Saturday, November 19, 2011

BPN 1886: EC Commissioner Neelie Kroes on copyright

On November 19, Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for the Digital Agenda, held a speech at the Forum d'Avignon in the historical city of Avignon in France on the issue of copyright. Besides the text of the speech, video-interviews are available.

Who feeds the artist?
The creative sector is a unique source for growth, both economic and social. And it's something we do well in Europe. The current winner of the Oscar for Best Picture; the bestselling album in the US this year; 7 out of the last 10 winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature: what do they have in common? They all come from the EU.
This is essential to our image abroad, and essential to our economic future. And if we want it to stay this way, we must be able to support those who create art. We must be concerned about the fate of Europe's struggling artists and creators. Art feeds the soul. But who feeds the artist?
Often, this debate focuses on copyright, especially enforcing copyright. But this isn't the whole story.
For a moment, let's take a step back from the tools, and remember what we are trying to achieve. Legally, we want a well-understood and enforceable framework. Morally, we want dignity, recognition and a stimulating environment for creators. Economically, we want financial reward so that artists can benefit from their hard work and be incentivised to create more.
I am an unconditional supporter of these objectives.
But let's ask ourselves, is the current copyright system the right and only tool to achieve our objectives? Not really, I'm afraid. We need to keep on fighting against piracy, but legal enforceability is becoming increasingly difficult; the millions of dollars invested trying to enforce copyright have not stemmed piracy. Meanwhile citizens increasingly hear the word copyright and hate what is behind it. Sadly, many see the current system as a tool to punish and withhold, not a tool to recognise and reward.
Speaking of economic reward: if that is the aim of our current copyright system, we're failing here too.
1000 euros a month is not much to live off. Often less than the minimum wage. But most artists, and not only the young ones at the early stages of their career, have to do so. Half the fine artists in the UK, half the "professional" authors in Germany, and, I am told, an incredible 97.5% of one of the biggest collecting society's members in Europe, receive less than that paltry payment of 1000 euros a month for their copyright works. Of course, the best-paid in this sector earn a lot, and well done to them. But at the bottom of the pyramid are a whole mass of people who need independent means or a second job just to survive.
This is a devastatingly hard way to earn a living. The crisis will only make this worse, as public and private spending on arts, so often seen as discretionary, feels the squeeze. This must be a worry to one of the most valuable and unique sectors in Europe: it is certainly a worry to me.
We need to go back to basics and put the artist at the centre, not only of copyright law, but of our whole policy on culture and growth. In times of change, we need creativity, out-of-the-box thinking: creative art to overcome this difficult period and creative business models to monetise the art. And for this we need flexibility in the system, not the straitjacket of a single model. The platforms, channels and business models by which content is produced, distributed and used can be as varied and innovative as the content itself.
ICT can help here. In all sorts of sectors, ICT can help artists connect with their audience, directly and cheaply. And it can help audiences find and enjoy material that suits their specific needs, interests and tastes.
And ICT can help in other ways too, supporting a system of recognition and reward. A Global Repertoire database to find out what belongs to whom. Tracking technologies, to permit a totally transparent process for artists and intermediaries to find out who is looking at what artwork when and to distribute revenues accordingly. Digitisation, to make artworks available for instant transmission to distant fans.
Look at Cloud computing: it presents a totally new way of purchasing, delivering and consuming cultural works - music, books, films - which will certainly raise new questions about how licensing should function in an optimal way.
It's not just about technology: smart legislation can help, too. We need to find the right rules, the right model to feed art, and feed artists. We need the legal framework to be flexible. This is my recipe, my commandment, my bumper-sticker to nurture creation. The digital world changes quickly, and if allowed to do so can permit creativity in all stages of the chain. So we shouldn't prescribe a particular model, but set a framework allowing many new models to flourish.
In particular, we should make it as easy as possible to license, not obstruct that process while making sure that the system efficiently secures the interests of artists themselves. This is what we are doing at the Commission with our future legislative proposal on collective rights management.
But as I said, it's not only about copyright legislation. Take tax, for example. Isn't it just common-sense to think that eBooks should benefit from the same reduced VAT rates as physical books? The legal regime – the EU's own, I admit – makes it illegal to do that. Not just discouraged, but illegal. Personally, I find this very difficult to explain. Thankfully, my colleague Algirdas Semeta is preparing a new strategy on VAT. This subject will certainly be debated.
Another example is the audiovisual industry. I know how important "windowing" is for the industry under current business models and I don't want to take decisions for the business, it's not my job. As new ways of watching films develop in the market, binding legislation dictating the sequence and period of release windows seems inflexible – and may make it harder, not easier, to provide and purchase content legally.
A system of rewarding art, in all its dimensions, must be flexible and adaptable enough to cope with these new environments. Or else we will kill innovation and damage artists' interests.
These are just a few examples of rigid legislation from the pre-digital era. There are many new ideas out there – ideas, for example, like extended collective licensing as practised in Scandinavia, or other ideas that seek to both legitimise and monetise certain uses of works. Are these ideas the right ones to achieve our goals? I don't know. But too often we can't even try them out because of some old set of rules made for a different age – whether it is the Berne Convention, the legislation exceptions and limitations on the VAT Directive or some other current law. So new ideas which could benefit artists are killed before they can show their merit, dead on arrival. This needs to change.
I can't set out for you now what the model should be and indeed it's not the kind of model that should be developed from the centre. Rather we need to create a framework in which a model – or indeed several models – can develop organically, flexibly, in ways that support artists.
I see how some European stakeholders see with horror the arrival of Netflix, or the expansion of iTunes. We need to react, not to be paralysed by fear. Let's take chances. As Zygmunt Bauman put it, "the function of culture is not to satisfy existing needs, but to create new ones".
So that's my answer: it's not all about copyright. It is certainly important, but we need to stop obsessing about that. The life of an artist is tough: the crisis has made it tougher. Let's get back to basics, and deliver a system of recognition and reward that puts artists and creators at its heart.
Let's not wait for a financial crisis in the creative sector to happen to finally adopt the right tools to tackle it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

BPN 1585 Digital Media - Shifting Landscapes

This report of the European Academy of Digital Media Networking Conference Report in Graz on November 10, 2011 was written by Nico Meissner for JMP Screenworks. He gratefully gave permission to copy it on Buziaulane.

The European Academy of Digital Media’s Networking Conference 2011 took place in Graz, Austria, on 10 November. This year's conference followed the theme 'Digital Media - Shifting Landscapes: Embracing change, enhancing learning, innovating the future'. Most of the 17 presentations on this intense day looked at how digital media should be, can and is used for educational purposes.

The conference was set in the context of the World Summit Youth Award Festival - an inspiring global contest that promotes and celebrates young entrepreneurs from all over the world who use digital media to make a positive change in line with the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

The conference’s first panel was opened by Nico Meißner's (Salford) talk 'Preparing Students for a Professional Life in the Digital Age: a call to include entrepreneurial skills into the media production curriculum'. Meißner demonstrated the enterprising opportunities digital media provides and criticised that HE media production courses in the UK, largely, ignore those developments, therefore dismissing a critical skill set for students’ career development in today’s digital age. In an act of brilliant scheduling, Dan Livingstone (Plymouth) followed with his talk 'Interactive Systems Studio: Gamification and tangental learning'. What Meißner had polemically demanded for the field of media production, Livingstone showed possible in the field of game design - enterprise as a central aspect of the BSc Computing & Games Development at the University of Plymouth. For instance, students have to upload their first year games to online portals. Half of the mark depends on the feedback they receive from the games community. Students will also exhibit their games at trade shows (alongside industry giants like Nintendo). At the end of the course, five students will be given the chance to work for the School's commercial arm Interactive Systems Studio.

Alfredo Ronchi (Politecnico Milano) highlighted the fact that today's teachers are 'digital immigrants' who try to teach 'digital natives'. He called for a partial re-training of the trainers in order to continue to reflect market knowledge and demands in curricula. Gregor Cholewa's (Research Studio Austria) talk on 'Microlearning' completed the first session. Cholewa introduced the delegates to KnowledgePulse a digital microlearning application that allows teachers to integrate learning into the technological devices their students use.

After a short break, Walter Nagler (Graz) presented another use of digital technology in learning: podcasting. Nagler recorded almost 1,500 lectures since 2006. The recordings are indexed and therefore enable students to easily find the topics they are looking for.

James Norwood (Lillebaelt Academy) presented a fascinating example of including entrepreneurship into the curriculum. InnoEvent is a one week workshop. Industry partners will present students with problems they are facing in their work. Student groups will then think about possible solutions and put them into practice by developing prototypes. In 2011, eight of the developed 24 solutions were turned into commercial products.

The second morning session was concluded by Arnau Gifreu Castells' (Vic) 'proposed use of the interactive documentary in the field of education'. Castells argued that interactive documentaries are a useful resource in the classroom as they are half-way between learning and entertainment, providing information in an entertaining way, engaging students and allowing them to actively participate and even add content to the learning material.

The afternoon sessions saw a number of interesting talks on culture, media and the digital by Vytautas Zalys (Siauliai) on 'The attitude towards music and feelings of safety', Kosta Gouliamos (Cyprus) on 'Digital culture and digital politics/democracy', Jak Boumans (EADiM) on digital media archaeology, using the example of new media history in the Netherlands (from ASCII to the Internet) and Peter Tomaz Dobrila (Maribor) on 'Open Source Art in Information Society’. Melissa Lee Price (Bucks New) talked in her presentation 'Viral or Social Friends?' about changing customer behaviours in the games industry, moving away from serious games and towards social gaming on platforms like Facebook. Following that, Richard Vickers (Lincoln) introduced his interactive documentary project

Suzanne Stein (Ontario) presented her fascinating Graduate Foresight Studio, where students develop rich dossiers of possible future scenarios in different markets. Innovations are created by forecasting the future – a technique that differs from the action based approaches Livingstone, Norwood and George Schneider (Trier) presented. The latter in his talk on a practical learning example that saw students combining architecture and interactive media installation, and exhibiting their completed work at the German Horticultural Show.

The day's papers came full circle with Gyorgyi Retfalvi (Budapest) and Albert van deer Kooij's (Academy of Pop Culture) talk 'Island CQ: Practice based learning via multi- and social media tools', arguing that education must change in order to reflect today's practice-based, entrepreneurial and networked business world. Retfalvi and van deer Kooij used the example of their joint glocal journalism project Island GQ, which brings together Hungarian and Dutch students to work on real world journalism assignments.

The final presentation of the day saw Vladimir Burcik (Bratislava), Ferdinand Chrenka (Bratislava) and Jon Radermacher (Pittsburg) joining forces in a video conference, talking about their joint 'design project supported by online technology'. In this project, teleconferencing was used to teach students in the USA and Slovakia. Students from both countries worked together on design problems, communicating, collaborating and later sharing results - all via the Internet. This is a powerful example of teaching students intercultural competencies, lingual skills, communication skills, problem solving and digital media skills in an international, practice-based way.

After the conference, most delegates followed an invitation to the World Summit Youth Awards’ opening night, where, in the modern and lavish environment of the ORF (the Austrian public broadcaster), the Award winners were presented. A truly inspiring end to a day of discussions on how digital media influences learning and innovation - here demonstrated in perfection by young entrepreneurs who used the opportunities digital media provided them with in order to have a positive impact on their natural, social, economical or political environments, therefore making a strong case to further embrace digital media in teaching and learning.

A book entitled Digital Media - Shifting Landscapes with most of the papers presented will be published by Springer/Gabler by March 2012. Stay tuned for its publication on Buziaulane.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

BPN 1884: EADiM ‐ Academic Network Conference 2011

Thursday 10th November 2011, 09:00 - 18:00
Location: University of Graz

Digital Media ‐ Shifting Landscapes:

Embracing change, enhancing learning, innovating the future.


08:30 - 09:00 Registration & Coffee

09:00 - 09:30 Welcome Note by Peter A. Bruck, Richard Vickers, Cai Melakoski

09:30 - 10: 45 Best practice in teaching & learning
Nico Meißner Preparing Students for a Professional Life in the Digital Age. A call to include
entrepreneurial skills into the media production curriculum
Dan Linvingstone Interactive Systems Studio: Gamification and Tangental Learning
Alfredo Ronchi The “little” digital natives go to school (and university) How teaching and
training methods changed
Gregor Cholewa Microlearning

5‐10 min Coffee Break

11: 00 - 12:15 Research in action/Practice as research: An opportunity for academics to present projects, works and artefacts. Part 1
Walther Nagler Podcast de luxe ‐ Advancements of the automating process for recordings of
lectures at TU Graz
James Norwood InnoEvent
Arnau Gifreu Castells Proposed use of the interactive documentary in the field of education.

12:15 - 13:00 Lunch

13: 00 - 15:00 Research in action/Practice as research: An opportunity for academics to present projects, works and artefacts. Part 2
Suzanne Stein Graduate Foresight Studio
Peter Tomaž Dobrila Open Source Art in Information Society
Bruno Jacobfeuerborn Information & Communication: Technologies for Boosting New Educational
Georg Schneider Treehugger A holistic approach, combining architecture and interactive
media installation

5‐15 min Coffee Break

15:15 - 17:15 Social media and participation culture
Vytautas Zalys The attitude towards music and feeling of safety
Kosta Gouliamos Digital culture and digital politics/democracy
Jak Boumans Digital media archaeology
Melissa Lee Price Viral or Social Friends? "I want to build relationships while playing a game. I
want to meet real people."
Richard Vickers 24‐ Tampere – participation and the democratisation of
Gyorgyi Retfalvi + Albert van der Kooij Island CQ: Practice based learning via multi‐ and social media tools

17:15 Skype Presentation from Pittsburg /USA:
Vladimír Burčík, Ferdinand Chrenka, Jon Radermacher Design project supported by online technology

18:00 End

Friday, November 04, 2011

BPN 1583: Dutch digital pioneer Pierre Vinken died

On Friday November 4th, 2011 Dr Pierre Vinken died at the age of 83 years. In most obituaries he will be remembered for bringing Elsevier to a merger with Reed. I would like to remember him as the pioneer of the digitisation of information in the publishing industry.
In my Dutch languagebook  Toen digitale media nog nieuw waren – Pre-internet in de polder (1967-1997) about the Pre-internet period in the Netherlands, more than a page is devoted to his pioneering.
Beside his job as a neuro-surgeon in the Academic Hospital in Leiden, Pierre Vinken worked at Ëxcerpta Medica, an international publishing company of ‘abstracts’ in the medical field. The publishing company had a fixed staff of 54 medical specialists who were responsible for 35 ‘abstract’ magazines and reference works. The editorial staff produced summaries of bio-medical articles and provided key words. In the mid sixties the archive contained more than 1,3 million English language ‘abstracts and a multiple number of key words. Besides the original articles were copied for back-up.
DrPierre Vinken was in 1966 appointed as the managing director of Excerpta Medica. He realised that the production process was hardly efficient. It was the start of developing new and big plans for the magazine portfolio. One point was the expansion of the number of ‘abstract’s’.
A summary was not intended just for one magazine, but usually was published in more than one magazine. In practice this meant that an article was retyped, including key words and again typeset. Vinken also strived after quality and especially in complete consistency of the key words, which were controlled by a thesaurus, called malimet (Master List of Medical Terms). Given these two area, Vinken judged that the complete production process should be computerised. Shrewd as he was, he did not want to have a larger production of magazines and expand his typing room. In fact he wanted more production and less people.
In his job as neuro-surgeon he saw the hospital information system being developed by Dr A.R. Bakker. For him this was the occasion to have a study performed and an inventory of technical specifications made. This was in 1967.  However the system that was sketched, did not exist. So Vinken started to look for a computer expert, which he found in Frans van der Walle, a air plane engineer. He advised him to acquire a computer system of four linked NCR 135 machines. This was the signal to start up a technical company next to Excerpta Medica for developing the software and running the production processes.  Under the name Infonet, the system house started to make shadow production runs in 1968. By 1969 the system was implemented started to realise significant savings, while the portfolio was expanded with magazines for even more smaller niche markets. With the knowledge gained Infonet was able to grow as a software company also working for third parties. In the Netherlands it developed a general encyclopedia system for Het Spectrum, a VNU subsidiary, and the national library system PICA, now sold to OCLC.
Being the first publishing house with such a production system and working in the medical sector, the company was an attractive addition for a scientific publishing house. So by 1972 Excerpta Medica was acquired by Elsevier which was a general publishing company with consumer books and magazines as well as business and scientific information products.  Vinken was accepted to the board of directors and started to sell consumer magazines and books and concentrate on a professional information company. By 1974 Excerpta Medica started to offer its magazines electronically, either by magnetic reel or online services like Dialog and BRS. One of the major feats was the acquisition of Lexis-Nexis in 1994, a launching platform for electronic publishing. Eventually Vinken led Elsevier to a reciprocal merger with the British Reed Company. In 1999 he took leave from Elsevier. The company had become the most important provider of business and scientific information.

Pierre Vinken (right) next to Neelie Kroes, deputy minister for Traffic and Water works, during the launch of the Dutch node of the European network EURONET*DIANE in 1980. (photograph © NBBI Archief)