Threats to podcasting, open content

The United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has steadily been eroding the “fair use” provisions in international copyright law (through the Digital Rights Management (DRM) practices associated with the DMCA or Digital Millenium Copyright Act of the USA).
Here’s an interesting copyright law development — how activists stopped the United States representatives to WIPO from introducing a new set of provisions, which would have affected popular media practices such as podcasting and culture-jamming.
The new set of provisions, the “webcaster’s provision” in the Broadcast Treaty was intended to protect the so-called “webcasters” – in other words, hosting companies like Yahoo and Microsoft.
The webcasters’ provision tried to extend a number of protections to such companies, treating them like the broadcasters and cablecasters who are the focus of the Broadcast Treaty:

[the Broadcast Treaty] will create a new group of rightsholders, the people who transmit information (broadcasters, satellite casters, cablecasters, but for now, not webcasters). These people get a “broadcast right” to the works they transmit, over and above the copyright that goes to those works’ creators. That means that even if you have the creator’s permission to use a work you’ve received, you still need to get clearance from the broadcaster, whose only contribution to the work was putting it on the air.

According to Cory Doctorow’s original explanation, this would “allow people who transmit information on the Internet to control how anyone who receives it uses it — even if it’s Creative Commons licensed, or in the public domain, or not copyrightable.”
The webcaster’s provision was seen as a particular threat to practices like podcasting, and would even have governed parody and quotation. Sites like YouTube, Google Video, and Democracy Player would have been affected. For now, the provision has been defeated, but, with the US backing it, I bet it won’t be long before it’s back under a new guise.

One Laptop per Child

I heard a lot of skeptical comments about MIT’s 100 dollar laptop project on a recent research trip to Prato, particularly from the Brazilian participants. Everyone talks about a “digital divide”. So it’s easy to assume that’s all that’s needed to solve the problem is the right gadgets which would allow poor/black/developing country people to “cross” the divide and join the information society.
So since then I’ve been reading more about the MIT project, which is officially called the One Laptop per Child project (OLPC). Seymour Papert comments in his column on the project wiki that the project is really about children, and complains that most media attention on the project fixates on decisions that have been made about hardware and software.
In relation to literacy, there are some predictably geeky ideas to be seen on the project website – teaching Esperanto, translating the interface into Klingon and so on.
Since the design of the devices and the software they come with will constitute something of a global curriculum for the children in these countries, it’s worth looking at the assumptions that are currently informing the designs. I found it interesting that the project seems to be founded on similar ideas to those I’ve encountered South Africa’s Khanya project.
Read more about the project’s educational assumptions

Blogging Beyond the Men’s Club

Since anyone can write a Weblog, why is the blogosphere dominated by white males?
By Steven Levy
March 21 issue – At a recent Harvard conference on bloggers and the media, the most pungent statement came from cyberspace. Rebecca MacKinnon, writing about the conference as it happened, got a response on the “comments” space of her blog from someone concerned that if the voices of bloggers overwhelm those of traditional media, “we will throw out some of the best … journalism of the 21st century.” The comment was from Keith Jenkins, an African-American blogger who is also an editor at The Washington Post Magazine [a sister publication of NEWSWEEK]. “It has taken ‘mainstream media’ a very long time to get to [the] point of inclusion,” Jenkins wrote. “My fear is that the overwhelmingly white and male American blogosphere … will return us to a day where the dialogue about issues was a predominantly white-only one.”
Read more

Bloggers are trusted least as news sources, but youth prefer online sources

Poll ranks the Internet and blogs at the bottom among news media.
May 4, 2006
Bloggers rank lowest on the scale of trusted news sources, according to a poll released this week during a media conference in London.
The survey, conducted by the polling company GlobeScan for the BBC-Reuters-Media Center “We Media” Forum and released Wednesday, ranked national TV as the most trusted news source overall, trusted by 82 percent of the 10,230 people surveyed in 10 countries.
Internet blogs, on the other hand, were trusted by just 25 percent of the respondents. The survey found that 23 percent of the respondents said they distrusted blogs, compared to 16 percent for national TV. One in two people were unable to say whether they trusted blogs at all.
National and regional newspapers followed national TV in the trust rankings, with 75 percent of the respondents trusting them, followed by local newspapers at 69 percent, public radio at 67 percent, and international satellite TV with 56 percent.
On the other hand, GlobeScan found that younger people use online news sources the most. Online news sources were the first choice among 19 percent of the respondents aged between 18 and 24, compared to just 3 percent between 55 to 64 years old.
“The poll suggests that media is generally trusted across the world, more so than national governments, particularly in the developing world,” said GlobeScan President Doug Miller in a statement.
“National TV is still the most trusted news source by a wide margin, although the Internet is gaining ground among the young,” he added. “The jury is still out on blogs. Just as many people distrust them as trust them.”
Read the full report