authorship

The Return of DRM

Originally written for the nettime-l mailing list which lead to a follow-up discussion, here, and here.

In early 2007, Steve Jobs (of all people!) concluded in his 'Thoughts on Music' that "DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work."1 Soon after, one label after the other started selling music in "unstricted"2 formats, and there was much celebration about the death of DRM. And, there were lots of reasons see things this way: Digital Rights Management Systems were very unpopular with the public. People hated them. Plain and simple. And they were technically unstable, because the encryption, once released to the public, was regularly broken within a few days. And attempts to re-engineer the entire computer operating system to make DRM possible -- Windows Vista -- turned out be be equally unpopular and fraught with internal problems.

Fast-forward three years. Increasingly, our data is up in the clouds. The decentralized architectures for digital production of the 1990s are being phased-out. Google is pushing an operating system (Chrome) were all data is being stored online and virtually nothing remains on the computer. The device which individuals own is being reduced to a relatively dumb terminal. The apple IPad, it seems, is optimized for consumption (and thus hailed as the savior of the old, consumer oriented media industries).

Kritische Strategien zu Kunst und Urheberrecht

Kunstforum_TitelSeit bald 150 Jahren soll das moderne Urheberrecht (UHR) den Umgang mit „Werke[n] der Literatur, Wissenschaft und Kunst“ (§ 1, des aktuellen deutschen Urheberrechtsgesetz) regeln. Rund 100 Jahre zurück reichen die Anfänge der avantgardistischen Subversion bürgerlich-romantischer Konzeptionen von „KünstlerIn“ und „Werk“, die auch dem UHR zugrunde liegen. Durch die Einführung des Prinzips Zufall, die Verwendung bestehender kultureller Artefakte, die Betonung der Rolle des Unterbewussten, oder die direkte Intervention in soziale Prozesse wurde die Vorstellung des autonomen, aus sich selbst schöpfenden Subjekts von allen Seiten untergraben. Dessen ungeachtet propagierte der expandierende Kunstmarkt genau dieses KünstlerInnenbild. Vor diesem Hintergrund ist es fast erstaunlich, dass das Urheberrecht selbst erst sehr spät im Feld der Kunst direkt relevant wurde. Der erste große Gerichtsfall fand 1990-92 statt. Der Photograph Art Rogers verklagte den Künstler Jeff Koons, weil dieser nach Vorlage einer Postkarte von Rogers (Puppies, 1986) eine Skulptur (A String of Puppies, 1988) anfertigen ließ und in der Ausstellung Ushering in Banality präsentiert hatte. Im Kern ging es um die Frage, ob es sich hierbei um eine legitime künstlerische Strategie (die sich auf das US-amerikanische Recht des fair use berufen könne) oder um eine unautorisierte Werkbearbeitung handle. Koons verlor den Prozess sowohl in der ersten als auch in der zweiten Instanz und sah sich bald mit einer Fülle von Klagen konfrontiert, die konzeptuell vergleichbare Werke betrafen.

The extasy of Influence

I'm reading: The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism, by Jonathan Lethem, (Harper's Magazine, Feb.2007). Which is how influences flow freely in art and most artists have no problem admitting this (why should they?). Today's strong claims of copyright are based on what he calls "source hypocrisy" (denial of one's sources, refusal to allow one's work to become the source for someone else). In most cases, artists themselves are less hyporcritics than the corporations, trusts, foundations administring their work. Lethem also mentions that Bob Dylan never refused the permission for a sample.

A large, diverse society cannot survive without property; a large, diverse, and modern society cannot flourish without some form of intellectual property. But it takes little reflection to grasp that there is ample value that the term “property” doesn't capture. And works of art exist simultaneously in two economies, a market economy and a gift economy. The cardinal difference between gift and commodity exchange is that a gift establishes a feeling-bond between two people, whereas the sale of a commodity leaves no necessary connection. (....) But a gift makes a connection. There are many examples, the candy or cigarette offered to a stranger who shares a seat on the plane, the few words that indicate goodwill between passengers on the late-night bus. These tokens establish the simplest bonds of social life, but the model they offer may be extended to the most complicated of unions—marriage, parenthood, mentorship. If a value is placed on these (often essentially unequal) exchanges, they degenerate into something else.
(....)

Nachahmung, Transformation und Autorfunktion

Dieser Text ist publiziert in: Kroeger, Odin, Günther Friesinger, Paul Lohberger, Eberhard Ortland und Thomas Ballhausen, Hg. Geistiges Eigentum und Originalität: Zur Politik der Wissens- und Kulturproduktion. Wien: Turia + Kant, 2011, s. 19-32.

Abstract: Employing concepts developed by Gabriel Tarde and Bruno Latour, this article investigates at how a new function of the author is being defined in digital media. What is found to emerge is a practical alternative to the dichotomy between notions of possessive individualism (underlying copyright law) and simplified notions of the death of the author. Here, authorship functions less as a means to establish rigid ownership and control, but serves more as a dynamic system of accountability and reputation building capable of structuring open, collaborative processes.

Einleitung

Vor nunmehr 40 Jahren verkündete Roland Barthes den „Tod des Autors“ (vgl. Barthes, 1969/2000). Was zu diesem Zeitpunkt eine notwendige Abkehr einer durch den Anglo-Amerikanischen „new criticism“ bereits überholten aber in Frankreich immer noch bestimmenden Form der Autor-zentrierten Literaturkritik war, ist bald zu einem Cliché und damit zu einer Sackgasse verkommen. Vor die Wahl gestellt zwischen einer konventionellen Ausprägung der Autorschaft – Cartesianisches Ego übersetzt in bürgerliche Subjektivität untermauert durch das Urheberrecht – und einer diffundierten Autorschaft – aufgegangen im „Murmeln des Diskurses“ wie es Michel Foucault ausdrückte (vgl. 1972/1991) – erfreute sich die erstere in der Praxis einer hartnäckigen Beliebtheit. Dazu trugen auch die Kulturindustrie und der Kunstmarkt bei, deren ideologischen Kern eine übersteigerte Autorschaft ausmacht, die sie aus nachvollziehbarem Eigeninteresse bis heute mit großem Nachdruck propagieren. Die theoretische Dekonstruktion hingegen ging zum einem kaum über die Feststellung der Dezentrierung, Verteilung oder Zerstreuung der Autorschaft hinaus. Zum anderen wurde Praxis des kulturellen Schaffen, die Werke und damit Autoren hervorbringt, lange Zeit nur an den Rändern verändert. Collage, Assemblage und Appropriation als künstlerische Methoden wurden jeweils schnell assimiliert. Explizit anti-autorielle Praktiken blieben politisch und kulturell marginal (vgl. Cramer, 2008), und oftmals verhaftet im widersprüchlichen romantischen Gedanken, wonach das Zurücktreten des Schöpfers zur Steigerung der Erhabenheit des Werkes (und damit, indirekt aber umso wirksamer, des symbolischen Kapitals des Autors) führe.

print-on-demand for google books

CNet has this story, highlighting the two way processes of digitization and materlialization

On Demand Books, makers of the Espresso Book Machine, are expected to announce Thursday that they have been granted access to Google's library of public domain digital books for use with their product. The Espresso Book Machine can print a 300-page book in four minutes, complete with a cover and a bound edge. It ranges in price from $75,000 to $97,000, depending on the configuration, and is found mostly at universities, libraries, and institutions around the globe.

The books thus produced are probably so cheap that it's more economical for libraries to simply give them away that to loan, track, process the return, and re-shelve them (which costs quite a bit, I think  Brewster Kahle, archive.org, once put a figure of $4 on it, though obviously that depends on a lot of variables.) See also this article with details on pricing (sales price at about $8 per book).

Motivations for creating derivative works

From PDF to MP3: Motivations for creating derivative works
by John Hilton III.
First Monday, Volume 14, Number 9 - 7 September 2009
http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewAr...

From the conclusion:

This study indicates that individuals are willing to create derivatives because they want to help others access a given work and they want to make it more convenient to access it personally. Some derivatives, such as changing file formats, can take little time to create. Other derivatives, such as language translations, can be extremely time–consuming. However, individuals are willing to voluntarily create both types of derivatives. Nearly all those surveyed indicated they were glad that they had created derivative works, feeling like they were part of a community effort to share a given work with others. These creators of derivatives believe that as the awareness of open licenses increases others will be encouraged to create derivative works.

The study is fairly limited -- only 17 people were interviewed, and the original works were all books on the subject area -- but it's interesting nevertheless since it focusses on the motivations of people who do relatively uncreative mundane work, but still enjoy doing it because a sense of identity this creates.

Collaborative Filtering with Ensembles

Article on new collaborative platforms for software development

One of the most interesting insights from the results of the Netflix challenge is that while the algorithms, the psychology, and good knowledge of statistics goes a long way, it was ultimately the cross-team collaboration that ended the contest. "The Ensemble" team, appropriately named for the technique they used to merge their results consists of over 30 people. Likewise, the runner up team ("BellKor") is a collaborative effort of several distinct groups that merged their results. It is easy to overlook this fact, except that it is not a one-time occurrence. The leaderboard for the recent GitHub contest also clearly shows over half of the top ten entries as ensemble techniques!

test not on front page

this should not not be on the front page

The Benefits of Weak Copyright

File-Sharing and Copyright, by Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf, Harvard Business School, Working Paper 09-132

From the Introduction:

The advent of file-sharing technology has allowed consumers to copy music, books, video games and other protected works on an unprecedented scale at minimal cost. In this essay, we ask whether the new technology has undermined the incentives of authors and entertainment companies to create, market and distribute new works. While the empirical evidence of the effect of file sharing on sales is mixed, many studies conclude that music piracy can perhaps explain as much as one fifth of the recent decline in industry sales. A displacement of sales alone, however, is not sufficient to conclude that authors have weaker incentives to create new works. File sharing also influences the markets for concerts, electronics and communications infrastructure. For example, the technology increased concert prices, enticing artists to tour more often and, ultimately, raising their overall income.

Data on the supply of new works are consistent with our argument that file sharing did not discourage authors and publishers.

-> Michael Geist's summary

Making Money on YouTube

The NYT has an interesting article on people who make money with the regular video shows (apparently all comedy). Through YouTube's partner program (where people can register to have adds shown next to their video -- so that youtube can be sure not to show adds on pirated content). According the a company spokesperson, there are "hundreds of YouTube partners are making thousands of dollars a month." One of the shows as an average of about 200'000 viewers with popular episodes up to three million.

Mr. Williams, who counts about 180,000 subscribers to his videos, said he was earning $17,000 to $20,000 a month via YouTube. Half of the profits come from YouTube’s advertisements, and the other half come from sponsorships and product placements within his videos, a model that he has borrowed from traditional media.

On YouTube, it is evident that established media entities and the up-and-coming users are learning from each other. The amateur users are creating narrative arcs and once-a-week videos, enticing viewers to visit regularly. Some, like Mr. Williams, are also adding product-placement spots to their videos. Meanwhile, brand-name companies are embedding their videos on other sites, taking cues from users about online promotion. Mr. Walk calls it a subtle “cross-pollination” of ideas.

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