Posts on Creative Commons

April 13, 2007

Google's New Personalized Maps a Threat to Map Mashup Startups
Category: Creative Commons

google maps

Startup companies where Google's services are central live dangerously. Today Google launched customisable maps, with an aggregation and social filtering. Companies like

which offer maps of interesting places submitted and reviewed by their community observe with apprehension. Google has only introduced a simple sharing function for the maps; social aggregation and filtering or tagging are, so far, absent.

Google should offer assurances to companies collaborating and cooperating through Google's web services and APIs. Google should signal it will refrain from entering their space, otherwise Google's open commons community, and crowdsourcing ecosystem will vanish.

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November 6, 2006

Judge Rules P2P Music Dowload Legal
Category: Creative Commons

Judge Paz Aldecoa of number three criminal court in Santander, Spain, has ruled innocent the defendant charged with downloading music from the internet. The music industry association was demanding a two year prison term, but the Judge has taken a "what nonsense is this?" stance; she ruled that the practice is not criminal since no monetary gain involved, and the download was covered by the right to private copy.

The defendant, J.M.L.H, 48 years old was arrested for downloading music albums through several different systems, and for offering in exchange music he already possessed. He took part in conversations with this aim using chat and email. The facts of the case prove he offered and swapped music with other internet users at no price. The plaintiff, "The Spanish Phonographic and Videographic Association (Afyve), and the Spanish Association of Entertainment Software Distributors and Editors (Adeses), demanded a two year sentence, €7200 fine plus damages of €18361 in the first case, with further damages to be decided by the two associations later.

Judge Paz Aldecoa, deemed that for a case of Intellectual property theft to exist, monetary gain should be involved; a fact absent from this case.

"Neither price nor other compensations other than the swapping of material amongst the various parties were present in this case. And in my judgment, this is enters the purvue of article 31 of the Intellectual Property Law which allows that obtaining copies for private use without the authorization of authors; as long as their is no illicit aim to obtain monetary gain." [Free translation]

Judge Paz Aldecoa concludes her reasoning assuring that, without the monetary gain, the facts of the accusation do not constitute an infraction that warrants criminal sentencing.

[Via Una juez de Santander sentencia que descargar música por Internet no es delito |]

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October 27, 2006

Open Source Browser Firefox Upgrade Released

firefox 2

Mozilla foundation has just released a major update to Firefox, Microsoft's biggest browser competitor.

The new firefox version is available for free here. The speed at which it displays pages has increased, and it improves the tabs used to view many web pages in one browser window. Microsoft has copied the tab feature in its latest release of Internet Explorer.

The open license Firefox is claimed to have close to 15% of the browser market, while Microsoft's market share has declined by 10% in the last year, as shown in the Google Trend graph below Microsoft Internet Explorer, Firefox

firefox IE trend

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October 23, 2006

Judge Denies Bulk Emailers Motion Against Spamhaus

spamhaus anti-spam

Following on from Illinois Courts verdict against anti-spamming organization, Spamhaus, Judge Charles Kocoras has rejected the bulk emailer's motion to shutdown the domain. The shutdown was deemed "too broad to be warranted in this case", and that unproportional effects could be caused by suspending Spamhaus' service.

In a Court statement, Kocoras said,

"The suspension would cut off all lawful online activities of Spamhaus via its existing domain name, not just those that are in contravention of this Court's order."

"While we will not condone or tolerate noncompliance with a valid order of this court, neither will we impose a sanction that does not correspond to the gravity of the offending conduct,"

The amount of spam being stopped through Spamhaus' widely used ROCSO spammer list tops 50 billion messages a day. The estimate is based on the spam filtered by ISP and webmail services using the ROCSO list of spammer IP addresses. Suspension of Spamhaus' ROCSO service would seriously jepordize internet's anti-spam infrastructure.

The bulk email defendant was dissappointed by the rejection of one of his motions. e360 chief David Linhardt branded Spamhaus as "a fanatical, vigilante organisation that operates in the United States with blatant disregard for US law".

Meanwhile the rest of the interent community stands relieved by the courts accounting for the international context of the case. The case continues.

[Via SecuriTeam Blogs » Spamhaus Update: Judge Denies e360’s Requested Relief

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September 25, 2006

Google Looses Case on Fair Use Against Online Newspapers
Category: Creative Commons

Google Belgium Order
The look of this morning. The belgium courts have favored the press association to protect the online newspaper sites against the theft of copy right material by Google. Google news has been found guilty of printing the headline and an extract of news items from belgium online newspapers. The court has deemed said action to be an infringement of the online newspapers copyright terms, concluding it is outside any "fair-use" usage.

The court clearly does not understand that

  • the online newspapers are liberally rewarded with a huge influx of traffic from Google
  • small quotes appearing on Google are great PR and marketing for the newspapers
  • the material published is a very small fraction of the material in each article

The belgium court in question is clearly a copyright and trademark stalwart, not even allowing for a small quotation of the copyright material. Quite the opposite of the creative commons licence models.

It remains to be seen whether the papers are actually advantaged by being excluded from the Google search engine, which dominates European internet traffic. After all the "fair-use terms" of copyright material were designed into the law for the benefit of both authors and the community.

UPDATE 04th October 2006

Rachel Whetstone, European Director of Communications and Public Affairs, blogs an update on the About the Google News case in Belgium, stating that

...if publishers don’t want their websites to appear in search results (most do) the robots.txt standard (something that webmasters understand) enables them to prevent automatically the indexing of their content. It's nearly universally accepted and honoured by all reputable search engines.

Rachel deems a court case is unnecessary to settle exclusion from the index, or financial payment for use of newspaper content. The case will be settled on the 24th of November.

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September 5, 2006

Microsoft Loosing its Lock on the Office Software Market


The Open Document movement, from the OASIS industry consortium, is slowly but surely wresting Microsoft's market dominance in word and spreadsheet applications. The Oasis consortium is formed by government and public institutions around the world, as well as software vendors that commit to public licenses.

Governments all over the world are starting to demand a common open standard for their documents, such that they are no longer limited to using Microsoft's Word and Excel applications. The idea is that documents are stored in an open public domain format, such that anybody can write a program to process the document; all software vendors can compete in providing a word and spreadsheet applications.

open office

Best of all, the open source suite of office applications, are free to use. The office suite includes word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, vector drawing, and database components. It is available for any platform, including Linux and Microsoft.

The commonwealth of Massachusetts leads the push to make an open document format obligatory. WIth so much pressure Microsoft has had to respond and open its proprietary binary document formats. The first step has been to set up its own XML-based file formats, and granting a conditional public license for its use; its Office Open-XML standard. The downside of the standard is that it is taylored for Microsoft Office Suite, in addition to a license prohibiting some competitors from using it.

In the most recent breakthrough, Microsoft has announced it will also support the Open Document Format (ODF). Thus Microsoft Office documents will be open to other applications, like the free free editors and spreadsheet software, opening Microsoft up to huge market pressure.

Open Document Standard Fight Continues

The development of the document standards has been accompanied by strong debate. One the one hand figureheads from Microsoft, like Brian Jones, who is a leading player in the Microsoft Office team, and developers at IBM and SUN who are part of the Oasis and openoffice partners.


In spite of the continuing debate over the pros and cons of the two standards, the fact is that Microsoft is having to embrace a public domain format based on the XML, which is the bedrock for the long term commons vision of the web.

[Related entries

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July 31, 2006

Millionaire File-Sharer To Fight Music Industry Law Suit
Category: Creative Commons

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has filed thousands of copyright infringement lawsuits against filer sharers on networks like Kazaa and Napster, who have all accepted to pay damages to avoid going to court.

The recording industry has artfully developed a variation of the "John Doe" lawsuit program that offers plaintiffs the opportunity to settle. After learning the identity of an illegal file sharer through a "John Doe" lawsuit, but prior to amending the complaint to reflect the infringer's name and address, the RIAA offers the opportunity to settle the case before proceeding further with the litigation. So far, all the accused Kazaa and Napster users have had no recourse but to settle, paying $2000-$3000 to the RIAA.

Enter Shawn Hogan.

Shawn is founder and CEO of Digital Point Solutions, and with clients like Disney, he is not short of a buck or two. Last November Shawn got a call from a lawyer at the Motion Pictures Associaiont of America (MPAA), in which he was accused of downloading a film on BitTorrent, another file sharing network. He was given warning that he was to be taken to court unless he paid $2500.

Shawn denied any wrong doing, and has evidence that he had already purchased the DVD in question. After some careful thought, Shawn has decided to set aside a hundred thousand dollars to pursue the case through the courts. Shawn has to countersue and win damages so it sets a legal precident for a class action lawsuit against the MPAA.

The MPAA has responded, "Mr. Hogan has said, he is absolutely going to go to trial, and that is his prerogative" says John G. Malcolm, the MPAA's head of antipiracy. "We look forward to addressing his issues in a court of law".

If Shawn wins the case, the MPAA will have stop its terror campaign on the millions of file-sharers. Morever, they will have to pay damages to many of the people from which they extorted a settlement, typically children, students and pensioners. A heroic deed.

Wired article reported the case as Shawn Hogan Hero. Shawn insists on his blog that he is not a hero, and he directs the thousands of donation offers to the Electronic Frontier Foundation which fights the copyright abuse by the music and film industry.

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July 28, 2006

Google In Skirmish With W3C's World Wide Web Architecture
Category: Creative Commons

The incident ocurred at the annual conference of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) where Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the Internet, got tough questions from Google's Director of Research after his keynote speech. The disagreement was on the Semantic Web, or the future of information on the Internet.

Tim Berners-Lee's proposal of the Semantic Web is, put simply, that each website provide structured information, i.e. a data feed, of its contents. Same as blogs provide RSS files of their information.

Data feeds are becoming increasingly important ways to transferring information. Witness the rise of RSS as a means of transferring news and blog information. Similarly, online ecommerce is reliant on structured product data feeds to transfer information to and from merchants, shopping portals, suppliers and customers.

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of “world wide web” originally conceived the Semantic web vision, an architecture design for the web where data feeds follow a universal standard, and the World Wide Consortium (W3C) is working currently on this under his direction.

The aim of Dr Berner-Lees vision is that all the information on the web be universally machine readable and understandable. Such that generation and processing of ecommerce data feeds, and Gooblebot spidering of the internet, will be disappear and be an automatic part of the internet infrastructure.

Unfortunately, commercial interests are about to intrude on Dr Berner-Lees and the W3C consoritum's work. Already, online retailers are attempting to agree on standards for the product data feeds used to transfer product and price information between suppliers, ecommerce merchants and online shopping portals.

Enter Google and its already heavy investment in data feed standards, namespace and its own Google Semantic Web - Google Base has an intricate semantic definition for its bulk upload feeds.

Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google challenged Dr Berners-Lee over problems with his Semantic Web . Dr Norvig's problem is over cheating and incompetent webmasters:

What I get a lot is: 'Why are you against the Semantic Web?' I am not against the Semantic Web. But from Google's point of view, there are a few things you need to overcome, incompetence being the first," Norvig said. Norvig clarified that it was not Berners-Lee or his group that he was referring to as incompetent, but the general user.

"We deal with millions of Web masters who can't configure a server, can't write HTML. It's hard for them to go to the next step. The second problem is competition. Some commercial providers say, 'I'm the leader. Why should I standardize?' The third problem is one of deception. We deal every day with people who try to rank higher in the results and then try to sell someone Viagra when that's not what they are looking for. With less human oversight with the Semantic Web, we are worried about it being easier to be deceptive," Norvig said.

"While you own the data that's fine, but when somebody breaks and says, 'If you use our enterprise system, we will have all your data in RDF. We care because we've got the best database.' That is much more powerful," Berners-Lee said. To illustrate his stance, he used the example of bookstores initially withholding information on stock levels and purchase price but then breaking them as others did.

Dr. Berners-Lee agreed with Norvig that deception on the Internet is a problem, but he argued that his design for the Semantic Web was complete and also solves the problems of identify the originator of information, and trusted and secure feeds. Dr. Berners-Lee concluded that

"Google is in a situation to do wonderful things, as it did with the Web in general, and add a whole other facet to the graphs--the rules that are testing which data source. It will be a much richer environment

Like it or not, the World Wide Web consortium, will have to keep Google happy with its Internet Information Architecture, as Google is currently the biggest single consumer and provider of information on the Web.

[EUCAP is invested in Enclick Data Feed Service: Enclick data feed service for ecommerce merchants and its shopping portal]

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July 17, 2006

Make a donation to Yellowiki
Category: Creative Commons

Yell Limited have accused Yellowikis of "Passing Off". The largest publisher of yellow pages directories in the world have written to Paul Youlten (co-founder of Yellowikis) saying they believe Yellowikis is

"plainly purporting to be associated with (Yell)" and "this amounts to a misrepresentaion... which may result in third parties associating (Yellowikis) with our client (Yell)" ... "The continued presence in the market of your website will cause substantial damage to (Yell's) good will and reputation".

Yell's solicitors are demanding that:
  • the Yellowikis site is shut down
  • control and ownership of the domain name is passed to Yell
  • compensation is paid to Yell for loss of profits
  • Paul and Rosa agree never to set up another competitor to Yell

In true creative commons style, Rosa & Paul Rousen are raising funds to cover the legal fees to fight's cease and desist threat. As of today, they have covered over £1000 of the £1750 needed to cover.

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July 7, 2006 Threatens to Shutdown Yellowikis
Category: Creative Commons

David versus Goliath story; an example of monster corporation taking advantage of the current pro trademark and copyright legislation to kill off a startup. Picked up from Ross Mayfield's Weblog: Yell Threatens to Shut Down Yellowikis. is already under investigations for monopoly abuse of the directories market in the UK. recently bought TPI, yellow-pages Spain, to maintain market growth in spite of Office of Fair Trading investigations in the UK. The architypal incumbent ex-state monopoly.

Yellowikis is a yellow page service in wiki format. Rosa Blaus suggested to her father, Paul Youlten, that they set up Yellowikis after she noticed small businesses were deleted from Wikipedia for not being "encyclopaedic".Yellowikis has been growing at 8.7% month-on-month and has 494 editors and about 5,000 articles listed.

Yell is demanding that Paul and Rosa close down the website, transfer the domain names to Yell and agree to pay damages to Yell for loss of profits. Yell made $2.4bn in 2005, whereas Yellowikis had a loss of $500. The $500 was used to print T-shirts promoting Yellowikis at the Wikimania conference in Frankfurt.

Yellowiki can argue jurisdiction, since Yellow Pages is not a trademark in the U.S. It is, however, a trademark in the U.K. It would be interesting to see the verdict on geographic jurisdiction from whatever international court arbitrates this case. I hope WIPO does not get involved since, from past experience, they bias towards encumbents.

Given the dubious nature of the case, Paul and Rosa may survive the cease-and-desist and its subsequent arbitration with a little legal help from a Creative Commons institution, and digital rights activitists at the EFF.

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June 17, 2006

Is Google a media or technology company ?

When asked recently, Eric Schmidt's answer to the question was

It's better to think of Google as a technology company. Google is run by three computer scientists, and Google is an innovator in technology in our space. We're in the advertising business, 99% of our revenue is advertising-related. But that doesn't make us a media company. We don't do our own content. We get you to someone else's content faster.

The question is central to many web service companies. What is our core competency ? What is a must for our future ? Are we technical, are we media, or are we marketing & sales deal makers ?

Choosing advertising and selling is extremely tempting. Operationally and day-to-day these skills and departments have the biggest impact on the bottom line.

But time again technology disrupts the market. Your core competency must be in whatever disrupts your market most. One constant, in words of innovation guru Seth Godin, is that safe is risky; you innovate or you die.

For web service companies, it is technology that is disrupting the market. You miss the boat in technology, even when your revenue is from advertising, and you are sunk.

from LA Times inteview of Eric Schmidt.

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May 27, 2006

Tim O'Reilly Don't Be Evil
Category: Creative Commons

Big discussion on the blogosphere surrounding O'Reilly's "web2.0" trademark. Tim O'Reilly prevented a not-for-profit organization using the term "web2.0" in its conference title, alleging trademark infringement. Though the dispute has been settled amicably, the communications from O'Reilly's PR director has been very poor. In, fact my Communications Director would first flay me alive if I committed such a faux-pas, and then redress the damage to the company image a lot more effectively.

The problem is not so much the substance, but the appearance and perception by others of his trademark complaint. Tim is a champion of the hacking community, where commercial aggression is frowned on, and kudos comes from contribution to the commons and intellectual prowess. Tim is in fact a great champion of the patent abuse issues. He wrote Jeff Bezos an open letter complaining about patent abuse with Amazon's one-click purchase patent request.

With such a dominant image among the creative commons community, which is his main customer base, Sara Winge, VP of Corporate Communications, should advice and influence Tim more strongly. In fact, I dont envy Tim's return from holiday. Nevermind the rest of us commenting on his faux-pas; Tim's biggest problem will be Sara Winge taking a baseball bat to his head.

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Creative Commons

Embodies public domain intellectual property and infrastructure, be it music, art, legal licences or souce code. The commons are managed and protected by open licences, like those offered free by open source and creative commons organizations.

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