Laurel L. Russwurm's Free Culture Blog

a writer, the copyfight and internet freedom

Archive for the ‘copyright’ Category

Happy Easter from Albrecht Dürer and Me

with one comment

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

leave a comment »

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

Finding a Digital Public Domain Book

with 5 comments

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:
http://www.publicbookshelf.com/romance/daddy-long-legs/

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 http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/157

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 http://fbreader.org/.  (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 [https://librivox.org/daddy-long-legs-by-jean-webster/]
  2. where it is actually stored on Internet Archive  [https://archive.org/details/daddy-long-legs_librivox)]
  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:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04M9M9yaNG8
and the 1970s animated version:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQIGNow-03E
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 Canadaarchive.org 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

Happy Public Domain Day!

leave a comment »

Happy New Year from the Public Domain

In the beginning, everything was in the Public Domain. But that all changed when the English Queen Anne put an end to public ownership of our shared culture by passing the first Copyright Law in 1710. The idea was that this would encourage creators to create. Initially this Intellectual Property monopoly applied exclusively to the printed word. The term was limited to a few years to ensure creative works would return to the Public Domain.

As time went by, however, the scope of copyright has expanded to include most of the creative realms, and what were once limited terms (ostensibly intended to encourage creators to create) now extends decades past the death of the author. (So far no one has explained how this can possibly encourage dead creators to create new art.)

Because copyright terms have been extended so long, and sometimes even retroactively, works going into the Public Domain have flowed to a trickle, and in some cases to a halt. Those works that are emancipated from copyright bondage are scheduled to enter the Public Domain on January 1st every year, so on this day we celebrate the expiry of the monopoly over the works that return to the Public Domain.

Happy Public Domain Day!

Happy Public Domain Day!

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

January 1, 2015 at 2:03 am

The British Library’s ‘Curious Images’

leave a comment »

The British Library is organising a free event on Thursday 18 December to celebrate the first anniversary of the release of their million images onto Flickr Commons.

The ‘Curious Images‘ conference focuses on what researchers and artists have been doing with these and other images and what library plans for the next phase of the project. A set of international researchers and artists will speak about and share interesting ideas, techniques, methods and insights they have been applying to various image collections, including those of the British Library.

For more information:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/curious-images-tickets-14438270255.

[Thanks Lieke!]

Original British Library Scan (left) found at Wikimedia Commons and my own digital restoration (right) of “Canadian Patriotic Indian Chiefs” [full size hosted on Flickr

original scan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               This is the only British Library image I’ve done anything with so far. Initially I simply did the digital restoration above, but when I wanted a free culture image to use for the Canadian “Blue Dot” campaign, I chose this.

blue dot "Canadian Patriotic Indian Chiefs"

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

December 2, 2014 at 10:00 am

LibreTea and Free Culture

leave a comment »

When I began blogging in 2009, this was my very first blog. It was the place I established as my home base to get my bearings as I tried to figure out what’s what — and what I was doing here.

Yueh Tung Chinese Restaurant - Libre TeaAlthough I’ve been known to refer to this as my “personal blog,” it has never been what most people would consider “personal,” because although I share my personal opinions and ideas, I try to be mindful of the privacy rights of others, so very little in the way of personal information finds its way in.

Early in my blogging career I began learning about copyright, and as the implications began to sink in, this blog began to morph into a Free Culture blog, although I’ve only just now definitively identified it as such by renaming it.

Last weekend I attended the first ever Libre Tea in Toronto. You might be wondering what a #LibreTea might be, and the best explanation I can offer is that a Libre Tea is a social gathering for people who work for and support the idea of freedom.

(And who am I to resist such a brilliantly apt pun?)

This LibreTea was a joint gathering for Ontario LibrePlanet, Ubuntu and CryptoParty folk — three groups of who share an interest in freedom.

Some of the freedom fighters who attended the gathering are pictured below;

LibreTea Toronto

FREE CULTURE FILM FESTIVAL

And this weekend I presented a Free Culture Film Festival as part of the local Software Freedom Day Celebrations put on by KWLUG and The Working Centre.

The films screened at The Free Culture Film Festival qualify as free culture either because:

  • they are in the Public Domain or
  • they have been licensed to share.

This means you can legally watch and share them as you wish. Each film title is the link that will take you to a page where you can watch and/or download the movie online:

Charade (1963) Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn ~ Public Domain
Never Weaken (1921) Harold Lloyd & Mildred Davis ~ Public Domain
His Girl Friday (1940) Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell ~ Public Domain
Fleischer Studios animated “Superman” (1941) and “The Billion Dollar Limited” (1942)
Warner graciously made high definition copies of all of the the Fleischer Studios/Famous Studios Superman shorts online.
The Durian Movie Project: Sintel (2010) Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
Sita Sings The Blues (2008) originally released as Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike; now CC0

[It is not unheard of for media to be knocked off the Internet via specious DMCA Takedown notices. After all, such takedowns don’t require any pesky evidence and there are zero consequences to the DMCA applicant if peoves to be incorrect. If any of these links doesn’t work for you Drop me a line at laurel.l@russwurm.org]

FREE CULTURE FILM FESTIVAL poster - Charade (1963), Never Weaken (1921), His Girl Friday (1940), Fleischer Superman (1941, 1942)m Sintel (2010) and Sita Sings The Blues (2008)

Free Culture Film Festival #SFD

with 5 comments

Never_WeakenBANNER

cover2I’ve been asked to put together a Free Culture Film Festival as part of Waterloo Region’s Software Freedom Day Celebration this Saturday.  This year Software Freedom Day is brought to you by the KWLUG in co-operation with The Working Centre.
Approved for Free Cultural Works symbol
I wasn’t sure what I would be able to find, and as it turns out, my biggest problem wasn’t how little was available, but how much.

I wanted to present a varied selection of films that qualify as Free Culture for different reasons.

 

Rama drops Sita ~ from Nina Paley's brilliant "Sita Sings The Blues"amaSaturday, 20 September 2014 (iCal)
10am-4pm
The Working Centre
43 Queen Street South and 58 Queen Street South (Map)
Kitchener

For information about the #SFD Presentations, Workshops and Installfest visit the KWLUG Software Freedom Day page.
All activities are free of charge unless you are purchasing computer equipment during the Installfest.

 

 

FREE CULTURE FILM FESTIVAL

10:00am “Charade” (1963) ~ Copyright Never Happened

Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn (113 min)
In 1963 American copyright required registration. One of the requirements was that any work to be protected by copyright had to be properly identified as such. What should have been the copyright notice included in the opening credits of the movie Charade failed to include the word “copyright” or the abbreviation “copr” or the © symbol, which meant Charade was inadvertently published directly into the public domain the moment it was released.
But although the film itself is in the Public Domain, any artwork and publicity material may or may not be, so for the purposes if this screening, it was safer for not to use an official movie poster, but to instead cobble together my own with images taken directly from the film. I have in turn released my poster directly into the Public Domain with the Creative Commons CC0 license.
My DVD copy of Charade was a bonus feature included with one of the the Charade remakes, The Truth About Charlie. Since Charade is in the public domain, no royalties would be required for a film that choses to do this. In fact, when I bought the DVD I had no idea if I would like the remake, but it was worth risking because to replace my Charade VHS with a DVD.

12:00pm Harold Lloyd: “Never Weaken” ~ Copyright Expired

Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis ~ running time: 29 minutes
Silent screen film maker and movie star Harold Lloyd co-starring with his leading lady (and later wife) Mildred Davis in Never Weaken. This was the last short film he ever – all his subsequent films were feature films.
Harold Lloyd continued making films even when they started talking, and he retained copyright to his work. Lloyd’s films enjoyed only very limited re-release due to his stringent demands: he insisted his silent movies had to be accompanied by organ, not piano; he demanded $300,000 for 2 showings of his films on television. This had the effect of pulling his work out of the public eye, with the result his work is largely forgotten today.
American films released prior to 1923 have expired which is why all his early works are in the Public Domain. Lloyd was careful to keep all his work under copyright, so his subsequent work is protected by copyright for 95 years due to the Sonny Bono copyright extension.

12:30pm “His Girl Friday” ~ Cary Grant/Rosalind Russell (92 min) Copyright Expired

Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell ~ running time: 92 min
His Girl Friday is a derivative work; this is one of many remakes of the successful stage play, “The Front Page.” The original story was about two men; this version made Hildie and Walter an ex-wife and husband. Although it failed to be a huge hit, apparently because audiences thought Cary Grant too much of a light weight for the part, for me, this is the version I like best.

As a result, the studio couldn’t be bothered to renew its copyright. I think at least part of His Girl Friday’s later success on television, video and now DVD formats may well be due to urs Public Domain status. Judging by images on the Internet, it has also enjoyed no small success as a live theatre production. In many ways, this version resonates better with modern audiences.

2:00pm The Fleischer Animated “Superman” ~ Copyright Expired

Fleischer Studios animated Superman short ~ running time: 11 minutes
To my mind, the best film animation of the early part of the 20th Century was produced by the Fleischer Studios Inc., who were also responsible for technical innovations like the rotoscope and sync sound animation. Although Betty Boop and Popeye are their most famous creations, Brothers Max (producer) and Dave (director) Fleischer produced 9 Superman shorts in 1941 and 1942. Unfortunately there was a huge personal falling out between the brothers (ostensibly begun over Dave’s adulterous affair with a secretary) which resulted in their distributor Paramount taking over their business. With Dave Fleischer out of the picture, the remaining Superman films in the series were directed by Dan Gordon, I. Sparber and Max Fleisher’s son-in-law Seymour Kneitel and produced by the re-branded Famous Studios.

2:15pm Sintel ~ Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

The Durian Open Movie Project ~ running time: 14 min
Blender began as 3D animation proprietary software, but a few years ago the corporation that developed it decided to free the software, and they haven’t looked back since. Sintel is the third Blender film made to demonstrate the capabilities of the software. This one is my personal favorite, both because it’ gorgeous and I like dragons. Since the Blender software has benefited from emancipation, it is hardly surprising to find these films were released with a Free Culture license (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0) right from the start.

2:30pm “Sita Sings The Blues“~ emancipated by Nina Paley

Nina Paley‘s classical animation feature film ~ running time: 82 min
Nina Paley’s original vision for Sita Sings The Blues included the public domain recordings by Annette Hanshaw to form the musical score. As it turned out, big media driven “copyright reforms” retroactively extended the copyright term for the sync rights (the particular rights necessary when using recorded music in a film). The long and the short of it is that Nina Paley had to pay gigantic sums to acquire these rights to release her film.

“Having paid these extortionate fees, I could have gone with conventional distribution, and was invited to. I chose to free the film because I could see that would be most beneficial to me, my film, and culture at large. A CC-SA license does not absolve a creator of compliance with copyright law. The law could have sent me to prison for non-commercial copyright infringement. I was forced to borrow $70,000 to decriminalize my film, regardless of how I chose to release it.”
~ Nina Paley, “Correction

As Nina continued to question copyright, she decided to take it to the next level, and so she has since released this wonderful film into the Public Domain.

3:50pm Superman:“The Billion Dollar Limited” ~ Copyright Expired


Why we need Free Culture (in case you didn’t know…)

In the beginning human beings lived in a Free Culture world. If a writer published a play, or an author a novel, this new creative work left his private domain (his mind, home or working space) and entered the Public Domain. Anyone who saw the play performed was free to be inspired to remake it as a new creative work, or to mount their own production of it as is. Anyone who read a book could quote from it or copy it and even sell their own copies if they wanted to.

The grandmother of copyright law was the “Statute of Anne” enacted by Queen Anne in 1710. In spite of the name, “copyright” is a state imposed monopoly, not a “right.” In exchange for limiting the public’s right to copy, learn and share our culture, the copyright monopoly was supposed to encourage good creators to create works to benefit our culture. And maybe it worked that way once. Although originally limited to books, the scope of copyright has spread like cancer to nearly every form of human creativity, and the “limited” terms are so long most of my own culture will be “protected” until long after I am dead. And creators still can’t make a living from their work.

Today’s technology makes it possible for anyone to create our own digital work. Every cell phone is a camera, every school child has access to computers; that’s all you need to make movies. But the minefield of potential copyright infringement and criminalization is enormous. Copyright law is a tangled mess of law written differently in every country, and it can be used against anyone who uses any digital device. We must understand copyright basics for our own protection. Because today copyright law is used to “protect” our own culture from us.

Anything we are free to use as we like is all that remains of Free Culture; everything else is a legal risk. In today’s copyright mad world, creative works that have been Licensed To Share and works in the Public Domain are two sources of Free Culture that we can use legally.

 


UPDATE: I’ve provided links to all the Free Culture films I presented in LibreTea and Free Culture
 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,507 other followers