Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sweden Officially Introduce Creative Commons License for Music

The board of STIM – the Swedish Performing Rights Society, has decided to introduce a noncommercial Creative Commons license (CC) during a trial period of two years. STIM protects the interests of authors and publishers of music in Sweden. On their behalf, STIM administers and licenses rights to music and text. Through its international network, STIM also represents rights to the worldwide repertoire of musical works. In addition, STIM promotes the creation and dissemination of new Swedish music.

The Danish equivalent, Koda – Komponistrettigheder i Danmark, already offers Creative Commons licensing to its members, making it the second country worldwide to do so. A similar pilot project was initiated in 2007 by Buma/Stemra in the Netherlands.

It shows that collective rights management and licenses can be combined to the benefit of artists, by taking noncommercial online distribution into their own hands.

Famous Swedish Author Vote for Piracy Party

Lars Gustafsson is voting for Piratpartiet. Lars Gustafsson, one of the most important living Swedish authors, is perhaps best known for his slim novels and story-collections, but he is also a respected poet.

An American citizen since 1983 and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at University of Texas, Austin, Lars Gustafsson has gained international recognition with literary awards, such as the Prix International Charles Veillon des Essais in 1983, the Heinrich Steffens Preis in 1986, Una Vita per la Litteratura in 1989, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for poetry in 1994, and several others.

He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His major works have been translated into fifteen languages.

(In Swedish:

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Music Industry Does Not Deserve To Survive – Part 2

I was surfing for the monthly music download at random. And as usual I got the message “This album is unavailable for download in your country (Sweden) at this time.” *sigh*

OK, you oligopoly morons. I want to buy the record, I have the money, but you do not want to sell. What do want me to do?

Until you give me a credible answer, I’ll go to TPB and download the stuff. They are the only one who provide what I want to buy. And presently free of charge. Sort of.

How hard can it be?

The music industry does not want me to buy. They definitely do not deserve to survive.

(And anyway, I got the LP so I already bought the record once. So when exactly did Emerson, Lake and Palmer become cool? Oh… right. They didn’t.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Piracy Through History – Why it’s good for Society

Thomas Alva Edison in his early piracy days.

I met with Matt Mason last week at the Thinking Digital conference in Newcastle, UK. We discussed the Swedish TPB trial and he had some made very interesting observations: Trace the origins of music, radio, movies, TV and almost any industry where intellectual property is involved and you find piracy at the beginning.

When Edison invented the phonographic record, musicians branded him a pirate out to steal their work, until a system was created for paying them royalties. Edison, in turn, went to invent the movie projector and demanded a licensing fee from those making movies with his technology. This in turn caused a band of filmmaking pirates, among them William Fox, to abandon New York for Hollywood. The reason was more hours of sunshine (most movies in those days was shot in out-door studios), cheap land, weaker unions, more liberal labor laws, and proximity to the Mexican border. When the police raided the pirates they could quickly flee over the border until the coast was clear.

They thrived unlicensed until Edison’s patent expired. These pirates continue to operate in Hollywood legally. William Fox’s startup have became one of the largest in media business: 20th Century Fox.

When cable TV first came about in 1948, the cable companies refused to pay the networks for broadcasting their content. For more than 30 years they operated like a primitive illegal file-sharing network until Congress decided that they, too, should pay for content.

In Europe it was prohibited to have commercial TV and radio – In Sweden as long as until 1987. Radio Luxembourg was the world’s largest commercial station in the 1950s. As it is virtually impossible to prosecute someone in another country (radio or internet) Radio Luxembourg could blanket most of Europe with radio programs for a target group with great spending power and that the traditional national radio stations didn’t care about: the teenagers.

Offshore pirate radio exploded in the 1960s. The Dutch government legislated heavily against radio pirates in 1964 and raided Radio Nordsee by air and sea attack from the Dutch armed forces. That was unsuccessful. Later they became Televisie Radio Omroep Stichting, a Dutch television and radio organization, now part of the Netherlands Public Broadcasting.

The British government legislated heavily against radio pirates in 1967, but BBC launched Radio 1 which mission was to compete with the pirates. They hired the former pirate DJs, like John Peel.

Swedish TV3, owned by MTG Modern Times Group, started out as a pirate. The channel was broadcast from London in order to avoid the tight Swedish advertising rules. When they started TV commercials were prohibited in Sweden and there were serious proposals in 1980s to ban satellite dishes and VHS recorders in Sweden.

There are many more examples of successful pirates become legal successes. (But they would hardly admit they once started out as pirates.)

The pirates are on the wrong side of the law, but they are invaluable for innovation and development in society. By refusing to conform to regulations they believe are unfair, pirates have created huge industries from nothing. But because lax law enforcement these pirates could cut some slack and actually add value to a stagnated monopolized industry. Eventually compromises were reached and new laws created and as a result a new industry developed: the record companies, the Cable TV, the movie industry.

If monopoly laws, like copyright, had stopped all these pirates we would probably live in a world that today look like a giant fundamental religious or political community. No recorded music, no cable TV, no free radio, and a selection of films I rather won’t think about.

Photo copyright: Public Domain, Brady-Handy Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Perfect Example of Traditional Business Models Meet the New Order

The Swedish Writers’ Union just said fuck you to the largest Swedish publishing house Bonnierförlagen. (photo left) The quarrel is about the Google Booksearch Settlement. Bonniers turned down the Google offer, as many other European publishing houses have done. Logical as they want to negotiate the offer first.

But Bonniers realized that they didn’t own the copyright to the eBook version of most of their titles. The rights are entirely owned by the authors. So the authors are free to sign private deals with Google.

Most of the books are in-copyright, but out of print. And they are “orphan works,” that is, works for which it is virtually impossible to locate the appropriate rights holders to ask for permission to digitize them.

Therefore Bonniers introduce their own eBook offer to their authors. But it turned out that the Bonniers’ offer was a lot worse than Google’s. The new Bonniers deal builds on a traditional copyright – the right to copy and distribute on paper.

Google’s model builds on a Creative Common license, shared between the author and the publisher, developed for the Internet. Bonniers’ model is unsuitable for the electronic media. Funny, as the settlement is about eBooks.

It’s a perfect example of where traditional business models meet new ones.

Google Booksearch SettlementBonniers deal
Non exclusiveExclusive
Cancellation on notice in advanceForever
63% royalty to the author on sales24 % royalty to the author on “net revenues” (unspecified)

Bonniers can pick and choose which books they will publish, without the author’s permission or any renumeration.The Sweders Writers' Union understood the Bonniers deal’s lack of common sense. For the authors it should be a no-brainer to choose.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

An open letter to Piratpartiet

Concerning the handling of Acta, Hadopi, Ipred, 138/46 and other democracy restricting regulations.

Integrity and transparency goes hand in hand. Sweden has since 1766 had the act on Public access to governmental documents.

The act has been of crucial importance for the Swedish democracy. Swedish citizens have been able to obtain full insight into the background of intended policy decisions and have been able to influence the public debate before the decisions have been made.

In order to fully benefit from freedom of speech, you must have information about what is happening in society. Freedom of information means the freedom to obtain and receive information and otherwise to acquaint yourself with the statements of others. The idea behind the Swedish freedom of the press is that in order to ensure free interchange of opinions and enlightenment of the public, each Swedish citizen shall have the right in print his thoughts and opinions, to publish official documents and to make statements and communicate information on any subject whatsoever. The principle that official documents are made public can be considered a part of freedom of information.

A democracy is dependent on the citizen’s possibility to influence the policy. Without public access to information, there is no real democracy.

In societies without transparency you easily get the impression that decisions are taken behind locked doors. That is a good environment for conspiracy theories, populism and extremism. Openness and public control is a fundament for democracy.

A year ago the EU commission introduced a proposal for changes in the EU regulations: “COM/2008/0229 FIN, Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents

The changes will mostly be restrictions in the public access to official EU documents. The proposal consists of 16 changes of which 11 are increased restrictions to public access, four are transparency neutral and one supports a more open access.

There is no doubt the proposal restricts the transparence and consolidates the public authorities’ position against the citizens.

The proposal will introduce restrictive exceptions for whole classes of documents. It will change the definition of what an “accessible document” is to only comprise documents that can be printed on paper or copied electronically. And member countries will have the possibility to veto handing out official documents.

Public access to official documents is fundamental for democracy. As a citizen it is important to be able to procure information regardless of whether or not you are involved in the matter and regardless of what the bureaucracy does.

It is also important to know that the policy makers have an incentive for thoroughness and carefulness in dealing with a matter. We can for example expect a greater adherence to the rule of law if the documents they produce are public.

And the bureaucracy will probably be more efficient, as better informed public discussions can be based directly on the documents. (SOU 1966/60, p 72)

The legislation on freedom of information continues to fulfill important functions in the Swedish welfare and interventionist state.

In order to hold governments accountable for its actions, citizens must know what those actions are. The government must act openly and transparently to the greatest extent possible. This require making its data available online and easy to access. If government data is made available online in useful and flexible formats, citizens will be able to utilize Internet tools to shed light on government activities. Like mashups that highlight hidden connections between different data sets, or crowdsourcing where the public is invited to systematize or analyze large amounts of data.

The EU should release public information online in a structured, open, and searchable manner and make these available in a useful form to the public.

The EU proposal COM/2008/0229 FIN is a sad step in the wrong direction.

(This text Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike)