Blockchain for Rights

Not long ago, I’d never heard of the Blockchain. Now suddenly it’s being talked about all over the place.  Blockchain is the technology behind the Bitcoin currency.  It keeps track of who owns what ‘money’ and how much it is worth.  This is all recorded permanently in a distributed network around the world.

The Blockchain is a global distributed infrastructure, like the Internet, so it can be used for anything, like the Internet can.  Just like the Internet, it has the potential to democratise power.  Because it’s distributed, it’s possible for anyone to access it and use it, and build applications for it.  One example is peer to peer micro payments for things that otherwise would be too much effort to be worth invoicing. See this thought-provoking video explaining it: Blockchain video

One strength of the Blockchain is recording transactions and ownership  These can be Bitcoin transactions or, it turns out, they can be copyright transactions and rights ownership.

The Digital Catapult, parent to the Copyright Hub, is trialling a way of using the block chain infrastructure for particularly complex rights contracts such as those associated with games development.  This means an ‘immutable’ record is created of who owns the rights to each contribution to the game, whether big or small and in what proportion.  New contributors can easily be added to the contract down the line, as production progresses.   One reason the games industry will benefit is because of the large number of individual creators who need to work together, unlike a novel, where it’s usually only one individual author on one side of the transaction, and one company encompassing all the other contributions on the other side of the transaction, and that doesn’t change over time.

The Digital Catapult has published a white paper about these Smart Contracts, and a prototype is in development.  Some think the technology is too new and immature to be useful yet, but it’s definitely one to watch, as it looks likely to grow up very quickly.

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Tools of Change, Chicago

I enjoyed reading the tweets from the one-day conference in Chicago the other day, so I thought I’d summarise just a few of them and share them here.  You can see the full range on Twitter at #tocchicago

Children’s Books

How to handle the friction between children’s ebooks and the desire to reduce screen time?
For many children, picture books are their first introduction to art.

Re childrens ebooks: what’s useful? What’s a gimmick? Engaging without distracting is the tricky part
What helps readers understand? What is engaging and motivating? What disrupts learning? Good questions generally, not just for children’s books.

Poetry

http://Pf.org Mobile poetry app: built to target folks standing in line. Works in single servings, which causes more poems to be accessed. Includes a fun “spin” browsing feature + mood categories.  Has increased exposure for poetry foundation. Reach up 300% while overall engagement has gone down.

Repackaging existing content helps expose it to new audiences.  Context may be just as important as content.

Uses of and representations of poetry online is the nexus of many online issues: Digital formatting can play havoc on poetry, where formatting is everything.

poetry will continue to have to compete agains Angry Birds & Pinterest but it will also thrive

Maybe the http://pf.org data suggests that print is the best home for poetry. Is that too radical? Hmm.
Maybe not:  Catherine Halley’s talk got me to give poetry a chance via Poetry Foundation’s app http://www.poetryfoundation.org/mobile/

The paradox of attention span: should lead toward shorter content, but poetry often requires more attention & time than prose

Crowd  Publishing

Distance.cc, a quarterly journal devoted to long essays about design. Funded by Kickstarter.

First Kickstarter effort by @nickd: cadence.cc, a book on design.  Sold out print run last year, still available as eBook. “my book wasn’t published by me, it was published by my audience.”

Readers are out there but you have to meet them on their terms on their devices.

“The more time you spend running around freaking out, the less time you spend building the future.”

“We need to stop thinking like publishers, and think more like software companies”

Distance Authors getting good visibility. An editor helps writers think through ideas and people take them more seriously.  A key feature is editing. “difference between an essay and a rant is that an essay offers an actual solution.”   prefers well-written and passionate writing to just passionate writing (Wants fewer rants, more essays)

Distance’s business plan included keeping it’s owner eating three burritos a week: “If either of those goals proves untenable – paying writers or eating burritos – the project is a no-go.” Ha!
Supply-chain issues still essential to authors. Self pub created closer connection to work, audience.

Information

“Seek information, not affirmation.”

We are creating a new form of ignorance that’s killing us. It does not distinguish between highly informed and well informed.  We’re not suffering from information overload, we’re suffering from information over-consumption.  What are healthy levels of information consumption? schedule your various channels/forms of information consumption; don’t consume right now just because you can

“Who wants to hear the truth when they can hear that they’re right?”   we’re a more polarized nation now b/c no matter what crazy thought you have, there’s a media outlet to tell u ur right.  The desire to be right frames our mass media. “Opinion tastes better than news” and pizza tastes better than broccoli.  We’ve industrialized our media for poor consumption habits the same way we have with fast food

Content

Content trapped forever in your CMS is the new content trapped in your CD-Rom.
Big question 1: can I get my data out in an open, easily-readable format?
Question 2: Can I get my data out for the same price I paid to put it in?
Question 3: (most important & overlooked) How much time will it take for me to get my data out?

people put themselves in data jail all the time

Have we gone fr “information wants to be free” to the 2nd half of that quote “or it wants to be expensive”?

Content is not a commodity. Data is a commodity. There are no sensationalized 5-day weather reports.

The idea that you should wake up and be a producer instead of a consumer changes your relationship with information.
Still thinking about writing 500 words every morning before 8am. Thinking about other changes too.

Show your work when publishing; empower readers to make up their own minds.  Not to do that is disrespectful.
instead of saying “this is great content,” think about WHY it’s great for your audience.

Libraries are the first line of defense against piracy.  This is an interesting question.

Credits

Thanks to #tocChicago Tweeters: @nelltaylor, @petdance, @theanalogdivide, @digipub. @aburke8  et al

and the speakers they Tweeted: Junko Yokota, Doug Siebold, Nick Disabato, Clay Johnson, Brian O’Leary.
Here are some of their slides:

http://nickd.org/log/nickd-oreilly-toc.pdf
http://www.slideshare.net/mobile/bfoleary/using-content-to-acquire-new-members

 

Copyright gone wrong?

Is our copyright law doing its job?  The Hargreaves Review had a look and made some recommendations, and these were discussed today at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum: What’s Next for IP Law?  Intellectual property law was discussed from all angles, not just copyright, and I made some notes.  Here are what seemed to me to be the main/most interesting points:

1  Evidence based policy

Policy should be based on evidence, not on lobbying as it is now.
Evidence should be transparent in its methodology, open and peer-reviewed.
Evidence-based policy needs to replace ‘lobbynomics’
Not enough evidence exists, so £5m funding for research.

2 Proposed New “Copyright Exchange”

Intended to be a central and easy place to buy and sell rights.
It will be run by users and rights holders, with industry at the heart of it, led by private sector with incentives from government
Rights holders can choose to licence their rights through it, at the price they set.
A very ambitious plan.
Needs a lot of refining to avoid danger of making licences that rights holders don’t want eg granting licences to people the author hates.

3 Harmonisation

Not enough harmonisation between countries, even within EU, for seamless international protection and licensing, especially of patents.
Differences in copyright exceptions too, which may never be resolved eg due to difference of opinion on making hardware levies to remunerate rights holders for users making format-shifting copies.  UK wants exception for format shifting but not with levies.
UK plans are very radical and ambitious so we should help and advise EU in its review of IP law.

4 Penalties

Piracy needs to be tackled in a stronger more systematic way. Absence of online enforcement and visible consequences leads to lack of respect for IP law by public; but improved means of online enforcement with international cooperation and better punishments will change user behaviour.

5 Outdated?

As ever, establishment (Government and IPO) seems to think copyright is mostly OK and has proposals to strengthen and streamline it.  Campaigners seem to think that radical changes to the basis of copyright need to be made, and we are falling behind US and Europe in terms of user rights and justice.

What’s your view?

Authors: Digital Winners and Losers

“Who will the winners and losers be, as digital sales increase?”  asks the FutureBook Digital Census survey. http://www.futurebook.net/content/futurebook-needs-you  Will publishers, authors, agents, bookshops, mobile phone networks, software publishers win or lose?

The trouble with this kind of either/or question is:  most parties will win in some ways and lose in others.  The question asks whether unpublished authors will win or lose as digital sales increase, and I say both.  It seems to me that new authors trying to get published will find themselves losing out because publishers will be able to make more products from each title – not just a hardback and a paperback, but also an ebook and an app or several apps.  This means that a publishing company will focus its resources on getting more from each title, with the result that they have fewer resources to take on board brand new titles from unknown authors.

Having developed the skills and contacts necessary to publish all sorts of digital editions, publishers will then be looking for new books that can be published in all those new ways.  Books which lend themselves to only one format for some reason, and are unsuitable for the other formats are in danger of being turned down by publishers who need more from each title than just one edition.  This makes the hurdles even higher that an author has to jump, to get their book published.

But authors can be winners too.  It is clear that the opportunities for authors to publish their books themselves is increasing as digital sales increase.  The production costs are lower, and there are plenty of companies like Dandelion Digital offering author services to help them.  If the self-published author takes advantage of all the digital marketing tools the internet offers, there is no reason why the increase in digital sales can’t make those authors into winners.

What’s your view on this?

Have you done the FutureBook survey?  What did you think of the questions?