Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Let’s Get Creative: Support CC

This year marks the fifth anniversary of Creative Commons, the non-profit dedicated to giving creators greater control of their content, extending options not offered by the traditional copyright scheme. One of the primary reasons that CC continues to exist is extensive community acceptance and support. Last week I received an impressively printed, personally signed letter from Creative Commons CEO Lawrence Lessig, (who alongside HH Dalai Lama, shares the spot of my hero on MySpace!) asking for support for the third annual fundraising campaign. (Disclaimer: yes, I now work for CC Australia, cause I love the movement so much!)

If you value your freedom, your creative verve, your ability to do your own thing, please help us celebrate the past 5 years of Creative Commons, and plant the seeds for another 5, by helping us grow the commons in 5 ways:

1. Use CC

* Use 5 CC licensed works.

2. Grow CC

* License 5 new works.

3. Spread CC

* Feature this online campaign on your blog or podcast to help us reach new audiences.

* Send CC Staff your story of why you support CC so we can compile and share them with the world (CC licensed of course).

4. Connect CC

* Introduce 5 new people to Creative Commons.

5. Sustain CC

* By giving 50% more than your previous gift to this campaign, you will help us sustain CC’s core functioning for the next year.

Of course, you can also enter the way cool schwag competition too! I know I intend to :-)

Share your creative wealth!!
Welcome to a new world where collaboration rules!

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Red Cross Against Its Name: Johnson & Johnson

This week Brisbane’s street press mX picked up a story which has been causing me considerable consternation since August: American medicinal manufacturer Johnson & Johnson is suing the American Red Cross for trademark violations over their use of the red cross symbol (left: image from Flickr user Newell the Jewell, under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0). Initially reported in the New York Times on 9 August 2007, the suit contends that the extension of the American Red Cross’s product line into emergency preparedness and grooming kits violates a long-standing agreement between the parties. The disagreement centres around the entrée into the market of third parties licensed by the American Red Cross who are selling, inter alia, humidifiers, medical examination gloves, nail clippers, combs and toothbrushes, which is deemed to be pushing the boundaries of what a not-for-profit can undertake, in that they compete directly with the J&J product line. The agreement between ARC and J&J dates back to 1895, when J&J was granted the exclusive use of the trademark for ‘chemical, surgical and pharmaceutical goods of every description’.

The president of the ARC, Mark Everson, is reported to have commented that these actions were ‘obscene’ and were such that ‘J & J can make more money,’ and felt that these were bullying tactics towards the non-profit. J&J retorted that they had the ‘highest regard for the American Red Cross and its mission’, and that the action was lamentable, but nevertheless necessary to protect the brand.

As with taking Creative Commons to court, this is an instance of where suing non-profits isn’t a smart move, if we are to appeal to the economic imperative. Certainly, this litigation can help draw lines in the sand as to what is legally acceptable. What it doesn’t do is bolster what is ethically acceptable. Take a minute to read the history of the American Red Cross. Its charter, as endorsed by Congress, is to be active in times of domestic and international disaster relief, and to assist prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. When a corporation confronts these noble aims arguing its right to turn a profit, it can only come off worse.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

All About the Attribution? Dump That Idea!

According to the Associated Press, a lawsuit filed in Dallas yesterday has named Virgin Mobile USA and its Australian counterpart, Virgin Mobile Australia, as defendants in a charge of libel and invasion of privacy of Allison Chang, who was unknowingly featured in an Australian advertising campaign ‘Are You With Us Or What?’. Captioned ‘Dump Your Penfriend’, the Virgin billboards and Website ads are alleged to have caused the Texas teenager grief and humiliation.

Interestingly, the suit names Creative Commons, the Massachusetts-chartered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable corporation, as a co-defendant in the action, given that Virgin has been able to use the images because of CC licensing available on the Flickr website, where the image (titled ‘alison for peace’) is hosted. (It is to be noted that the image is now licensed under full copyright, although prior CC terms will persist.) The suit argues that Virgin Australia has not properly acknowledged the photographer, Justin Ho-Wee Wong, on its advertising, thereby not complying with the ‘BY’ attribution terms. As can be seen in a copy of the billboard also hosted on Flickr, there has been attribution made to the stream: http://flickr.com/photos/chewywong. Discussion has ensued about whether individuals should be informed that images are being used under CC, whether model release forms should be sought, and moral rights accrue to those photographed. Fundamentally, the mistake being made here is that this is NOT a copyright issue. It is an issue of defamation, and in certain jurisdictions, privacy. (See Lawrence Lessig's and Joi Ito's posts about the differentiation.) CC is not a scheme which contends with issues other than copyright. However, this will again be a major decision for the success of the flexible copyright scheme, as CC is alleged to be accountable for the actions of advertisers seeking to abide by their terms.

Creators may now come to question licensing under CC, as they may fear where their images ‘end up’. It is an unfortunate episode that the IP and issues of identity have been conflated. More commentary to come as Virgin Australia responds to the charges. In the interim, see more discussion on Slashdot, and on Flickr Central, where photographers are debating the merits of licensing.