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The future of Ideas

The future of Ideas

In the book The Future of Ideas –The fate of the commons in a connected world professor Lawrence Lessig at the Standford Law School introduces us to some issues of contemporary law and its implication on the Internet and creativity. Lessig, who is the chairman of Creative Commons, brings forward the restrictions imposed on the creativity by a hinge for more control on the physical, the code and the content layer. This division of layers he borrows from Yochai Benkler (23), and these three layers are used to explain the different aspects of the Internet culture, and its features.

One of the fundamental elements of the Internet is the end to end principle (e2e). Behind this lies a premise that simplicity in the architecture will make the transmission easier, more cost-efficient and more reliable, as well as more equal between the users. This idea is incorporated into the architecture of the Internet and the IP protocol which is responsible for finding the receiver and transmitting the packages to her. Since the intelligence is located at the ends the code operating at the core of the network is not enabled to ask about the content of the package or making any handling differences between the different users. Other principles of the Internet norms include that each client is a potential server, and vice versa. The equality is ensured in the code, and this code is open to all to apply since it is donated to the public domain. As we will see, the commercialization of the Internet is, according to Lessig, threatening these principles as more control is being pursued.

On the physical layer Lessig discusses the right the owners of infrastructure have to impose control over their customers. He draws attention to the cable companies, which have been restricting the freedom of their Internet users through their monopoly. The problem is that those larger corporations are using their monopolistic advantage on the platform to gain advantages over competitors on the content level. This is exemplified in how some cable companies are blocking online video, in the name of capacity, which is competing against the channels broadcasted on the network, other examples on limitations includes server restrictions, fixed backbone choice, filtering and no possibility to create a  home network (156-157). The ownership structure is also changing towards that of more horizontal ownership, meaning that the same corporations that own the infrastructure also are content producers, and they are using their control over several layers to discriminate competitors.

On the content layer the interest organization of the movie and music industry (MPAA and RIAA) are using the new technology to strike down on possible infringements, and the US Congress and courts have in many ways let them do this, also outside the domain of copyright laws. They are increasing their control over the new services which are made possible by the Internet. perceive the consequences of this control oriented direction in copyright law as harmful. He points out that the argument behind the copyright law is, besides being an economic incentive through a limited monopoly on published work, to ensure the realization of fair use and to ensure the access to the work by the public. The latter has been overruled perpetually as the years a work is under the exclusive right of the author has increased. From initially 14 year to the lifetime of the copyright holder plus 70 years (107). Not only has there been an expansion in the law when it comes to duration, also the scope has been increased. From the first Copyright Act which gave authors of maps, charts and books an exclusive right, has the protection been expanded to also protect derivate work, and computer code among others. This means that the source code of programs made by organizations today will be protected for 95 years, in a world where major updates are shipped annually if not more frequent.

Lessig is pursuing greater attention paid to the commons, as they are an important repository to enhance creativity and other aspects beneficial to society such as education and the creation of opinions. Ideas, throughout history, have been built on other ideas. The Internet and digital technology has reduced the production cost of being creative, and to distribute the works. It contains a great potential, as it was originally created, but this potential has been regulated and diminished by the skepticism of the old regime which has been executing its power in the three layers to keep their advantages.  Therefor Lessig asks for a weight decision between the market power of some companies on one hand and the value contributed to the society on the other. Can the strong rights of the copyright holder, the control exercised on the physical layer and the threats of private users, and impediment of new technology by the old players be justified, or do we need to change the laws and practices to enhance creativity again? (Lessig’s last words in the book are arguing that the initial values of the Internet are lost.)

Lessig suggest several changes which can be made. The government could regulate that no major player on the Internet could empower its own strategic behavior, it could also allocate a sector on each band of the radio waves to the commons. He further suggests that time of the exclusive copy right should be limited, but expandable upon request, and that rights are granted after application and not universally as they are today. Incentives should be made for computer companies to release the code they are not using to the public, and to be granted copyright they would have to escrow their source code with the government, and the time frame should be shortened to 5 years, renewable once. On the content layer could the file sharing of music not be treated as property right, but rather through compulsory licensing with a fee set to strike balance. This system is today used by the cable networks, where they pay a licence to the broadcaster as compensation, but they are not required an explicit permission to distribute signals. Lessig does also mention that there should be limits on contract rights distributed with software so fair use can be upheld.

The Future of Ideas –The fate of the commons in a connected world was written ten years ago, in 2001, and it is interesting how the examples, and the contemporary technology he mentions are historical today. Especially for the parts concerning the commons of the airwaves which he foresees have been actively introduced today with the wireless technology in local networks, RFID and Bluetooth. Despite the fact that there has been changes technically since the book was written are his ideas as important today as they were 10 years ago. Many of the problems Lessig mentions are still with us today, and they  can remind us that the future of the Internet as well as the directions this may take, is not only dependent on new technology, but also on legislation regulating the layers in which the Internet operates.

As an alternative to copyright Lessig has worked on an alternative juridical licencing framework which creators can use with their works: Creative Commons. This framework is being adjusted to local law throughout the world, and make it possible to share work under alternative licences: Attribute, share-alike, Non Commercial and No Derivatives.


Creative Commons, About the Licences. Retrieved from: <>
Lessig, Lawrence.(2001) The future of Ideas. New York: Vintage Books

If you don’t want to buy the book it is also available under CC from Lawrence Lessig’s homepage

The picture is borrowed from Darren Tunnicliff on Flickr and the picture is licenced under… guessed it…..Creative Commons

ACTA and the intellectual property

ACTA and the intellectual property

Today, on Guy Fawkes night, there is held a demonstration against ACTA in Oslo, Norway. Since I am living in Edinburgh, Scotland for the moment I have no opportunity to participate or view this demonstration. Instead I want to write down some reflections and ideas on Digital Media, Globalization and the fight against counterfeits  either if they are manifested through ideas, copyright, connotations or imitations.

I do not have any particular knowledge about the ACTA agreement, except what I have read online (1,2,3) , and and seen through a youtube video. On the other hand, where I do have some knowledge is within the field of digital media and some copyright laws (Norwegian and the Bern Convention). I will try to elaborate some of my opinions on why ACTA is wrong, albeit we are in need of a new way of handling intellectual property.

To understand both the arguments for and against the ACTA we will first need to understand the new ways of copying and distribute intellectual, copyrighted material. This is necessary since there have been a profound change in how information is shared the last 25 years. This is mainly due to new ways of representing different media through computers, and a revolution in computers capacities and communication between computers.

The Bern convention, which today is ratified in most countries, assess some minimal values which countries have incorporated into their legislature. The Bern convention came to replace national predecessors who were unable to protect copyrighted works outside the nation where they were originally produced. The Convention guaranties an equal right of a work within all the signatories countries, and asses elements such as a literary work is released into the public domain 50 years after the authors dead, and similar regulations for other expression. One of the problems with the Bern convention is its age, since there have been several technological improvements since the 1880s. Another problem is that it does not specify the scope of what that could be copyrighted. Obvious examples of works that are entitled to copyright  books includes literary prose, films and poems. More problematic is it to define collections, ideas, phrases and so on. As theyoutube video above asks, is it right that a recipe acquired at a cooking class is not to be shared since just the one who paid for the course is entitled to use this. My answer is, according to the laws I know, no. Neither ideas nor practices are entitled copyright protection. Here comes the tricky part: Neither the ideas the author writes or the book that the text is printed in has any intellectual protection, it is the sole text, with its combination, expressions and combination of words that is protected.Thus is it too simple to draw comparisons between stealing a DVD in a video store and downloading it online. The DVD has no value except the physical value of the material and processes to distillate the disk.

Copyright infringement is not a new phenomenon, but cheap computers that can represent visual text, pictures and video as well as audio in combination with high speed Internet connection has made it awfully/incredible (choose your own adjective) to produce a new copy of a work. When you download a movie, the movie stays on the original disk, but a similar copy is transferred and store on your computer. A fun fact is that when you are watching online material, this is also copied to your computer in order to make it efficient and fast (buffering).

This does not mean that it is legal to download a product. Even if I go to library borrow a book and write it down by hand, it is still illegal. I think the intellectual right is important if it should be possible to get an income from something else than producing bread and hammering nails into a wall. However the time of selling cheap to produce CDs and DVDs for billions of dollars are over, and we need to find new methods of buying and selling intellectual properties. I mean that instead of threatening people to be excluded from the Internet, surveillance all packages and hunt down every little counterfeit we need to find new ways to distribute works. Why are e-books subject to VAT, while paper books are not? Why should I have to walk down the video store to loan a physical DVD with scratches and fingermarks under it, when I could download it directly from my TV? We need new products with new business models. In a time where supplies are infinite the Smithsonian theory of supply and demand is obsolete, or just bad news for the suppliers.

Give us prices that reflects the values of the products, instant delivery and opportunities to use alternative payments models instead of more surveillance, threats and regulations who will reduce the spread of intellectual property.

Picture is a counterfeit of PUMA. The picture is released under a Creative Commons license by M.A.R.C on Flickr. An interesting phenomenon is how brands are being modified and used on clothes, especially t-shirts.

Bruk nettets muligheter

Bruk nettets muligheter

Har du hentet ned noe musikk fra nettet i det siste, bare for å sjekke om musikken er verdt å kjøpe? Eller har du lastet ned en film, fordi det var for langt å gå til nærmeste videobutikk?

Kjenner du deg igjen? Sjansen for at du da har forbrutt deg mot åndsverksloven er da stor. Åndsverksloven vi i dag benytter oss av i Norge ble lagt til lovverket i 1961, men lover som slår fast de immaterielle rettigheten en person oppnår ved å publisere et verk for offentligheten har eksistert lengre enn som så. Helt tilbake til 1700 tallet finner vi slike lover. Det store gjennombruddet i internasjonal opphavsrett kom med utarbeidelsen og implementeringen av Bernkonvensjonen om vern av litterære og kunstneriske verk i 1886. Konvensjonen slår fast en del rettigheter for opphavsmenn, og gjør opphavsretten gjeldene på tvers av landegrensene i land som har ratifisert konvensjonen.

Siden den norske åndsverksloven ble innført har det blitt gjort endringer i loven for å i større grad tilfredsstille den teknologiske utviklingen, men hovedprinsippene står fast. I lovens første paragraf slåes det fast at loven gjelder for de som skaper et verk, dette kan være litterære verk, vitenskapelige verk eller kunstneriske verk. Alt fra romaner og filmer til kart og foredrag kan være et åndsverk. Beveger vi oss ned til andre paragraf slåes det fast at kun opphavsmannen har rett til å fremstille kopier av verket og velge om verket skal offentliggjøres. Nå er det riktignok slik at få kopierer opp sine åndsverk selv, men selve retten og eierskapet ligger hos de selv om de velger å benytte seg av andre for å gjøre denne jobben. Åndsverkslovens funksjon er å beskytte de intellektuelle og økonomiske rettighetene opphavsmannen får ved å publisere et verk. Siden det nesten alltid ligger en hel del arbeid bak et verk som blir offentliggjort kan loven sees på som et insentiv for å få skapere til å gi ut sine verker. Den skal også legge til rette for å tjene penger på interlektuellt produserende arbeid.

Det har skjedd mye siden 1961. I 1961 ga Bob Dylan sin første opptreden, John F. Kennedy var president i USA og  Norges første kvinne ble ordinert i Vang kirke like utenfor Hamar. Det har skjedd mye siden gang. Bob Dylan har vokst seg stor og blitt et ikon innen musikken, mange presidenter har styrt de forente stater siden Kennedy ble skutt, Norge har fått mange kvinnelige prester og Vang og Hamar kommuner er slått sammen. På denne tiden har det også skjedd mange teknologiske forandringer. Vi må huske at i 1961 hadde knapt fjernsynet, som ble offentlig åpnet i 1960, gjort sitt inntreden i Norge. Reproduksjon og eksemplarfremstilling var noe langt fra alle kunne gjøre. Da fjernsynet i sin spede barndom skulle ta opp sine egne sendinger måtte signalene sendes til Danmark siden NRK ikke hadde tilgang på utstyr for å gjøre videoopptak. Mange år seinere er hvem som helst i stand til å skape en kopi ved et par enkle tastetrykk. Ctrl C – Ctrl V. Også distrubusjonskanalene var mer kronglete. I VG 11. November 1961 kunne man lese at telegrafdirektøren neppe trodde at man kunne få avskaffet køen for å skaffe seg telefon før om en 5-6 år, i dag kan man få skaffet seg en datamaskin på dagen og få den koblet til Internett samme kveld. Har man en internett tilkobling kan man også kommunisere med andre tilknyttet nettet i hele verden vederlagsfritt. I 1961 var dette utenkelig.

Selv om mye har skjedd siden åndsverksloven ble innført er den fortsatt en gjeldene del av norsk lovverk, derfor er det problematisk når den gjentatte ganger blir brutt uten at det får konsekvenser. De gangene det har kommet til dommer på grunn av brudd på denne loven har det vært tilfeller med stor symboleffekt. For mange regnes denne loven som død, og kan en død lov bli respektert? Flere unge i dag føler ikke at de bryter noen lov eller gjør noe sosialt uakseptert når de laster ned ei ny skive eller en ny film. Argumentene de kommer med handler om at de kanskje kunne tenke seg å kjøpe platen hvis de liker den eller at det er for tungvindt å skaffe seg en film på lovelig vis. Har det blitt slik at åndsverksloven har blitt forbigått?

Nei, sier en rekke opphavsmenn og deres interesseorganisasjoner som har åpnet nettsteder hvor de tar til ordet mot politikere som har snakket om å fjerne opphavsretten for så å kompensere opphavsmennene på andre måter. Opphavsmennene mener at man ikke kan forsvare brudd på loven med at ”alle gjør det” eller ”der så lett å få tilgang til ulovelig materiale”.  Tankene er gode, men hvordan få gjennomført det.

Flere unge som har blitt spurt eller på andre måter har kommet til orde i fildelingsdebatten har pekt på at det ikke lengre regnes som galt og ulovelig å laste ned eller dele et opphavsrettslig beskyttet verk. Både i ungdomsmiljøene og i samfunnet ellers eksisterer det få sosiale sanksjoner mot de som begår disse lovbruddene. Påtalemakten og storselskapene står uten midler for å redusere kopieringen. Når en person kopierer et åndsverk er det en forbrytelse som det praktisk talt kan slåes ned på, men når en hel generasjon gjør det er det vanskelig å håndheve loven.

Heldigvis finnes det håp. Jeg tror ikke håpet finnes i en strengere lovgivning der mer overvåkning og begrensninger av brukerene på Internettet. Derimot tror jeg at industrien må mer på banen. Teknologien må blir mer enn et onde, det må bli løsningen. Når jeg kan få tilgang til filmer og musikk som jeg ellers ikke kunne fått kjøpt på den lokale bensinstasjonen eller platesjappa må det regnes som en kulturell seier, når en smalfilm produsert i Romania blir sett i Norge uten å ha godt igjennom et stort distribusjonsapparat må det regnes som en seier. Spredning over Internett er også en seier for miljøet da musikk eller filmer lengere ikke må sendes med lastebåter eller trailere, men enkelt kan sendes gjennom en kabel ved hjelp av lyssignaler. Mulighetene er mange, og det gjelder å benytte seg av de. Når spillprodusenter selger sine spill igjennom en integrert nettbutikk der man selv kan velge hvilke spill man ønsker å betale for disse hjemme i egen stue er dette bra. Når man har mulighet til å høre så mye musikk man ønsker for 99 kroner per måned gjennom den svenske tjenesten Spotify er dette bra. Når bransjen selv kommer med enklere og bedre løsninger enn piratene er dette bra. Bransjen må bli mer offensiv. Selvsagt skal også lovbrudd behandles som lovbrudd så lenge norsk lov mener at det er et lovbrudd, men det gjelder også å være offensiv og benytte seg av mulighetene og ikke se begresningene.

The Piratebay case

The Piratebay case

Friday two weeks ago, April 17th, the Swedish Stockholm district court decided to sentence the four operators of the site to one year prison and to pay 30 millions SEK in fines and damages. The defendants lawyers have appealed the case to Svea Court of Appeal and at the same time asked for a retrial since there were suspicions to one of the jugdes in the districts court. The accused were found guilty on helping to infrigde the copyright law.

The piratebay, is a website which functionate as a tracker and a searchengine for different files. It also connect the sharers (seeders) with the downloaders. The communication itselfs goes between a huge number of users, due to the torrent technology, which splits the files into smaller “packages” and sends them to the downloader, which later places them together. The piratebay as website makes it possible/easier to find the trackerfiles.

The case against Piratebay is more than just a juridical case, it also implies poltics and economics. It could be that the Piratebay made it possible to infrigde the Swedish (and also international) laws on copyright, and it could be that the sentence is justified. Piratebay works as a website which makes it easier to find and download copyrighted material, and for the users to commit a crime. On the same time, this is also an example of a case which is very symbolic. I doubt that the Swedish, or the Norwegian, the German, the Islandic, the Russian, the American or any other juridical system can be fair in the meanings of who they accuse. There is a too huge amount of the population who is downloading copyrighted material.


Some of the political parties in Norway have suggested an alternative way to secure the profit of the artists than through the copyright law. The arguments is that culture should be more public and that the regulations and laws conserning copyright today is not working. Their idea is to finance the copyright holders through taxes. This could be taxes from ISPs or from the Internet users. It could also be taxes on storage units.I’m not sure if this is the way to go since it would make Internet connections more expensive, and since it will implicit tell that having a broadband connection is the same as downloading copyright material. At the same time I think that to have an good and varied cultural industry we have to support it. At the same time the industry should make it easier to do things legal, which it seems that they are doing with services as Spotify. The model where I go to the music store to buy a physical media, for so load it over to my digital music library is obsolete in my opinion. Seen without a moral perspective they have to compare, and their opponent is free, easy and quick, but at the same time there are no guarantee for the products quality. Could the industry make an easy and cheap solution which guarantee the quality then they would have a better chance.