February 26, 2007  ·  Lessig

You may have been reading about the recent spat involving C-Span and Speaker Pelosi over copyright and the Congressional Record. Well, longtime champion of many things great — Carl Malamud — has been building a bit of a hack to deal with at least part of the problem.

As he explains, video of Congress engaged in its official business comes in three flavors:

“1. the floor proceedings, which uses government cameras and
everybody (including c-span) pretty much allows folks to grab.

2. hearings that c-span does, which they tightly defend copyright on.

3. the stuff the committees puts directly on the web.”

Many of us believe that if C-Span wants to exercise control over the stuff it films — as it has in many documentaries I have helped with — then it’s time we find someone else to build a Congressional Record that “the people” can use.

Carl has been building a hack to do just that. As (1) has pretty much taken care of itself, and (2) requires Congress giving access to hearings to entities that won’t leverage that access into control (not likely anytime soon), he’s focused on (3). The current problem with (3) is that the content (filmed using government cameras, just as with (1)) is offered sometimes “live only,” and otherwise in a streaming format only. Carl has built some tools for “ripping all congressional streams starting with the house and posting them in a nonproprietary format for download, tagging, review, and annotation at Google Video and another copy at the Internet Archive.”

Read more at Boing Boing.

But all this raises a much more fundamental question.

As more and more “notice and take-downs” get directed at people doing political remixes of candidates and their speeches, it’s time for a candidate to take the lead to assure that the web can be used for politics (without the mess of copyright). What about a pledge not to appear on a program that won’t promise not to prosecute people who do remixes (as opposed to simply distributing the whole show)? (That’s three negatives in one sentence — go slowly.)

Let’s see who is really for (and who has the courage to support) freeing political speech.

February 25, 2007  ·  Lessig

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Two friends of Creative Commons have been nominated for won an Oscar: Board member Davis Guggenheim‘s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (husband of Christiane Henckel von Donnersmarck, original director of Creative Commons International)’s film, The Lives of Others.

Friends are to inspire. And so they have.

February 23, 2007  ·  Lessig

Yesterday, in LA, in partnership with the insurance company, Media/Professional, and LA lawyer Michael Donaldson, we (the Stanford CIS Fair Use Project) made a major announcement. In my just about 10 years working on these issues, this is the most important announcement yet.

As reported just over a year ago, American University’s Center for Social Media released the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use. This fantastic report outlines principles to guide filmmakers in the fair use of copyrighted material in their films. It was an important step towards helping to clarify this unruly area of the law.

Working with Media/Professional, and Michael Donaldson, the Fair Use Project has now found a way to insure films that follow the Best Practices guidelines. For films that are certified to have followed the Best Practices guidelines, Media/Professional will provide a special (read: much lower cost) policy; Stanford’s Fair Use Project will provide pro bono legal services to the film. If we can’t provide pro bono services, then Michael Donaldson’s firm will provide referrals to a number of media lawyers who will provide representation at a reduced rate. Either way, filmmakers will be able to rely upon “fair use” in the making of their film. The Fair Use Project and Donaldson will defend the filmmakers if their use is challenged. Media/Professional will cover liability if the defense is not successful.

This is a huge breakthrough. As many of us have been arguing, the real constraint of fair use comes not from the courts, but from those in the market who are trying to avoid any risk of copyright exposure. This market-based solution will now clear the way for many films to be released which before could not secure insurance. And we are eager to use the inevitable cases that will emerge to solidify the fantastic Statement of Best Practices developed by the Center for Social Media.

The project has an advisory board: filmmakers Kirby Dick, Academy Award-nominee Davis Guggenheim, Arthur Dong and Haskell Wexler; professors Peter Jaszi and me; and intellectual property attorneys Michael Donaldson and Anthony Falzone.

To remix a bit EFF’s slogan: Fair Use’s posse just got a whole lot bigger — and with insurance now to boot.

February 23, 2007  ·  Lessig

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Version 2 of the “freedoms license generator” is now up. Play, and let us know what you think. The aim of the tool is to help develop an intuitive sense of the relationship between the freedoms/constraints of the Creative Commons licenses. It’s got a fancy new interface, and is now really fast.

February 14, 2007  ·  Lessig

So these are taking longer than expected, and now I’ve added a topic I didn’t originally flag (though in 1984-fashion, I’ve hidden this fact by simply changing the original blog entry).

The subject here is spectrum policy. The argument is that we deregulate spectrum. “Deregulate” not in the sense that we auction spectrum. Auctions require a gov’t created property right; that’s a form of spectrum regulation. “Deregulate” in the sense that we set off large swaths of spectrum for unlicensed use. Congress has made this impossible in the short term for any significant chunk of spectrum. But we do have an important opportunity to set free “white space.”

The argument might be best introduced with the following hypothetical:

Imagine the government nationalized the hotdog market, and then sold to the highest bidder the “right to sell hotdogs” at in a particular place for a particular period of time. These rights — the right to sell hotdogs — could be structured to be a kind of property. The market would thus allocate them to the highest valued use. And the initial sale would raise lots of money for the federal treasury.

Are you in favor of that? And if not, then why are you in favor of spectrum auctions? “Because certain uses require regulation,” you say. But then why not push towards uses that don’t require regulation?

Download or stream the video here (27 minutes).

Watch it on Google video below:

My argument builds upon a point I made in a piece published in Cato’s Regulation. You can download that piece here.

February 13, 2007  ·  Lessig

It is with sadness that I post that we’re looking for a new General Counsel at Creative Commons. After two fantastic years at the legal helm, our current GC, Mia Garlick, like the GC before her, Glenn Brown, has been snatched up by the Google Monster. (It’s a nice monster, but very lawyer-hungry).

This is a insanely cool job, though of course, for only non-profit pay. But for anyone eager to move into a more interesting, remake-the-world kind of practice, check out the description on the CC site.

February 13, 2007  ·  Lessig

“Using detailed records of transfers of digital music files, we find that file sharing has had no statistically significant effect on purchases of the average album in our sample,” the study reports. “Even our most negative point estimate implies that a one-standard-deviation increase in file sharing reduces an album’s weekly sales by a mere 368 copies, an effect that is too small to be statistically distinguishable from zero.”

Study here.

(Thanks, M.David!)