American Country.

In Colombia, the discussion of the chapter on intellectual property of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with USA centered on the impacts of the modifications to the patent regime in relation to medicines . Nevertheless, if the FTA ever enters into force, a true reform to the Colombian legal copyright system will occur without it having been thoroughly studied by the Colombian legislative. The proposed modifications support the American entertainment industry and their demand of a "TRIPs plus" in copyright issues, for example, the term of protection in some cases will be increased to 70 years. Other provisions include the adoption of the American formula for the Technical Protection Measures (TPM) and the application of the criticized copyright infringement notification system on the Internet first adopted on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The economies of the countries involved in commerce negotiations with the USA are greatly modified by these FTAs in many important sectors (http://www.equinoxio.org/destacado/tlc-propiedad-intelectual-y-biodiversidad-atando-cabos-1164/). In spite of the importance of the situation, domestic congressional debates over the negotiations have not been as deep as the subject would demand. Very often the discussions focus on a few sensitive domestic issues ( i.e. health, education, employment), ignoring many others where countries resign sovereignty (i.e. special issues on intellectual property related to new technologies and environment, their impact on growing economies are normally underestimated). This is particularly true of poor countries, given their unequal relations of power vis a vis the USA.

Helen King

The most significant development that has struck me from an iC/CC standpoint since Rio: the debate.

We have just moved our London office to the Millbank Tower, which affords us an unparalleled view of London and the privilege of being next-door to the Tate Britain. I was visiting the new local with a friend and explaining the misconceptions surrounding DRM when we noticed the table next to us having a similar discussion. It transpired that they worked for the Tate and were concerned that the free licences, such as GFDL and CC, provided them with only partial solutions to their problems.

This was a normal, admittedly not yet 100% mainstream, debate that was happening at 9pm on a Tuesday, in a local pub. Even my father has a (somewhat warped) thought or two about copyright.

The fact that we are moving away from the idea that traditional copyright, in all its restrictive glory, is not a default choice, and that we are concerning ourselves with the limitations of each licence, is for me, the most significant development since Rio. An impressive feat by those dedicated to Free Culture.

Heather Ford

iCommons as in the international commons movement?

for the latter, I'd say that they were:

1. Steve Jobs' open letter decrying the state of DRM and EMI's decision to no longer use DRM on iTunes 2. The Russian court's decision to throw out a criminal case against a rural headteacher accused of using pirated Microsoft software in his school 3. The challenge to Creative Commons and the commons movement in general put forward by the open 'letter to the Commons' from self-proclaimed 'pirates' from India


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