Friday, December 07, 2007

Please support Creative Commons

This has been a big year for Creative Commons:
  • The amount of cultural works shared under a CC license continues to grow rapidly;
  • Volunteers from more countries have ported CC licenses to work within their respective legal systems;
  • Technology companies increasingly want to incorporate CC licenses into their business models;
  • Our Science Commons project has made substantial progress on a tool for standardizing the exchange of biological materials for research and on demonstrating the power of the Semantic Web for open access; and
  • We launched our ccLearn initiative with generous support from the Hewlett Foundation to give particular focus to the role that CC licenses play and can play in the creation and sharing of educational materials.
All of this requires the time and energy of our very talented staff, who, it turns out, require food, clothing, and shelter in order to do the great work they do. For that reason, I ask that you please contribute to the Creative Commons annual campaign and help spread the word.

We have great projects in the pipeline, but we can only bring these to fruition with your support. Thank you and seasons greetings.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tax Problem for Commercial Publishers?

In arguments about open access, commercial publishers do their utmost to minimize rhetorically the value they receive from free articles and free labor by referees or peer reviewers and some editors.

When the audience changes, these same publishers have suggested to investors in the past that it is precisely because they don't have to pay for these critical inputs and that demand for their publications is relatively inelastic that their business is so profitable.

I wonder what story they tell the taxing authorities about whether these free inputs are part of their gross income? In the United States, "gross income means all income from whatever source derived," 26 U.S.C. s. 61(a). "Any source" would seem to include in kind inputs such as free articles of value and free labor. right?

There he goes again - Allan Adler on the NIH Policy

Once again, Allan Adler's back with the private market canard. Mr. Adler is vice president for legal and government affairs at the Association of American Publishers, which has organized efforts to quash the Open Access movement. Despite his best efforts, Mr. Adler and his allies failed to persuade Congress that it is good policy to make taxpayers pay twice for research articles that they fund.

Here's the packaged sound bite that he once again unwrapped and delivered to the Washington Post's Rick Weiss: "[T]here are some very serious questions to examine as to whether this is an unwarranted government intrusion into the private-sector publishing industry."

Government intrusion? Hmmm. Let's look at the facts. For this argument to make any sense one would have to ignore copyright law and forget that taxpayers are part of the picture. Mr. Adler has to do this because he's arguing that there's something wrong with a world in which he who pays the piper calls the tune. Because that's all that's going on here.

NIH funds the research and, under the bill language, would require public access to resulting research articles as a condition of funding. Under copyright law, the author starts out with the rights, and the NIH policy deals with the relationship between authors and funders. Mr. Adler's members operate in a market comprised of authors and publishers that depends for its very existence on research funded by other sources. Intrusion indeed.

NIH Policy - Action needed

First the good news. After years of work, Open Access advocates successfully persuaded both houses of Congress to include a provision in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill that would require NIH to make federally-funded research articles publicly available on the Internet no later than 12 monts after publication.

This victory should not be underestimated because the American Association of Publishers and its allies had pulled out all the stops, making repeated office visits at which they pedaled a broad range of legal and economic arguments that were rightly rejected by members on both sides of the aisle.

Now, the not-so-good news. As was expected, and as Peter Suber reports, for unrelated reasons, President Bush has vetoed the bill.

Passage of the LHHS bill was by close to a veto-proof majority, and it is now time to urge your representatives and senators to vote to override the veto of the LHHS Appropriations measure. Contact details for members of Congress are at:

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Lucky Dube - R.I.P.

Awful news today. South African reggae star, Lucky Dube, was killed in a carjacking in South Africa in front of his 15-year-old son. He was very big when I lived in Zimbabwe, and his popularity has not waned. I hope that some good can come from this tragedy, and that the government of South Africa will address the causes and effects violent crime.

In "Victims," Dube wrote:

Didn't know she was crying
Until now as she turns to look at me
She said boy o' boy you bring tears to my eyes
I said what, she said
Boy o' boy you bring tears to my eyes

Bob Marley said
How long shall they kill our prophets
While we stand aside and look
But little did he know that
Eventually the enemy
Will stand aside and look
While we slash and kill
Our own brothers
Knowing that already
They are the victims of the situation

Radiohead and Pay What You Will

Radiohead has made an interesting move by releasing its new album on a pay-what-you-will basis. In an article I started drafting in 2000, I suggested that musicians can succeed under this model so long as purchasers think of the transaction as a show of support. Whether characterized as the "warm glow" of do-gooder consumption or as a refletion of the restitutionary impulse that Wendy Gordon argues is at the base of copyright law, it is not surprising that people are paying for something they can download for free.

The risk in this model is that the frame of the transaction depends on perceptions and norms. If the frame switches to that of neoclassical economics, in which consumers and producers are adverse parties competing for a larger share of surplus, then the model fails. Stephen King seemed to think his experiment along these lines was a failure, and if it was, it may be because he charged a specific price ($1) for each installment of his serialized novel.

Amateur Hour Conference - 11/2/07

On November 2, 2007, New York Law School’s Institute for Information Law & Policy will host the inaugural Amateur Hour Conference to bring together leaders in business, law and technology to focus on the opportunities and challenges of user-generated content to traditional media & entertainment businesses.

A number of very interesting speakers are lined up, and this looks like a promising gathering to begin a new series of conversations about the changes that the Internet brings to media and entertainment. For conference schedule and registration please visit:

NIH Policy - Urgent

In a last ditch effort to undermine the public interest, Senator Inhofe (R-OK) has introduced amendments to pending legislation with the intent of denying American taxpayers access to medical journal articles reporting research funded with American tax dollars.

It is urgent that American readers contact their Senators to OPPOSE amendments that strike or change the NIH public access provision in the FY08 Labor/HHS appropriations bill.

The Senate is currently considering the FY08 Labor-HHS Bill, which includes a provision (already approved by the House of Representatives and the full Senate Appropriations Committee), that directs the NIH to change its Public Access Policy so that participation is required (rather than requested) for researchers, and ensures free, timely public access to articles resulting from NIH-funded research. This provisions requires public access within 12 months of publication - a very generous lead time for journal publishers.

On Friday, Senator Inhofe (R-OK), filed two amendments (#3416 and #3417), which call for the language to either be stricken from the bill, or modified in a way that would gravely limit the policy’s effectiveness. Amendment #3416 would eliminate the provision altogether. Amendment #3417 is likely to be presented to your Senator as a compromise that “balances” the needs of the public and of publishers. It does nothing of the sort because the current voluntary policy is a failure and this amendment is designed to maintain the status quo.

Please contact your Senators TODAY and urge them to vote “NO” on amendments #3416 and #3417. (Contact must be made before close of business on Monday, October 22). Contact information and a tool to email your Senator are online at No time to write? Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be patched through to your Senate office.

Monday, July 16, 2007

House to Vote on NIH Policy

Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 17, 2007, the House of Representatives is set to vote on an important appropriations bill that contains a provision that would require NIH to make publicly accessible on the Internet the authors' manuscript of peer reviewed journal articles researched and written with NIH support.

Peter Suber provides the details for taking action at

I cannot emphasize enough how modest a measure this is. NIH already has a copyright license from the authors of these articles to post them in PubMed Central database. All that this legislation would do is direct NIH to put its license to use.

Open Access Law - Pennsylvania

As Peter Suber reports, the Pennsylvania legislature is considering joining the movement for open access law. The House of Delegates unanimously approved a bill, introduced by Rep. Lisa Bennington, (D-Allegheny) As this editorial in the Altoona Mirror says: "Your tax dollars paid to create and enforce the laws. You should not have to pay again to view the statutes at your leisure. It’s time for Pennsylvania to catch up to the rest of the nation."

Patent Injunctions after eBay

I've recently posted a new piece: "Patent Injunctions and the Problem of Uniformity Cost."

Here's the abstract:

In eBay v. MercExchange, the Supreme Court correctly rejected a one-size-fits-all approach to patent injunctions. However, the Court's opinion does not fully recognize that the problem of uniformity in patent law is more general and that this problem cannot be solved through case-by-case analysis. This Essay provides a field guide for implementing eBay using functional analysis and insights from a uniformity-cost framework developed more fully in prior work. While there can be no general rule governing equitable relief in patent cases, the traditional four factor analysis for injunctive relief should lead the cases to cluster around certain patterns that often will have an industry-specific cast. This Essay identifies these patterns and summarizes the guideposts that courts and litigants should look for when conducting the traditional analysis in patent cases.

The Article is available on the Web from three places:

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Need a New Word

The English language, as spoken in the United States, is missing a word. Think about the ways in which we refer to the female and male members of our society. Girl/Boy; Woman/Man; Female/Male; (Ladies/Gentleman) (although Gentlewoman is preferable). But a funny thing happens on the way from elementary to middle school. The “boys” become “guys” while the “girls” stay “girls.” And this doesn’t change even as these “girls” proceed well into adulthood.

It makes me cringe when my students refer to a female classmate as a “girl” for all the standard feminist reasons, but what is the alternative? If we want to use gendered informal designations, and maybe we shouldn’t, we’re missing an informal, but non-judgmental, designation for “woman.” To my ears “doll” (as in Guys and . . .), “gal,” “grrrl,” “chick,” “chica,” “babe,” “young’un,” “shorty,” and the like are non-starters.

Feminist friends to whom I’ve posed this problem are pessimistic that a new word would do anything to change the routine practices designed to infantilize and marginalize women. Maybe. But why make it difficult for a conscious person looking for an alternative to “girl”?

So, I’m looking for a word. Preferably one syllable. Probably a fanciful (made-up) word to use trademark parlance since most existing terms are likely to be loaded with sexist baggage. Ideas?

P.S. One inspiration for the idea of campaigning for a new word is the book “Frindle,” by Andrew Clements targeted at a pre-pubescent audience. It’s a charming tale that teaches a little semiotics and reminds about the power of language. The only drawback comes at the end, in which the author presents an erroneously overbroad understanding of the scope of trademark law in relation to a newly-coined term. But let’s not forget the basic semiotic lesson – words start out their careers as arbitrary signifiers and they derive meaning from our collective agreements. So let’s amend the social contract and get a better deal for all the ____ out there.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Open Access and the Newspaper Business

Newspapers are facing a serious financial strain. (I'm not sure it's truly a crisis). Advertising and subscription revenues fell significantly over the summer, and they do not appear poised to rebound.

Does this mean that open access to professional writing cannot survive at current levels of advertising support? Doc Searls thinks not, and has a great post explaining why at

Open Access Law - Access to Congressional Information

Two recent developments have helped highlight the general problem caused by application or implementation of copyright law to restrict access to federal information and federally-funded information and with policies that otherwise restrict access to such information.

First, as many readers may know, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi launched a blog in February 2007, and she posted a video taken by a C-SPAN camera of a committee hearing on the blog. The House Republican Study Committee accused her of infringing C-SPAN's copyright in the video and misusing it for partisan purposes.

There was some question of whether this video was in the copyright public domain as a government work under Section 105, which withholds copyright protection from works of authorship created by federal employees within the scope of their employment.

C-SPAN takes the position that video of proceedings on the floor of the House is in the public domain but that its committee footage is under copyright because it is taken by non-federal employees. However, C-SPAN has adopted a policy (i.e. a license) that "permits" non-commercial use of certain footage with attribution. (See also

Too many folks have assumed too quickly that all video is copyrightable. To be an "original work of authorship," the C-SPAN video must reflect a minimal spark of creativity on C-SPAN's part. If, as is likely, C-SPAN has little real choice about where to place its camera or how the room is lit, then there is a very real question about whether this video is in the public domain for lack of originality.

Second, capitolizing on the moment, a public interest coalition is rightly calling upon Congress to provide open access to the reports of the Congressional Research Service. These are U.S. Government works under copyright law, so this is not a copyright issue but a straight access issue.

This is an important step for the Movement for Open Access Law. For those who define open access as being solely about access to the scholarly literature, should appreciate and embrace this related movement for access to government-funded information.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

CC Learn - Employment Opportunity

Creative Commons is looking for an Executive Director to head up our newly launched division, CC Learn. The position is located in the San Francisco office, working with the astounding CC staff. Details are here. Please pass this information along to the networks you are a part of and encourage qualified people to apply.

CC Learn - Announcement

Creative Commons is pleased to announce that we are launching a new division called CC Learn, which will extend the work we've been doing to support open educational material and repositories - kindergarten through lifelong learning. This initiative is made possible by the generous support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.

CC Learn's immediate goal is to work with those who already provide open educational resources to remove or mitigate barriers to combining or remixing content from different open collections. In other words, our goal is to make material more "interoperable," to speed up the virtuous cycle of use, experimentation and reuse, to spread the word about the value of open educational content, and to change the culture of repositories to one focused on "helping build a usable network of content worldwide" rather than "helping build the stuff on our site."

Please help us spread the news!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Petition for Public Access to Research

It's time to let policymakers in the United States know that you support open access. Following a very successful petition drive in the EC to support an open access mandate, a broad coalition of libraries, health groups, students, and consumers is jointly supporting a Petition for Public Access to Publicly Funded Research in the United States.

This petition, which is open to supporters around the world, will demonstrate clearly to U.S. policymakers the depth and breadth of support for access to federally funded research in the United States. Even if you signed the European petition, it’s important that you sign the US petition as well. Here’s why:
  • The European Commission petition was designed to support specifically Recommendation A1 of the EC’s Study on the Economic and Technical Evolution of the Scientific Publication Markets of Europe.
  • The U.S. petition is written to support public access to research funded by the U.S. government as well as the reintroduction and passage of the Federal Research Public Access Act.
  • The U.S. petition collects state-specific information, which is essential to making the case for public access to individual lawmakers.
The Petition for Public Access to Publicly Funded Research in the United States ( is open to individuals and organizations of all types.

If you are a researcher whose work is funded by the federal government, your signature is especially important since it shows that you want your work to be shared and used.

Please distribute this message and invite your members, friends, and colleagues to sign the petition as soon as possible in order that as much progress as possible may be made in the 110th Congress.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Show Support for Open Access

In the wake of the publication of the report from the "EU Study on the Economic and Technical Evolution of the Scientific Publication Markets of Europe" a consortium of organisations working in the scholarly communication arena is sponsoring a petition to the European Commission to demonstrate support for Open Access and for the recommendations in the report. Signatures may be added on behalf of individuals or institutions.

Please register your support for Open Access in this way. To sign the petition, please go to

The sponsoring organisations are JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee, UK), SURF (Netherlands), SPARC Europe, DFG (Deutsches Forschungsgemeinschaft, Germany), DEFF (Danmarks Elektroniske Fag- og Forskningsbibliotek, Denmark).

Monday, January 15, 2007

Patry on Copyright

William Patry has substantially revised his thoroughgoing treatise on copyright law. For more details, please visit Bill's entry describing the work in his insightful and informative blog.

This is a welcome addition to the discourse.


The coordinated attack by some in the Bush administration and some of its allies on pro bono lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees is beyond the pale. Charles D. Stimson, an official in the Defense Deparment and an attorney, argues that CEOs should withdraw their firm's legal business from law firms that are representing detainees. I don't use this blog to express political opinions, and the point here is non-partisan. It is an outrage for public officials of any party to use or threaten to use regulatory and purchasing power leverage to retailate against a lawyer for representing a party that is in active litigation adverse to the government.

There are so many things wrong with Stimson's position that it is hard to know where to begin. The most troubling is how deeply unpatriotic and unAmerican the sentiments Mr. Stimson expresses are. He rejects the fundamental values that make us American, including a presumption of innocence and the right to due process. While Mr. Stimson's statements are understandably politically embarrassing, the Justice Department's tepid distancing effort is equally troubling because it indicates a lack of full blooded commitment to the American conception of justice. Shame.

The Dream/It's Time

Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech is one of the most moving and powerful exhibitions of public oratory one can experience. I hope that it remains a part of public memory for at least as long as Pericles' funeral oration has. While Dr. King's speech by itself has memorable rhythmic and lyrical intensity, for me, these features are rendered sublimely by Max Roach's posthumous duet "The Dream/It's Time," in which Roach accompanies King on drums.

The piece is on the out-of-print album Chattahoochie Red (Columbia). There's a partial video clip here. It's time for the album to be re-released on CD.