Free Culture, Copyright and Open Video

StopUBB logoUsually I deal with highly politicized computer issues in my StopUBB blog, which has evolved from only fighting against Canadian implementation of Usage Based Billing but has spread out to fight against insidious secret copyright treaties like A.C.T.A. while trying to educate ordinary people about the related issues of Net Neutrality and Internet Freedom.

Those who are attempting to subvert the Internet so they can control and leash it have long been using copyright as an excuse to do these things. I have been learning a lot about computer issues through StopUBB research. But there are many people who have been grappling with the future of the Internet long before I had a clue that there were even issues.

One of these people is Lawrence Lessig a big proponent of “Free Culture” and reduced copyright. Not only was Lessig one of the a founder of Creative Commons licensing movement, he was also involved in the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Harvard‘s Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Lawrence Lessig delivering a lecture

Copyright symbol with maple leaf

in the wind is my personal blog. Since I’m a writer a big part of my life is writing, so when I write about any aspect of writing it goes here. So even though copyright plays an important part in StopUBB issues, this is where I write about it from a reader and writer’s point of view.

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Yesterday I learned from Twitter that there was going to be a LIVE! Wireside Chat with Lawrence Lessig at Harvard Law School I played hooky from writing Inconstant Moon to tune in, although I only caught the last part of his lecture, the main thrust was that the bad guys can look after themselves, its time that the good guys (that’s you and me, pal) stepped up to the plate to stop corruption and make government start working for the people again.

After the lecture there was a question and answer session with questions provided in a live Twitter feed which dealt with culture, copyright and ReMix.

These are some of the Lessig quotes tweeted by audience
which in itself made the lecture into a remix:
shapah “we need a culture that makes it as easy to hack hardware as it does content” #wireside #lessig

PPirataMx Necesitamos una cultura que permita “hackear” dispositivos de la misma forma que se “hackea” el contenido. #lessig #wireside

EveBottando “There’s something tone deaf about Apple. Their sharing site is – it should be” #wireside

shapah Brazil again! points of light – “they teach kids to tear machines down and rebuild them” #wireside

ericschnell RT @sameerverma: “Stallman was right to call it free software” – lessig #wireside

ezufelt #wireside chat w/ @lessig was good, disappointing that it was not captioned and that videos were not described. #accessibility

shapah non-commercial CC licensing is an experiment to enable this new way of thinking #wireside #lessig

shapah “free culture is the right way to think about – setting the right boundaries, setting the widest spread” #wireside

EveBottando “Britney Spears model – produce and control culture…another culture that doesn’t limit…depends on building and sharing freely” #wireside

blogdiva RT @dsearls: @Lessig: “The government has produced the least efficient property system known to man.” At #wireside

shapah “how long do copyright terms need to be?” 21 years? #lessig would settle for 50 as long as it couldn’t be extended #wireside

moon Larry #Lessig “never should you be allowed to extend an existing copyright” #wireside

After the Q&A concluded, I learned a bit about the The Open Video Alliance, the group who put on this lecture. Of course, my learning curve in all this is enormous; today is the first time that I had even heard of them. Open Video held a contest for 60 second films to explain and illustrate the idea of open video to raise awareness of the importance of this cultural art form. They screened the winning videos, but this one was my favorite.

Teacher Raffaella Traniello holds up some movie making tools
Raffaella Traniello is an excellent teacher.   With simplicity and breathtaking clarity her video makes the point:



You can find the other open video submissions available for download at

Visit the site and check out the films online. You are free to download them in a variety of formats from OGG to MPEG4.   Raffaella’s film is in Italian but there are English subtitles available– the words are important– for mono-lingual anglophones like myself.

I could not figure out how to embed the Raffaella’s Traniello video here, so I took a peek at YouTube to see if it was there. I didn’t find it, instead I found this interview. Although I don’t speak a word of Italian, I loved the opportunity to see some of the films this amazing teacher has made with her students. You go girl.

It seems that videos posted on YouTube can be easily embedded here in my WordPress blog, but videos found in other places, like The Open Video Alliance and the Canada’s NFB (National Film Board of Canada) can not be posted here, even though it would not violate any copyright laws to do so.

As if by magic my friend Malcolm sent me a link to this amazing live interactive ReMix:

I am curious now as to whether license fees were paid to use the music in this performance art.

I think it was Lawrence Lessig who suggested that copyright law needs to be straightforward enough that children can use any cultural material they are exposed to in any way with impunity.

Unfortunately what is happening today is the heavy handed application if new IP laws that serve to frighten many educators and schools away from using these technologies to help educate our children. After all, this is a world of D.M.C.A. takedowns and A.C.T.A.

And that’s not right.


New Kits on the Block

At the tail end of my last post I mentioned that we’d just welcomed two little brother cats to our family. These guys have brightened up our lives some considerable. There’s nothing like having little guys under foot… you know how cats love to race your foot to the exact spot you are about to touch down on the stairs…. 🙂

I thought I’d give them a proper introduction this time out. This is Murray:

Murray wrestles with a string rope.
When we brought the cat carrier in and set it down, I told Will he could open it up to see if they’d come out. Well, they did right off, only to make themselves scarce hiding behind big furniture.

However it quickly became clear that crinkling noises and a dangling string are irresistible to the smaller kitten. Willem decided that he should be called Murray, since he’s the clever little game playing addict. He’s a skinny little guy, much leaner over all and far more active than his brother. Murray is the more gregarious of the two, and the one most likely to dig his claws into you. He’s also prone to making the occasional finger chomp, so we’ll be working on that one. Murray also finds wiggling strings irresistible. And treats. Well, pretty much the world.

Although larger, Nick was the least in evidence on the first day.The bigger kitten hides under the furniture.

We had to stop trying to entice them out before we caught sight of Nick.

Cats at the window

By the second day Nick was willing to come out to watch the cat version of High Def: the window to squirrel land.

We like squirrels. And chipmunks, and bunnies amd birds. We feed them. And in fact our dog Cody sat outside to watch their antics with me. I don’t think it ever crossed his mind to eat any of them. Having had cats before, I doubt any similar arrangement can be arranged with cats.

Cats watch the squirrel in the snow through the window.
Nick and Murray enjoy the floor show.

But it should be alright, since we are firmly decided that our cats will be indoor cats. We’re intending to harness train them, and the only time they will be allowed out doors will be in cat carrier or on leash. This is not only because house cats are a major danger to urban wildlife, but also because the great outdoors can be equally lethal to these pampered critters.

A vet told me once that the average life expectancy of an indoor/outdoor cat is 3 years.

When I think about all the cats I know who’ve lived to their teens or twenties that is pretty grim. Having lost two cats to outdoor accidents, it is something I am determined not to have happen again.

Collage of Murray at play

Murray would come out to play, but mostly Nick would watch.

Walking along the back of the futon frame.
A rare sighting of the shy guy.

By the third day I guess Nick decided that we were trustworthy.
Nick and Murray

He ventured out to play.
Nick wrestling the feather wand

Murray plays with the feather stick

It’s interesting that they don’t play together, nor do they compete.

Murray is the play demon. He is all over the place jumping and leaping like Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Nick watches and waits, while Murray burns calories and wears down the prey. Until he tires.

Nick enters the fray.

Nick grabs and holds the feather stick.  Deploying brute strength Nick works to subdue and capture.

Grabbing the feather stick with his teeth he just clamps down on it, and then just calmly tries to walk away.

No hurry.

Just take hold and don’t let go. Almost works too.

Maybe lay down on the thing.

When Nick’s tactics don’t work he yields the floor to Murray.

Tag team kittens. Who’d a thought?

Murray fights the stick with feathers littering the floor all around

Of course today Nick isn’t speaking to me again. Murray forgave me by last night.

You see, I was a meanie. I stuffed them into the cat carrier… and it was a herculean struggle, I’ll tell you… and took them to the vet for their check up.

Kitten face laying on the floor inches grom the cameraIt would have been much easier to have them in separate boxes, but I thought it would be easier on them to travel together. Do you have any idea how tough it is to stuff a writhing clawing scratching kitten into a carry case when the one inside is trying to get out? Well, the verdict is that they’re healthy and now they’ve had their shots. But Nick is holding a grudge.

At least Murray is still speaking to me.

And Nick let me see him today. I figure he will have just about forgiven me by the time I have to take them in for surgery next week.


ONF NFB logo
I just found out that the National Film Board of Canada (the NFB) is making their films freely available online. That is simply awesome.

Actually, the only reason I found out about this is because Jesse Brown of TVO’s Search Engine was taking CBC to task for not making their material freely available to the citizens whose taxes have paid for that content. One of Jesse’s links mentioned was to Michael Geist’s Toronto Star column explaining the NFB is in fact doing it right.

This is how the internet works. Or rather, this is how the internet is supposed to work. I heard what Jesse said on Twitter which led me to his Search Engine article which gave me background sources including Michael Geist’s Toronto Star column which sent me to the NFB.

Canadian MoneyThe NFB is of course funded by taxpayer dollars, so in fact their content should be freely available to all citizens. But that isn’t always the way things are interpreted. I’m one of those radicals who thinks that crown copyright should not exist. Since Canadian tax dollars have paid for these excellent films, why shouldn’t they be freely available?

Having first watched one of my all time favorite films — NFB’s The Sweater I spent far too much time cruising for favorites… and I got this perfectly marvelous idea… since it’s supposed to be possible to embed NFB videos in blogs, the reason I’m talking about this in my “hello kitties” post is because I thought the coolest thing to do would be to place the funniest cat film of all time at the end of this post. Unfortunately I have been unable to figure out how to embed it, so I’ll just have to link to it the old fashioned way.
Title Frame from The Cat Came Back animated film
So now that you’ve met the new kits, lets take a look at one of the coolest cats to grace Canadian cinema, in the National Film Board of Canada’s animated classic The Cat Came Back