MS Office integrates CC licensing

Talk about the clash of cultures…

License your office (documents)

Microsoft has released a tool for copyright licensing that enables the easy addition of Creative Commons licensing information for works in popular Microsoft Office applications. The software is available free of charge at Microsoft Office Online and will enable the 400 million [PC-based] users of Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office Excel, and Microsoft Office PowerPoint to easily select Creative Commons licenses from directly within the application they are working in.

Not available for Mac though.

Crowdsourcing as Free Labour

I love Wired, it is just so blatant:

For the last decade or so, companies have been looking overseas, to India or China, for cheap labor. But now it doesn’t matter where the laborers are – they might be down the block, they might be in Indonesia – as long as they are connected to the network.

Technological advances in everything from product design software to digital video cameras are breaking down the cost barriers that once separated amateurs from professionals. Hobbyists, part-timers, and dabblers suddenly have a market for their efforts, as smart companies in industries as disparate as pharmaceuticals and television discover ways to tap the latent talent of the crowd. The labor isn’t always free, but it costs a lot less than paying traditional employees. It’s not outsourcing; it’s crowdsourcing.

In the most cynical of worlds, this is the payoff of the ‘creative commons’. Not cultural democracy, not universal cultural enfranchisement, but this. Well, what did I expect, I guess.

Bits

Birthday greetings to Herman Hesse, wherever he is.

From my favourite agent provocateur and radical hacker, David Berry, come the libre commons licenses:

This is a project to develop non-legal licenses that will operate in the shared space that can non-bureaucratically and non-instrumentally be formed resisting law, the intellectual property regime and state violence. These licenses are written explicitly against the presuppositions and caveats of the Creative Commons licenses which (un)consciously seek to use culture as purely a resource. Instead these licenses are anti-licenses; ethical frameworks or chromosomes of social practices.

The licenses come in two flavours:
Libre Commons Res Communes License

This license declares your work to a common that is shared between us as human beings. It is therefore owned in common with others.

Libre Commons Res Divini Juris License

This license declares your work to the realm of the gods. Where as a moment of clearing it contributes to a permanent state of exception rejecting state law and liberal conceptions of the nation state.

You have to love all that latin, it’s so hot 😉

The BBC and technodemocracy

One of the things I learned at Wednesday night’s talk by Paula le Dieu was that among the rash of early 80s microcomputers was something called the BBC micro (an Acorn). BBC micro It came out of the BBC Education “BBC computer literacy project” – apparently, the Beeb wanted to build a microcomputer that could do everything demonstrated in their 1981 series “The Computer Program”, and make it accessible to the audience. They ended up selling over a million for (I think) around 300 quid each. As Paula said, what a strange business for a broadcaster to be in, but it makes just as little sense, really, for a broadcaster to be digitising their archives (60,000 hours of video footage and about a bezillion hours of radio, if memory serves) and making them freely available under (non-commerical) creative commons licenses. If we assume there’s some kind of a “production power in the hands of the people” ethos behind both of these initiatives, then it’s interesting that the technological tipping point has moved from hardware (machines) to raw content that can be remixed and reworked. The democratic potential of creative citizenship is no longer thought to be in the box, but in a shared pool of symbolic resources – yay for that.

I’m struck by the counter-intuitive and yet eminently sensible nature of this impulse on the part of the BBC – counter-intuitive because you would think a broadcaster would want to stem the tide of DIY media; eminently sensible because the BBC is a public service broadcaster that has long realised that the public has things to say; things that can be easily made to enrich the BBC itself.

However, the digitisation of the archives is a huge leap of faith – giving up control over their content and the way it is used in service of outcomes that are not yet known. And it’s a huge, expensive, technical and legal nightmare, mainly because of third-party rights in massive amounts of BBC content and the lack of clarity and records pertaining to those rights – which has pushed the launch back quite a bit.

Interestingly, the archive is in theory only going to be accessible from within the UK because of the whole public service/British taxpayers’ money thing – but if those same taxpayers help out with distribution costs by sharing the downloaded content using P2P networks, as in fact the BBC hopes will happen, so much the better.

Creative Commons Loot and Conference Schmoozing

The first day of the OCL conference (see previous entry) went not too badly, so here’s some extremely random highlights.

In our conference packs we got copies of the Creative Commons copy me/remix me CD (but I really wanted the Wired one), CC buttons and stickers, and a v. nice QUT pen…Larry Lessig gave his trademark performance, with a masterfully synchronised use of one-word powerpoint slides in his retro typewriter font, and his over-the-top declamatory style – you always feel like you’re at some kind of copyleft tent revival meeting. As a cultural studies person, it is interesting to note that his focus in these speeches has now moved away from the liberal economic arguments he was making in The Future of Ideas and has become much more culturally focused – the keyword is “remix”, people. There was even a hint in there of a cultural democracy argument; i.e. that the rights and freedoms enjoyed by those who work expertly with words (fair use, the ability to comment, pull apart and reassemble the words of others) must be extended to those who work with images and sounds, because the second group is the larger, and will continue to grow, and because the first group is an elite. [Mind you, there’s no getting away from the fundamental concepts of copyright: the author and the work, which are still hugely problematic for many, many creative and cultural practices not based on the dominant Anglo-European tradition – Best Question of the Day award goes to Danny Butt for bringing this point up]

I also belatedly found out about some of CC’s ongoing tech projects – mixter is especially interesting, in that (like flickr), it is an example of the emerging articulation between online social networks (friendster, orkut) and creative content. But not only can you track the relationships and connections between people on the network (friends of friends), you can can track the evolution of those people’s original content (for the moment, they’re starting with music) as it is sampled, remixed, and redistributed. For one thing, this is designed to start building communities of practice around creative commons licensing and content sharing, and for another, it might work as a proof of concept for CC’s focus on remix culture.

And who ever thought I’d be sitting down to a roast-dinner-and-salad buffet on the Kookaburra Queen, like some callow tourist? Let alone sitting on the top deck drunkenly masterplanning the future of various university disciplines with Terry Cutler, Stuart Cunningham, and John Quiggin, for all the world as if I were some pipe-smoking, tweed-wearing academic mafioso in a creaky leather chair in some old boys club, instead of the feisty upstart I’d mucn prefer to think I am. But that’s what happens when you attend a conference dominated by lawyers, and the conference dinner sees you stuck on a boat with them – solidarity is to be found in the unlikeliest of places. Oh, and I finally met Seb Chan in the flesh and had a lovely chat.

Back today for some stuff on computer games…

Cultivating Intercreativity…

…that’s the title of a short paper I’m giving tomorrow at Open Content Licensing (OCL): Cultivating the Creative Commons (pdf) at QUT, with guest star Larry Lessig. I’ll be appearing as a proxy for the Youth Internet Radio Network (YIRN), which I’ve been involved with as a researcher, but which isn’t really “my” project.

YIRN uses ethnographic action research to develop and investigate a network of young content creators and youth-oriented organisations from across Queensland, which includes developing an online space for creative content, collaboration and interaction that will be called www.sticky.net.au when it launches. I’ll be speaking about the principle of intercreativity (as opposed to older ideas about how engagement – such as with government – can be facilitated through top-down content delivery with added-on “interactivity”), and the ways in which creative commons licensing and the participatory, “open architecture” approach YIRN is taking to website design and development aim to support intercreativity, innovation, and enterprise outcomes.

I will then entertain the assembled lawyers and government types with some of the actual creative content, whereupon everyone gets to breathe a sigh of relief and head off to the dinner cruise. If the DVD fails, i may have to do something else to induce the same level of excitement. Damnit, I never should have dropped jazz ballet in grade 2.

OurMedia

Look at this: an idea whose time has come, to my mind. There’s a graphic depiction of how it will work here.

It’s been a long time since I stumbled across some cool new web project that spoke to a niggling question raised by my research – and there are always a lot of niggling questions. In this case: why don’t digital storytellers, as well as amateur music producers, photographers, film-makers, animators, etc. have a networked space of their own? Why is the production and consumption of digital stories, for example, so static and limited? (eg someone attends a workshop, makes a story, the story gets uploaded to the “community media” project or the BBC’s website, attributed to a name without any kind of cultural presence on the web, and then that’s it – people can view it and sometimes comment, but there is little that the individual producer can leverage beyond saying “look. I made this story”).

So with this new project, it is not only the idea of a “repository” of multiple genres of independent and amateur broadband content, where users and upload and download, and remake content at will, subject to Creative Commons licensing that sparks my interest. This is obviously a damn good experiment.

But much more interesting to me are the hints of an intention to build communities of practice in and around the content – this has been the splinter in my brain keeping me up at night lately.

There are a lot of things I’m curious about, eg. how “repurposed” proprietary content (fan films, mashups, etc) will be handled, etc. But at least in theory, the idea of open media is a nice little birthday present for creativity/machine, which is one year old tomorrow.

Remix-a-licious


At Horizon 0, my new favourite online journal (at least for the next five minutes) is an evocative piece on the forms and future of remix culture.

Samples from the Heap: Notes on Recycling the Detritus of a Remixed Culture by Bernard Schutze:

Mix, mix again, remix: copyleft, cut ‘n’ paste, digital jumble, cross-fade, dub, tweak the knob, drop the needle, spin, merge, morph, bootleg, pirate, plagiarize, enrich, sample, break down, reassemble, multiply input source, merge output, decompose, recompose, erase borders, remix again. These are among many of the possible actions involved in what can be broadly labeled ‘remix culture’ – an umbrella term which covers a wide array of creative stances and initiatives, such as: plunderphonics, detritus.net, recombinant culture, open source, compostmodernism, mash-ups, cut-ups, bastard pop, covers, mixology, peer to peer, creative commons, ‘surf, sample, manipulate’, and uploadphonix.

continue reading…

Creative Commons Launched in Australia

We all felt a sense of occasion in the air yesterday at the launch of the Australian bit of the International Creative Commons Project. The Faculty of Law at QUT has had a big hand in translating the creative commons licenses into Australian legal-speak, and there are some exciting cultural applications and initiatives happening around the place. One of the funkiest is the Australian Creative Resources Archive – a kind of recycling plant for digital, or digitised, content.

ACRO is a Federally funded archive of video, music and other creative material built to provide creative raw materials that help stimulate the production of new broadband content.

ACRO is designed to fulfil an important role in the new creative environment offered by broadband technologies. Artists, educators, and researchers are becoming more restricted in the material they can use because of changes to copyright law. ACRO will reverse this trend by providing access to large amounts of high quality multimedia material.

Using Creative Commons licenses, content contributors can maintain more flexible control over their material than that offered by traditional copyright. If you provide content to ACRO, you decide what you want to happen with it. You can, for example, provide free use for education and non-commercial purposes while also allowing commercial use of your materials under circumstances that you are comfortable with. You decide what can happen with your content.

Extra gravitas was provided at the launch by the virtual presence of Larry Lessig, whose presentation involved, without a doubt, the funkiest use of powerpoint (I think it was powerpoint) I have ever seen.