Laurel L. Russwurm's Free Culture Blog

a writer, the copyfight and internet freedom

Happy Victoria Day

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Victoria's Family

As you celebrate Canada’s Victoria Day weekend (which we go to great pains to prevent from celebrating on the actual weekend of the 24th of May ~ her birthday) be thankful you don’t have 9 kids. (This painting only shows the first five of the nine children Victoria and Albert had.) And be careful with those fireworks!

Happy Victoria Day!

Franz_Xaver_Winterhalter’s painting “The Family of Queen Victoria” is well into the Public Domain.

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

May 17, 2015 at 7:59 pm

Canadian Political Housecleaning

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The Canadian Bill of Rights after Bill C-51

When I still had hopes some MPs in our Federal Parliament might find it difficult or impossible to vote for Bill C-51, the Harper Government draft legislation that effectively shreds the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights, I did everything possible to spread the word, including reblogging political articles here.  Clearly I was wrong; neither Liberal or Conservative Parliamentarians had the spine to stand up for Canadian civil rights, and our unfair electoral system gave them the power to do so.

The Harper Government dispensed with proper scrutiny or debate and so the fast-tracked Bill C-51 has passed third reading in the House of Commons.  It’s still before the Senate, and will also need Royal Assent, but so far the Senate and the Governor general have proved themselves nothing more than Rubber Stamps, so my hopes are not high.

If you wish to keep an eye on it, Bill C-51 Legisinfo will let you know how far along Bill C-51 is in the process.

Now it’s time for me to return to my day job, and the first order of the day is to clean up the political debris cluttering up my Free Culture blog.  Since it’s poor netiquette  to delete material one has published, I can’t just delete my reposts without making them available, so here is the the list of political articles I reblogged (and now deleted).

But you don’t have to take our word for it… ask the experts:

Law Professors Craig Forcese and Kent Roach (at the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto respectively) have been raising the alarm in articles like“Bill C-51: the Good, the Bad . . . and the Truly Ugly” which outline many of the very disturbing elements of Bill C-51.  They’ve created a website where they have shared their findings about Bill C-51 in detail

Possibly the single most disturbing element for me is something Mr. Forcese says in one of his information videos:

…the whole thing is covert.

We just have never seen anything like this in Canada before. Personally I would expect judges to consider all this unconstitutional and they could never let CSIS breach the constitution. But you and I may never know because, as I’ve said, this legal question would likely be decided as part of secret proceedings.

— Craig Forcese, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law

Bill C-51 ignores the rule of law and the protections Canadians enjoy under our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is serious enough to worry Canadians across the political spectrum.

You know its a non-partisan problem when legal scholars and ex-judges the legal profession and Rex Murphy and Conrad Black andJean Chrétien and Paul Martin and Joe Clark and John Turner andElizabeth May and Thomas Mulcair and the Communist Party andFirst Nations and a growing number of ordinary citizens are in agreement about how bad Bill C-51 is.

If that hasn’t given you enough to chew on, check out these videos:

Michael Harris at the Registry Theatre

Fair Vote Guelph: The Robocall Scandal ~ Town Hall

Stop Bill C-51 #Privacy matters #HumanRights #Canada YouTube Playlist

My own Bill C-51 YouTube Playlist

Any additional blogs I make will appear on my Whoa!Canada blog.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

May 12, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Posted in copyright

Stop Bill C-51

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Sauron Says Stop Bill C-51
Yesterday I reblogged 33 other bloggers posts here, even though they are probably not free culture.  Although I try to keep Canadian politics in the  Whoa! Canada blog, limiting political articles on this blog to issues around copyright and free culture, Bill C-51 has crossed the line.  This law the Harper Government is planning to pass, (maybe today, probably this week) in the face of strong opposition from a clear majority of Canadians, will certainly have a devastating effect on Canadian Culture.  The removal of free speech protections will cause a massive chilling effect ~ self censorship ~ on all Canadian culture.

Some brave souls will continue to publish their art, just as the stubborn ones did in the early days of the Third Reich.  I realize many of you will think this hyperbole, but the parallels between then and now are striking.  I can tell you that I am not a brave soul, that’s why I am doing everything I can to stop this now.  I don’t want to see Canadian civil rights undermined to the point of meaninglessness, not just for myself, but for my family, and all the generations that will come after.

But if my little voice, in concert with all the other Canadian voices goes unheeded, although it will surely break my heart, I will continue to do as I always have; I will continue to follow the law.

But it isn’t law yet, so today I will share and reshare as much as I can manage.   Because I care.  Because it matters.



Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

May 5, 2015 at 11:29 am

Happy Easter from Albrecht Dürer and Me

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Albrecht Durer's Rabbit

I grew up in a creative family, and although I never formally studied art, it was a staple of my public school education* and so I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know who Leonardo da Vinci was. But Albrecht Dürer? Well, I had seen some of his work, but I had no idea who he was until I stumbled on his work on the Internet.

Albrecht Dürer was a “Renaissance Man” from Nuremberg, Germany. A few decades younger than Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer’s interests and work was nearly as eclectic. Albrecht Dürer created some wonderful paintings, scientific studies of the natural world (like the “Young Hare” I’m sharing here), designed architecture and fortifications, dabbled in type face creation, and worked out a lot of the mathematics of art, writing books about measurement, human proportions and geometry. But I think he’s most known for his incredible black and white drawings, elaborate etchings printed from copper engravings or woodcuts, which spread his name and fame throughout the known world.

Although all of Albrecht Dürer’s work is well into the public domain, you’ll find it all over the Internet. While some of it has been marked with proprietary watermarks by people and organizations seeking to claim copyright on it (a shady practise known as “copyfraud”) you can just bypass these things, since there are plenty of excellent quality reproductions of Dürer’s  work in reputable places like Wikimedia Commons, the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Metropolitan Museum of Art and WikiArt.

I’ve taken the liberty of digitally restoring Young Hare to what I think it would have looked like when it was new.

*public school education in Canada that means the universally available state funded public education stretching from Kindergarden through the 12th grade.

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

April 5, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Rijksstudio Awards 2015

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Portrait of Queen Wilhelmina circa 1898 by WG

My digitally framed Queen Wilhelmina (CC0 ~ Public Domain)

This is a portrait of Wilhelmina, the great grandmother of today’s King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. I found her among the Rijksmuseum‘s online collection of its holdings.

One of the best things is that the Rijksmuseum understands that the Public Domain is the Public Domain. No claiming copyright on scanned images of Public Domain art here, this museum makes its collection available to users in high definition.

Better yet, the Rijksmuseum actively encourages users to make use of its works. To facilitate this it provides a web platform called Rijks Studios where people can collect their favourite Rijksmuseum artwork, and/or remix existing Rijksmuseum works into something completely new which can be posted to the site.

Best of all, the Rijksmuseum is providing an incentive to encourage users to create their own transformative works by way of The Rijksstudio Award 2015 contest that anyone in the world can enter!

Every kind of art imaginable is allowed – design, fine art, applied art, photography, video – and everyone can enter the competition. Check out the eclectic mix of last years finalists ranging from Old Master Headware to eye shadow found here.

I’m very busy with my PubSlush video so I hope I will be able to find the time to complete my own entry before the 15 March 2015 deadline — a notorious day in the arts known as “The Ides of March”.

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

March 6, 2015 at 6:28 pm

Posted in copyright

Thanks for the memories, Leonard Nimoy

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Leonard Nimoy RIP

I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, a man who made such a great impression on so many of us with his incredible portrayal of the most decidedly human-alien, Mr. Spock.

Image Credit
This is a thumbnail drawing of Mr. Spock I did (yes, I used the pseudonym “Vega” for my artwork back in the day) for the science fiction fanzine CANEKTION, my very first self publishing effort (circa 1970s). Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

February 27, 2015 at 2:34 pm

Finding a Digital Public Domain Book

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elmira carnegie 2
DRM-Free LabelAn avid Public Library user asked me if there was some way to access the book “Daddy Long Legs” by Jean Webster without having to submit to the Library’s Overdrive system.  My friend believes this book was published around 1912, which places it squarely in the Public Domain.

(This is not to single out any particular library… my understanding is that “Public Libraries” all seem to have fallen into the thrall of Overdrive… I’ll blog about why people might want to avoid the odious Overdrive and DRM later.)

Any number of “free websites” like Public Bookshelf allow you to read online so they can serve you ads:

Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster cover (1912)For myself, I prefer to go the free-as-in-freedom route.  The first place to look for any Public Domain digital book is online at the awesome Project Gutenberg

PG has been digitizing books since the 1970’s, so they have a very good selection.  Sure enough, PG does have “Daddy Long-Legs” which you can:

(1) read online, or

(2) download

  • in the Kindle proprietary format or
  • in the free eBook standard ePub, which can be read with any ePub reader on any digital device, or
  • in Plain Text.

Plain Text can be read in your computer’s text reader (Notepad or Geddit etc.)

If you don’t know if you have an ePub Reader, the one everyone can use is FBReader, the Free and Gratis ePub reader I know will work on windows, mac, GNU/linux, tablets/phones etc  Download it free/gratis at  (I am pretty sure this is the reader that comes native with the Calibre eBook conversion software.]

Mary Pickford“Daddy Long Legs” is a famous classic, so you can also download it:

  1. as a digital audio book free/gratis from Librevox []
  2. where it is actually stored on Internet Archive  []
  3. or you can listen to the whole Librivox ebook on YouTube
  4. If you prefer movies, you can watch Mary Pickford in the 1919 Public Domain movie on YouTube
  5. which you can also download from Internet Archive

[There are also what I presume to be copyright encumbered film versions, like the Fred Astaire musical version:
and the 1970s animated version:
Either of these would be illegal to copy if they are still in copyright… they may or may not be; but it would take research to find out for sure, so until you know either way,it is always safest to assume the worst.]

If you are looking for digital Public Domain books, the best place to get them is not from the Public Library.  The problem is that even Public Domain books that library patrons acquire through Overdrive come  encumbered with DRM and/or  TOS requirements.

against DRM (cc by Nina Paley)In these days of copyright insanity, we at least ought to be able to access unencumbered Public Domain work.  Why should some faceless corporate entity have the right to tell us what we can or can’t do with works in the Public Domain… because the Public Domain belongs to the public– and that’s you and me.

For future reference, when you’re looking for Public Domain material, always check the free-as-in-freedom & gratis Project Gutenberg, Project Gutenberg and Librivox, because they very often have them.  (And, if you’ve a little extra time on your hands, these wonderful public service organizations are always in the market for volunteers.)

waterloo library


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