Things are hotting up in the run-up to the SA Free Culture Tour when Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia Founder and Lawrence Lessig, CC CEO (both on the board of iCommons) come to Cape Town for a bunch of events from the 17th to the 21st of April. The iCommons office is organising an awesome bash at the Armchair Theatre on the 20th with some cool local bands as well as winners from our ccmixter Safro-Brazil competition in attendence. We really need your support, so please copy this button and link to icommons.org/bringnbraai. We're also looking for people who want to donate content to the commons to make a pledge and we'll publicize. Lastly, if anyone is interested in funding the event, please let me know. We're counting on some local company support for this one! And COME on the 20th - it's going to rock :)
I just got a call from Paul Jacobson (Chillibean) who has written a great post about the finest-of-fine print on the sapodcasting site that has some podcasters boycotting the competition if the rules aren't changed. The worst thing about this story is that I met with Steven Davis from Apple South Africa last year to talk about exactly this competition and he assured me that he would work with Creative Commons to ensure that podcasters knew what material was "podsafe" (e.g. Creative Commons-licenced) and that CC would be a partner along with Coke and others. Now he's approved terms that don't allow people to use cc-licenced legal samples (e.g. background music from a site like ccmixter.org) and that give up all rights to your content to the sponsors in an exclusive licence that lasts forever.
After speaking to local CC legal lead, Andrew Rens, we're making the following suggestions:
Lets see what turns out, but its really heartening to see how many switched-on individuals there are in the local blogosphere to point this out :)
Update: Steven Davis from Apple has amended the terms and conditions of the competition according to Paul's suggestions. I'm thrilled. This is a really great victory for bloggers in SA. In the last 24h it has made me swear terribly and loudly and whoop for joy :)
I was in Cape Town last weekend, speaking at the Ice Box Festival at CAPE Africa on Buitengracht Street. The coolest thing about speaking at these events is the people you meet - usually I'm speaking to activists or academics or lawyers about the new copyright logic of web 2.0. But this event was deliciously different. About 40 people once we got going, the room was filled with a set of Cape Town's bedroom musicians, aspirant filmmakers, internet gurus and digital artists. If the brains of the gathering belonged to one person, they would be holding up their head with their right hand.
Julian Jonker spoke about a real-life story of the chilling effects of copyright. He and Ralph Borland took part in the Durban Red Eye Festival on 'transformation'. Their take on the theme was to tell the story of Solomon Linda's Mbube which has been "remixed" hundreds of times (some say up to 700!) since he recorded the original in 1939. Centred around the ‘transform button’ on DJ mixing hardware that switches sound sources, Jonker and Borland took 62 versions of the song and cut them into fragments. Borland then developed a software tool called 'Morpheus' that selected bars of similar length and re-created the original version in what Jonker calls a 'celebration of the genealogy of the song' (listen here).
But when the two came back to Cape Town and someone contacted them with an offer to buy the work, they had to think very hard about whether they wanted to face the risk of being sued for copyright infringement. They had only used 2-second selections of the songs, and copyright law only forbids using a 'substantial' portion. But what does a substantial portion mean? And would the case against Disney by the Linda family mean that the local legal fraternity would hotly pursue such innocuous possible infringements?
Speaking to Jonker before the event about the Linda case (which was settled out of court) I was saying how we would, at least, have some kind of precedent for families with similar cases if it hadn’t been settled before. Jonker complained about the problems with going through court cases like this. He said that even people like Justin Nurse, who had eventually won his case in the Constitutional Court, was left pretty much broke.
The two decided not to take the risk. ‘The work,’ said Jonker, ‘is now sitting in a cardboard box under my bed.’
This story reminded me of two things about why the ‘commons’ – at least in the sphere of culture and creativity - is such a complicated concept in a place like South Africa. Fear of appropriation - coupled with an almost paranoid fear of ‘theft’ and a good dose of xenophobia and victim mentality does not go well with the kind of trust and confidence it takes to share our creativity with the world.
But, along with our demons, we also possess some traits that marry particularly well to open sharing on the internet. Being able to share a (relatively equal) stage with the world’s most popular artists on U-Tube, for example, enables the kind of collaboration almost impossible to attain for South Africans in the physical world. South Africans have always been a friendly bunch – we love going out into the world and finding ‘our place’. It is here that many musicians encapsulate the role that South Africa plays in global politics: a responsible global citizen, a moral leader and an incredibly creative society just waiting to be heard.
Every country has a particularly unique response to something like Creative Commons, and in SA, I think very big things are going to happen very soon...
Thanks Laugh It Off for the pic - you can buy some of their awesome Tshirts here.
I'm in San Francisco for a CC all staff meeting this week. Last night I spoke along with John Wilbanks, Executive Director, Science Commons, Joi Ito, Chairman of Creative Commons Board and Jim Sowers, Calabash Music. It was a great event at a really cool venue in the Mission.
Joi said that it may seem sexy to have CC as an 'underground' movement, but that its important for CC to become mainstream if we are to succeed in our goals of making openness ubiquitous on the net. John, who said that it was the first time he'd spoken about science in a bar, talked about neurocommons, Science Commons' newest project and Jim played some highly cool music.
Basically, the SABC's head of news, Snuki Zikalala is alleged to have created a blacklist of commentators to exclude certain opinions from being represented by the broadcaster. The worst thing about it is that John Perlman has resigned as a result. Perlman, probably one of the best journalists I have ever heard on SA radio, confronted SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago on the air earlier this year, saying that he, Perlman, knew there was a blacklist - something Kganyago had denied. Wikipedia has a great article on the incident.
According to FXI: 'Letters of support should be directed to Lindisa Mabulu, Complaints Officer, Icasa, at email@example.com, or faxed to (011) 444-1461. We would appreciate receiving copies of these letters for our records. These can be directed to Pinky Magau at (011) 339-4109, or firstname.lastname@example.org.'
I will try and write a sample letter over the next few days.
Pic: from fxi.org.za
I went gingerly to Wynberg to try and look for fabrics for the headboard in my bedroom that I've been wanting to cover. I'm not much of an interior decorator but I like to sew and I'm not completely brain dead when it comes to colour, so I thought I would investigate. Wynberg in Johannesburg, for those of you who don't know, is an "industrial" area close to Sandton where the interior decorators go to buy fabrics direct. They also allow the great unwashed to visit, but I have a feeling that they do so under duress.
First stop: St leger and viney. When no one helped me as I wandered aimlessly about the room, trying to catch someone's attention, I approached a woman with big hair, a faded black striped pant and a floral top. I asked whether they had swatches. She barely looked at me as she waved her hand and said that someone on the floor could help me. She didn't "do" swatches. Harold did. I should go and find him.
I was flabbergasted. When she didn't indicate who this person Harold was, I asked desperately: I don't know who Harold is! I think there was a hint of distress in my voice because people stared. Anyway, I got my stupid sample and got out of that stupid place as quickly as my legs could carry me!
In order to obtain a larger sample of fabric-shop-people (I wanted to be proved wrong!) I traipsed through a few other sacred spots with similar effects. When someone at Home Fabrics actually asked me whether they could help me, I nearly leapt into their arms!
So: duck egg blue? Or dusty pink?
Click on this to see who are the only people speaking about the people at this strange-looking gathering. It's taking place at a local casino venue early next month in the east of Johannesburg. I think I would have to gamble (and win) to attend, since its costing almost ZAR9k to go and listen to these wondrous sources of knowledge.
Ok, so, I want to know whether its just me who would pick out the weird thing in this (funny) post of voices at our friends' London Mini-bar (notice the quip: '"the karma sutra IS open source dude").
I want to start a Mini-bar in Johannesburg but I think it will have to involve a new definition of 'geek'. Did you know that 'the word "geek" originates with side-show "circus geeks" — performers at carnivals who swallow various live animals, live insects, and so forth. Sometimes this would extend to biting the heads off of chickens or other small livestock.' (Thank you, Wikipedia)
I personally think it cruel to add 'and so forth' after such a vivid image. Perhaps they are trying to keep the image of geeks relatively clean by brushing over their more horrible pasttimes. For example, what they meant to say was: The geeks would bite the heads off small animals and then squirt the blood through their front teeth... and so forth. Or, the geeks would swallow small animals and then pull their organs through their nose... and so forth. Or, the geeks would hypnotise the small animal and make it dance a jig... and so forth.
Thank you Powerbooktrance for the pic.