Me, myself and i… the Summit

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A report on my participation at the iSummit 06, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Read the full report here, or download PDF (includes extensive footnotes and photos).

1. Introduction

The second iCommons Summit, dubbed iSummit 2006 was designed to “collaborate with organisations and communities from around the world to demonstrate and share best practice, and discuss strategies for continuing the positive impact that ‘sharing’ practices are having on participation in the cultural and knowledge domains.”

The rhetoric of the cultural and knowledge domains is derived from the global open source and open content movements, each destined to create and foster more liberal copyright protections for creative and cultural content developers. iCommons itself is an organisation that grew from the success of Creative Commons (CC): licenses that provide “a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists and educators. ”

There were indeed demonstrations, various practises were shared, but discussions on strategy were either taken by those more connected than I, or were overshadowed by an over zealous, self-congratulatory fan base that did more to elevate the status of the business card than it did for my knowledge and practical application of Creative Commons. However, this was only part of the story…

iSummit 2006 was held in Rio de Janeiro from 23rd – 25th June 2006, at the prestigious JW Marriot Hotel, Copacabana. Over 250 participants from numerous countries and regions, notably the Americas, were in attendance. Some were sponsored through IDRC, Revver, Shuttleworth Foundation, Linden Lab, OSI and Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft.

Three days before the Conference, CC announced that Microsoft will release a plugin for Word, Excel & Powerpoint products, a tool that would imprint a CC licence within your document. APC’s WNSP representative, Jac sm Kee, noted that Lawrence (or Larry as he prefers to be known) Lessig was reported to be “excited”, while Gilberto Gill was reported to be “thrilled”. Some participants were disturbed, particularly those who were advised that a Microsoft representative was about to join their panel.

This resulted in a red-nose protest during Martha Nalebuff’s (Director, Intellectual Property Guidance, Microsoft) appearance on the Creative Models Panel.

The response from the Creative Commons team to Microsoft’s creation of a CC plugin appeared to far outweigh the value of the plugin. Would there have been the same response if such a plugin was made available for users of OpenOffice? Would such a tool have been more valuable should it provide templates for various document types supporting a number of cultural practices? A tool that could be redeployed in each CC jurisdiction so that it may accommodate local practises of say, the film industry – a tool that created template agreements for any aspect of film production for instance, that could also be applied to eduction, science, research, music or theatre would have been far more welcome.

This represented the tone of the iSummit. Controversial, separatist, little consultation with other panellists, and if there was, as with my panel, no follow-up and no perceived interest in the panel chair in the ideas being presented to assist in focusing the panel towards tangible outcomes. That said, the iSummit was informative, inspirational at times and a welcome gathering of like and likeable minds amidst the more competitive of attendees. This made up for much of the concern and suspicion that had grown during my stay in Rio as getting there was perhaps the most expensive and problematic trip I had had to date.

I spent two unexpected days in Santiago . On top of what was supported, I had shelled out an additional USD$1500 to ensure I got to the iSummit in time at least for the panel I was appearing on. The only other option was to stay in Santiago till 28 June, miss the iSummit, my connecting flight to London and stay in a city that Senor Coconut calls home. No a chance, the panel was perhaps the single most important reason for me being there and I was determined to return to Australia with information for OPEN CHANNEL members as well as contributing to the growing body of copyright expertise within the APC.

I was to leave Rio in a bright yellow taxi with sore calf muscles, a few business cards pocketed and regrettably, little substance. In hindsight, however, as this report describes it wasn’t an entire waste of time although I do labour over the process that led to few outcomes.

2. Road to Rio

In 1992 I wrote an article exploring the hopes and aspirations of a movement seeking to encourage the world’s leadership to urgently address the environmental degradation that ails us still. I was in Rio for the Earth Summit.

There was no doubt a wave of hope that swept through all participants there, but despite the means being so apparent, we find ourselves in 2006 where this is talk of a resumption of commercial whaling and governments the world over are considering Nuclear as a “viable and clean” energy option. If, as Lawrence Lessig puts it, creativity is built on the past, clearly common sense is not.

If we’re unable to address the big issues, how can we expect to deal with the details that which contribute to the sum of many parts that constitute the power bases that sustain poverty, wealth and everything in between?

But I’m not here to reminisce over past defeats and misguided hope… I’m here to engage with the detail. Copyright is part of that detail and Creative Commons, we are reminded (more than is most likely necessary at this Summit), is making a valiant contribution to both our understanding of copyright law and by offering a more flexible range of licenses for creators the world over the employ.

We are, as I’m often reminded, all in it together. One life each, one planet for us all to be sustained by, one chance to make a difference. Barely a breath in the scale of all things. These humbling thoughts accompanied my on my road to Rio, from Melbourne to Auckland, from Auckland to Santiago, from Santiago too…

2.1. Santiago stop-over

The road to Rio led me to a bar in Santiago. To my surprise I had to spend a night here… this turned into two nights as my travel agent had not only neglected to inform me that I would have to stay one night here, I was not advised that I would need a visa for Brazil!

That’s why we have travel agents, isn’t it? To ensure everything gets sorted including visa’s, airport taxes, etc. Travel agents ought to provide the kind of service one cannot undertake themselves, particularly if one is as busy as me. Not so in this case… Never-mind… Let’s get back to the bar.

By the third glass of excellent Chilean wine I got to talking to Rodriguez, the owner. I left 4:15 am, 20 minutes before my bus was to leave for the airport (not knowing I would be back in the area by 11am!). By the time I’d left we’d shared between us around 600Mg each of music… music neither of us would have known and certainly not ever to have heard.

It’s a familiar story. We all know people like Rodriguez – educated, political, creative – and yet, despite globalisation and a far reaching Western media he, like many in my own city, would not have known that a once obscure ambient recording artist from the early 80s had released a new album nor would he have known that the incredible vocalist of a chart-topping 90s band was to be the genius behind the music of three of the more bizarre and extreme bands of the present time.

And I would not have heard any of the Chilean music Rodriguez shared, dissecting their meaning with passion and integrity. He was clearly moved by this music.

We were surely breaking numerous laws, however we would not have known of each others music collections to have bought these albums, let alone tracked them down by legal means or otherwise. They would have remained unheard in Chile and visa versa, unknown in Melbourne where I’m from.

Who’s better or worse off in such an exchange? Firstly, Rodriguez and I are. We’ve learnt something of each other, how it was we got to find this music and what it is about it that moves us. Secondly, the artist is also better off.

The artist may not receive their negotiated percentage from the sale of a single CD, but their music will be more widely heard and heard where they would otherwise remain unknown. Rather than being branded a pirate or even worse, a criminal, I would rather see Rodriguez, you (many of you reading this can’t deny participating in such exchanges) and I as gardeners – seeding the places we visit with that which moves and motivates us. We are more ambassadors of culture than thieves.

2.2. Ambassadors of culture or thieves?

Late 2005 I was at a meeting in Eastern Europe where ICT policy activists had gathered. I’d never seen so much rampant plundering of copyright protected products, most notably music and film. To my astonishment the one and only United Nations representative there was perhaps the most visible collector of indigenous music’s from every country they had visited and relied heavily on ripping local collections.

No doubt much of this music is hard to find, but someone in that position, more aware than most of the amount of indigenous intellectual property that is absorbed into pockets other than their own, ought to consider what it is they are actually doing. This was a situation where I didn’t see anyone actually benefiting from access to a resource near impossible to find. Theirs was a personal collection and one they would often tidy, organising their iTunes library when they ought to be listening.

During one of my sessions I had to ask people to shut down their bittorent clients and close their laptops. There was limited bandwidth available and much it was consumed by file sharing clients.

I found this abhorrent… here more worldly, travelled and cashed up people who one hand would cry foul at an international corporation for patenting an indigenous plant but would think nothing of sharing their music.

However, once again this is a situation where much of this music would not have been heard let alone experienced. From my position as a composer, as a producer and manager of an artist run music label, in this instance, in a context that was not driven by impromptu social and cultural exchanges, in this instance I would have wanted to see the artists benefit far more directly from these transactions.

Personally, if I find music I truly love I’ll purchase the CD. Why? Because I want to hear what the artist and their producers intended for it to sound like. Not compressed, but in its true form and in this state one can understand more fully the creative decisions made.

So, the road to Rio threw up a couple of questions… To rip or to stay silent, to share or to sustain limits to ones experience? I prefer to not remain silent and will not inhibit my experience and that of those I would want share that life with. One life, one chance, one planet, one breath… perhaps one day common sense may too be informed by the past so as to enrich our future.

3. The iSummit

I was excited to be there, to be with people who may chare the same ideas, urgency and commitment… I arrived on the evening of the 1st day having missed the introductions, Giberto Gil’s welcoming address and the previous evening’s rendezvous with APC colleagues. No messages at the Hotel. The Hotel had not been informed that I would be a day late and as such my booking was cancelled. Fortunately there was one room left which seemed rather spacious for a single.

APC people had left text messages for me… at the very least I felt welcomed by my own colleagues and retired till 6am when I rose to complete the presentation materials for my talk.

Day 2 and I got to the iSummit aglow with enthusiasm strolling through the lobby of the Marriot Hotel with my presentation now complete and ready to be absorbed. Within a few minutes I would sit bewildered in the main room of the Summit as this morning’s keynote panel took to the floor. James Boyle, a member of CC’s Board and a Professor of Law at Duke Law School, was first up and proceeded to launch into a highly charged, near evangelistic presentation on the merits of Creative Commons. Did I miss something?

I took a look around and wondered whether I’d walked into the wrong room. I then saw one CC t-shirt after another, CC stickers on laptops, CC wrist bands and badges… I felt like I’d walked into a convention! Had I come all this way to hear this? A sermon to the converted, drumming it in just to make sure we were all on the same wavelength? Who was this person and why were they here? What were they doing up there telling us what I suspect we already knew?

I admit it was mildly entertaining, but I came here to be informed, not reassured. I came here to inform and be informed, not to be accosted by words I had heard and read many times over already.

James was followed by Jenny Toomey who described herself as a Music Activist and former “punk rocker”. Jenny is the President of the Future of Music Coalition and co-author of the infamous Mechanic’s Guide to Putting Out Records . Jenny described the current phenomenon of music distribution on the Internet as “disintermediation”, where music circulates through “difference” networks that encourage communication amongst genres and genre based communities, some of which criss-cross into new genre territories.

An example of disintermediation would have to beMySpace.com , perhaps the largest online community of its kind and since the iSummit, had been purchased by Rupert Murdoch . Via my personal MySpace profile , which I created after the iSummit, I have 28 direct connections with people that I know and some I’ve never met. Through them my extended network includes 99,165,996 individual profiles comprised of musicians, bands, promoters, record labels and your average punter.

Jenny recommended that from here on in the successful distribution of cultural products via the Internet will a) rely on a combination of solid and yet flexible licenses and, (b) to organise diverse communities and begin with finding what it is they need. The idea being that you find the communities, don’t wait for them to find you! This was spurred on by the discovery that of the 32 million American’s that call them selves artists, only 10 million of them actually earn some kind of income from their work. I suspect, given the number of artists that live below the poverty line, that the figure is much lower in my home country, Australia.

Professor Niva Elkin-Koren from Haifa University took to the floor and expressed her concern for what she believed is the incompatibility between each of the four licenses CC offered. She argued two points that she felt defeated the goals of CC.

  1. Diversity of licenses makes it more difficult and time consuming (Economists would say it raises transaction costs) for creators to identify which rights are granted and which are reserved for a given piece of content that they might want to integrate in their own work.
  2. Offering a range of licenses increases incompatibility. When open licenses prevent content from being combined and integrated, the whole mantra of rip/mix/burn grinds to a halt

Jac sm Kee reported that she’d felt the discussion had finally opened up. Here was an opportunity to focus on the value and success of CC not from an empirical set of values (Lessig had informed us that 140 million pieces of content had been lodged under CC licenses) but success purely on the basis of ethics, politics and the political impact of CC. The response was disappointing.

Jac noted that Niva’s arguments were washed over by comments such as “we don’t prescribe what freedoms people should have”, “we are humble”, “we make mistakes”. Jac argues that CC does “prescribe particular kinds of freedoms, such as the freedom of individual choice (through prioritising creator’s rights to choose how to dispense with their information) and the four ways in which it can happen, and as explained by Niva, with significant impact on social norms. Its widespread and increasing use by online communities from all over the world is precisely why these are important issues to be engaged with more adequately.”

So, what of incompatibility? Larry Lessig explained that incompatibility was one of the more important issues for CC to tackle, but he was more concerned about issues between CC licensed content and that of content using other “open” licenses. He also stated that this was not the forum in which to raise this level of critique.
I can understand that this may not have been the venue for deep analysis and critique of the CC licensing, but to dismiss it without offering a forum for such debate I found highly questionable. If we were to be reminded of the origins and values of CC, surely we can be reminded of the mailing lists where such debate can take place. It was becoming clear that CC does not necessarily take a neither political nor definitive ethical stand. We would have to wait till the end of the iSummit to know for sure as that was when the sum of workshop outputs would be collated into specific projects and statements.

My view of the iSummit was crumbling and this was only the first hour. I was yet to present at the Music, video and multimedia: the cultural commons Panel.

4. Music, video and multimedia

The iSummit program read:

Music, video and multimedia: the cultural commons – This workshop will introduce a variety of new approaches to the cultural commons from both the community and commercial sectors. The speakers all represent pioneers in their sectors – experimenting with new methods of distributing music, video and multimedia and connecting with participants of a new digital age.

The guide for iSummit presenters’ prepared by Heather Ford, Acting Executive Director, iCommons, was encouraging. I was particularly drawn to item 2, Outcomes.

If I had to give one word for what this conference is aiming at, it’s the word ‘build’. Everyone who attends the event should be someone who is *actively* building the commons in one way or another. Each of the workshops will produce a paragraph for the Summit Declaration at the end of the event and we’ll be asking you to start working on a draft in the coming weeks. It is absolutely critical that this event is not just about hearing great perspectives on the commons. Our goal is that it will spark new projects and new alliances. For this reason, we ask that speakers focus on the practical elements of what they’ve achieved, the challenges that they’ve faced. All this goes a long way towards motivating participants to start similar projects in their own region.

I read this and was anxious for a tangible outcome, particularly as OPEN CHANNEL had hosted the forum, “Free Screen Culture” at Arts Law Week a single day prior to the presenters guide arriving. I was keen to return with answers to some of the questions left unanswered by our esteemed panel .

I wanted to understand whether CC could provide a comprehensive alternative to the complex copyright and rights management entailed in traditional film production, not just independent DIY productions. In short, can it be made even easier for moving image producers to elect CC licenses as easy as it can be for musicians and authors?

The chair of our iSummit Panel, Eric Steuer, sent presenters a set of questions to commence discussions on how we would run the panel and what our outcomes would look like. Regrettably, these arrived only days prior to the start of the iSummit leaving barely any time to mobilise a decent debate online and across several time zones.

Eric asked:

Any ideas about how to engage the audience in the half hour after all of the presentations have been delivered (Does Q&A work best? Or should we opt for something more interesting, like having attendees briefly break up into groups to brainstorm, then report back to the larger audience with their ideas?)

I replied recommending the following:

  • Freeing Screen Culture… clear means by which we can:
    • Explain to video/film producer’s pros and cons off CC establish most elegant process for video/film producers to elect CC license and ensure all rights are cleared (what needs to be cleared before a CC license can be employed).
    • Ensuring PROs in each jurisdiction support CC, ensuring composers, video and filmmakers can elect a CC license and still earn royalties, or rather, can elect their PRO to collect royalties on their behalf.
  • Specifications for open source CC compliant tools for artist / media maker collaboration across all jurisdictions.

As I predicted there was no discussion. Eric eventually replied, on the eve of my departure with a plan which did not include any of my suggestions and no mention of them either despite an invitation to all panellists to contribute to the workshop plan.

Audience breaks into small groups according to interest (music, video, etc.) to brainstorm for 20 minutes. The idea here is to come up with compelling ways to propose CC to artists/creators in your respective communities. After the brainstorm, each group will present their ideas to the larger gathering for feedback, questions, etc.

Section 4, Interactivity, of the presenter’s guidelines states:

…In the weeks that follow, the chair people of your workshop will work with you in deciding what that ‘interactive’ part will be about. At the very least, it will be used to ask questions of panellists and debate and edit the draft paragraph that you’ve written for the Summit Declaration. But we’re hoping that workshops will enable group work that gets participants designing the next open educational portal, or the next open access channel and finding ways for free music portals to get sharing internationally. We know that you’re not all experts at this – its a journey and experiment for us all – but we want this conference to be really, really powerful and we’ll need to experiment if we’re to find this success. We do have one or two experts on interactive workshop design who’ll be assisting you all in the weeks running up to the event – please use them 🙂

I’m labouring over this because I was quite anxious about this trip and my participation on the panel. I’d felt it was one of the more important presentations I was to have made since the presentations and papers I had written on computer communications for the Earth Summit of 1992.

I was terribly disappointed by the lack of inclusion and the lack of care displayed for outcomes that would meet the expectations of both panellists of iSummit organisers. This was clearly displayed in the run-down to departure outlined in this simple time line:

  • 18 May – The presenters guide received.
  • 16 Jun – The request from our panel Chair for discussion on outcomes received.
  • 18 Jun – Garton sends his response including suggested outcomes.
  • 20 Jun – No reply. Garton sends follow-up response.
  • 22 Jun – Chair sends his own proposed structure and outcomes.
  • 22 Jun – Garton replies from Santiago on route to Rio.

Between 18 May and 18 June there was no prior communication from the Chair and no one described as an interactive workshop design expert made contact with me. From 16 to 22 June no other panellist that I am aware of replied to Eric. Perhaps they did via direct email. If so, there was no sense of inclusion created by the Chair.

Regardless I ploughed ahead with the idea that I would make the most out of this situation, that I would present a time line of works, from the earliest collaborative pieces up to the web project with EngageMedia for OPEN CHANNEL. I would compile as much information as was made available and seek opportunities to connect with like minds and find some way to achieve the results I was looking for.

The panel consisted of:

  • Eric Steuer, Chair – Creative Commons
  • Andre Szajman – Trama
  • Rodrigo Savazoni – Agencia Brasil
  • Andrew Garton – OPEN CHANNEL
  • Dragoslava Pefeva – ccBulgaria
  • Steven Starr – Revver

The following sections are snap-shots of some of the presentations during this panel session.

4.1. Trama Virtual

Music as oxygen – that which contributes to the political and sacred development of the country.

That’s how André Szaiman opened his presentation which dealt specifically with his record label turned music company, Trama Virtual.

http://www.tramavirtual.com.br/

Trama have become perhaps the single most successful independent music company in Brazil and much of their success has been built on the online services they provide to their artists of which they support 28,000. But the success of their website is not really about the products you will find there, it’s how it’s been marketed, how Trama have identified, and in many cases, created new communities that have been drawn to their artist’s repertoire.

Services provided consist of:

  • Artist profile pages (managed by the artist themselves)
  • Audio and Video streams and downloads (free)
  • Access to local television and radio broadcasters
  • Events listings (for each artists, plus combined searchable listing)
  • Forums
  • Podcasts
  • Online distribution service for each artist (to manage themselves)

All of the above is free to subscribers to the site who can interact with the artists (much like myspace.com). But more importantly, the site emphasises live performance where a significant component of their sales are generated.

Their program, on what was described as “multichannel”, and local radio has drawn vast numbers of support. Both programs reflect their live productions which are held in universities across the country. Here they profile all their artists and they have some 28,000 to choose from!

The site has become so successful they are now acting as distributor for overseas labels seeking to break into the Brazilian market. With a manifesto that reads like an article by Noam Chomsky, it’s no wonder Trama have grown from a small independent label that launched in 1999 to the success it has clearly achieved, both for itself and its artists, in 2006.

André finished his presentation by announcing that Trama does not support Digital Rights Management in any form. “WE DON’T BELIEVE IN DRM” drew wild applause.

4.2. Revver

Steven Starr sells himself as a socially conscious indymedia savvy entrepreneur with the interests of “video creators” at heart. It was one of those well rehearsed presentations brimming with confidence, purpose, dramatic pauses and a good idea!

Revver describes itself as supporting “video creators by helping them earn money and distribute their work widely.” It does this by appending a single add to the tail of video clips; adds that generate income whenever a user clicks one. It’s inconspicuous, it’s kind of elegant and it works.

http://www.revver.com/

Revenue is split 50 / 50 between producers and Revver with monies deposited directly into a PayPal account. Quick to set up, simple to use and like YouTube , you can place your videos on any other site whilst keeping your content hosted on Revver.

So, what’s the rub?

  • Currently, it only supports Quicktime meaning it’s not possible for linux users to make use of the service.
  • You can’t get paid if you don’t have a PayPal account.
  • I tried to get a video clip onto Revver. Ninety minutes after the upload it hadn’t appeared and I couldn’t find any information stating why this is the case. Still waiting!

However, these are minor concerns to some degree. Plenty of people seem to get their videos onto Revver without much trouble at all. The financial model seems sound enough, but what about the licensing?

I was also confounded by the fact that Revver supports the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs license only. So, if you had a video released under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license, there was no option but to have your work generate income regardless of the license of the original work. The reason being is that Creative Commons licenses are not revocable.

Larry was asked for his opinion on the matter and he made it quite clear he wasn’t offering legal advice at this time.

On the upside of the licensing, Revver intends to offer the derivative version of the license to that video samples that are used in other works can themselves earn income. So, a video comprised of several samples from other Revver hosted clips would accrue revenue for each clip author. This, if they can make it work, would be a minor revolution for those who lean heavily on the remix .

Overall, I felt Revver provided perhaps the soundest and least offensive revenue generating model for video producers / filmmakers I had yet to encounter. It would be even more useful if they offered a mix of licenses so as to include the producers who create works under more conventional licenses and may wish to revive the life of their work(s) online.

4.3. ccBulgaria

I first met Dragoslava Pefeva in Varna, Bulgaria. We were both on a Creative Commons panel at the 2005 Association for Progressive Communications Council Meeting. Dragoslava was presenting the ccBulgaria project whilst I was serving Tequila shots to her and others on the panel.

This unassuming, slightly framed woman with a not so unassuming name took the iSummit panel and our attendees on a journey through the dynamic world of Bulgarian 2D and 3D cross discipline digital content incubators

http://open-culture.net/

The core of Dragoslava’s project has been to create opportunities for new forms of cultural practice to develop under the Creative Commons license scheme. This has resulted in a range of brilliant projects which include:

  • Graphillia, http://www.graphilla.com – sharing 3D models, the entire architecture from skins to frames of complex 3D images assisting new 3D artists to learn skills that they would otherwise not have access to. A competition linked to this project was designed to mobilise Bulgarian artists to work outside of their more conservative ideas and expand the possibilities of the medium there. It was a huge success and drew international acclaim.
  • VoxxLab, http://voxxlab.org/, is a public access audio centre! It provides low cost training and access to sound and music tools and studios. The idea being that it brings these technologies within reach of the general public, not only for professionals.
  • C3 is a library, a production and studio space with an emphasis on public access to digital and chemical based photography and multimedia. It’s described as a “cultural space for the population” and perhaps the single most exciting facility I had heard described during the entire iSummit.

It was not possible, due to language and time constraints, to delve deeper in these projects, but I know I could devote an entire paper on the work being done in Bulgaria alone.

4.4. DotSub

Although not part of the panel, DotSub took up much of the workshop session with a presentation about it’s services. It was one of those well rehearsed presentations brimming with confidence, purpose, dramatic pauses and a good idea! Sound familiar?

http://www.dotsub.com/

DotSub provides captioning service for online video. It’s a simple, but effective idea.

Multilingual volunteers add captions to each video in their own language. Over time the more popular videos accumulate translations in several languages, one of the best examples being video presentations created by Japanese video producer, Nakano.

Not able to attend, Nakano produced a series of clips that were shown at the final, closing open mike session with the iCommons Board of Directors.

Nakano proposed a number of techniques for embedding credits on videos for Internet consumption and offered a number of models. All of these can be viewed via:

http://www.dotsub.com/films/nakano1

DotSub describe themselves as having created an “open and collaborative subtitling technology” that relies on both communities of filmmakers and translators to build a multilingual resource that will bring video content to a much wider audience.

Perhaps one day we will see DotSub as an add-on to Revver, You-Tune and other like-projects. For now, it’s a great idea providing filmmakers in, for instance, India, to reach an audience they would otherwise have no reach.

5. Outcomes

I’m not entirely happy with process that unfolded in Rio. Although there was a sense of inclusivity, there was a greater sense of exclusivity. However, I can identify this as symptoms of growth, of change occurring within an organisation that is trying to be transparent, but at the same time cannot be so when it is so young and globally visible.

The APC grew along different lines. The governance model of the APC kept it “honest” and bereft of exclusivity. There were, of course exceptions to the rule, but overall one can say it withstood the temptation, struggling at times to ensure transparency and most of all, accountability to its membership. iCommons, as an organisation or movement or node central, what ever it strives to be, will become the sum of what ever parts are drawn to it.

Although the iSummit could list a significant range of outcomes, from plans for the 2007 iSummit in Croatia to the draft declarations ( the Rio 2006 Declaration on Digital Rights Management , the Rio 2006 Declaration on Open Access and the Rio 2006 Declaration on the Proposed WIPO Treating on the Rights of Broadcasting Organisations .), I can only list a few:

  • There are many more options for independent filmmakers and small production teams to distribute their work online and have it protected and / or contribute to the broader cultural debate.
  • User created content, such as YouTube and MySpace, are the new face of community media and this needs to be understood in a broader context of open and public access.
  • If innovation still occurs at the margins, the margins are blurred.
  • We are on the precipice of a universal cultural renaissance in parallel with unprecedented fear mongering and state co-option of national media interests in some of the more powerful countries in the world.
  • In association with Creative Commons Australia an online database for filmmakers, educators and students of screen of Australian films that are now in the public domain. Mooted to be developed in a partnership with OPEN CHANNEL, EngageMedia and a willing film funding agency.

There was a call for the iSummit post-panel workshops to work towards common outcomes, but I could not see evidence of this. Certainly not at the Music, video and multimedia panel and this was perhaps the most disappointing aspect for me and I have yet to resolve how this came about. I doubt it was arriving neither a day late nor being party to the “cool pool” activities on the Marriot rooftop.

Either the outcomes were pre-determined, or I didn’t schmooze enough. All I know is that as a supporter of the Creative Commons ideal, I will remain an advocate but I will never subscribe to being referred to as a Commoner no more than I will ever refer to myself as either an OPEN CHANNELER or APCeeeeeeer!

6. Postcript

It should be noted that the issues I have raised and those presented in more details by the papers above, are being debated within the iCommons. It is encouraging to see an openness to broaden these discussions, although it would have been best to deal with them face to face rather than through the mediums currently undertaken.

For a deeper analysis of the processes in play during the iSummit I would recommend reading the following reports / papers:

Final Session, June 25: Open Mike with iCommons Board of Directors
http://wiki.icommons.org/index.php/ISummit_2006

Some friendly suggestions for iCommons and free culture, Tom Chance, Remix Reading
http://software.newsforge.com/software/06/07/03/1510252.shtml?tid=150&tid=147

Report iCommons iSummit 2006, Jac sm Kee, APC WNSP
http://blog.apc.org/en/index.shtml?x=5039423

Follow-up discussions are occurring via the icommons Wiki:
http://wiki.icommons.org/index.php/Isummit

1. Introduction

The second iCommons Summit, dubbed iSummit 2006 was designed to “collaborate with organisations and communities from around the world to demonstrate and share best practice, and discuss strategies for continuing the positive impact that ‘sharing’ practices are having on participation in the cultural and knowledge domains.”

The rhetoric of the cultural and knowledge domains is derived from the global open source and open content movements, each destined to create and foster more liberal copyright protections for creative and cultural content developers. iCommons itself is an organisation that grew from the success of Creative Commons (CC): licenses that provide “a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists and educators. ”

There were indeed demonstrations, various practises were shared, but discussions on strategy were either taken by those more connected than I, or were overshadowed by an over zealous, self-congratulatory fan base that did more to elevate the status of the business card than it did for my knowledge and practical application of Creative Commons. However, this was only part of the story…

iSummit 2006 was held in Rio de Janeiro from 23rd – 25th June 2006, at the prestigious JW Marriot Hotel, Copacabana. Over 250 participants from numerous countries and regions, notably the Americas, were in attendance. Some were sponsored through IDRC, Revver, Shuttleworth Foundation, Linden Lab, OSI and Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft.

Three days before the Conference, CC announced that Microsoft will release a plugin for Word, Excel & Powerpoint products, a tool that would imprint a CC licence within your document. APC’s WNSP representative, Jac sm Kee, noted that Lawrence (or Larry as he prefers to be known) Lessig was reported to be “excited”, while Gilberto Gill was reported to be “thrilled”. Some participants were disturbed, particularly those who were advised that a Microsoft representative was about to join their panel.

This resulted in a red-nose protest during Martha Nalebuff’s (Director, Intellectual Property Guidance, Microsoft) appearance on the Creative Models Panel.

The response from the Creative Commons team to Microsoft’s creation of a CC plugin appeared to far outweigh the value of the plugin. Would there have been the same response if such a plugin was made available for users of OpenOffice? Would such a tool have been more valuable should it provide templates for various document types supporting a number of cultural practices? A tool that could be redeployed in each CC jurisdiction so that it may accommodate local practises of say, the film industry – a tool that created template agreements for any aspect of film production for instance, that could also be applied to eduction, science, research, music or theatre would have been far more welcome.

This represented the tone of the iSummit. Controversial, separatist, little consultation with other panellists, and if there was, as with my panel, no follow-up and no perceived interest in the panel chair in the ideas being presented to assist in focusing the panel towards tangible outcomes. That said, the iSummit was informative, inspirational at times and a welcome gathering of like and likeable minds amidst the more competitive of attendees. This made up for much of the concern and suspicion that had grown during my stay in Rio as getting there was perhaps the most expensive and problematic trip I had had to date.

I spent two unexpected days in Santiago . On top of what was supported, I had shelled out an additional USD$1500 to ensure I got to the iSummit in time at least for the panel I was appearing on. The only other option was to stay in Santiago till 28 June, miss the iSummit, my connecting flight to London and stay in a city that Senor Coconut calls home. No a chance, the panel was perhaps the single most important reason for me being there and I was determined to return to Australia with information for OPEN CHANNEL members as well as contributing to the growing body of copyright expertise within the APC.

I was to leave Rio in a bright yellow taxi with sore calf muscles, a few business cards pocketed and regrettably, little substance. In hindsight, however, as this report describes it wasn’t an entire waste of time although I do labour over the process that led to few outcomes.

2. Road to Rio

In 1992 I wrote an article exploring the hopes and aspirations of a movement seeking to encourage the world’s leadership to urgently address the environmental degradation that ails us still. I was in Rio for the Earth Summit.

There was no doubt a wave of hope that swept through all participants there, but despite the means being so apparent, we find ourselves in 2006 where this is talk of a resumption of commercial whaling and governments the world over are considering Nuclear as a “viable and clean” energy option. If, as Lawrence Lessig puts it, creativity is built on the past, clearly common sense is not.

If we’re unable to address the big issues, how can we expect to deal with the details that which contribute to the sum of many parts that constitute the power bases that sustain poverty, wealth and everything in between?

But I’m not here to reminisce over past defeats and misguided hope… I’m here to engage with the detail. Copyright is part of that detail and Creative Commons, we are reminded (more than is most likely necessary at this Summit), is making a valiant contribution to both our understanding of copyright law and by offering a more flexible range of licenses for creators the world over the employ.

We are, as I’m often reminded, all in it together. One life each, one planet for us all to be sustained by, one chance to make a difference. Barely a breath in the scale of all things. These humbling thoughts accompanied my on my road to Rio, from Melbourne to Auckland, from Auckland to Santiago, from Santiago too…

2.1. Santiago stop-over

The road to Rio led me to a bar in Santiago. To my surprise I had to spend a night here… this turned into two nights as my travel agent had not only neglected to inform me that I would have to stay one night here, I was not advised that I would need a visa for Brazil!

That’s why we have travel agents, isn’t it? To ensure everything gets sorted including visa’s, airport taxes, etc. Travel agents ought to provide the kind of service one cannot undertake themselves, particularly if one is as busy as me. Not so in this case… Never-mind… Let’s get back to the bar.

By the third glass of excellent Chilean wine I got to talking to Rodriguez, the owner. I left 4:15 am, 20 minutes before my bus was to leave for the airport (not knowing I would be back in the area by 11am!). By the time I’d left we’d shared between us around 600Mg each of music… music neither of us would have known and certainly not ever to have heard.

It’s a familiar story. We all know people like Rodriguez – educated, political, creative – and yet, despite globalisation and a far reaching Western media he, like many in my own city, would not have known that a once obscure ambient recording artist from the early 80s had released a new album nor would he have known that the incredible vocalist of a chart-topping 90s band was to be the genius behind the music of three of the more bizarre and extreme bands of the present time.

And I would not have heard any of the Chilean music Rodriguez shared, dissecting their meaning with passion and integrity. He was clearly moved by this music.

We were surely breaking numerous laws, however we would not have known of each others music collections to have bought these albums, let alone tracked them down by legal means or otherwise. They would have remained unheard in Chile and visa versa, unknown in Melbourne where I’m from.

Who’s better or worse off in such an exchange? Firstly, Rodriguez and I are. We’ve learnt something of each other, how it was we got to find this music and what it is about it that moves us. Secondly, the artist is also better off.

The artist may not receive their negotiated percentage from the sale of a single CD, but their music will be more widely heard and heard where they would otherwise remain unknown. Rather than being branded a pirate or even worse, a criminal, I would rather see Rodriguez, you (many of you reading this can’t deny participating in such exchanges) and I as gardeners – seeding the places we visit with that which moves and motivates us. We are more ambassadors of culture than thieves.

2.2. Ambassadors of culture or thieves?

Late 2005 I was at a meeting in Eastern Europe where ICT policy activists had gathered. I’d never seen so much rampant plundering of copyright protected products, most notably music and film. To my astonishment the one and only United Nations representative there was perhaps the most visible collector of indigenous music’s from every country they had visited and relied heavily on ripping local collections.

No doubt much of this music is hard to find, but someone in that position, more aware than most of the amount of indigenous intellectual property that is absorbed into pockets other than their own, ought to consider what it is they are actually doing. This was a situation where I didn’t see anyone actually benefiting from access to a resource near impossible to find. Theirs was a personal collection and one they would often tidy, organising their iTunes library when they ought to be listening.

During one of my sessions I had to ask people to shut down their bittorent clients and close their laptops. There was limited bandwidth available and much it was consumed by file sharing clients.

I found this abhorrent… here more worldly, travelled and cashed up people who one hand would cry foul at an international corporation for patenting an indigenous plant but would think nothing of sharing their music.

However, once again this is a situation where much of this music would not have been heard let alone experienced. From my position as a composer, as a producer and manager of an artist run music label, in this instance, in a context that was not driven by impromptu social and cultural exchanges, in this instance I would have wanted to see the artists benefit far more directly from these transactions.

Personally, if I find music I truly love I’ll purchase the CD. Why? Because I want to hear what the artist and their producers intended for it to sound like. Not compressed, but in its true form and in this state one can understand more fully the creative decisions made.

So, the road to Rio threw up a couple of questions… To rip or to stay silent, to share or to sustain limits to ones experience? I prefer to not remain silent and will not inhibit my experience and that of those I would want share that life with. One life, one chance, one planet, one breath… perhaps one day common sense may too be informed by the past so as to enrich our future.

3. The iSummit

I was excited to be there, to be with people who may chare the same ideas, urgency and commitment… I arrived on the evening of the 1st day having missed the introductions, Giberto Gil’s welcoming address and the previous evening’s rendezvous with APC colleagues. No messages at the Hotel. The Hotel had not been informed that I would be a day late and as such my booking was cancelled. Fortunately there was one room left which seemed rather spacious for a single.

APC people had left text messages for me… at the very least I felt welcomed by my own colleagues and retired till 6am when I rose to complete the presentation materials for my talk.

Day 2 and I got to the iSummit aglow with enthusiasm strolling through the lobby of the Marriot Hotel with my presentation now complete and ready to be absorbed. Within a few minutes I would sit bewildered in the main room of the Summit as this morning’s keynote panel took to the floor. James Boyle, a member of CC’s Board and a Professor of Law at Duke Law School, was first up and proceeded to launch into a highly charged, near evangelistic presentation on the merits of Creative Commons. Did I miss something?

I took a look around and wondered whether I’d walked into the wrong room. I then saw one CC t-shirt after another, CC stickers on laptops, CC wrist bands and badges… I felt like I’d walked into a convention! Had I come all this way to hear this? A sermon to the converted, drumming it in just to make sure we were all on the same wavelength? Who was this person and why were they here? What were they doing up there telling us what I suspect we already knew?

I admit it was mildly entertaining, but I came here to be informed, not reassured. I came here to inform and be informed, not to be accosted by words I had heard and read many times over already.

James was followed by Jenny Toomey who described herself as a Music Activist and former “punk rocker”. Jenny is the President of the Future of Music Coalition and co-author of the infamous Mechanic’s Guide to Putting Out Records . Jenny described the current phenomenon of music distribution on the Internet as “disintermediation”, where music circulates through “difference” networks that encourage communication amongst genres and genre based communities, some of which criss-cross into new genre territories.

An example of disintermediation would have to beMySpace.com , perhaps the largest online community of its kind and since the iSummit, had been purchased by Rupert Murdoch . Via my personal MySpace profile , which I created after the iSummit, I have 28 direct connections with people that I know and some I’ve never met. Through them my extended network includes 99,165,996 individual profiles comprised of musicians, bands, promoters, record labels and your average punter.

Jenny recommended that from here on in the successful distribution of cultural products via the Internet will a) rely on a combination of solid and yet flexible licenses and, (b) to organise diverse communities and begin with finding what it is they need. The idea being that you find the communities, don’t wait for them to find you! This was spurred on by the discovery that of the 32 million American’s that call them selves artists, only 10 million of them actually earn some kind of income from their work. I suspect, given the number of artists that live below the poverty line, that the figure is much lower in my home country, Australia.

Professor Niva Elkin-Koren from Haifa University took to the floor and expressed her concern for what she believed is the incompatibility between each of the four licenses CC offered. She argued two points that she felt defeated the goals of CC.

  1. Diversity of licenses makes it more difficult and time consuming (Economists would say it raises transaction costs) for creators to identify which rights are granted and which are reserved for a given piece of content that they might want to integrate in their own work.
  2. Offering a range of licenses increases incompatibility. When open licenses prevent content from being combined and integrated, the whole mantra of rip/mix/burn grinds to a halt

Jac sm Kee reported that she’d felt the discussion had finally opened up. Here was an opportunity to focus on the value and success of CC not from an empirical set of values (Lessig had informed us that 140 million pieces of content had been lodged under CC licenses) but success purely on the basis of ethics, politics and the political impact of CC. The response was disappointing.

Jac noted that Niva’s arguments were washed over by comments such as “we don’t prescribe what freedoms people should have”, “we are humble”, “we make mistakes”. Jac argues that CC does “prescribe particular kinds of freedoms, such as the freedom of individual choice (through prioritising creator’s rights to choose how to dispense with their information) and the four ways in which it can happen, and as explained by Niva, with significant impact on social norms. Its widespread and increasing use by online communities from all over the world is precisely why these are important issues to be engaged with more adequately.”

So, what of incompatibility? Larry Lessig explained that incompatibility was one of the more important issues for CC to tackle, but he was more concerned about issues between CC licensed content and that of content using other “open” licenses. He also stated that this was not the forum in which to raise this level of critique.
I can understand that this may not have been the venue for deep analysis and critique of the CC licensing, but to dismiss it without offering a forum for such debate I found highly questionable. If we were to be reminded of the origins and values of CC, surely we can be reminded of the mailing lists where such debate can take place. It was becoming clear that CC does not necessarily take a neither political nor definitive ethical stand. We would have to wait till the end of the iSummit to know for sure as that was when the sum of workshop outputs would be collated into specific projects and statements.

My view of the iSummit was crumbling and this was only the first hour. I was yet to present at the Music, video and multimedia: the cultural commons Panel.

4. Music, video and multimedia

The iSummit program read:

Music, video and multimedia: the cultural commons – This workshop will introduce a variety of new approaches to the cultural commons from both the community and commercial sectors. The speakers all represent pioneers in their sectors – experimenting with new methods of distributing music, video and multimedia and connecting with participants of a new digital age.

The guide for iSummit presenters’ prepared by Heather Ford, Acting Executive Director, iCommons, was encouraging. I was particularly drawn to item 2, Outcomes.

If I had to give one word for what this conference is aiming at, it’s the word ‘build’. Everyone who attends the event should be someone who is *actively* building the commons in one way or another. Each of the workshops will produce a paragraph for the Summit Declaration at the end of the event and we’ll be asking you to start working on a draft in the coming weeks. It is absolutely critical that this event is not just about hearing great perspectives on the commons. Our goal is that it will spark new projects and new alliances. For this reason, we ask that speakers focus on the practical elements of what they’ve achieved, the challenges that they’ve faced. All this goes a long way towards motivating participants to start similar projects in their own region.

I read this and was anxious for a tangible outcome, particularly as OPEN CHANNEL had hosted the forum, “Free Screen Culture” at Arts Law Week a single day prior to the presenters guide arriving. I was keen to return with answers to some of the questions left unanswered by our esteemed panel .

I wanted to understand whether CC could provide a comprehensive alternative to the complex copyright and rights management entailed in traditional film production, not just independent DIY productions. In short, can it be made even easier for moving image producers to elect CC licenses as easy as it can be for musicians and authors?

The chair of our iSummit Panel, Eric Steuer, sent presenters a set of questions to commence discussions on how we would run the panel and what our outcomes would look like. Regrettably, these arrived only days prior to the start of the iSummit leaving barely any time to mobilise a decent debate online and across several time zones.

Eric asked:

Any ideas about how to engage the audience in the half hour after all of the presentations have been delivered (Does Q&A work best? Or should we opt for something more interesting, like having attendees briefly break up into groups to brainstorm, then report back to the larger audience with their ideas?)

I replied recommending the following:

  • Freeing Screen Culture… clear means by which we can:
    • Explain to video/film producer’s pros and cons off CC establish most elegant process for video/film producers to elect CC license and ensure all rights are cleared (what needs to be cleared before a CC license can be employed).
    • Ensuring PROs in each jurisdiction support CC, ensuring composers, video and filmmakers can elect a CC license and still earn royalties, or rather, can elect their PRO to collect royalties on their behalf.
  • Specifications for open source CC compliant tools for artist / media maker collaboration across all jurisdictions.

As I predicted there was no discussion. Eric eventually replied, on the eve of my departure with a plan which did not include any of my suggestions and no mention of them either despite an invitation to all panellists to contribute to the workshop plan.

Audience breaks into small groups according to interest (music, video, etc.) to brainstorm for 20 minutes. The idea here is to come up with compelling ways to propose CC to artists/creators in your respective communities. After the brainstorm, each group will present their ideas to the larger gathering for feedback, questions, etc.

Section 4, Interactivity, of the presenter’s guidelines states:

…In the weeks that follow, the chair people of your workshop will work with you in deciding what that ‘interactive’ part will be about. At the very least, it will be used to ask questions of panellists and debate and edit the draft paragraph that you’ve written for the Summit Declaration. But we’re hoping that workshops will enable group work that gets participants designing the next open educational portal, or the next open access channel and finding ways for free music portals to get sharing internationally. We know that you’re not all experts at this – its a journey and experiment for us all – but we want this conference to be really, really powerful and we’ll need to experiment if we’re to find this success. We do have one or two experts on interactive workshop design who’ll be assisting you all in the weeks running up to the event – please use them 🙂

I’m labouring over this because I was quite anxious about this trip and my participation on the panel. I’d felt it was one of the more important presentations I was to have made since the presentations and papers I had written on computer communications for the Earth Summit of 1992.

I was terribly disappointed by the lack of inclusion and the lack of care displayed for outcomes that would meet the expectations of both panellists of iSummit organisers. This was clearly displayed in the run-down to departure outlined in this simple time line:

  • 18 May – The presenters guide received.
  • 16 Jun – The request from our panel Chair for discussion on outcomes received.
  • 18 Jun – Garton sends his response including suggested outcomes.
  • 20 Jun – No reply. Garton sends follow-up response.
  • 22 Jun – Chair sends his own proposed structure and outcomes.
  • 22 Jun – Garton replies from Santiago on route to Rio.

Between 18 May and 18 June there was no prior communication from the Chair and no one described as an interactive workshop design expert made contact with me. From 16 to 22 June no other panellist that I am aware of replied to Eric. Perhaps they did via direct email. If so, there was no sense of inclusion created by the Chair.

Regardless I ploughed ahead with the idea that I would make the most out of this situation, that I would present a time line of works, from the earliest collaborative pieces up to the web project with EngageMedia for OPEN CHANNEL. I would compile as much information as was made available and seek opportunities to connect with like minds and find some way to achieve the results I was looking for.

The panel consisted of:

  • Eric Steuer, Chair – Creative Commons
  • Andre Szajman – Trama
  • Rodrigo Savazoni – Agencia Brasil
  • Andrew Garton – OPEN CHANNEL
  • Dragoslava Pefeva – ccBulgaria
  • Steven Starr – Revver

The following sections are snap-shots of some of the presentations during this panel session.

4.1. Trama Virtual

Music as oxygen – that which contributes to the political and sacred development of the country.

That’s how André Szaiman opened his presentation which dealt specifically with his record label turned music company, Trama Virtual.

http://www.tramavirtual.com.br/

Trama have become perhaps the single most successful independent music company in Brazil and much of their success has been built on the online services they provide to their artists of which they support 28,000. But the success of their website is not really about the products you will find there, it’s how it’s been marketed, how Trama have identified, and in many cases, created new communities that have been drawn to their artist’s repertoire.

Services provided consist of:

  • Artist profile pages (managed by the artist themselves)
  • Audio and Video streams and downloads (free)
  • Access to local television and radio broadcasters
  • Events listings (for each artists, plus combined searchable listing)
  • Forums
  • Podcasts
  • Online distribution service for each artist (to manage themselves)

All of the above is free to subscribers to the site who can interact with the artists (much like myspace.com). But more importantly, the site emphasises live performance where a significant component of their sales are generated.

Their program, on what was described as “multichannel”, and local radio has drawn vast numbers of support. Both programs reflect their live productions which are held in universities across the country. Here they profile all their artists and they have some 28,000 to choose from!

The site has become so successful they are now acting as distributor for overseas labels seeking to break into the Brazilian market. With a manifesto that reads like an article by Noam Chomsky, it’s no wonder Trama have grown from a small independent label that launched in 1999 to the success it has clearly achieved, both for itself and its artists, in 2006.

André finished his presentation by announcing that Trama does not support Digital Rights Management in any form. “WE DON’T BELIEVE IN DRM” drew wild applause.

4.2. Revver

Steven Starr sells himself as a socially conscious indymedia savvy entrepreneur with the interests of “video creators” at heart. It was one of those well rehearsed presentations brimming with confidence, purpose, dramatic pauses and a good idea!

Revver describes itself as supporting “video creators by helping them earn money and distribute their work widely.” It does this by appending a single add to the tail of video clips; adds that generate income whenever a user clicks one. It’s inconspicuous, it’s kind of elegant and it works.

http://www.revver.com/

Revenue is split 50 / 50 between producers and Revver with monies deposited directly into a PayPal account. Quick to set up, simple to use and like YouTube , you can place your videos on any other site whilst keeping your content hosted on Revver.

So, what’s the rub?

  • Currently, it only supports Quicktime meaning it’s not possible for linux users to make use of the service.
  • You can’t get paid if you don’t have a PayPal account.
  • I tried to get a video clip onto Revver. Ninety minutes after the upload it hadn’t appeared and I couldn’t find any information stating why this is the case. Still waiting!

However, these are minor concerns to some degree. Plenty of people seem to get their videos onto Revver without much trouble at all. The financial model seems sound enough, but what about the licensing?

I was also confounded by the fact that Revver supports the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs license only. So, if you had a video released under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license, there was no option but to have your work generate income regardless of the license of the original work. The reason being is that Creative Commons licenses are not revocable.

Larry was asked for his opinion on the matter and he made it quite clear he wasn’t offering legal advice at this time.

On the upside of the licensing, Revver intends to offer the derivative version of the license to that video samples that are used in other works can themselves earn income. So, a video comprised of several samples from other Revver hosted clips would accrue revenue for each clip author. This, if they can make it work, would be a minor revolution for those who lean heavily on the remix .

Overall, I felt Revver provided perhaps the soundest and least offensive revenue generating model for video producers / filmmakers I had yet to encounter. It would be even more useful if they offered a mix of licenses so as to include the producers who create works under more conventional licenses and may wish to revive the life of their work(s) online.

4.3. ccBulgaria

I first met Dragoslava Pefeva in Varna, Bulgaria. We were both on a Creative Commons panel at the 2005 Association for Progressive Communications Council Meeting. Dragoslava was presenting the ccBulgaria project whilst I was serving Tequila shots to her and others on the panel.

This unassuming, slightly framed woman with a not so unassuming name took the iSummit panel and our attendees on a journey through the dynamic world of Bulgarian 2D and 3D cross discipline digital content incubators

http://open-culture.net/

The core of Dragoslava’s project has been to create opportunities for new forms of cultural practice to develop under the Creative Commons license scheme. This has resulted in a range of brilliant projects which include:

  • Graphillia, http://www.graphilla.com – sharing 3D models, the entire architecture from skins to frames of complex 3D images assisting new 3D artists to learn skills that they would otherwise not have access to. A competition linked to this project was designed to mobilise Bulgarian artists to work outside of their more conservative ideas and expand the possibilities of the medium there. It was a huge success and drew international acclaim.
  • VoxxLab, http://voxxlab.org/, is a public access audio centre! It provides low cost training and access to sound and music tools and studios. The idea being that it brings these technologies within reach of the general public, not only for professionals.
  • C3 is a library, a production and studio space with an emphasis on public access to digital and chemical based photography and multimedia. It’s described as a “cultural space for the population” and perhaps the single most exciting facility I had heard described during the entire iSummit.

It was not possible, due to language and time constraints, to delve deeper in these projects, but I know I could devote an entire paper on the work being done in Bulgaria alone.

4.4. DotSub

Although not part of the panel, DotSub took up much of the workshop session with a presentation about it’s services. It was one of those well rehearsed presentations brimming with confidence, purpose, dramatic pauses and a good idea! Sound familiar?

http://www.dotsub.com/

DotSub provides captioning service for online video. It’s a simple, but effective idea.

Multilingual volunteers add captions to each video in their own language. Over time the more popular videos accumulate translations in several languages, one of the best examples being video presentations created by Japanese video producer, Nakano.

Not able to attend, Nakano produced a series of clips that were shown at the final, closing open mike session with the iCommons Board of Directors.

Nakano proposed a number of techniques for embedding credits on videos for Internet consumption and offered a number of models. All of these can be viewed via:

http://www.dotsub.com/films/nakano1

DotSub describe themselves as having created an “open and collaborative subtitling technology” that relies on both communities of filmmakers and translators to build a multilingual resource that will bring video content to a much wider audience.

Perhaps one day we will see DotSub as an add-on to Revver, You-Tune and other like-projects. For now, it’s a great idea providing filmmakers in, for instance, India, to reach an audience they would otherwise have no reach.

5. Outcomes

I’m not entirely happy with process that unfolded in Rio. Although there was a sense of inclusivity, there was a greater sense of exclusivity. However, I can identify this as symptoms of growth, of change occurring within an organisation that is trying to be transparent, but at the same time cannot be so when it is so young and globally visible.

The APC grew along different lines. The governance model of the APC kept it “honest” and bereft of exclusivity. There were, of course exceptions to the rule, but overall one can say it withstood the temptation, struggling at times to ensure transparency and most of all, accountability to its membership. iCommons, as an organisation or movement or node central, what ever it strives to be, will become the sum of what ever parts are drawn to it.

Although the iSummit could list a significant range of outcomes, from plans for the 2007 iSummit in Croatia to the draft declarations ( the Rio 2006 Declaration on Digital Rights Management , the Rio 2006 Declaration on Open Access and the Rio 2006 Declaration on the Proposed WIPO Treating on the Rights of Broadcasting Organisations .), I can only list a few:

  • There are many more options for independent filmmakers and small production teams to distribute their work online and have it protected and / or contribute to the broader cultural debate.
  • User created content, such as YouTube and MySpace, are the new face of community media and this needs to be understood in a broader context of open and public access.
  • If innovation still occurs at the margins, the margins are blurred.
  • We are on the precipice of a universal cultural renaissance in parallel with unprecedented fear mongering and state co-option of national media interests in some of the more powerful countries in the world.
  • In association with Creative Commons Australia an online database for filmmakers, educators and students of screen of Australian films that are now in the public domain. Mooted to be developed in a partnership with OPEN CHANNEL, EngageMedia and a willing film funding agency.

There was a call for the iSummit post-panel workshops to work towards common outcomes, but I could not see evidence of this. Certainly not at the Music, video and multimedia panel and this was perhaps the most disappointing aspect for me and I have yet to resolve how this came about. I doubt it was arriving neither a day late nor being party to the “cool pool” activities on the Marriot rooftop.

Either the outcomes were pre-determined, or I didn’t schmooze enough. All I know is that as a supporter of the Creative Commons ideal, I will remain an advocate but I will never subscribe to being referred to as a Commoner no more than I will ever refer to myself as either an OPEN CHANNELER or APCeeeeeeer!

6. Postcript

It should be noted that the issues I have raised and those presented in more details by the papers above, are being debated within the iCommons. It is encouraging to see an openness to broaden these discussions, although it would have been best to deal with them face to face rather than through the mediums currently undertaken.

For a deeper analysis of the processes in play during the iSummit I would recommend reading the following reports / papers:

Final Session, June 25: Open Mike with iCommons Board of Directors
http://wiki.icommons.org/index.php/ISummit_2006

Some friendly suggestions for iCommons and free culture, Tom Chance, Remix Reading
http://software.newsforge.com/software/06/07/03/1510252.shtml?tid=150&tid=147

Report iCommons iSummit 2006, Jac sm Kee, APC WNSP
http://blog.apc.org/en/index.shtml?x=5039423

Follow-up discussions are occurring via the icommons Wiki:
http://wiki.icommons.org/index.php/Isummit

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