Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Announcement: Salzburg Seminar

(Non-commercial announcement)



When: March 13—18, 2007
Where: Salzburg, Austria
Title: New Information Networks: Challenges and Opportunities for Business, Governments, and Media".

Salzburg Seminar: The Salzburg Seminar is an institution focused on global change—a place where innovative ideas lead to practical solutions. As an independent, neutral forum, the Salzburg Seminar engages current and future leaders in candid discussion to inspire new thinking and to pioneer strategies for change.

The Program: The first years of the new millennium have seen a dramatic change in the production of information and the organization of the digital environment. The rapid emergence of peer production, social networking, and powerful non-market actors via the Internet and other technologies is reshaping not only the flow of commerce but the means by which information, knowledge, and culture are created and shared between individuals, groups, and societies. These new methods of production and social interaction are forcing business, government, and the media to evolve quickly, with mixed levels of success, and presenting major challenges to the predominant business and regulatory models enshrined during the last half of the 20th century.
At the heart of these changes lies a fundamental rewiring of the social infrastructure. Social networking and peer production are empowering individuals to create, distribute, share, and consume information in a way that circumvents pre-existing business, advertising, and media models, and in so doing, are creating new opportunities for social, political, and economic development. This session will examine both the challenges and opportunities confronting government, business, and media with specific emphasis on the underlying mechanisms and fundamental changes taking place. The decisions made by government, business, and media in the coming decade will have a monumental effect on the social, political, and economic development of the next generation. This session will thus seek to contribute to that development by framing the fundamental issues, outlining the stakes, and informing the decisionmaking process.
The Salzburg Seminar is accepting registration from talented professionals working in journalism, business, production, regulatory industries, academia, research institutions, and governmental and civil society organizations.

Speakers: Faculty members who will lead the process and give presentations include:
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger (Co-Chair) - Associate Professor of Public Policy, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Founder, Ikarus Software; Co-chair, The Rueschlikon Conference on Information Policy
Yochai Benkler - Professor of Law, Yale Law School, New Haven, Connecticut; Author, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
Kenneth Cukier - Technology Correspondent, The Economist Newspaper Ltd., London
Jeannette Hofman - Senior Researcher on Internet Governance and Technology Policy, Departments of Innovation and Organization and New Forms of Governance, Berlin Social Sciences Institute
Christoph Mohn - CEO, Lycos Europe GmbH, Gütersloh; Member of the Supervisory Board, Bertelsmann AG
Jo Twist - Senior Research Fellow, Digital Society and Media, The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), London
Janus Friis - Co-Founder and Director of Innovation and Business Strategy, Skype, London (invited)
Reid Hoffmann - CEO and Co-founder, LinkedIn Corporation, Palo Alto, California (invited)

Participants: The Seminar seeks mid-career specialists and leaders who can benefit from global exposure and who currently are in a position to effect systemic and strategic change.

Topics to be addressed include:
• On The Horizon of Media, Business, Entertainment, and Creativity: P2P Production and Social Networks—Transforming Innovation, Business, and Content
• Responding to The Information Transformation: Business, Media, and Society
• Regulation and the "Revolution": Managing New Markets, Incentivizing Innovation, and Maintaining Openness
• Digital Interactivity and New Modes of Participation: Governance, Engagement, and Representation
• Making Sense of The "Revolution": What it means, where it is going
• Media, Multimedia, and Tomorrow’s Content: New Approaches and New Markets for News and Entertainment – Where is the Industry Heading?

For further information, please contact the Program Director this session, Mr. Benjamin Glahn at: bglahn@salzburgseminar.org

HKU projects on parade

Last week I visited the HKU, a college, where they have a multimedia department of arts, media and technology (in Dutch abbreviated to KMT). It is in The Netherlands one of the oldest colleges where they started to teach new media. In fact it was the first college where you could get a master degree in multimedia. In order to set up this master, the college collaborated with the university of Southampton in the UK and the university of the Balearics in Spain. As the department is located in the Broadcast City NL, Hilversum, it has yielded an intimate relationship between the RTV industry and the department. This long tradition in multimedia has still its effect on the present generation.

Once a year the department has a show of projects presented by the graduates to be. The students of the fourth year show their (finished) projects to other students, parents, instructors, companies and Vips. I heard about the projects’ day by accident by Paul van Zoggel and as I like this kind of inspection, which looks very much like a judging multimedia entries in the Eurorpix.nl, World Summit Award and the TTA. You look around and start comparing with what you have seen and try to distil trends.

The students can select an assignment from a company or institute or start a free assignment. The assignments come from foundations and associations, but also from television producers. So I saw an authoring package for radio plays, Soundsnacks; blind people can now make their own radio play with all kind of sound effects. Of course there are already many authoring packages for video, this authoring package for the blind is very sympathetic. And there was also an internet sequel site to a television program on healthy food with games and information. I would like to go into more detail about three projects. And I should make clear that I do not want to short-change the other projects; once KMT have been finished they are professional products.

The projects that struck me most were the surrogate cow for the Institute of Veterinary Research. This institute is looking for new ways of teaching students the inside of the pelvic cavity of a cow without the use of living animals. Veterinarians are trained to put their hand into the pelvic cavity of a cow (see photograph, copyright AD) and feel what the condition of the cow is, for example just before she is giving birth; from the outside it looks like fumbling. But by having a surrogate cow linked by sensors, one can show on screen what a student is doing. The main target of the project was to find a way to register tactile information, which can be unlocked at any time. It is a research project and a documented proof of concept. The project looks like an export product and a winner: it is practical; it is about cows, which are an icon for Holland, besides tulips.

Another project was Wearables about smart textile and shoes. A group of KMT students worked together with students of the fashion department. They experimented with smart textile using sensors, wifi and wearable computing. In the textile they used threads which could light up to any pattern; in this way someone wearing a jacket for example send his/her insignia to some friend, walking the same boulevard. For me it is first smart clothing application I have seen so far. Linked to this project was an interesting prototype of healthy kids’ shoes; not healthy in the sense of proper fitting, but in the sense of intended for health of the wearer. These days it is difficult to get kinds to walk. In order to stimulate kids to do so, on the shoes they wear led lights flash up and the further they walk the more colour leds are shown. So instant gratification for walking. This could be a nice concept to link to the Nokia game project Sneakers.

The third project is the Entertaible (see photographs, copyright Philips). The concept is a tabletop gaming platform that marries traditional multi-player board and computer games in a uniquely simple and intuitive way. Entertaible comprises a 32-inch horizontal LCD, sophisticated touch screen-based multi-object position detection, and all supporting control electronics. It allows the players to engage in a new class of electronic games which combines the features of computer gaming, such as dynamic playing fields and gaming levels, with the social interaction and tangible playing pieces, such as pawns and dies, of traditional board games. Initially targeting social gaming away from home in locations such as pubs, bars, hotels or restaurants, Entertaible has the potential to evolve into a gaming platform for the consumer market. The students developed a game for this device, Shadow Mansion that combines real-time gameplay with turn-based elements. Players have individual moments of exploration mixed with short action games that have multiple players. The concept of the Entertaible is not really new as I have seen precursors at Ars Electronica and at Red Bull bar in Salzburg, but now Philips domesticates the concept.

Tomorrow I will be in Norway and stay with a former student of the HKU, but not from the KMT department, Jet Steverink, and her friend. She landed a job with a Norwegian ad company and has been awarded the project Sailing Canvas for the program of the European Capital of Culture Stavanger 2008.

Blog Posting Number: 650

Tags: games, smart textile, simulation

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Apex bows out of PCM

Finally Apex has left PCM. It took 110 million euro along, according to the Dutch Financial Times. So PCM stands on it own again, after two year of having Apex as a dominant investor on the board. What has been the influence of Apex? Did PCM make any progress?

Apex walked into PCM two years ago and promised PCM to expand its basis. Up to that time, PCM had been a publisher of national and regional newspapers as well as a book publisher in the field of health care, education and general books. But Apex found the foundation Media and Democracy as a difficult shareholder at the table.

Looking back at the Apex era there has not been real expansion. Internet was rudely cut out as an independent division by Theo Bouwman, the former CEO of PCM; he compared internet with teletext or rudimentary text pages. The Sunday newspaper never came about nor did the free broad sheet. The ailing newspaper AD was given a lease of life with its merger of the regional newspapers of the Wegener company. The expansion in the RTV world was a sof, as Arrow radio was bought and is on sale again; a plan for an own television station Oasis never got off the ground. The newspapers attempted to get into web 2.0 with blogs and video. PCM bought the health care publisher BSL some two years ago and sold it again to Springer recently.

So what did Apex really bring? A new niche newspaper NRC Next. This daily newspaper aiming at young professionals has survived the first year. The question was already whether NRC Next would survive in the second year. A competitor in the shape of the free daily De Pers has shown up, giving the niche newspaper quite some competition.

Apex has had a difficult time with PCM. This is partly due to the lacklustreness of PCM. Apex has been unable to make some real progress and profit with the publisher. The final evaluation of the role of Apex was made by PCM, saying that the company had learned to manage its financial matters better. A real company policy was not present, except for a horizontal policy of newspapers and books, supported by internet, radio and television.

Where will PCM go? So far the successor of Mr Bouwman has indicated that he wants to slim down the company to a newspaper and educational publishing company. This means that having sold the health care publisher BSL, the general book companies are in the window. With this revenue of these sales new newspaper experiments can be paid and perhaps the Wolters Kluwer educational division can be bought. But the question is whether the company can use the revenues of the educational company in order to compensate the economic valleys in the newspaper area.

Now that PCM has its hands free, but is loaded with loans, it will be interesting to see whether Mr Ton aan de Stegge will be able to move forward with the support of the major shareholder. Will the two way policy of newspapers and educational publishing work? Or will PCM have to follow the example of Rupert Murdoch and pick up a service like MySpace and expand in RTV?

Blog Posting Number: 649

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Digital paper tested in a school

Pupils of the Bonnefanten College in Maastricht, in the South of The Netherlands, will start testing digital paper next month. The eReader will be used to store the books; the pupils can also make their homework on the tablet with digital paper. The tablet is the iLiad of iRex Technologies and the project has been initiated by the Edupaper.nl company and the school.

The school thinks that the tablet will replace the heavy book load. Edupaper has negotiated copyright arrangements with educational publishers. The pupils will also hand in their homework wirelessly.

Edupaper.nl focuses on M-learning or Mobile learning and considers digital papers as one of the tools in the application. The company also delivers services for government, health care and trainings; for the present they deliver these services in the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg). The company indicates that it knows about the Sony Librie, but that it did not select this device as Sony obliges users to buy content via the Sony servers. Besides the company considers the iLiad as more technologically advanced. The screen is beautiful and offers a fine contrast. The device offers more freedom. The device is robust and eyes professional. The weight is interesting with its 390 grams; there is a touch screen and other actions can be started by using the navigation knobs and icons. Starting the reader is easier than starting up a laptop. The battery holds for 20 hours. As disadvantages the company notes the presence of a virtual keyboard and the ambiguity of the icons.

The company believes that with the development of the Open Educational Resources more free e-books will hit the market. However the company also signals that the present iLiad is not fit to surf on internet. The Web pages need to be adapted as not everything can be shown; but the web browser Opera will solve this, the company believes. Movies can not be played on the reader, as the screen is too slow to play out 18 images per second; but animations are possible.

The reader is seen as a real device in the electronic educational environment. All documents will be loaded in the reader. Dokeos Nederland, an open source company for the Dutch market will execute the pilot. The Open University has been asked to evaluate this pilot.

So far for the jubilant press release and site information from Edupaper.nl. It is interesting to see a commercial company and a school picking up on such an experiment with such expensive machines. It needs a lot of courage to do so. But I am wondering how much background study the company performed. Did they check the Austrian e-book experiment in schools, of which we never heard again? Why did not we hear the results and why has this Edupaper experiment a better chance?

I personally think that the company is too optimistic about the experiment. The company has taken the technical specifications such as battery hours for granted and I am wondering whether the team has tested the machine themselves thoroughly. Yes the experiment will undoubtedly show that kids do not have to lug their books back and forth to school. Yet how many books will they be able to store? And I do not mean the quantity, for I know that the reader will be able to store some 20 books, depending on size and illustrations. But the reader will only be able to store black and white books; this means that some colour printed books will have to be converted to black/white or be dropped. And, of course the copyright will have to be negotiated. For the experiment it looks like that has been done and of course all the publishers were willing to partake in this experiment as long as they would hear about the results first hand. The publishers will only start thinking about their copyright policies after the experiment.
As the company itself indicated, there are problems in surfing internet. This is of course a blessing as the pupils will be unable to surf during classes. On the other hand the kids will have to go to computers in school or at home in order to pick up information and to transfer it to the reader.

And last but not least, I am eager to hear what educationalists think of it: the use in classes, the versioning of the software (Madam, my machine works differently), and the reliability of the batteries (Sir, I can not deliver my paper as my batteries have gone flat!). For in the end the question is: did the pupils get better grades using an electronic reader with digital paper than with books?

Blog Posting Number: 648

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Creative content online: an opportunity for Europe

Revenue from online content will reach €8.3 billion by 2010 in Europe, a growth of over 400% in five years, says a new study for the European Commission. For the most advanced sectors, online content will represent a significant share of total revenue: about 20% for music and 33% for video games. Thanks to the spread of broadband, the roll-out of advanced mobile networks, and the massive adoption of digital devices, the study shows that mass market online content distribution is becoming a reality, creating unique opportunities for Europe.

This new study and annexes on 'Interactive Content and Convergence: Implications for the information Society' assessed the potential of the emerging creative content online market. It found that although the market is growing steadily, technological, economic and legal challenges – notably intellectual property rights and interoperability – need to be addressed for Europe to have faster market uptake. The study found that Europe trails the US' lead in developing interactive fixed broadband services, and Japan and Korea's in mobile services.

After a wide consultation, it identified 36 roadblocks to developing online content and assesses their market impact up to 2010. Today the most obvious roadblock is connectivity. Although broadband is spreading quickly and consumer take-up is enthusiastic, differences between EU Member States risk remaining high. For mobile services, the roadblocks include the slow uptake of 3G in Europe, and the sometimes confusing pricing and structure of data tariffs.

Many market players still need to adapt to the new distribution technologies which cut across national borders and traditionally separated sectors. This is still a major obstacle to developing content online. However, innovative and collaborative solutions to exploit content online are being found.

Piracy siphons off potential revenue and deters media companies from putting content online. Efficient Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems to manage and protect digital content are necessary for a secure and sustainable roll-out of digital distribution. However, concern over the lack of interoperability or standardisation in DRM may hinder digital content services and devices in the long term.

Consumer acceptance of new content services, a lack of specialised skills in media companies, or the cost of digitisation of content, also have a significant market impact. While some of the obstacles are global, others are due to Europe's market and legal framework. These may significantly slow down growth and competitiveness. As the market matures, evolving business practises will remove some obstacles but others may require measures from industry and EU legislation to provide legal certainty for consumers, content providers and the hardware industry.

Of course, the reaction of the EU commissioner Viviane Reding was very enthusiastic and should be enthusiastic as the study systematically addresses digital content:
"The long-awaited digital convergence is becoming an economic reality, creating great opportunities for Europe's consumers, content providers and technology industries," said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "To capitalise may require casting a fresh eye at the technical and legal issues where a modernised and internal market-oriented approach would add value to European content. As I am preparing my 'Content Online in Europe's Single Market' package for the second half of 2007, today's study will prove very useful."

However, for the preparation of the Content Online in Europe’s Single Market package, she should take into regard, that the study is a rather formal study with a publishers’ scope of
digital content (television programmes, radio, music, movies, games, publishing). In all the 308 pages the term user generated content has only been used eight times and has never been quantified. The term cross media has not been used at all. (The term community created content appears zero times) As for these two newly developing areas of content services are developing on the basis of business models, specific attention should be paid to them and they should be quantified as they are usually offerd by non-traditional publishers or broadcasters.

Blog Posting Number: 647

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Awards tell a story

I have been going on dissecting the Finnish book Community Created Content this week. And when I though I was finished with the Finnish, my friend Cai told me that summary of the MindTrek Award book is online. So I am going to extend the Finnish week on my blog with a posting on MindTrek.

MindTrek is the name for a key digital media event, the Mindtrek Media Week, which has been held in Tampere, a southern Finnish industrial city for 10 years. During the week the activities have been an important and active cathelyser in networking with scholars, industry professionals, financiers and students with each other through series of seminars and round table discussions. Most famous are the MindTrek Media Awards, the national recognition of the best multimedia products from Finland. At the Gala of this competition people could take a peep at the future. In 2007 MindTrek celebrates its tradition of 10 years. In the short history of digital media in Finaland, the MindTrek Media Week has become a remarkable milestone. Moreover, it has grown to an event, which has become an essential part of the network of European media events.

At the Europrix Top Talent Award 2006 in Vienna I received a 123‐paged book about MindTrek. Except for my salutary contribution, which was in English, I was unable to read a word of it, as the rest of the text was in Finnish. So I was longing for an English translation. But now one of the co-authors, Tommi Pelkonen (a Fin living in the Netherlands and working for Satama) has made an interesting summary, which tells about the Finnish multimedia industry, the competition and the awards.

During its existence, the MindTrek Media Awards have been able to represent and reflect the status of the Finnish competencies in digital media productions. It is absolutely clear that there is a constant demand for this kind of forums. Additionally, the competition has been one of the first location to have a sneak preview to some later commercially very successful projects(e.g. MaxPayne and Habbo Hotel). MindTrek’s ambitious mission to network the whole value chain of the digital media to the broader economy and society as a whole it something also European decision makers should look for. There are far few locations in where this kind of fruitful interaction is carried out. For the Finnish scene and especially for the Tampere region, Mindtrek has succeeded in creating this natural networking in its own original style.

The summary is very interesting as it illustrates trends among awards. It like with popular music; with a particular songs you remember the period and place when and where you heard the song. The awards have been guiding for the future. And Tommi has noticed this: ‘The capability of MindTrek to attract the new talents to present themselves should not be neglected in the future. The field of digital media is constantly evolving and the competition should reflect its time. In practice for 2007, MindTrek could e.g. open an innovation competition for web 2.0 and mobile 2.0 productions, modern communities and mash‐ups, also via mobiles. This kind of initiatives would carry continue logically the original spirit competition had in the mid 1990s’.
The summary of the commemorative book can be downloaded.

Blog Posting Number: 646

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Community Created Content: law, business, policy (5)

I have been browsing through the book Community Created Content: law, business, policy in the past installments. I have enjoyed the book very much as there is a good link between the legal part and the business models. Usually you get an okay exposition of the legal side, but it hardly is linked up to the business models.

So the authors have done a great job. In fact they have put down a kind of legal grid and linked this to the business models. A recommendation would be to get a EU grant inorder to create a European continental grid of laws for harmonising all the legislation between the 27 members states, minus the UK and Ireland as they have another legal system.

In the past, I received an assignment form the EU to review a project establishing the consumer rights and obligations in the member states. The project was unable to establish a grid of rules and measures as there was no basic grid set up. In the case of Community Created Content a first exploration of a grid was done and was done well. It my opinion there is a valid grid which could serve as the basis for filling in the grid elements of the national laws of the EU member states.

Besides this legal side, also the described business models form categories for business cases. It should be interesting to keep up these business cases of internet sites, so that people in the trade can check the models and the legal consequences.

From my Finnish friend Cai I understand that in the framework of this research project Cai and his fine colleague Sohvi Sirkesalo will work on a report dealing with business models of participatory economy. The report should be in English as there is an audience so far from Monday till Thursday of 200 unique visitors of this series from all around the world..

I wrote an item on the book for the Dutch language Marketingfacts, which drew almost 5000 pageviews by midnight. The blog master Marco Derksen called the book ‘absolutely top’; other blog readers: ‘book worth reading’; ‘it is a pearl, this book’; ‘a must read’. I only wished we would have a comparable book in Dutch.

Blog Posting Number: 645

Tags: copyright, creative commons, community created content, user generated content
Links: community created content, copyright, creative commons, participatory economy, user generated content



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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Community Created Content: law, business, policy (4)

The third section of the book Community Created Content: law, business, policy is concerned with policy issues related to community content production. There are four concrete legislative steps, which could advance the opportunities for user-based content creation. The first two proposals aim to reduce the legal risks associated to publishing material the users. The last two proposals would establish new sources for getting legal material for user-based content creation.

Copyright liability is currently based on a strict liability doctrine: even non-wilful infringers have to pay. Yet, there could be a statutory limit on how much additional litigation costs could be included to the damages. – Another issue is that this kind of change in law does not seem realistic in the near future.

For community content creation, the rules for using existing works are in central place regarding the limits of creativity. Normal licensing fees can be prohibitively expensive for non-commercial purposes and more serious licensing negotiations may be too expensive for many small and medium sized companies. However, the EU copyright directive recognizes only two general user rights, which allow derivative use of works without permission from the right holder. Due to the extensive harmonization there is very little chance that more user rights would be added in the near future.

Due to the long duration of copyright and the lack of formal registration, the ownership of a certain work is often very hard or even impossible to establish reliably. As a consequence a great number of copyrighted works is currently not utilized. This problem has to be solved on statutory level. The optimal solution would be a system that requires registration of works after a certain period (5-20 years) from the publication if the right holder still insists for retaining full commercial control of the work. An intermediate solution might include for example a way to put money on an account for possible copyright claims and a procedure to demand in public the right holder(s) of a work to identify themselves.

Then there are the government documents. It is difficult to argue why works prepared with tax payers’ money should be entitled to copyright. The economic incentive for creation does not arise from licensing fees and also the second traditional reason for copyright – securing the publication of works – can be solved otherwise. Second major issue is governmental re-use. Governments are producing significant amounts of material, which has potential to be further commercialized. A typical example is weather data, which has a wide range of possible uses beyond normal weather forecasts sent in TV and radio. The big question is how this material should be licensed.

Besides all these legislative issues, there is the issue of open content and collecting societies. Open content licensing and copyright collectives in Europe have two major problems. First, if an author wishes to use the services of collecting societies, he must typically assign the collecting society necessary exclusive rights to the work. This means that the author can no longer license the work, or any version of it, on the Internet with open content or any other terms that conflict with the policies of the collecting society in question. Second, collecting societies have in general the right to represent also those authors, which are not signed with the society. This means that a user may be obliged to pay royalties to the society even though the author has chosen to use an open content license. The collecting societies as well as the open content licenses serve the public by lowering transaction costs. Finding a way to combine the two institutions could mean all the artists receiving payments for the use of their works and at the same time consumer would have more culture available on creators’ terms. In order to reach the goal both institutions must make changes. Creative Commons must clarify its licenses and modify them to fit to the automatic licensing scheme of the collecting societies’. The collecting societies on their behalf have to open their paternalistic administration systems to reflect the changed motivations of rights owners and the new business models they are using.

Last but not least, one of the most crucial problems with open content licensing is the incompatibility problem. It could be perhaps best tackled through better mutual coordination with different licensing initiatives.

The book has been published by Turre Publishing and is available as a free pdf or as a printed book, available through Amazon.

Blog Posting Number: 644

Tags: copyright, creative commons, community created content, user generated content

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Community Created Content: law, business, policy (3)

What I love about the book Community Created Content: law, business, policy is the fact, that it gives an extensive overview of the legal aspects of content management and does not stop there. It shifts its focus from law to business. It examines who the people or legal bodies are who want to share their works and what are their incentives. Then it dives into business models, which enable open content and free distribution, using examples.

The authors have typecast the people and institutions that share their works openly in four groups: 1. Drifters; 2. Public producers; 3. Commonists; 4. Commercial users. The drifters do not typically make a conscious decision to open up content licenses. Wikipedia people are typical drifters. They do not make a claim to fame or even to community respect. They accept the use of open content licenses. The second group of licensors depends on community resources like public entities and tax funded organisations. The best example is the BBC, which has opened its archives and licensed their programs with modified CC licenses for the Brits; not yet to the rest of the world (I am still waiting to download and publish on this blog the 3 minutes interview on the launch of IDB Online in February 1985). The third group has a funny name: Commonists; sounds like Communists, but then in copyright. The Commonists want to unlock the copyright system, but want to do this certain limitations through open content licenses. And even the commercial world uses open content arrangements as a bargain for the benefits its provides such as promotion and publicity.

As for the business models the authors have examined six business models where commercial licensors use open content licenses for their business. These models are: 1. Loss leader; 2. Open content service; 3. Free the content, sell the platform; 4. Sell the basic product, let users enhance it; 5. Outsource advertisement or advertisement distribution to users; 6. Wrap open content to advertisement. Thinking in this type of business models is different from the straight balance book of revenues and expenses. Starting a loss leading project is not exactly a pretty perspective; yet it is being used and has proven successful in certain cases. A famous case is Star Wreck, a take-off on Star Track. It was produced by teams of volunteers, used digital sets and guerrilla marketing and the Internet to produce promote and distribute the film to a global audience. Over 5 million people have seen the site, thousands of paid DVDs have been sold, broadcast rights have been bought and Universal pictures has acquired the distribution rights to a special edition of the DVD. Opening content services is well known by know with examples of Blogger, Flickr, Magnatune and Scoopt. Another approach is to free the content and sell the platform; something the science fiction writer and activist Cory Doctorow did his first CC-licensed novel Down and out in Magic Kingdom. The book was not the primary platform; Doctorow was paid for speaking appearances. The model of selling the basic product and letting users enhance it has been cleverly used by the Straits Time in Singapore; it shows a nice way to use citizen’s journalism. The model of wrapping open content with commercials is well known from the blog- and vlog world, e.g. Revver. And with the last model of selling the product and let users advertise it, the authors return to one of the great Finnish export products: Habbo Hotel. The owner of Habbo Hotel, Sulake, has sold the franchise rights to several countries, but has kept close control over the use of its content. Official fan sites are for example required to update once a month and use only the copyrighted Habbo images.

Interesting is the paragraph dedicated to the advertisement campaign of General Motors in march 2006, which did completely go wrong. A contest was started to promote the Chevy Tahoe SUV. GM provided video clips and sound tracks for personalising people’s ads. Besides the servile copy-cat products, GM received also negative ads, judging SUV contributing to global warming.

The chapters show that choosing suitable licenses and business model can help owners to keep control of the financially important use of content. The models show also that the key characteristic of a successful open content system is the ease of use.

The book Community Created Content: law, business, policy has been published by Turre Publishing and is available as a free pdf or as a printed book, available through Amazon.

Blog Posting Number: 643

Tags: copyright, creative commons, community created content, user generated content

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Community Created Content: law, business, policy (2)

The book Community Created Content: law, business and policy consists for almost half of pages, dedicated to law. The authors recognise that capturing the wealth of networked producers and creators may turn out to be one of the biggest factors that will help to increase our society’s productivity during this century. Professional content will not disappear, but will be complemented with citizen journalism. Designing services that harness the wealth of their users’ creativity is not trivial. Finding a balance between exclusive copyright and open has turned out to be a delicate task.

Community created content poses many challenges for service providers and users. The focus of this book is on the legal issues. Obviously, this kind of book cannot cover all relevant areas of law that affect community created content. But it covers international, European and national (Finnish) law. The authors of this book believe that the most crucial questions in community created content are the usage rules for the content itself. All creative content is covered by copyright. This also means that copyright licenses define in most cases how services can utilize the content submitted by users. There are of course situations where copyright is not the main issue. Sometimes the content can be illegal based on criminal law. Other relevant areas of the law, which are briefly covered in this book, include data protection and editorial liability for the service provider.

Copyright is perhaps the most internationalized regime of private law. This makes it also natural to discuss copyright from an international perspective in this book. The book mainly refers to international copyright treaties and European Union legislation with comparisons to United States doctrine where applicable. Details of for example the Finnish copyright law are omitted. Finnish copyright law follows today rather closely the European doctrine. In contrast, criminal law remains as one of the most national areas of law. Only Convention on Cyber crime harmonizes some particular criminal policy issues like child porn internationally. Thus, in the sections discussing crimes such as privacy intrusion and hate speech, the book refers extensively to Finnish law. As noted, the perspective taken is that of a Finland-based service provider. One of the chapters is dedicated to new copyright rules such as under creative commons. The various systems are enlightened and the various choices explained.

This mix of international and Finnish perspectives delivers some surprising aspects. In Finland there is an Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media, which applies to various kind of “network publications”. The act defines a set of obligations that apply to corporate publishers (but not private individuals). But the law has a provision on protecting the sources of news. The protection applies to all kinds of net publications such as blogs, including those provided by private persons. As a consequence, bloggers enjoy this protection that can be characterized exceptional in the global perspective. Even for a liberal country as The Netherlands, this is an exceptional situation. Here you should not publish pornography, nor should you send hate mail to the queen, but your sources are always unprotected.

All in all the law section is very thorough and interesting as it covers the full spectrum from the Berner Convention to the creative commons and the other systems in between. To me it has been one of the best essays on copyright on networked content and especially user generated content., which I have read so far. It basic, but covers all aspects and makes you aware of the implications. I would love to have a discussion with Mr Mikko Välimäki about the legal implications for an international blog like this, which mostly happens to be generated in The Netherlands.

The book has been published by Turre Publishing and is available as a free pdf or as a printed book, available through Amazon.

Blog Posting Number: 642

Tags: copyright, creative commons, community created content, user generated content
Links: community created content, copyright, creative commons, participatory economy, user generated content

Monday, January 22, 2007

Community Created Content: law, business, policy (1)

Over the weekend I received an e-mail from my dear friend Cai in Tampere (Finland), who drew my attention to the book Community Created Content: law, business, policy. The book is written by three Finnish lawyers: Herkko Hietanen, Ville Oksanen, Mikko Välimäki. It is one of the deliverables of the PARTECO research project: To Participatory Economy and Beyond, coordinated by the Hypermedia Laboratory at the University of Tampere. The book was presented on Friday during a seminar. The Parteco project is coordinated by Katri Lietsala, who is now working with my good friend Jarmo Viteli at the Hypermedialab. I understand that in the framework of the research project Cai and his fine colleague Sohvi Sirkesalo will work on a report (hopefully in English) dealing with business models of participatory economy.

Cai notices that the book is focusing on Finnish legislation, but it still is highly interesting and up to date for everybody who is involved with web 2.0. The book "Community Created Content" is written to help its readers to understand the legal, business and policy issues affecting community created content. The aim was to write a handy reference and a useful overview of a complex subject. Main emphasis is on the legal underpinnings of community created content. The book also describes users’ different motives of sharing their works. Several case studies help to illustrate how businesses can adapt to accommodate community created content.

The conclusion of the book gives a nice summary of the areas the book treats. For reading purposes I have changed the past tense to the present.
This book presents an overview of the complex legal, business and policy issues in community created content. First, the book briefly treats the major doctrines in copyright law as well other (Finnish and international) laws regulating community created content services. Anyone wishing to start a new service should have a general understanding of the most relevant laws that affect community created content services.
Then, the book turns to open content licensing. Creative Commons is a leading but somewhat controversial project.
However, Creative Commons copyright licenses are tested and can be recommended for most community content services – with the general reservations that apply to all licensing decisions.
From law the book switches to business. It is subject to wild guesses what is the real business impact of community created content in the long term. In fact, the impact is already difficult to measure as the boundaries between community content and traditionally produced content blur. One scenario is that what one can today label as “community created content” will be just “content” in the future. The example of YouTube shows that community created content services
may be just one acquisition away from major media companies. Something similar has happened to open source software. On the other hand, there remain also community-based projects such as Wikipedia, which cannot be sold. This reminds of the free software ideology, which stresses societal impact over business impact.
Finally, the book discussed the details of actual policy issues in community created content. Copyright has been the hot potato of Internet policy as long as the Internet has existed. It is also in the heart of community created content. As many other books before, this book treats through a set of carefully though proposals to change copyright doctrines to reflect better the Internet reality. While the suggestions may not be implemented any time soon they should anyhow create a basis for further discussion. The book also suggests some intermediate alternatives for community content risk management. For example, best practice documentation for different aspects of copyright management may work as a shield against negligence-claims. Another major issue is the interplay between different licensing projects. No one needs another licensing project to produce another set of incompatible licenses.

From the list of illustrations it is clear that the book is not just an abstract treatment of Community Created Content; even the clip of the hanging of Sadam Hussein on YouTube is mentioned.

The book has been published by Turre Publishing and is available as a free pdf or as a printed book, available through Amazon.

I will be reading this book this week with a lot of interest. Every day a chapter. I am sure that I will return to this book.

Blog Posting Number: 641

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Dutch laws soon to enter cyber space

One of the oldest daily papers in The Netherlands, Staatscourant, will cease to be published on paper by the end of the year. The newspaper for the government has been published eversince on week days, but not in the weekend, and was used bu the government to publish laws, measures and appointments. Only when laws and measures have been published in the Staatscourant, the law was in effect. Even recently a minister thought he could abolish a grant measure overnight, but had torecall his measure as it had not been published in the Staatscourant.

The newspaper circulation has been going down steadily and in the last seven years the circulation has halved: from 13.000 copies in 1999 to 6.000 copies in 2006. The real blow came, when in 2005 the ministry of Economic Affairs decided that companies were not obliged to advertise the depositing of their annual accounts at the Chambers of Commerce. The annual revenues of these ads totalled 12,5 million euro.

But before the newspaper will cease its paper edition, the government will have to pass a law, naming internet as the publishing medium for the government. No law will come into effect without being published on Internet. Presently there is already a site with all the Dutch laws into effect, which is being maintained by the publisher of the Staatscourant. But this site does not have any legal force at present. The move to internet is seen as a democratic move, making the law process accessible for everyone through Internet. Presently the newspaper subscription costs 335 euro annually.

The newspaper editors had seen the drop coming and had attempted to make the newspaper more interesting with background stories and interviews. In the internet edition they would also like to have background stories, interviews and reports, but the new law for publishing laws and measures on the internet does not allow any news and other items nor ads. On the internetsite only laws will be published.

The Staatscourant was founded in 1814, when king William I ordered the publication for laws. Now after almost 200 years the newspaper will disappear and make way for Internet.

Blog Posting Number: 640
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Saturday, January 20, 2007

VNU is no more

VNU has changed its name to The Nielsen Company. After 40 years VNU will no longer be a brand for a multinational publishing company which started out in the Netherlands and moved over to the States to become a market data registration company.

For many people in The Netherlands, who worked for the company, it will be a sentimental goodbye to a publishing company. So it is for me. I was twice an employee for VNU. In 1970 I started out my career with Het Spectrum, the book publishing company most famous for its pocket lines, Prisma for consumer titles and Aula for the scientific titles. I joined the reference department, a new department tucked away in Amsterdam on an attic above an old synagogue; the new encyclopaedia project was most secret. I stayed for three years, before the publication of the first volume of the Great Spectrum Encyclopaedia.

In 1979 I was back at VNU. This time I had joined the Intermediair company, which published a controlled circulation weekly for academics and college students. The company had just been named the stepping stone for new activities of the just formed Business Press Group, which would undertake new activities and internationalisation. I got involved in both activities. In the media lab VNU Database Publishing International I got involved in online activities (videotext and ASCII databases) and from 1983 till 1986 I was seconded to the British branch of VNU in London (I was the second employee to be seconded abroad).

VNU started out as a newspaper and magazine publisher and had a joie de vivre, enthusiasm and creativity up to late eighties. At that moment the managers took over. Growth and further internationalisation were the key words. The balloon was pumped and pumped, until it burst. And it did with a bang: it was taken over by private investment companies, taken off the stock exchange, sold in parts and made lean and mean in the international data registration companies and associated American business publications. VNU had turned from a Dutch multinational publishing company into an American multinational market data registration company (part of the HQ are still in The Netherlands, but that is for tax reasons).

VNU is no more. The reason for the change of name is funny. A spokesperson for the Nielsen company said that Nielsen was better known as the name VNU. This was already since the first VNU representative in the US in the seventies. He used the acronym VNU as the full name United Dutch Publishers did not make much sense and even evoked the impression of a company with socialist statutes. Now the 40 years old company name has been replaced with the company name of a 75 years old. And with the change of name an end has come to VNU as a publishing company.

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At this occassion I hold a virtual VNU reunion. These people I met in the VNU company and still stand out in my mind. I have left out people who died.

Spectrum time
Mari Pijnenborg
Rob Emmelkamp
Inez van Eijk
Leo van Grunsven
Frits Oomes
Jolijn van Dop
Ids Haagsma
A van Loon
Ben Paul
Herman Vuijsje
G. Abels
George Beekman
Panc Beentjes
Midas Dekker
Frans Duivis
Leo Jacobs
Herman Kernkamp
J. Mabelis
H. de Nijs
Carla Rogge
Flip Vuijsje
Tine Keuning
Dick Ahles
Bart Drubbel
Cees de Jong

Intermediair
Joep Brentjes
Xavier Koot
Koos Guis
Rob van de Bergh
Pim de Wit

VNU DPI
Jay Curry
Arjen Everts
Wim Poelman
Tom Otting
Hans Rademaker
Geert de Groot
Pieter van Rooijen
Emily Knegtel
Marjan Hokke
Paula Zwan
LidaVerhagen
Lia Baarsen
Jeanette Liebeek
Chris Schippers
Lucy in the Sky

Media Info Newsletter
Chiel Kramer
Bert Wiggers
Sandra Dol


Blog Posting Number: 639

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Never a dull moment at PCM (2)

While on the subject of PCM, there is more corporate news. It is clear that Ton aan de Stegge wants to change the company. But he has to deal with the British venture capitalist Apax, which holds the majority of the shares, and a foundation. This gives a lot of tension and this shows in the policy decisions.

PCM was split off as the newspaper conglomerate from the Elsevier publishing company as a run-up for Elsevier to the merger with Reed. The conglomerate consisted of a newspaper company with national newspapers, regional newspapers and door-to-door papers. In addition to the newspapers a book publishing division was formed. Internet has been an additional activity so far with every newspaper having its Internet site. In the fall of his term, CEO Mr Bouwman, a magazine man by origin, looked for diversification in other analogue media. The radio station Arrow was bought, while a TV project Oasis was under development.

Soon after his inauguration Mr Aan de Stegge made clear that company is going to follow a new strategy in which there are two divisions: newspapers and educational publishing. He minced no words and made clear to sell up the book publishing division and he is doing so; the healthcare publisher Bohn Stafleu Van Loghum (BSL) is rumoured to be sold to the Dutch subsidiary of Springer Verlag for 50 million euro. Also the radio station is for sale.

The combination of newspapers and books, including educational books, is not uncommon abroad and in The Netherlands. There is an economic rationale: the revenues of the books are there to even out the steep revenue valleys during economic low tide. Now PCM wants to narrow the scope to newspapers and educational publications. It is hard to see the economic and organisational synergetic effects, especially as the educational publishing division is not that large. (Of course this can solved by acquiring Malmberg, a former educational publishing division of VNU, from a venture capitalist or the educational division of Wolters Kluwer which is put up for sale).

At least the free newspaper and multimedia assets would fit in this strategy. And the company would have money from the sale of the healthcare publisher and radio station to start up a multimedia newspaper project with KPN. The multimedia aspect is not clear yet. KPN has the Internet service Planet Internet, the TV service Mine and the mobile services. The free newspaper and the multimedia services could lead to a well integrated crossmedia project, which would serve as an example for the paid subscription newspapers.

IMHO, PCM is not yet on a course to stability.

Blog Posting Number: 638

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Never a dull moment at PCM (1)

Next week on January 23rd, 2007, a new Dutch free broadsheet will be launched. It will be a remarkable launch for more than one reason. The name is as general and indistinguishable as you can get: De Pers (The Press). There is no relationship to a national or international publishing company; the publication will be financed by private people. The publisher aims at the better educated part of the market and believes that there is a market for this newspaper. De Pers will be the third free broadsheet in The Netherlands.

While the circulation figures of the paid newspaper subscriptions go down every year, free broadsheets are introduced as well as target group papers. In the Netherlands the international franchise chain Metro started a free newspaper, followed by Sp!ts, a free broadsheet of the newspaper company De Telegraaf. A year ago a paid newspaper for young people (19-40 years) NRC-Next was launched; it presently reaches up to 65.000 copies, but the question is whether it will still grow.

Then Mr Boekhoorn stepped in with the plan for a new free broadsheet. Mr Boekhoorn is a private investor, who earned money by buying and selling companies; his last real big project was the sale of the telecom company Telfort, led by CEO Ton aan de Stegge, to KPN for more than 1 billion euro. So Mr Boekhoorn surrounded himself with people coming from the trade (Metro, Wegener); the team started to gear up for the launch and is almost there.

During the training period Mr Boekhoorn was invited by Mr Aan de Stegge, who had become CEO of the newspaper and book publishing company PCM, to discuss co-operation between PCM and De Pers. They agreed about the shares division: PCM 49 percent and Boekhoorn 51 percent. But the Board of Directors did not agree. This morning the lawyers met and started a potential case Boekhoorn vs Aan de Stegge.

The affair even got stranger as the news was leaked that PCM still intends to start a free daily, but this time in combination with other multimedia applications. Planet Internet, a subsidiary of the telco KPN (which bought Telfort) is rumoured to be the business and editorial partner. Planet Internet is the third most visited site and way ahead of the PCM sites such as Volkskrant.nl, Trouw.nl and NRC.nl.

Blog Posting Number 637

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

BBC starts Academy of Journalism

The BBC has launched a major new website as part of an Academy of Journalism project. The journalism college website aims to create a massive training resource for employees of the BBC, and there are plans to make much of the material available to the wider public by the end of the year.

The site comprises 500 pages and over 40 video clips with both practical exercises, how-to guides helping journalists of all levels to improve their skills, and theoretical discussions on the practice of journalism aimed to stimulate debate. As well as featuring 10 categories dealing with issues ranging from BBC values to the future of journalism, every day the site’s homepage will lead with three new stories. The aim is to extract learning from daily examples in the news so that senior editors will have something they can work with the next time an issue arises. Most of the resources are technical and practical.

The college interviewed all the senior journalists in the BBC and asked them to help in a number of ways. It commissioned films, articles and how-to guides from them to put on the website. Content includes lessons on craft skills with exercises about writing and on how to use statistics and data. The site also features material stimulated by the monthly editorial policy meetings within the BBC where the big issues are discussed. The site is a learning tool, not a way for management to impose its ideology on staff.

It is hoped that the interactive features the site offers will make the experience of learning more engaging. The course was set up after that the BBC was critised for for the death of an informant and failings in the coverage of the European Union and Middle East. So, there is a guide on speed vs accuracy, note-taking, protecting sources, handling allegations, statistics and risks, correcting mistake.

It is the intention to have an external site by the end of the year. But first some problems such as legal rights and presentation will have to be solved. The present course aims at BBC employees. The college is still discussing whether the external site of 10 million British pounds could be monetised. The BBC says there is interest in the site coming from outside the UK and the site could be of use to journalism schools as well.

Blog Posting Number: 636

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Spirited remarks on music industry

The New Year’s receptions have started. One of these receptions is the Noorderslag in Groningen, in the North of The Netherlands. It is more than a reception; in fact it is a seminar, where the music industry comes together, looks at the trends in the music world and hands out awards. In the last years there has always been news from Noorderslag.

This year the main news came from the content manager of KPN, Mr Mark Manshanden. He is an old hand at content with KPN as he started as content manager for the i-mode information service and is now responsible for amongst others KPN Music Stream. He defended the thesis, that within three years all internet users would be able to be able to listen to popular music for free. Large companies like the telco KPN, the energy company Essent, the cable operator UPC and mobile telco Orange would give access to music portals, which would offer streaming music, paid for by sponsoring and advertisement. And the service will not force people to listen to commercial first before being offered the song, but it will be a mix, a kind of web radio on demand. Mr Manshanden made it clear that KPN will not become a music publisher itself as KPN is a communication and distribution company. He blamed the music companies for not taking risks. “It is unforgivable that they keep fooling around with digital rights management”. Besides the companies do not spot new talent in time, not can they renew old agreements for digital distribution. All in all, unexpected spirited remarks and a new view on where the music industry is going.

There were of course also representative of the old music industry. The collecting society BUMA/STEMRA, about which I wrote on Sunday. They launched their Dutch online music library. On this virtual platform composers, text writers and music publishers can offers their products easily, safely and accessible. The library will encompass the entire Dutch musical copyrights, from famous compositions to new songs, from classic to urban. The composer and the text writer can decide which works they want to publish. The library is part of the FlexCo (Flexible Collective Management), a project for customising creative music products. For more than 16.000 composers, text writers and publishers, the online music library will offer new opportunities and flexibility. The library will offer various products such as listening to the music, reading the texts of songs, short biographies, discographies, play lists, a diary with performances and contact coordinates. So on the one hand the author can determine him/herself whether they want to publish a song, piece of music or a text. On the other hand the composers and text writers will profit from exposure from the site by exposure. It all sounds great, especially the library, which must be a major project; but so far BUMA/STEMRA has been limited to its harness of collective rights and has not made any steps in the direction of creative commons yet.

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Blog Posting Number: 635

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hot books on demand

I have a background in book publishing, in fact in reference books. I have had editorial jobs and organisational jobs, which dealt with content management and production. I learned a lot about book printing from Mr Henk Jochems, the production manager at the Oosthoek publishing company. He initiated me into the secrets of printing and took me along to typesetting operations and printing plants. I came in when typesetting was moving to photo typesetting and I left when one started to talk about the idea of print-to-plate. That was at the end of the seventies.

By the mid nineties on demand printing came up in The Netherlands. Long before Lulu there was Gopher, a print–on-demand and publishing company founded by Joost Zijtveld and Hans Offringa. The company got involved in the internethype, started an international network, which did not work, and eventually returned to The Netherlands, where they have a base again.
So when I heard the news that News Corp. unit HarperCollins Publishers has invested in NewsStand Inc., a company that digitizes and distributes books online, I was wondering what they had been doing in the past years. The technology offers book publishers a suite to typeset, produce, warehouse, distribute and market their books online.

I was more impressed with the news in the Observer about a machine that electronically stores 2.5 million books and can print and bind books up to 550 pages in less than seven minutes. The machine costs 25.000 British pounds. The 'Espresso' machine will be launched first in several US libraries. The company behind the project - On Demand Books LLC - predicts that, within five years, it will be able to reproduce every book ever published.

ODB. is planning to become the first company to globally deploy a low cost, totally automatic The Espresso Book Machine, which can produce 15 - 20 library quality paperback books per hour, in any language, in quantities of one, without any human intervention. This technology and process will produce one each of ten different books at the same speed and cost as it can produce ten copies of the same book. ODB has two machines currently deployed (one at the World Bank InfoShop in Washington DC, and one at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt). ODB is also finalizing technology to access a vast network of content that can be accessed and produced via The Espresso Book Machine Network. The content of this library will reside in numerous locations from a multitude of sources. The system will accept multiple formats, and fully respect licenses and rights.

(I think that the movies about the Espresso Book Machine and the launch of the World Bank project in Quicktime are somewhat primitive and naïve, but they give you an impression)

It was at the end of the seventies that Xerox developed the idea of producing books by a copying machine and binding them. Ever since on demand publishing has been growing steadily, but not enough to convince traditional publishers up to 2000. Warehousing and keeping backlists have become expensive and on demand publishing can now compete with traditional publishing in many sectors of book publishing. It will be interesting to see how publishers are going to deal with libraries and bookshops. Can you imagine walking out of a bookshop with only a window with covers of bestsellers and a printing machine with a book, hot with glue like a bread on a Sunday morning?

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Blog Posting Number: 634

Sunday, January 14, 2007

NL Creative Commons publishes CD/DVD

On 25 April 2006, Creative Commons Netherlands launched the ‘CC NL DVD’ project in order to promote Creative Commons. The intention was to acquire at least a dozen songs by different musicians and combine these songs with the visuals of another dozen visual artists. The end result is a DVD filled with audio and video material, all licensed under Creative Commons licenses. The call for music was sent out to numerous websites, people, magazines and communities.

The response was quite successful with over 130 songs from more than fifty different artists. A professional jury consisting of Sander Kerkhof, a music journalist working with the Dutch public broadcaster VPRO and Guno Oosterling, organizer of the ‘Grote Prijs van Nederland’, one of the most well-known music competitions in the Netherlands, selected the twelve tracks. But as the selection was not easy, thirteen tracks were selected eventually. These tracks were put online on the Creative Commons Netherlands website with a request for visuals to accompany the tracks. Last week the Creative Commons Netherlands has published a cd/dvd with music and video clips, which can also be downloaded.

Creative Commons has developed a standardised and computerised system, in which authors of literature, photography, music, film and science can offer their works under liberal conditions. By using the free Creative Commons systems, authors can keep their copyrights, but make their work easily accessible for others.

Presently especially music collecting organisation have problems with a liberal regime as authors sign a contract with them and the collecting organisation collect the revenues and go after illegal use. Despite the fact that ccCreative Commons NL are in contact with the Dutch Music collecting organisation BUMA/STEMRA, it was impossible to get one of the artists with a BUMA/Stemra contract on the disc, despite their FlexCo project, which promised a more liberal attitude to copyright.

Creative Commons Netherlands was presented in June 2003; since more than 180.000 Dutch licenses have been given out. Worldwide more than one hundred million licenses have been offered.

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Blog Posting Number: 633

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Funeral assistance, even in Second Life

The Amsterdam based funeral company Uitvaart.com has opened virtual offices and a crematorium in Second Life. The company is the first funeral company to settle in Second Life. Uitvaart.com cooperates with Bogra, the largest coffin manufacturer in The Netherlands. Both companies mean that death has a place, even in Second Life. The offices of Uitvaart.com and the crematorium are located in the Gardens of memories of the Tatlina region. Inhabitants of Second Life can start a memorial memento for passed away loved ones from Second Life or real life. In the virtual crematorium there are rooms, which are also present in a real crematorium, such as rooms for urns, the hall and the rooms, where deceased lie in state.

Besides advertising the services of the company, Uitvaart.com offers information about the activities during a funeral, such as terminal care, church services, burials and cremation. But the information concerns also situations like people who die when abroad. In this way the company will offer people suggestions to keep the direction over the event.

Uitvaart.com exploits a number of websites with information on funerals. Condoleance.nl is a memorial site, where a memorial can be erected and where there is a possibility to offer condolences.

You start to wonder why a company like Uitvaart .com takes all the trouble to be present in Second Life. To me there are three reasons. In Second Life people also die; in fact people die faster according to internet speed. Secondly, people can play their own funeral and see the reaction to it from friends (these days a TV format in The Netherlands). Uitvaart.com will like to draw attention to their business and use Second Life for publicity.

Uitvaart.com is one of the latest companies getting active in Second Life. Dutch multinationals like the consumer electronics manufacturer Royal Philips and the bank ABN AMRO. Entertainment company Endemol recently held its first virtual Big Brother broadcast; the winner Madlin Flint won a virtual, uninhabited tropical island. An internet company Evident, based in Utrecht, started to fill vacancies in Second Life. Also the music band Di-rect will perform in Second Life; their performances in a daily life studio will be imitated virtually.

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Blog Posting Number: 632

Friday, January 12, 2007

Between the PC and You is 25 years

In 1981 the US magazine Time proclaimed the PC as the Man of the Year Year. IBM had barely launched the industrial standard with the hardware and had invited Microsoft to deliver the operating software MS-DOS. In 2006 the same magazine elected You, the internet user, as the Time Person of the Year, thanks to the social networking and video services. It had taken a quarter of a century for hardware and software to become part of the cultural pattern of people.

This thought of a 25 years gap between the praise for the machine and the praise for the user struck when I had a talk with Hans Sleurink, publisher of Media-Update Newservice and Business Publications. He associated the thought immediately with a lecture he presented in 1999 about ICT, a matter of economic/cultural importance (strike out what is irrelevant). He told in short that so far politicians have always reacted to new technologies in terms of new jobs and economic stimulation plans. And politicians usually add, that Europe is behind the US. So, the reasoning goes: as long as we throw money to the new technology, we will create more jobs. And of course this approach does not work as it is technologically and economically oriented. We often forget the culture component. Not the arts or Culture with a capital is meant, but as the English say ‘the lower culture’. In other words, everything that people make, think and know and the way in which they get aware of their feelings and give shape to their acting. The realisation that technology is part of culture is often lacking.

Hans Sleurink points than to a survey of René Mayer, who performed a study for the European Commission. His assignment was to research the most important problems in the electronic market. Mayer came of course with the list of well-known problems such as language differences, the various legislatures. But on top of the list he put another problem:

The first handicap is an ideological one. Deeply marked by the industrial revolution on which it rose to the summit of its power, Europe remains attached to a very materialistic conception of economics. Historically, the first European institution was the Coal and Steel Community. Coals and steel could be touched, measured, weighed and quantified. Information, on the other hand, is an abstract good whose value economists have not learned to appreciate.
(Impact II. Mid-term evaluation: for an information strategy. Doc. IMPACT/44/93)

Mayer says that the European perception of what economically is valued (material matters) prevents that we can make profitable use of the digital technology (immaterial values). So it is no wonder that Europe lags. Had we incorporated culture into our European lifestyles, we would be more ahead in the game.

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Blog Posting Number: 631

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Watch out for the silver tsunami

I recently wrote about media time consumption in The Netherlands and noted that seniors are one more hour online since 2006. They now spend 3,1 hours online over against 2,1 hours last year. The editors of the Dutch magazine Emerce dived into the statistics of Stir and studied the internet habits of seniors. Now they use internet mostly for e-mailing. But once they have passed this phase in the internet experience curve, the question will be whether they start joining social networks?

BTW I am a silver surfer who turned 62 a few days ago. I have been online (professionally) since 1980. I have banked electronically since 1986. I blog daily since May 1, 2005.

Not in every country the number of silver surfers in The Netherlands will become a tsunami. When I was in Beijing in 2005 I learned that only 0,6 percent of the Chinese population is older than 60 years. In the Netherlands one quarter of the population will be older than 50+ by 2010. This wave is a permanent subject of discussion especially when it is linked with social security. But as a target group on internet they will become a most interesting segment to address as they have free time on their hands and they have money.

In comparison with young surfers seniors are still lagging behind in the internet experience curve. Presently 50+ people spend almost 80 percent of their internet time on e-mail, while young people spent 40 percent of their online time on funsurfing, gaming, online shopping, chatting and videostreams. Seniors in The Netherlands spend 20 to 30 percent of their online time on these past times. Also in electronic banking seniors are lagging; only 62 percent are banking electronically.

But the segment of seniors is growing fast in numbers and in time spent on the internet, certainly with the competitive availability of ADSL. Where do the seniors go on internet? Do they flee into the safe arms of providers who cater for seniors only or are they joining general networks?

In The Netherlands the first provider for senior groups was SeniorWeb. The network was set up to help the senior online with their computer. Elsewhere in the world there are senior websites such as ThirdAge and 50something. The website Eons makes it clear that it is for fifty plus people only.

But there are also seniors who just join social networks such as MySpace, Second Life and Hyves. On the Dutch site Marketingfacts I read that MySpace (now also available in France) has six million senior members on the 125 registered members; last year they had only 1,5 million senior members (statistics from comScore). The popular network Bebo in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand with 29 million members sees the average age climb monthly.

As the silver tsunami rolls in over the coming years not only in The Netherlands, but also in Germany and France, it will be interesting to see where seniors do go. As said seniors have time and money and they live longer than they used to do. As they become versatile with computers they will spend more time on internet and moist likely on gaming online and offline. Games as Brain Training by Dr Kasashima, Big Brain Academy and English Training on Nintendo will be just a few of the collection.

But I think that providers will have to dive into the habits of seniors before offering a special senior site. Seniors have an extensive network of family, relatives, friends and former colleagues. Especially with their children and grand children they like to stay in touch. Skype like services will be needed badly, especially easy to use ones. Do they want to belong to a network like MySpace, Hyves or Xinq? I guess that they like networks where they can start their family site with communication facilities, blogs and vlogs. They want to communicate with their kids, grand children and friends all over the world and show their latest photographs and movies and write about their latest trips.

PS Tsunamis have the habit of retreating, eventually.

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Blog Posting Number: 630

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

No, not again those merger rumours

With a fresh year ahead, private equity seems to be looking again for victims. Last year VNU was taken off the stock exchange and acquired by the private equity firm Falcon. The first half year results were disappointing for the performance, but this year the results should be better than under the old VNU management. I personally doubt this. The company might pick up extra revenues from the sale of the European Business Publications.





Last Friday Reed Elsevier made its highest profit on the stock exchange in two years. It immediately triggered rumours of a merger between Reed Elsevier and Wolters Kluwer. It would be the third time that these two Dutch companies would attempt a merger. First there was a hostile attempt by Reed Elsevier in the eighties, In1997/98 there was a second attempt, but this time the European Commission put such conditions to the merger that it was not interesting. Now there is rumoured to be a third attempt, which is denied by both companies.

Both companies together would be worth 21 billion euro, of which 6,9 billion euro for Wolters Kluwer. The CEO of Wolters Kluwer has been the company in shape, making it lean and mean and ready to grow in the legal sector, while selling off the educational division. Reed Elsevier has improved its performance and is now also looking at strategy again, by putting Reed Elsevier Business up for sale.

These sales options feed the speculations as the companies would go on the next track in their strategy. Reed Elsevier would concentrate more on scientific publications and Wolters Kluwer on law and accountancy publications as well as medical publications and services. This would make a very profitable combination.

Against the rumours speak the present sales of the business section by Reed Elsevier and the educational section by Wolters Kluwer. Reed Elsevier is understood not to be interested in the educational division of Wolters Kluwer. SanomaWSOY Group, Pearson en Lagardère are said to be interested as well as private equity groups. 3i still has the ex VNU educational division Malmberg in their portfolio. A merger could be interesting. The business section of Reed Elsevier would be a perfect fit for VNU Business Publications; so private equity will most likely pick it up.

The merger of Reed Elsevier and Wolters Kluwer would have been the final play in the Dutch publishers’ leap in the international publishing world. From 1980 onwards all three Dutch companies, VNU, Elsevier and Kluwer, started to get their toes into international waters. VNU survived till last year, when it was acquired by private equity. Elsevier merged with Reed and has been growing since, leaving the newspaper and consumer sector of publishing, while Wolters Kluwer left the newspaper. Reed Elsevier tried to grow in the legal sector, while Wolters Kluwer moved into the direction of health. But both companies were ready for the digital world, but not for trading on internet. But now they are growing towards each other, almost making a perfect fit.

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Blog Posting Number: 629

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Book gadgets

A few days ago I saw an announcement from Nokia that it now has a tiny memory card which can be slotted into a mobile phone. Nothing special I thought. But the rumble and sound made around it was different from the usual kettle music. The tiny card can store up to five audio versions of lengthy novels. This sounded more exciting; instead of walking around with a bulgy Sony Walkman and audio CDs, you have them now stored on a memory card. A question, which keeps lingering in the back of my mind, is, whether this card will hold also music. From the press release this is unclear, but it mentions theta the technology was originally developed to store music.

It is interesting to see that Nokia addresses the subject of audio books. In the UK audio books turn over almost 100 million euro, while in the US the teller just reaches above 600 million euro. So audio books are becoming an interesting market. And being able to slot a card with five audio books into your mobile , guarantees you a nice trip.

But there is more news coming up from Nokia as it will release another tablet, the Nokia N800. From the press releases and the first photographs of CES it looks to be an all-round tablet, which can be used for internet, as a navigator in a car and even as a games display for the backseats in a car. It is interesting to see that Nokia does not go back to an earlier idea of 2000 of offering books. But Nokia is not a publisher or an audio and/or electronic book distributor. Perhaps the audio books might draw the company into it.

While on the gadget of tablets, I also saw in the mountain of press releases, that Bill Gates demonstrated the new operating system Vista on the smallest hand held computer OQO (see video). I have been following the development of this device, being a gadget freak without a purse. From what I see, I think that it is a smart looking device. But of course, you have to try it out. Again I would like to test it on electronic books. But I would also like to test its WiFi facility; would love to see how Skype would work on this. The price is high, but compared to a laptop with the same specs it is not that expensive.

The conclusion is clear that publishers and book distributors should create a proper infrastructure in order to capture this market while it is opening up. Of course the help of a giant like Nokia could help.

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Blog Posting Number: 628