Just Do It! A ground-breaking film of utmost importance

This blog post is a long time coming and for that I apologise.

Friend and film-maker, Emily James, is working on a ground-breaking film of utmost importance and I would urge you all to check it out. You can watch their latest trailer below:

Called Just Do It, the film follows three organisations, two loose affiliations and one domestic extremist from the streets of London during last year’s G20 protests, north to Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire and even further north to the UN COP 15 climate summit in Copenhagen… with an array of other diverse locations in-between.

It’s a ground-breaking film because the enterprise is entirely crowd-funded with both finance and other resources souced from a wider community – both on and offline. 

This methodology-cum-ethos stems not just from the network effect driven by an Internet-connected community but by a deeper motivation that will ensure the integrity of the project. As the film’s website explains, community-led production:

“embodies the spirit and culture of
the movement that we are portraying. By applying community-led
alternatives to existing production models we encourage the measure of
the film’s success to be defined by how much it contributes to a genuine
cultural shift, rather than by box office takings. We’re making a film
that isn’t commercial, probably wouldn’t be profitable, but nonetheless needs to be made.

Not only that, as well as keeping production community-based, the film’s distribution will also rely entirel;y on the same approach to achieve its objective: to be seen my 1m people in 2011.

To do this the makers have a plan:

“The film will be released under a Creative Commons,
non-commercial license. We will distribute the film via free internet
downloads, free-ish DVDs, film festivals and guerrilla screenings …
This is filmmaking as politics, as well as a film about politics.”

In addition it’s a film of utmost importance as it highlights the work being done by groups and individuals in the UK – and as part of a global network – to address the issue of climate justice.

With global corporations and world governments to tackle man-made climate change following the failure of the COP 15 summit the film is a call to action demonstarting how (extra)ordinary people doing (extra)ordinary things can achieve more than they could imagine possible.

In Emily’s words:

“It urges people not to wait for
others to act on their behalf, but to intervene when they see injustice,
to take action against all odds and ultimately Just Do It.”

With all this in mind it’s vital that the film makes it to completion, which is where you come in.

There are a number of ways you can get involved and help make the film a reality, from donating some time or expertise to handing over some much needed funds.

There are a number of tasty incentives to encourage you to get involved and the all important FAQs about where your money will go.

What are you waiting for? Just Do It!

Daily Mail snoops on people online and steals their content

A few weeks ago the Daily Mail caused a bit of a brouhaha by accusing brands that monitored social media to help identify and solve customer’s problems of “snooping” and “spying”.

I really can’t get anywhere near the level of hysteria generated by the article not even if I attempted a Brasseye-style spoof. Basically you should go and read it, although you actually shouldn’t as it’ll increase their site traffic.

Anyway, while there’s been enough discussion of this particular incident online I wanted to follow-up with another story of the Mail’s disgusting audacity and hypocrisy that happened to a friend.

Now, just imagine if a company was to trawl through the Internet – not unlike those companies that snoop on customers. But imagine if instead of helping people, this company used the Internet to steal things that belong to Members of the Great British Public.

Then imagine that when an aforementioned law-abiding citizen tells the company that it has broken the law and stolen something the company (or a representative of said company) was to deny it and attempt to cover up the crime by offering desultory sums of money to buy the victim off.

Just imagine if that company was none other than the Daily Mail itself!

Yes. That’s right. The sanctimonious Daily Mail was trawling the web on election night for pictures of voters across the UK reacting to polling stations being closed without all voters being able to cast their vote.

Friend and film-maker, Emily James, just happened to be in one of those polling stations and snapped away on her phone, uploading the images to Twitpic.

While other media outlets saw the images, requested permission to use, credited and paid Emily for her work the Mail simply lifted the images then claimed they were in the public domain which meant they could use them with impunity.

Emily, knowing her rights, asserted that Twitpic’s T&Cs copyright remained with the photographer and invoiced the Mail for a reasonable amount.

What followed was a series of exchanges with the Mail’s Pictures Online Picture Editor, Elliot Wagland, and the Mail’s Group Managing Director, Alex Bannister.

I’d urge you to go and read the full saga over at the Just Do It blog as it unfolds and savour in the sheer hypocrisy of the Daily Mail that on the one hand criticises companies for using the Internet to help its customers while on the other hand is happy to steal content from people. Part 1 is here and Part 2 here

Aside from the audacity of the Mail it’s also slightly worrying that its Online Pictures Editor fails to grasp the basics of copyright in relation to key social media platforms.

However, as Martyne Drake observes on his blog about this particular story, although the Mail’s Group Managing Editor  claims this was a one-off

given the number of times I’ve seen them [Daily Mail] attribute copyright wrongly and use pictures from Twitpic and other services (which retain the original copyright of the photographer), it’s not so much an incident that’s happened by accident or carelessness, but downright arrogance.

Enjoy!

Two post-event analyses of the #DEBill by me

As you might have seen in my previous
somewhat splenetic call to action
against the Digital Economy Bill the past few
weeks have been spent with my blood pressure rather high.

Perhaps out of therapy – or merely because
it’s offered a fascinating case study of how social media can be used to
potentially open up some form of direct democracy – I’ve pulled together a
couple of blog posts on the subject.

The posts broadly cover the use of social
media to campaign against the bill and the – I argue – ground-breaking way Twitter
was used to report the crucial debates in real-time as well as engage with
politicians mid-debate.

The first post was published over on We
Are Social's (i.e. my work's) blog
while the second was guest posted over at Royal Holloway University’s
New Political Communications Unit blog
.

Enjoy!

The digital industry must act now to stop the Digital Economy Bill

The way the UK’s Digital Economy Bill was created by Lord Mandelson and the music industry was  staggering in its audacity and truly disgusting. There was no attempt to veil the fact that the legislation was patently designed to protect the content industries; support executive salaries (and don’t for one second think that this will protect artists’ revenues. It doesn’t and it won’t) and insulate industrial busienss models form the creativity and innovation opened up by the Internet. It was also clear that the Bill would directly impact on citizens and consumers’ personal freedom and rights.

Outstandingly, as this vile piece of legislation has passed through the democratic process (and having been party to some of the to-ing and fro-ing of amendments in the Lords, I use that term loosely) the application of corrupt, money-driven, corporate, executive-serving self-interest has reached even loftier heights of shame.

I won’t dwell on the passion Lord Mandelson has shown in seeking to drive the Bill through the Commons without democratic debate; nor the disgusting collusion shown by all mainstream parties to date in order to gratify big business by preventing a debate; not even the appalling silence from both my own MP, Stewart Jackson, and Lord Clement Jones, who tabled a catastrophic amendment in the Lords at the behest of his content producing clients for at his firm DLA Piper. Without any doubt he is truly a vile, greed-obsessed man more passionate about protecting his client’s interests and his personal wealth than individual, human right.

Instead I want to call on my friends and peers that work in the digital and technology industries and issue a call to action: stand up for democracy; stand up against authoritarian, corporate-driven legislation; stand up for what is right.

The effects of the Digital Economy Bill as it stands will have serious implications for everyone. Us digital media types won’t be able to stop off at a café for a coffee and check our emails because free, open wifi will be shut off. Our children won’t be able to do their homework or learn about the wonders of the wider world because the household has been disconnected without evidence after someone has been suspected of 'illegally' sharing a large file.

But simply, if the Digital Economy Bill is passed we'll be faced with a bleak future where the stupefied consumers of Huxley’s Brave New World are now being shown the Orwell 1984 treatment.

Please. Please. Please. Act NOW before it is too late. Wake up from your stupefaction and do something:

Pros and cons of peer production in a nutshell

It's been a bit quiet around here lately. My apologies.

I've just discovered a rather interesting looking publication [pdf] from RAND Europe on the Future of the Internet Economy (via Ian Brown) and although I haven't read it all yet I came across a rather nice meaty section that spells out some of the pros and cons of using commons-based peer production to co-create knowledge and other informational public goods.

I thought I'd save it here for future reference and sharing:

Governments may also find that opening up their processes, sharing public information, and actively engaging citizens to take an interest in the public (virtual and real) space leads to ownership and shared responsibilities.

An important value will be how responsibility is allocated and assumed, and how accountability is established in a time where processes become collective endeavours. Mass collaboration and voluntary agreements provide good approaches for innovative development processes, drawing on the knowledge and talent of many.

However they lack effective decision making capabilities, quality control and the endorsement (certification) of the outcomes, thus potentially leading to instability and uncertainty about the quality and value of the process outputs. Peer review, ranking, karma points and the like, are expected to fulfil some of this function but are easy to manipulate and are not evidence based.

Mandelson’s Digital Economy Bill will switch off public wifi

Another amazing and appalling consequence of the Digital Economy Bill has been unearthed by the Open Rights Group (ORG) and it's digital law team.

In a blog post analysing the detail of the Bill it seems that anyone offering wifi will held accountable if someone uses it to illegally download files. This means they'll face criminal proceedings and disconnection.

From the ORG blog:

"An end to internet cafes and shared networks

The Bill appears to impose obligations on account holders for the
behaviour of other users. This will adversely affect many businesses
and stop the many people who currently extend their access to the
internet to people in their community."

Take action now to prevent this from becoming a reality.

This is an important announcement…

Those that know me may be surprised that I haven't yet blogged about the government's appalling behaviour to take a fat wad of cash from the music industry in return for turning a blind eye to the amazing power the internet is bringing every facet of humankind and instead amending British law so that we can all take a giant leap backwards in terms of digital rights.

This is purely done to ensure that the UK's moronic entertainment industry executives get to keep their fucking enormous salaries until they retire, upon when they can also cash in their even more enormous fucking pensions.

But that's not all: in case the government wasn't sure that this is a totally fucking stupid idea that might cost them votes, they're also criminalising young people (some might say the electorate of the future), potentially breaching individuals' universal human rights and into the bargain Lord Mandelson has also opted to award himself the personal power to amend copyright laws willy-nilly with the barest minimum of parliamentary oversight.

This (and a whole lot more evilness, such as the loss of free public wifi) is wrapped up in a nifty Bill announced in last month's Queen's Speech called the Digital Economy Bill.

If you want the biggest, most hilarious of laughs, take a look at what I predicted and indeed hoped might be in the Bill when the initial consultation phase was announced last year.

Here's what really happened:

  1. Lord Carter appointed to consult on Digital Britain 
  2. Lord Carter speaks with various people and turnsout a not-perfect but very respectable white paper
  3. Lord Carter moves on
  4. Digital Britain progresses
  5. Lord Mandelson meets David Geffen and host of other music industry chiefs
  6. Lord Mandelson reverses pretty much everything that made sense in the original white paper and announces plans to turn himself into the Digital Witchfinder General

Your help is needed…

Here's what you can do now to help:

  1. Join the Open Rights Group (disc: I'm on the board) to help them lobby for sanity to be amended back into the bill and protect your future online rights
  2. Sign the Downing Street petition, signed by the likes of Stephen Fry, Graham Linehan, and loads others
  3. Adopt your MP to make sure they know about the insanity of what the Digital Economy Bill will inflict on the public

We need your help *NOW* – Mandelson is adamant that the Bill gets passed before they lose the chance to fuck us all up by shutting down the internet. Please take on one of the actions aboce and help spread the word by Tweeting, emailing or Facebooking this post.

Thank you.

Locking down the future and what you can do to help

As a communicator with an understanding of the Internet, I’d always advise my clients that the web is fundamentally changing the ways we communicate, consume and produce media and culture and in order to survive (or at least stay relevant) they need to adapt.

Similarly, the web is making findamental changes in almost every other industry touched by society and culture and ditto they must adapt to maintain relevant in the networked world – both now and in the future.

However, when it comes to the music, film and entertainment industries it seems that they are investing heavily in preserving the past, rather than acknowledging where the future will lie.

Sadly, one result of this is a horribly flawed EU Directive which proposes doubling the current term on music copyright.

This action is opposed by all of Europe’s leading intellectual property research centres and makes little economic, technological or cultural sense. But don’t take my word for it. The UK-based Open Rights Group (disclosure, I volunteer time to support ORG) has produced this nifty little video explaining the issues at stake.

Having just finished Lawrence Lessig‘s Remix (review to follow) this is a major issue which not only risks atrophing the economy but also criminalises the next generation of artists/creators.

You can add your support in the following ways:

  1. Invite your MEP to attend the 27 January event on your behalf (you can get their contact details here: UK residents; Other EU residents)
  2. 3) Invite your MEP to sign the Sound Copyright petition
  3. 4) Ask your MEP to watch the Open Rights Group’s cartoon “How copyright term extension in Sound Recordings actually works”

Happy 2009 (unless the government gets in the way)

Guardin

As a rule I try not to 'do' predictions or resolutions at New Year. But I thought I'd flag how the UK Government plans to not only resurrect it's data intercept modernisation programme, but to outsource it as well, according to the story in today's Guardian.

Personally, I find the route down which our digital rights are being taken in the UK extremely worrying especially given the much more progressive and sustainable direction being taken in the US by Obama's incoming administration.

On the cards for 2009 we have the revised plan for the data intercept modernisation programme (being driven by the security and intelligence agencies), Lord Carter's Digital Britain initiative (any info anyone?) and plans to take a tougher approach on copyright/file-sharing.

Ironically, the latter two also present major opportunities to kick-start the UK economy if handled correctly. But let's wait and see shall we…

Happy New Year to all and here's to a prosperous 2009!

Technorati tags: UK Government, Data Intercept Modernisation Programme, Digital Britain, 2009

The Longtail is thoroughly debunked by empirical research

I posted back in July reminding those of us who take current Internet theories such as The Wisdom of Crowds at face value that many of these ideas are primarily marketing tools, rather than tested, research-based approaches.

As a fascinating follow-up to this, Alan Patrick from Broadsight has posted a fascinating analysis of Internet uber-theory, The Longtail, titled: The end of The Longtail?

Alan posts about a recent presentation given by an MCPS-PRS Alliance economist, Will Page, which argued that The Longtail is "fairly completely incorrect".

Page apparently helped Chris Anderson write The Longtail thesis, but has since carried out empirical research on a huge volume of global online music sales. The research found:

"while there was a long tail, it was extremely poverty stricken and much of it is moribund [...] even Free doesn’t work – when Radiohead gave away their music for free, there were still 400,000 illegal downloads in the UK. Not only that, they have found that illegal services focus on the “hit head” even more than the average."

Hypothesising further, Alan reckons that most demand curves are Log Normal rather than Pareto Power Law Curves, an opinion strongly supported by one of the researchers.

A full and thorough debunking of The Longtail based on the research can also be found by Andrew Orlowski over at The Register.

As a footnote to this, it is maybe worth adding that the researchers work for an organization that enforces commercial copyright on behalf of composers, songwriters and music publishers.

Technorati tags: The Longtail, Internet Theories, Power Law, Log Normal