Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

There's a lot of talk about LOAF these days on #joiito. It's getting pretty hard to keep track of all of these new acronyms. It seems to be an emerging standard, and there isn't much about it on the web yet. jibot on #joiito seems to know the most about it. The only reference I've seen on the web is on britta's blog.
Lawrence lessig
the extremists in power

According to the Post, Lois Boland, director of international relations for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, said "that open-source software runs counter to the mission of WIPO, which is to promote intellectual-property rights." As she is quoted as saying, "To hold a meeting which has as its purpose to disclaim or waive such rights seems to us to be contrary to the goals of WIPO."

If Lois Boland said this, then she should be asked to resign. The level of ignorance built into that statement is astonishing, and the idea that a government official of her level would be so ignorant is an embarrassment. First, and most obviously, open-source software is based in intellectual-property rights. It can't exist (and free software can't have its effect) without it.

People think that creative commons and free software are "anti-copyright". It's amazingly stupid. You can't have free software or "some rights reserved" without copyright. I wonder if people are truly stupid or whether there is some FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) machine running a "stupidity about copyright" process in the background...

Had a meeting today with Yoshiko Sakurai and and other members of the anti-Jyukinet (National ID) "movement" this morning. I have been working with Sakurai-san and this group since September 2001. A lot has happened since then. We first tried very hard get a moratorium on the deployment before operation began. We got a great deal of support, but in the end operation began. Several local governments and prefectures resisted on the basis that there was a clause that privacy must be assured and the privacy bill had not been passed. A very watered down and poorly written privacy bill was passed and several anti-Jyukinet local governments lead by Yokoyama decided to participate in Jyukinet with a opt-out clause. There are still some local governments which are resisting, but such resistance is getting more and more difficult. Although we were able to raise privacy concerns when we were at the peak of our rallying efforts, people clearly do not feel too strongly about privacy issues generally.

Today we discussed a new angle that appears to be more convincing to many local governments. The cost of deploying the system is very high considering limited benefits. Although the central government says that they only spent $400M or so, it appears that it really cost more like $700M. In addition, there is a fairly substantial burden on the local governments. Although we would like people to think of things in terms of social cost and privacy risk, the more simple message is whether it is worth spending all of this money on a system which is supposed to be used only for receiving local government services. This message may be easier to spread.

I am in a somewhat awkward position right now. After the deployment began, I realized that it would be difficult to stop the system. While Sakurai-san continues to protest Jyukinet quite vocally and support the few local governments who are opposed to Jyukinet, I have started working within the system trying to educate the bureaucrats and trying to head of any new projects that might increase the risk. I am meeting regularly with "both sides" trying to figure out the most effective way to reduce risk. It is important that Sakurai-san continue to be vocal so that people continue to pay attention to the issues, but God is in the details. I am becoming immersed and inundated with the details. For example, early on in the process, I told the central government that they needed to educate the vendors and the local governments about privacy. I was soon presented with an "opportunity" to lecture local governments and vendors about privacy. Thanks... It's becoming physically and mentally quite difficult to continue this effort since it has very little to do with my "day job", but it's also very difficult to disengage since there are so few of "us".

Someone please help me... I wish we had EPIC in Japan. OK I'll stop wining...

Kevin Marks blogs "How I emailed myself into a job and blogged my way out of it". I was trying to figure out whether I should write something objective and refer to my strength of weak ties post, but I'm not going to.

Kevin Marks, of MediAgora fame and a regular in #joiito is one of the most helpful and interesting people I've met recently. A lot of his job involved compiling huge pieces of code on slow machines so he would hang out and help people on #joiito. I feel a bit guilty because I think people on #joiito were a bit demanding of his time, myself included. I remember asking him to take care of my nephew and niece over iChat at 4 am in California while I did some cooking.

Anyway, I think this is a great loss to Apple, but may end up being a good thing for Kevin, MediAgora and the social software space. I am obviously talking to Kevin about "his next thing" but I encourage people who are looking for partners and are interested in someone who understands streaming media, alternative music distribution theories and social software to talk to Kevin. Now is your chance. (And if you come of with something cool to do, talk to me before you talk to any other venture capitalists. ;-) )

Yesterday, I gave a presentation about Creative Commons at a study group on copyright of which I am a member. The other members include the founding chairman, Hori-san of one of the largest talent management companies in Japan, Hori Productions, Professor Nakayama, the Tokyo University professor who invited Larry Lessig to Japan and one of the most influential copyright and constitutional law professors in Japan, Professor Iwamura, the former head of research and policy for the Bank of Japan and other professors and lawyers involved in copyright. I really like this study group because everyone is quite open-minded and frank and speaks from first-hand experience in court and law-writing.

Everyone "enjoyed" my presentation and I think everyone thought it was a "cool" idea. Here is some feedback that I got. (If you don't know about creative commons, go look at the web site.)

  • Japan does not have a notion of fair use. Instead of fair use, it is generally prohibited and specifically allowed by specific laws allowing quoting and so on. Generally speaking coypright is getting tougher in Japan.
    • Professor Nakayama gave the example of a tiny logo that showed up in the background of a commercial poster. He argued for something similar to fair use. The judge found the defendant not-guilty only because the image was so small, but didn't concede anything like fair use.
    • Recently a musician lost in the supreme court for a song that sounded very similar to another musician's song. This was the first case where popular music that "sounded like" someone else's was found to be a copyright violation.
  • There was some negative comments about the American use of "fair-use" because courts tended to dodge some clarity in defining copyright by saying, "it probably is something that violates copyright but is OK because of "fair-use".
  • Professor Iwamura asked whether "intent" was important. It seems that most of the cases, at least in Japan, were between people who were emotionally upset by violations rather than for financial reasons. If the emotional element (which is an important part of the derivative works issue) is key, isn't intent important. Professor Iwamura asked, half-jokingly, whether we would make a "unintended copying allowed" in the CC license. I do believe that intent will become more important as amateur photography and movie making becomes more common. Even today, there is a huge chilling effect on movie making because images in the background can cause copyright infringement. In the past there were cases where the Japanese courts ruled that images in backgrounds were OK, but no more. Anything in the background is still a copyright infringement. This will be a huge chilling effect on sharing home movies and home photos. The Japanese law does not allow intent to play any role in defining whether images in the background are an infringement.
  • Hori-san pointed out that many artists would love to have their works distributed freely until they become famous, but would like to take this right back after they can charge for it or after such rights become valuable. We discussed the possibility of moving stuff from the PD (Public Domain) back to ownership. We talked a bit about the founders rights in the US. I think we decided it would be difficult, but something worth considering in the context of versioning and other technical innovations.
  • We talked about MediAgora and other payment/pricing mechanisms. Professor Iwamura talked about the ability and the robustness of markets and the difficulty of markets where pricing was not stable, where the value of goods could suddenly disappear and pointed out some issues with the MediAgora model from on economists point of view, which frankly, I didn't understand. ;-)
  • Mr. Hori did think there were many artists who would be willing to use the Creative Commons license as part of promotion and that in fact, they do a similar kind of licensing for up-and-coming bands, but with a limited term. I explained that unlimited terms are important for derivative works.
  • I asked about the likelihood Japan would be supportive of Creative Commons. Although everyone liked the idea, they said that there are very few copyright related lawsuits in Japan and frankly, there probably wasn't as strong a need in Japan and we might have difficultly convincing people of the need initially.
  • They explained that there was no copyright related lobby in Japan and such lobbying tended to be counter-productive. Most issues were decided either by people like themselves or through new bills proposed by politicians, which was quite rare.
  • I described the "Reclaim the Public Domain" campaign and they all thought it was a "clever idea" but no one volunteered to champion such a bill in Japan.
  • Professor Nakayama felt that the "warranty" issue wasn't really an issue because people will sue who they want to sue and the warranty that you have the rights do not significantly increase the likelihood that you would be sued.