Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I've been thinking about finding interesting use of content sharing "in the wild" and trying to codify and transplant them. For instance, the dojinshi comics in Japan are fan derivative works of commercial comics. They are tolerated and sometimes even looked upon favorably by publishers in Japan because they are part of a positive fan community and sort of promote the originals.

Many forms of Japanese poetry are based on derivative works and often allow people to republish them as a part of the norm. This provides a very vibrant community of sharing and "commons building".

Both have functioning business models that thrive from increasing "commons" and active creative participation by the "audience".

Do people know of other examples in other countries?


At least in Spain, almost all public TV channels have a daily show which compiles the best of the zapping: funny, insightful, etc, excerpts of programs from other channels (even cable TV). Some of this programs also show popular internet content, like Flash animation and videos.

Hmmmmm. You know, I think you guys are taking the wrong tack in trying to inject some sanity into the copyright mess. In a sense there's two angles to attack on:
a. Liberating old works by whittling down the copyright term to something more sensible
b. Allowing new works to be shared

CC is concentrating on (b), however the thing is, this is really a case of preaching to the choir. Providing a formal legal means for people who already were ready to allow some degree of sharing isn't solving the real problem at all, and is a distraction. Do I think (b) should be done at all? Yes, of course, but only in a due-diligence way; it's just administrivia. The real fight is to show that by

(1) bottling up copyright terms to 95 years and
(2) making official copyright registration a non-requirement past an initial period of a decade or two when commercial interest is highest,

a tremendous disservice is done to works which fall into legal limbo because nobody knows who owns the copyright.

Would it resonate with the public to propose Lord of the Rings out of copyright, and re-printed in cheap mass editions? Yes!

Would it resonate with the public to propose a LOTR museum in NZ, which that senile rabbit Christopher Tolkien blocked? Yes!

The current CC approach is essentially appealing to the CREATORS of content, rather than the consumers. Sure, you'll get a lot of "with-it" authors and musicians to sign on, but this crowd, as I mentioned earlier, are part of the choir. You need to appeal to the millions of CONSUMERS, because as Lessig noted in his recent column on losing Eldred, the Supreme Court justices basically weren't interested in theoretical arguments, rather they wanted to hear the harms done by excessive copyright length and the benefits that would accrue by lessening it.

The Other CC. I agree (a) is very important and it is a battle that Lessig others are working on very hard. Also, the EFF is approaching the debate from a different angle as well. I think we need a multi-pronged approach and what I am musing about here is, as you point out, a small part.

In answer to the original question: well, our entire business is predicated on having access to public domain texts!

Well any search engine is an obvious example. Especially when you get to Google Images. And we all know how hard companies try to get in Google's good graces...

The most basic, step back with perspective, example are the codes of quotation with text. Had the rules of citation and quotation not been culturally codified long before the copyright buildups of the past few decades, it probably would closer resemble sampling in music.

The whole "mix cd" phenomena is another good example, or actually two. In electronic music dj's make, give away and sell mix cd's without licensing tracks. In fact if you look at some prominent mix cds from legitimate labels dating only a few years back you won't find any copyright notices... Most 12" labels are well aware of what's going on and happy with it. The more exposure the song gets the better. Of course there is a threshold, when a cd gets attached to a more prominent record label suddenly licensing is needed. And in fact a lot of small labels make most of their profits from licensing fees...

In hip hop and to an extent dancehall, the mix cd has a somewhat different meaning. A hip hop mix cd is sometimes unmixed, but features mainly exclusive tracks unavailable in stores. Its a way to test out songs, release music with samples that are too expensive to clear and to generate hype. Its also a way to generate cash flow without having to pay a traditional record label 80%...

The hip hop labels accept the mix cd because they know it works. It builds up artists and helps A&R find new ones. 50 Cent is the most prominent example, after getting dropped off a major label before his album was released he rebuilt his career through a copious presence on mix tapes. That lead to a new label, a huge street buzz and multiplatinum record sales...

Instead of finding and listing examples of use or derivation without permission, why not find examples of explicitly gifting IP to the world?

I don't consider either of those examples to be "sharing". It's more like benign neglect of use without permission.

"Sharing", to me, would be explicitly or implicitly stating that the works can be re-used freely.

One example I am studying lately is that of chess game scores and records of go games.

There is a strong tradition in the chess world not to assert a copyright in chess scores, leaving the work of the most famous players on the planet free to use for everyone.

The Japanese Go Association (Nihon Kiin) and the Shogi Association (Shogi Renmei) might be interesting examples of sharing culture, even if the Nihon Kiin does assert a copyright on game records. Just as with the dojinshi example you mentioned and Larry Lessig discussed in "Free Culture", the sharing works because the Nihon Kiin doesn't enforce copyright very strongly, even if there is one (as I think there is).

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