Many musicians cower at actually using the “fair use doctrine” of copyright law because they know that Big Media has the legal firepower to impose its own definition of the law. Rather than get tagged as a “pirate” and endure huge legal expenses fighting to vindicate their rights, most musicians are inclined to play it safe and keep a low profile when borrowing from a previous artist.
One of the things that most baffles me about America (and I have lived in the middle of it my whole life) is how the word “independence” is so narrowly defined.
People’s economic well-being can be held hostage by oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, HMOs, and other powerful multinational corporations, yet in political debates independence generally mean just one thing: the absence of government regulation, or any kind of joint citizen effort.
A recently approved desalination plant near San Diego will be the largest in the Western Hemisphere. The plant will suck in 100 million gallons of ocean water a day, supplying up to 10 percent of San Diego’s drinking water.
However, the environmental consequences are likely to be damaging – and the plant, which will be run by Connecticut-based Poseidon Resources Corporation, represents another step towards the privatization of public water supplies for private profit.
Mozilla Labs, the group responsible for the Firefox browser, is asking developers and designers to help them “inspire future design directions for Firefox, the Mozilla project, and the Web as a whole.” In the spirit of open source collaboration, all contributions will be licensed under a Creative Commons license.
Already, several designers have submitted concept videos and screenshots describing how to build a better web browser.
Phone company Openmoko is making cellphones that are open-source and modifiable. By making the phone’s schematics publicly available, anyone has free rein to modify these devices, and add or remove features as they see fit.
The Economist magazine is a tireless—and globally influential—crusader for the free market. Each week it champions privatization and big business in smart, elegant, well-researched articles.
So it’s definitely worth noting when The Economist discovers the commons and declares in a headline, “it still pays to study medieval English landholding and Sahelian nomadism.”
The magazine singles out the work of Syracuse University’s Charlotte Hess in outlining how principles of the commons apply to modern fields such as medicine and information.
For people concerned about the fate of free culture, it is hard to beat the annual iCommons Summit and the wildly eclectic crowd it attracts. I just finished attending this four-day conference in Sapporo, Japan, along with 350 hackers, educators, remix artists, bloggers, do-it-yourself video makers, academics and journalists from dozens of countries. Truly, I have never encountered a more diverse, interesting and action-oriented group of people. Too bad I was also suffering from the mind-corrosion that comes with a thirteen-hour time change (Hartford to Sapporo in 20 hours!).
What’s a Water Reclaimer?
A new collaboration has formed in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul in Minnesota, calling themselves The Water Reclaimers. This collaboration is made up of people from environmental nonprofits, water quality entities, art organizations, city government, restaurants, and more.
p(photo-credits). Photo by perpetualstroll, Creative Commons NC, SA from “Flickr”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonshim/32498477/
One of the worst things ever to hit our communities was the belief that homes, shops and workplaces should be strictly segregated from one another. Devised around the turn of the 20th century, when it did make sense to locate iron foundries and tanneries away from schools and apartment buildings, this idea of “single use zoning” took off to a ridiculous degree after World War II when corner stores, offices and even diners were deemed a threat to nearby homes.
Now that the New York Times has splashed it on the front page (July 22), consider it an official trend: locally grown food is all the rage. It is being avidly sought out by Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the glam crowd in the Hamptons, the merely affluent of Mill Valley, California, and even by the rest of us who live in less celebrated locations with few boldfaced residents.
Property law is not exactly a riveting subject, and law professors are not usually good storytellers. But in his new book The Gridlock Economy, Michael Heller, a professor at Columbia Law School, has written one of the most intelligent and accessible critiques of how overly broad property rights can be harmful not only to the commons, but to the market.
On the Commons Fellow Chuck Collins co-edited a special issue of The Nation about economic inequality, examining how “over the past three decades, market-worshipping politicians and their corporate backers have engineered the most colossal redistribution of wealth in modern world history, a redistribution from the bottom up, from working people to a tiny global elite.”
Water activists in Maine won a big victory last week when the Kennebunk-Kennebunkport-Wells Water District tabled indefinitely a proposal that would have let Poland Spring extract between 250,000 and 500,000 gallons of water a day from Wells, Maine. Poland Spring’s parent company, Nestle, already extracts water from eight wells in Maine, and is now seeking to take water from Rangeley, Maine.
One of the most powerful tools for enclosing the commons is fear-mongering. This infamous pattern is now playing itself out once again with the Bush Administration’s attempt to open up more offshore areas to oil drilling.
Once upon a time, the public owned the airwaves and broadcasters were mandated to serve the “public interest, convenience and necessity.” Now, not only has deregulation gutted the public’s rights to educational, local and public affairs programming, even the degraded commercial programming that remains is being converted into wall-to-wall advertisements. The tactic, usually known as “product placement,” is now metastasizing into obnoxious new forms of commercial propagandizing, none of it disclosed.
An historic event in the annals of human progress took place last fall with virtually no media attention in the United States.
After 22 years of negotiations, the United Nations voted 143-4 on September 13 to endorse the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People—a logical next step beyond the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed in 1948.
The Entrepreneur Commons is trying to change the process of financing startups, by doing loans instead of equity deals. The concept is similar to what is being done in Microfinance, but applied to entrepreneurs in developed countries rather than the poor in developing countries.
How would you draw the commons? Is it two circles — one for public and one for private sectors — with an overlapping part in the middle for commons? Is it a third circle separate from the other two? Maybe circles simply won’t do. I’ve seen other shapes used. I’ve seen rainbows; pastoral landscapes; abstract grafitti-like scrawling; even mobiles suspending paper sculptures and text. The point is that that there is a delicious paradox here. I “got” the commons instantly the first time I was introduced to the concept.
A backlash against the over-commercialization of science seems to be gaining new momentum. Two eminent Nobel prize winners — Sir John Sulston, a British geneticist and American economist Joseph Stiglitz – are working with leading scientists and ethicists to formulate a “Manchester Manifesto,” http://www.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/news/display/?id=3805 in connection with the newly created University of Manchester Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation.
Many are wondering if the commons will emerge as a bona fide political issue in this year’s presidential election.
Even if it doesn’t become a centerpiece of policy for the next administration, discussion of an issue like the commons on the campaign trail can significantly raise public awareness.
In Barack Obama, the Democrats have a candidate willing to think expansively about a wide range of issues beyond the usual electoral perimeters.