iSummit 2008

iCommons iSummit 2008 Panoramic

So I figured I’d do a little follow-up on my trip to Sapporo for the iSummit. As with most conferences the action was really in the hallway chats and impromptu meet-ups over dinner and FREE BEER, but there were some highlights in the sessions and  keynotes.

CCi legal day was very productive and had a lot of jurisdictional leads talking and sharing notes. . Prodromos Tsiavos’ presentation about the participation cc-licenses list kind of blew me away, but that’s mostly because I’m a license / list junkie. Giorgos Cheliotis’ graphs about license adoption were sobering as well — license “liberalizing” tends not to happen as much as we might think or hope, but there is a lot of data to parse (he doesn’t, for example, look at individual users’ choices to modify the licenses of their work over time) but he’s on to something good and is really leading the way for commons based research. Later in the conference he announced plans for a “Commons Research” conference in 2009 and it sounded like space and funding had also been secured.

During the iSummit, individual tracks had varying degrees of cohesion. Aside from the keynotes, I was personally only able to attend the DIY Video Session and Open Business. The Video Session started off really great — Mimi Ito (Joi’s fantastic professorial sister) made a solid point that we shouldn’t really confuse DIY Video with Open Video. The desire for definitions ran throughout most of the conference sessions, and the DIY Video track was no exception. But Mimi suggested that we mark a clear boundary between the idea of Open Video (or content for that matter) and DIY Video. Like Free Software, Open means something and implies an orthodoxy, something Mimi thought  might be in conflict with the style of the communities of practice she studies. That is, it is all fine and well to have a defintion of Open Video, but don’t try to apply it directly to DIY Video, which generally involves people who only have basic understandings of the copyright issues implicated by their work. Trying to encourage Vidders or AMVers to use open licenses might be barking up the wrong tree.

Nevertheless, the open video definition evolved into something relatively obvious — created by open tools, released in open formats online in such a way that the source material is reusable and meaningfully licensed for such future use. People seemed to be interested in encouraging video makers to release “b-roll” footage or stuff that ends up on the cutting room floor as much of it goes to waste sitting on hard drives. One of the best features about the Video session was that everyone there had ‘skin in the game’ as producers, directors and so on. This meant that they were able to speak well and cogently about the challenges they face.

Henrik Moltke & Jamie King

Later on Jamie King (Steal this Film I + II) and Henrik Moltke (Good Copy Bad Copy) went back and forth about the economics of releasing work for free and what an ethical ask is — whether Radiohead / GirlTalk / NIN’s approach for selling access to free work was reasonable. Henrik thinks if he made another film he’d be open to something along the lines of what Radiohead did, whereas King thought this was unethical.

What was interesting is that King felt that for the most part, putting any terms on the distribution of a work is unethical. Henrik later showed numbers of income for how GCBC did and the results were a little surprising. Most of his revenue came from traditional licensing deals with larger networks, and very little came from donations. It’s been a long time coming, but I now feel that donations-based revenue streams are a very weak business model and free culture has a lot more potential looking elsewhere for innovative models.

One of the big issues we debated is the “novelty” or “scene” factor inherent to making these films. Even though STF and GCBC did well (though not outstandingly so) they depended on a particular community that had access to BitTorrent and the Pirate Bay. What happens when someone releases a Golf Documentary? Peer distribution and support for non-tech-niche video may be difficult for a long time.

Anyway, later on I visited the Open Business track which promptly broke into two groups. Jon and I were supposed to give a CC+ presentation but that somehow got taken off the docket. Our groups had to answer the question “What is Open Business?”

Almost totally independently both groups to came to the conclusion that the term is nothing more than a marketing ploy (see: Amex Open Business Card) in the vein of “green business.” The overwhelming feeling was that business is business is business and that you cannot survive now without being a little open. Whether this means letting people share your content, access your API, or just understand your finances, openness has become a market constraint and it behooves consumers (users? citizens?) to put even more pressure on businesses to open up.

Here are some random observations that may or may not be interesting:

  • The conference hall was actually really nice and comfortable. If anything it was too much space, but I didn’t get that “worn out” feeling that was happening a lot at previous conferences.
  • The green tea ceremony was awesome.
  • The t-shirt printers (C-Shirt) were awesome too.
  • Paul Keller’s collecting Society keynote was fantastic.
  • Sapporo is ridiculously far away.

More photos are here.

Next I’ll post a story about finding a wonderful Italian restaurant in Sapporo via Chow Hound.

1 comment
  1. That looks like fun! I’d love to check out Sapporo someday.

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