Why I Don’t Support the Humble Bundle

my copyleft symbol

Even though I can’t be considered a gamer, I used to support the Humble Indie Bundle, because it supported free software and independent creators, and made it possible for creators to realize that a locked down patent encumbered copyright driven world was not the only option.

But even as free software and free culture supporters flocked to buy Humble Bundles, and incidentally made the Humble Indie Bundle wildly successful, somewhere along the line, the word “Indie” fell by the wayside, and they expanded into publications as well as games. But when they introduced a Microsoft bundle, it became apparent the people running this initiative weren’t as committed to the principals they espoused as they would like us to believe.

Unsubscribing from their mailing list but it doesn’t seem to work, so today I was horrified to receive a mailing for their new offering: The Humble Star Wars Comics Bundle.

I grew up with Star Wars; it has had a profound cultural impact on me. And all of the contemporary culture I grew up with is firmly locked up in copyright. Before I understood how copyright works, I actually thought Sonny Bono was a hero for championing more restrictive copyright law. But I’ve lived through the aftermath, and now I know better.

These days, I don’t go out of my way to find new copyrighted works. The only exception I make is for Independents… I will go to the local music festivals, and buy Indie CDs to support the artists. Funny thing, though; I almost never play them. Oh sure, I have lots of movies on DVD, and I even buy new ones, on occasion; and them only ever from remainder bins, because I think the worst thing we can do is to support the corporations that work so hard to strangle our culture.
So even though both my cultural history and my head are full of copyright encumbered creative works, I don’t need any more.

I do realize that not all Free Software supporters are equally committed to free culture. I will always disagree with Free Software champion Richard Stallman’s position on free culture, because it suggests free culture is somehow less important than free software. And The Humble Star Wars Comics Bundle proves me right.

Star Wars stopped being a creative work a long time ago: these days it isn’t a movie, it’s a “franchise.” And poor George Lucas was so desperate for a few billion dollars that he sold his franchise to Disney.  Disney is certainly the corporation most invested in the pursuit of perpetual copyright, the driving force behind the MPAA’s perpetual lobbying for increasingly onerous (and the criminalization of) copyright law — not only with the American government, but with any government it thinks it can influence. So we’ve seen laws like SOPA and secretive International Trade Agreements like ACTA being pushed and passed. Oh sure, Europeans took to the streets over ACTA anf the EU turned it down.   And around the world, Wikipedia led a fight against SOPA and it was stopped.  Sort of.

But.

Lots of other countries (like my own Canada) went ahead and passed ACTA anyway.  And there is no end to secret trade Agreements.  All the worst things are coming to pass.   Frankly, I would rather be writing a novel than this.   If things were left to muddle along at their own pace (as would happen if that mythic “free market” actually existed) I have no doubt that free culture would win in the end.  But those powerful special interests aren’t willing to run the risk of that happening. They aren’t willing to live and let live, their goal is total control.

And corporations have an unfair advantage in their war on human beings; they don’t get tired, and they can pursue their goals 24/7. And politicians, especially the unaccountable politicians common in winner-take-all “democracies” like ours, are easily influenced by such powerful special interests.

And our biggest failing is that we humans have other things to occupy us. You know, frivolous things, like raising our families, feeding our children, and sometimes even creating and sharing our own cultural works.

Which is why the too powerful corporate Special Interests are winning… far from being truly defeated, the worst things about CISPA and ACTA keep coming back.

And the formerly humble indie bundle is supporting this.  But I can’t.  And if you care about freedom, you shouldn’t either.

The Battle of Copyright - CC-By 2.0 Christopher Dombres


Image Credits
My own Copyleft Logo for this blog (the copyleft symbol over my Russwurm Social “LR” monogram) is CC0

The Battle of Copyright” by Christopher Dombres, released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

[Also:Thanks Charles!]

LibreTea and Free Culture

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)

WIPO and EU and Libraries ~ Oh My!

Like most people, I’ve spent most of my life not actually thinking about copyright law. I bought into the idea that copyright “protects” creative works and encourages creativity. At least I did until I started actually thinking about copyright law when I sat down to write my submission to the Canadian Government’s Copyright Consultation. That was when I first began to question copyright. Over the years since, I have found less to like and more to dislike about copyright law.

A large part of the problem is that governments take advice and direction from copyright “experts” who represent the special interests that would benefit from perpetual copyright. So the industry that will benefit from increased copyright have been invited to the table, but for the most part no one is asking, let along listening to the public. Every expansion of the copyright monopoly comes at the expense of the public interest by eroding the public domain. Cultural works used to come into the Public Domain within our lifetimes, but that is no longer the case. When copyright terms extend for as many as a hundred years after the death of the creator, our own culture is increasingly outside our grasp.

copyright chainsBecause the public domain should be protected, and free culture should be shared, I very much support the work done by the good people involved in the OpenGLAM initiative (run by the Open Knowledge Foundation) that promotes free and open access to digital cultural heritage held by Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums. These institutions exist to promote art, culture, history and heritage, so it’s a big problem if copyright law prevents them from achieving their mission. In many respects, because these cultural institutions exist to serve the public, they are increasingly standing up for the public interest.

The recent trend of copyright maximalists has been to take copyright discussions away from lawmakers and out of the public view, instead cloaking international copyright negotiations in secret trade agreements. One of the stunning things about the secret ACTA negotiations was the exclusion of elected government representatives from even knowing the terms of the treaties being discussed. Once such treaties are signed, naturally lawmakers are pressured to rewrite domestic law to accommodate the treaty.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has been working to make sure the needs of Libraries are taken into consideration at WIPO. Unfortunately the EU seems more interested in supporting corporate special interests than the public interest.

EU flag“The EU made no attempt to address the wide range of problems, particularly relating to non-commercial cross-border activities, identified by library and archive NGOs. It seems to value only internal commercial interests, ignoring and its own interests in culture and research.”
— Mr. Tim Padfield, speaking on behalf of the International Council on Archives (ICA)

As Mr. Padfield suggests, the human rights and cultural needs of the world should be be addressed and protected, not cast aside to support commercial special interests.

The following is a press release issued by the The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

EU REJECTS INTERNATIONAL SOLUTION TO LIBRARY AND ARCHIVE COPYRIGHT PROBLEMS;
CAUSES COLLAPSE OF WIPO MEETING

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Discussions by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright & Related Rights (SCCR) broke down in the early hours of Saturday morning 3 May, after the European Union (EU) attempted to block future discussion of copyright laws to aid libraries and archives fulfill their missions in the digital environment.

Library and archive delegations from Europe, Latin America, Australia, the United States, Canada and the UK attended the 27th meeting of the SCCR from 28 April – 2 May 3014, to push for an international treaty to help libraries and archives preserve cultural heritage, facilitate access to essential information by people wherever they are in the world.

The meeting ended in disarray at 1:30am on Saturday morning, after the EU tried to have crucial references to “text-based” work on copyright exceptions removed from the meeting conclusions – a move viewed by other Member States and library and archive NGOs present as an attempt to delay, if not derail, any progress on copyright exceptions at WIPO.

Dr. Stuart Hamilton, Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation of Library Associations & Institutions (IFLA) commented:

“For the past three years, Member States have been looking at draft texts on copyright exceptions for libraries and archives. The EU is now trying to pretend these don’t exist. We’re frustrated, and deeply disappointed. It appears the EU came to WIPO with one goal in mind: to kill the discussion.”

The EU’s attempt to sideline discussion of copyright exceptions at WIPO is particularly concerning in light of the ongoing review of copyright laws at the EU level.

Dr Paul Ayris, President of LIBER, the Association of European Research Libraries, expressed his disappointment:

“The position taken by the EU delegation in Geneva contrasts strongly with current discussions at European level, where it has been recognised that copyright exceptions for libraries are essential, and must be harmonised in order to facilitate international research and innovation in the age of Science 2.0. The conservative position taken at SCCR 27 in Geneva this week is therefore deeply disappointing. It does not support research and education and hampers European researchers in their use of new tools and services.”

The SCCR has been discussing a possible legal instrument to safeguard copyright exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives since 2009. It is due to submit recommendations to the WIPO General Assembly in September 2014.

“We must act now, and engage at WIPO to make sure the EU and other developed countries know just how inadequate copyright laws are for libraries and archives in the digital, global world,” said Dr. Stuart Hamilton.

Ellen Broad
Manager, Digital Projects & Policy (IFLA)

Book Shelf ~ Kelly Library

Additional quotes

“Libraries in developing and transition countries seek a level playing field to provide people with information needed for education, research and development. Talks at WIPO, where international copyright law is shaped, must urgently get back on track to advance the goal of equal access to knowledge for all.”

— Ms Teresa Hackett,
Electronic Information for Libraries IP Program

razor wire

“In Europe we have introduced a mandatory copyright exception specifically to enable and promote cross-border online access to library and archive collections, and yet the EU delegation at the WIPO negotiations repeatedly denied the need for such solutions within an international context. For many, the EU’s position will smack of hypocrisy and economic self interest.”
— Professor Ronan Deazley,
Copyright Policy Adviser to Scottish Council on Archives

These Doors Are Locked

“We had just spent a productive week discussing several specific examples of legal inconsistencies and ambiguities that block archival preservation and service across borders. After all that valuable dialogue, it was heart-wrenching to see an elite sector at WIPO obstinately thwart efforts at a global solution to a global problem. It is also disappointing that the United States is not ready to assume a leadership role in working with the delegations of Brazil, Ecuador, India, Iran, Kenya, and others to craft a compromise. Nevertheless, those delegations showed that progress will not happen through unbalanced compromises, but by forthright adherence to a treaty that serves the world’s knowledge needs through the service of archives and libraries.”

— William Maher,
The Society of American Archivists (SAA)

NO TRESPASSING

“The EU’s hostility to any substantive discussions that might lead towards an international copyright treaty for the benefit of libraries and archives is reminiscent of its opposition to a treaty for the benefit of blind, visually impaired and print disabled people for most of the five years of talks that concluded in the Marrakesh Treaty 2013. Ironically, the EU signed the Marrakesh Treaty at the same WIPO meeting last week where it sought to wreck discussions concerning libraries and archives.”

— Ms Barbara Stratton,
representative of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)

Don't Lock Up Our Culture!


Image Credits
With the exception of Nina Paley‘s copyright jail graphic (she has deeded to the Public Domain) that I remixed into my book jail, all images in this article are my own, and as such are released with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Although WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) has a published Flickr photostream I didn’t use any of them, since all of these images are Copyright All Rights Reserved, not licensed to share.

Happy GNU Year

Happy GNU Year!


This virtual card is the best gift I can give my readers and online friends this holiday season. Not just because its the best and most awesome Happy GNU Year card you’re likely to find online, but because I created it entirely using free culture and free software.

The Free Software Foundation‘s GNU operating system led to the adoption of the gnu as its symbol.  Free software is incredibly important for a host of reasons, and yet I very much suspect it wouldn’t exist at all any more but for the efforts of Richard Stallman and the FSF.  I highly recommend that you use free software as much as possible, not just because it’s usually free of charge (gratis) but far more importantly, because it respects our personal freedom (libre).

The penguin “Tux” is the mascot of the Linux kernel, is the heart of the free and open source software operating systems we use today. (MacOS and Windows are the non-free software used in personal computing devices (computers, cell phones, tablets, PVRs &tc.)

Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)) LicenseIf you click on the card, you’ll find a higher definition version suitable for printing.  And you are allowed to print it, because this card carries a free culture license, specifically a Creative Commons  Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) License  This license gives you the freedom to use this creative work in any way you like, even commercially, with only 2 restrictions.

  1. The “Attribution” restriction means you must credit the creator(s) as specified.
  2. Second, whether printing it out and selling physical copies, mailing it to you your friends, or modifying it to create something completely different, it must carry the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike License, or a similar license that requires attribution perpetuation of the license terms.

Attribution is simply giving credit where credit is due. I try to provide attribution for everything I use, even work in the public domain. The “share-alike” part of the license exists to prevent creative works from being removed from free culture and locked behind copyright.

Below you can see the steps that led to this card. Click on any of the images below for a larger/printable version.

Happy GNU Year Green (cc by-sa)Modified "Powered By GNU/Linux" Free Software  sticker set Happy GNU Year STENCIL

On the left is my first try, which I like a lot. It could make a good poster, but it’s too difficult to see and read in small formats because it’s too cluttered.

In the centre is the “wallpaper” background I devised. I modified the Powered by GNU-Linux sticker set originally created by deviantdark and published on deviantArt  under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) License.  There are many free software operating systems not included, so I added Trisquel and centOS when I made up the wallpaper background. You can download the printable sticker sets from the deviantART Powered by GNU-Linux page and make your own sticker for your computer.

On the right is the first draft of the red card. I loved the simplicity of Rasmus Olsen‘s gnu meets penguin titled GNU/Linux licensed Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) that I found on Flickr.  I altered the image by bringing the penguin close enough to touch noses with the gnu, and stood them both on the lettering. In the final version, I changed the lettering because it was hard to read when the wallpaper was added.

CORRECTION: Rui Damas is the originator of the GNU/Linux artwork I reused, and it was actually released under the GNU Public License. I’m not entirely sure what that does to my licensed usage. [Thanks to Mike Linksvayer for pointing that out!]

Free Software & Free Culture

It’s no harder to learn to use free software than it is to learn to use a windows computer or a Mac.  Many Apple and Windows users are already using free software with Firefox or OpenOffice (I prefer LibreOffice).  The coolest and best ebook conversion software is called Calibre (it comes with a good e-reader so you can read eBooks on your computer).  And of course my favorite blogging software, WordPress is free software.  Wikipedia runs on free wiki software (which is why there are wikis popping up all over) and if you’re into video production, you could so worse than the amazing Blender 3D animation software or Kdenlive for video editing.  You can use social networking with GNUsocial and Friendica.   If you do switch to free software, the biggest difference you’ll notice is that you don’t have to pay for things again and again and again.  Other advantages include better security and a much lower incidence of spyware and other malware.

It was difficult for me to unlearn Photoshop so I can learn to use GIMP, but I keep trying.  I still look for a lot of the features where they would be in photoshop, but its getting easier.  I have yet to find anything Photoshop can do that can’t be done in GIMP; the challenge is finding out how to do it.   That’s why I’m so pleased I made this card entirely with GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) on my computer, which is currently runs on Linux Mint in a MATE desktop environment that has the  Ubuntu Studio plug-in.

As the copyright maximalists successfully lobby to lock up more and more of our culture for longer and longer terms, the importance of free culture has become more apparent.   Sites like the Flickr photosharing site and deviantArt make it easy for users to give their work Creative Commons licenses, so they are often the easiest places to find images licensed to share.

All versions of my GNU year card are licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) License.  If you’re interested in finding out what free culture is out there, I’ve been growing a list of Free Culture resources (in the right sidebar).    And if you have some spare cash left over from last year, please consider making a donation to the two non-profit organizations that have been instrumental in ensuring the continued existence of free software and free culture:

The Free Software Foundation and Creative Commons

And have a Happy GNU Year!

A Quickie

The weather has had climate change stamped all over it, but even so, this has been a terrifically busy summer!

PRISM
has highlighted the importance of guarding our privacy, but I still haven’t mastered PGP.

Over the summer there have been great changes to my main social network, Identi.ca, so I’ve joined the StatusNet federation. (I’ll blog more about that later.)

And of course, Social Media becomes more important all the time. Which is why, after years of resistance, I’ve finally spread out to LinkedIn.  But the fact remains: one of the big problems with this type of online activity is the ancillary sacrifice of our personal privacy.  I find it best to give out as little personal information as possible, but it’s difficult.

One way I deal with the privacy creep is to lump all of the members of all of my social networks together: whenever I’m forced to categorize, I designate everyone across the spectrum ~ from close friends to total strangers ~ as “friends.”

Why should I tell Google we became friends on Identi.ca, even though we’ve never actually met in meat space?

Mr. Zuckerberg, it’s none of your business whether we’re second cousins once removed on my mother’s side, or if we’re total strangers sharing an interest in Free Culture.

And Linkedin needn’t be privy to the fact we volunteered together, or went to the same High School.

You and I know what our relationship is, and that’s all that matters.

But I am starting to realize I am not Wonder Woman.   Yesterday I took the time to transcribe Edward Snowden’s important statement to the Chaos Computer Club.  But my problem is that there simply isn’t enough time for me to write reams of blogs and publish my own novels.  And at this point, publishing my own novels is the priority.

Which is why I’m regrouping, working out how best to reduce my blogging and finish my second novel, which I still hope to publish before NaNoWriMo 2013.

But even with all of that, the single most important thing today is that my chick will fly from the nest, take up residence in another city for a third year of university.  Like last year, I know we will all live through it, but it doesn’t get easier.

It’s a Mom thing.

Mother and baby duck - at Victoria Park, Kitchener


[note: edited for style, not content]

You Can’t Copyright the Public Domain

I sent the following email to a museum today. I’ve removed identifying information because I think that the problem is really one of copyright confusion, and I truly hope that they will change their policy.

Your museum sounds quite interesting, and it is creditable to see its commitment to sharing Canadian history online.

I’m writing to inform you of a fairly serious copyright issue. While it is true that [the museum] owns physical copies of the work in its collection, that does not confer copyright ownership. Although I have not looked at your online offerings exhaustively, the one example I looked at closely shows the Museum has licensed at least one public domain work Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada (CC BY-NC-ND 2.5).

This license could be considered liberal if the Museum actually owned the copyright in the work. Since Canadian Copyright Law places anonymous work in the public domain fifty years after publication, this work should clearly be in the public domain. Which makes the Creative Commons license you have chosen not a liberal permission, but rather an extraordinary restriction that effectively locks Canadians out of our own history. Further, the Non-Commercial No-Derivatives restriction prevents Canadian made cultural works.

Creative Commons Zero or Public Domain logo

Utilization of Creative Commons licenses is usually good, because they lift onerous copyright restrictions — but not when they are affixed to works in the public domain. Public domain work should more properly be labelled CC0 or assigned a Public Domain Mark.

If [The Museum] expects branding public domain work © [The Museum] will ensure accreditation, it does not. It is more likely to inspire people to not credit you, for fear of copyright infringement consequences. Case in point: the image that ultimately brought me to your site today was shared online with no accreditation at all beyond the museum’s name stamped on the side.

The only right copyright grants the Museum is the ability to sue people who copy images so designated ~ if they infringe copyright. Of course, whether a court would subsequently uphold any museum claim to copyright of public domain work remains to be seen.

Even if the museum would win a lawsuit suing Canadians for using part of our heritage ~ cultural and historic work that is in the public domain ~ even commercially ~ would hardly endear your organization to the public. Further it may well curtail future donations of historic work to the [The Museum] Collection.

Employing the Creative Commons NoDerivatives clause will prevent Canadians from using [The Museum] Collection work in celebration and sharing of our own history through the creation of our own remixes and art, and the NonCommercial restriction further prohibits the same for commercial uses. Both of these restrictions belie [The Museum’s] stated mission which suggests it “celebrates our past and present life — our history, our people, our communities” but these provisions will instead crush any attempt to use [Museum] works in any “contemporay and interactive” manner.

There is nothing wrong in selling physical copies of collection works in the public domain. If anyone wants to make commercial use of any of the photographs in the museum collection, they would likely still seek out high quality copies or access to the original work. Individuals wanting to frame prints for themselves would similarly prefer the high quality copy that the museum already sells. If I wanted to publish a history book, I would get the best quality copies available.

Creative commons double c enclosed in a circle, with black text at right reading Creative Commons and in red dot CA

Copyright law has become quite complex, and so I would recommend reading Lawrence Lessig’s book Free Culture and Jason Mazzone’s book Copyfraud in hopes the Museum will reconsider its policy. Screening the NFB film RiP! A Remix Manifesto would be helpful too. You can also contact Creative Commons Canada directly for more information.

I’m not a lawyer, just a Canadian fiction writer with an interest in history, copyright and free culture, and you should be aware that I will be publishing a version of this email in my blog. As I am hopeful that [the Museum] wants to fulfill its stated objectives, I will first remove identifying references from this article. I do very much hope that your museum rethinks this issue that is so important to us all.

Regards,
Laurel L. Russwurm

C-11 ~ Copyright Scope

Copyright law has changed dramatically just in my lifetime. Now maybe I’m wrong, and the changes in the law are necessary, perhaps even beneficial. But one of the biggest problems is that most people just don’t understand copyright law.

It used to be we didn’t need to understand copyright law.

But we do now.

Whereas originally the law regulated only publishers, the changes in copyright scope means that the law today regulates publishers, users and authors. ~ Lawrence Lessig, "Free Culture"

Which is why I think it’s incumbent on the legislature to make sure we all understand it before they change copyright law even more.