... in amsterdam

Twice as fast = twice as nice

So today the dutch railways (NS) ran a one-time Amsterdam Berlin intercity service that was 27 minutes faster than the usual 6 hour 30 minutes Amsterdam Berlin intercity service. They achieved this by omitting all stops between Amsterdam and the German border (Hilversum, Amsersfoort, Apeldoorn, Deventer, Amelo and Henglo). According to the NS it should be possible to further reduce travel time to four hours by aquiring engines that are capable of running 200 km/h on the Dutch and the German railwys (right now there is a change of engine in Bad Bentheim that takes about 15 minutes) and by skipping most stops on the German side (Bad Bentheim, Rheine, Bad Oeynhausen, Minden, Wolfsburg, Stendal and Berlin Spandau). The main obstacle against this badly needed upgrade of the Amsterdam Service? According to the Volkskrant all these little places insist on having the train stop in their stations.

Still the NS seems to be fairly determined to upgrade the line and bring the travel time down to four hours1, which would make it roughly competetive with direct flights between Amsterdam and Berlin. Four hours between Amsterdam and Berlin would mean an average speed of 160 km/h which is nice compared to the current average of 98 km/h but it is a far cry from the 200 km/h reuired to qualify as a high speed rail service. By comparison i have recently had the pleasure to travel on the so called Zon Thlays (a dedicated summer weekend only service that connects Amsterdam with the south of France) which runs the 1244 km from Amsterdam to Aix en Provence in 6 hours 47 minutes (an average speed of 187 km/h including a 15 minute crew rest stop at Paris CDG Airport, required by labour regulations). This is nearly twice as fast and makes the 6 and a half our drudgery of the current Amsterdam Berlin service even more unbearable. It brings Marseille within 7 hours of Amsterdam which feels quite amazing in more than one way (both of them being old port cities on opposite sides of the continental European land mass that culturally feel much further apart that a 7 hour train ride).

Now most of the service runs on dedicated high speed lines (with the notable exception of the bit between Antwerp and Brussels which the Belginas refuse to upgrade, in their own petty version of the i-want-the-train-to-slow-down-and-call in-my-little-village described above) and it does not make any sheduled stops between Brussels and Valence, bypassing Paris to the east (see routemap below). The trip feels like a triumph of infrastructure over time and it illustrates that if we ever want to get Euroepans of their addiction to low cost flights we will need to substantially invest into better high speed rail infrastructure.

There is no good reason why people should be able to fly across the continet, destroying the climate in pursuit of the next city trip if we had infrastuctire linking major cities that would allow travelling 1200 km or so within 6 hours (think breakfast in Amsterdam, dinner in Marseille). Now such infrastructure does not come cheap2, but given the climate destroying effects of our addiction to cheap short haul air travel, there are little alternatives.

The most logical source of the required investments would be a suracharge on intra EU airline tickets. A modest €20 per ticket would bring in €12,5 billion per year (based on the 626 million passengers of national and intra EU28 passengers identified in the 2016 air transport statistics). To make the point that people should take the train insteard of the plane it this surcharge should be inreased to €100 per ticket for routes that compete with trains services that take 4 hours or less such as Amsterdam-Paris (1,26M passengers in 2017 = €101M extra ), Paris-London (1,07M passengers in 2017 = €86M extra) and many others. Over time such surcharges could result in substantial funds that can be invested into building a better high speed train infrastructure (think Japan) and in the short run they would make train operators on existing high speed connections much more competetive.

Given the political clout that the airline business has (they have succesfully resited the idea of taxing jetfuel for decades) such a measure would require a lot of political will to enact, but given the untenable trajectory that we are on when it comes to airtravel, there may be little other choices. The only other alternative would be for people to actually travel less. While undoubtably better, it is quite a hard sell on generations raised on cheap jet-fuel and the idea that multiple city trips per year are a basic human right.

Route of the direct Thalys service from Amsterdam to Aix en Provence

  1. Which is probably an unrealistic excpection. This 2018 study by engeneering firm Royal HaskoningDSV (commissioned by Natuur en Milieufederatie Noord-Holland) comes to the conclusion that without upgrading the track the measures described above would result in a retuction of travel time of 46 minutes only (page 32). This would mean five hours and 38 minutes total travel time which is not much better than the current situation. The same study calculates that upgrading the route to proper high speed infrastructue would reduce total travel time time to 3 hours and 4 minutes (page 36, note that this tiem includes transfer to and from the train station) ↩︎

  2. The above-quoted Royal Haskoning study claculates the cost of buliding a HSL network that connects Amsterdam with most mayor metropolitan centers within a radius of 750km to be €78 billion. Such a network would consist of 3310 km of new HSL infrastructure (which, of course would be only one part of a Europe-wide HSL network). ↩︎

Local != local (or how not to position urban renewal projects)

22 Apr 2014 | 1336 words | amsterdam hipsters markets

Eat local and by local we mean on the couch

Earlier today on the A-train

Saturday morning we paid a brief and very disappointing visit to De Hallen, a new multi use space constructed in a former tram depot in Amsterdam west. The entire complex, which is still under construction, is nestled within a dense residential neighbourhood, next to a daily street market. Once fully operational it will contain restaurants, a food hall, shops and workspaces, a branch of the municipal library, a bike parking and yet another upscale hotel. The concept seems to place a particular focus on recycling and local sourcing.

While most of the complex is still under development the library and the central passage that extends from the street market though the entire complex are already open for use. Saturday and Sunday saw the first big event, a Local Goods Weekend Market organized by Pakhuis de Zwijger, platform Made in Amsterdam and Indie Brands.

The Local Goods Weekend Market drew quite a large crowd of hipsters and post-DINK families (we fall into this demographic) which is not that surprising considering that it brought together purveyors of goods that are much thought after in these circles: indie beer brewers (2x), sausage makers, things made from recycled bikes/bikeparts (1,2,3), hand made yoga mat bags, speciality coffee, all-natural handcrafted hot sauces and home made cup cakes. Combine this with a company that lets you 3D print your name as jewellery and an open design outfit that lets you make laser engraved wooden business cards and you have the perfect country fair for the university-educated post financial crisis city dweller.

I am not entirely sure why this hipster circus made me so mad this time (usually i have a fairly high tolerance in for things like this), but i suspect that it was a combination of two factors:

First of all there was really nothing useful to buy at the place. The laser cut wooden business cards and the 3D printed ‘jewellery’ were the icing on the cake in this regard, but even the two beer breweries would only sell you bottles of beer to take at home, and seemed to be content with people looking at the beer bottles with their fancy labels: a social gathering where you can look at beer bottles! Also there was no real food to be obtained, no pork buns, ramen, fish tacos or whatever else is currently fashionable (the only thing to eat were poffertjes from some silly cowboy themed vendor on a bike). Nothing to eat and nothing to drink, but lots of locally produced tit-tat to look at and maybe buy.

The second reason for being being mad is a bit more substantial and has to do with this (long) blog post by Adam Greenfield in which he outlines his current reserach focus on (in his own words) ‘land use, mobility and governance, as they fold back against an [urban] environment and population whose capacities and affordances are increasingly conditioned by the presence of networked computational systems’.

In this post he describes three sites of urban practice that he considers instructional. One of these places (if you are interested in the other ones read his full post, it is worth it) is the the Godsbanen/Institut for (x) complex, in Aarhus, Denmark:

To my eye, anyway, Godsbanen consists of four distinct structures or conditions: the former railyard administration building, now the offices of various public, private and non-profit groups; a long main hall that was formerly the intermodal freight-transfer center, and now shelters the printshop, photo studio, metalshop and so on; a new infill structure (complete with vertiginously climbable roof) by 3XN, that comprises the event venue and canteen, and sinters the other buildings together; and a tumble of trailers, ad-hoc shacks, shade structures and lean-tos that apparently constitute the Institut for (x).

What was wonderful about Godsbanen was seeing men and women both — of all ages, very few of whom were obviously hipsterized — using the available wood-, metal-, clay- and textile-working facilities to make things for their own daily use. It’s this deployment of emergent digital craft techniques to produce things primarily with an eye to their use value rather than their exchange value à la present-day Etsy that so excited me.

But there are other ways in which Godsbanen one-ups the usual makerspace proposition. For example, the site sports a legible gradient of formality and structure, accessible at any point and traversable in either direction; you can literally see the stiff Scandinavian rectitude of the administration building decomposing into particles as you walk further down the rails, with everything that implies for uses and users. Martin pointed out that the complex supports two entirely distinct woodworking shops, one at either end of the gradient: the first (low-cost, but still pay-for-use) furnished with state-of-the-art equipment and on-site assistance, and the other, further down the yard, free but provided with somewhat older equipment and not much in the way of help/oversight. A project could germinate with two or three friends tinkering in the anarchic fringes, and move up the grade as they began to need more budget, order and privacy, or, alternately, a formal enterprise used to the comforts and constraints of the main building might hive off an experimental or exploratory activity requiring the freedom of the fringes. Either way, individual or collective undertakings are able to mature and develop inside a common framework, and avail themselves of more or less structure as needed. This is something that many self-styled incubators attempt, and very few seem to get right.

The further away one walks from the main building, the greater the sense of permission granted by the apparently random distribution of objects around the central space, by the texture of these objects and their orientation. This is of course not at all random: everything you see has been selected with an eye toward a precisely calibrated aesthetic that at times comes perilously close to favela chic, but that does send a very powerful message about the appropriability of the environment, the kinds of things people can do here and the kinds of people who can do them. (Note that this is the same message ostensibly conveyed, but actually undermined, by the “wacky,” infantilized furniture of dot-com and tech-startup offices.)

Having read this description on friday morning, visiting De Hallen for the first time on saturday morning was a huge disappointment. One could vividly imagine (or at least hope for) De Hallen functioning on a similar basis (not least because they are also consisting of abandoned railway infrastructure) but it seems that the developers miss the understanding of social interaction that Adam asribes to the developers of the Godsbanen/Institute for (x) complex. Granted, De Hallen is not fully operational yet and it has some promising aspects (like the beautiful and spacious new public library branch), but the signs that this will end up as some sanitized development that does not communicate with its environment and that does not encourage experimentation are hard to miss.

Maybe the most visible indicator was how the Local Goods Weekend Market was completely unconnected to the Ten Kate street market that is situated on one of the streets connected by the main passageway through De Hallen: There seemed to to be next to no exchange between the two markets to the extent that most of the visitors to the Local Goods Weekend Market entered from the opposite side and then turned around at the end rather than exiting towards the street market. Never has an event that advertises itself as local felt so utterly alien to the locality that it is situated in. I have no idea if this can be fixed, but a good start would probably be to mix the two marktes next time around. That would – at the minimum – fix the absence-of-food problem and with a bit of luck the brewers will actually serve beer next time (i quite like the ones make by butchers tears).

The big umbrella massacre of 14-7-11

14 Jul 2011 | 16 words | amsterdam rain

Cycling home from central station tonight, i counted 59 wrecked umbrellas. here are 9 of them:

Best cycling jacket ever

12 Jul 2010 | 208 words | amsterdam cycling fashion rain urbanism

Usually i do not promote products on this page, but i am so happy with my (relatively) new cycling jacket that i make an exception here. My new kättermusen einride jacket is more or less perfect for a cycling jacket:

The einride jacket (which is for some strange reason marketing as a mountaineering/trekking garment) has the perfect cut for cycling including a hood that that protects your head against the rain without impairing your field of vision or your ability to move around your head. but the best thing is the fabric: instead of some highly engineered synthetic fabric the jacket is made from super densely woven cotton. Apparently the fabric, called EtaProof was developed during the second world war:

At that time the fabric was developed for British Hurricane pilots who often were forced to bail out with the parachute or make an emergency landing in the ice-cold Atlantic. During the nineties, Stotz & Co. adapted the fabric to the newest standards and turned it into EtaProof. Today this high-tech product made of pure cotton…

The stuff is not exactly rain proof, but it feels super nice and gets you dry through 15 minutes or so of rain. in other words it’ perfectly suited for Amsterdam summers…

resilience | /ɹə.zɪl.ɪ.əns/

03 Jul 2010 | 384 words | airtravel amsterdam security terrorism

Last week thursday night someone tried to break in to our offices on the fourth floor of a building on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam. in order to gain access to the office the wannabe-burglar(s) kicked in the door, pushing one of the wooden door panels into the room. it appears that they then waited to see if there was an alarm system and that they quickly left the building without taking anything from the office when the alarm sounded 20 seconds after the door was kicked in.

So while they had more or less unrestricted access to the office they did not take anything: Not one of our apple cinema displays, nor the cash box or even one of the bottles of fine french wine that we keep to entertain our guests. in other words, our system to prevent burglaries worked as intended: someone intended to break into the office but did not do any substantial damage because the alarm system went of and scared the wannabe-burglar(s) away.

Now the strange thing is that when you tell this story to others they react completely different: instead of recognizing this story as and example of something working as intended, people tend to see it as something negative (‘oh that’s terrible!’ is the usual reaction). Of course this reaction does not make any sense because this kind of event is exactly why we have an alarm in the first place.

Unfortunately this cognitive is not limited to smal scale burglary. It is very similar to how the public tends to react to failed terrorist plots like the shoe-bomber or the pants-bomber or the assorted idiots that are not even capable of blowing up their own cars (exhibit 1, exhibit 2). In all of these events the system worked as intended: no harm was done because the wanna-be terrorists did not manage to acquire explosives capable of inflicting actual harm or because they were simply too stupid to carry out their plots.

Instead of looking at these events as proof that open societies actually display a good measure of built in resilience, the public tends to interpret these events as proof that the terrorists are alive and well and the ‘security’ agencies thankfully exploit this cognitive bias to come up with more (and often absurd) ‘security’ measures.

Annick van Hardefeld memorial race

05 May 2010 | 970 words | alleycat amsterdam war

Yesterday i raced in the 11th edition of the annual Anniek van Hardeveld memorial race (see my pervious reports here and here). this race is held annually on the 4th of may in remembrance of Annick van Hardeveld, a 21 year old courier for the dutch resistance who was shot dead on the 4th of may 1945, which happened to be the last day of the german occupation. she is probably the last member of the resistance to have been killed by the germans.

Turns out that this little tradition of ours slowly gets noticed by those formally in charge of the 4/5 may festivities: The race is featured as an ‘official’ event on the 4/5 may website and Marjan Schwegman, the director of the dutch institute for war documentation (NIOD) describes it as an example of a new remembrance culture her a recent speech (pdf) on the occasion of the presentation of a book documenting the memory of the second world war (sorry for the dutch):

Als ik van het NIOD naar het Centraal Station loop, kom ik op het Hekelveld altijd een klein, onopvallend monument tegen. Het is gewijd aan Annick van Hardeveld, die daar op 21 jarige leeftijd als ‘de laatste koerierster uit het verzet’, zoals de tekst op het monument vermeldt, op 4 mei 1945 werd neergeschoten door de Duitse Bezetter. Omdat ik mezelf nooit de tijd gunde om haar naam goed te noteren aangezien ik altijd een trein moest halen, heeft het tot het uitkomen van de bundel Plaatsen van Herinnering geduurd voordat ik me in de geschiedenis van Annick van Hardeveld en het aan haar gewijde monument heb verdiept.

Wat ontdekte ik? In de eerste plaats een paar fragmentjes uit de levensgeschiedenis van Annick van Hardeveld. Zij was opgeleid als Rode Kruis verpleegster en naast haar werk als medisch analiste in het Wilhelmina Gasthuis koerierster van de BS. In die hoedanigheid vervoerde ze bonkaarten, wapens, valse papieren en begeleidde ze onderduikers. Op de avond van de 4e mei 1945 was ze op weg van Amsterdam Zuid naar Amsterdam Noord. Ze had opdracht de leden van de Verzetsgsroep MAX III te laten weten dat zij naar een geheime wapenopslag plaats moesten komen die zich in het Vossius Gymnasium bevond. Opgetogen door de radio berichten over de naderende Duits capitulatie, had ze zich gehuld in een Nederlandse vlag, die ze over haar Rode Kruis uniform had aangetrokken. Deze opvallende kledij was voor de Grune Polizei aanleiding om haar op het Hekelveld vanuit een overvalwagen neer te schieten. Haar broer Yann, die niet had geweten dat zijn zus actief was in het verzet, was 1 van degenen die het initiatief nam voor het monument dat op 4 mei 1985 werd onthuld.

Ik kwam ook nog iets anders te weten: het monument is sinds 1998 het middelpunt van een intrigerend ritueel: de Annick van Hardeveld Memorial Alleycat. Voor de niet ingewijden onder ons: een Alleycat is een straatrace voor en door fietskoeriers. In dit geval gaat om een race die op 4 mei om 7 uur ‘s avonds begint op het Koerierstersplein en die de koeriers naar verschillende posten bij oorlogsmonumenten voert, waar ze bliksemsnel een bloem moeten ‘ophalen’ die ze heelhuids naar het Hekelveld moeten brengen en op het monument moeten leggen. Degene die daar als eerste in slaagt is winnaar. Vervolgens vormen de fietskoeriers om 8 uur een halve cirkel om het monument en gedenken Annick van Hardeveld met 2 minuten stilte.

Dit ritueel op deze plaats is in mijn ogen een mooie illustratie van datgene wat Madelon de Keizer en Marije Plomp in de inleiding van de bundel schrijven: plaatsen van herinnering zijn niet slechts plaatsen die verwijzen naar het verleden, maar ontlenen hun zeggingskracht aan de betekenis die in het hier en nu aan die plaatsen wordt gegeven. De bundel die wij hier vandaag ten doop houden biedt dus een kijk op de hedendaagse Nederlandse herinneringscultuur van de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Met name sinds de val van de Muur, die, zo schrijven De Keizer en Plomp, de herinnering aan WOII ‘ontdooide’, zijn herinneringsplaatsen onderhevig aan een onophoudelijke herstructurering. Herinneren is een actief proces dat nooit af is, en dat zich aan steeds nieuwe

rituelen hecht. Dat geldt bij uitstek voor de Tweede Wereldoorlog. De herinnering aan die periode is, zo wordt in de bundel gesteld, een open zenuw in de Nederlandse samenleving.

De Annick van Hardeveld Memorial Cat laat ook zien dat herinneringsculturen strijd kunnen uitdrukken. Het ‘ophalen’ van bloemen bij andere monumenten wijst daar bijvoorbeeld op. Dat ‘ophalen’ past goed bij de flitsende, tegendraadse cultuur van de tegenwoordige fietskoeriers, die, anders dan in 1945, bijna allemaal van het mannelijk geslacht zijn. Een van hen merkte na de race op: ‘Bij de begraafplaats waar we de bloem moesten halen, stonden de mensen wel vreemd te kijken: wat komen zij als idioten aangereden?’ Dat het herdenkingsritueel van de koeriers de schijn wekt een rebelse voetnoot te zijn bij de nationale herdenking op de Dam is iets waarvan de koeriers zich bewust zijn, ook al zegt 1 van hen: ‘We doen het niet om ons tegen de massa af te zetten door driehonderd meter van de Dam te gaan staan. Het is gewoon onze manier van herdenken.’

In deze eigentijdse manier van herdenken valt op dat het juist de subversieve elementen zijn die het verleden levend houden. De vereniging van fietskoeriers die de Memorial Cat organiseert verwijst met haar naam Fuccit naar de vrijheid die fietskoeriers essentieel achten voor de uitoefening van hun beroep. De neergeschoten koerierster symboliseert voor hen die vrijheid. In de oproep om mee te doen aan de Annick van Hardeveld Alleycat stellen zij in internet engels: ‘So this is not you ‘normal’ alleycat but a way to show our respect and gratitude to all those who gave their life for our freedom.’ […]

WTF? Area secured by DNA spray

06 Feb 2010 | 348 words | amsterdam cycling netherlands security urbanism

Thursday night when cycling home from the north i spotted this sign on a lamp pole at the beginning of Ferdinad Bol straat close to where i live:

Area secured by DNA-SPRAY – the police

I am not even sure how many things are wrong with this sign, but here are a few that went through my head after i had taken this photo:

  1. how the fuck to you secure an area with a (DNA) spray? does it randomly spray something on people that are deemed to be a threat to security? or do they mix something into the air that makes people behave more securely?
  2. who’s DNA is it that is in they use for this spray? isn’t your DNA private? how come the cops have someone’s DNA to spray around with?
  3. if this is where the DNA spray area starts, where does it end? so far i have not seen any signs that mark the end of the secured area. what if i am not interested in their security and their DNA how can i cycle around the area then?
  4. and most importantly, who the fuck has asked for this? i for one do not want no DNA spray on my daily cycle route to work which as far as i can judge was plenty ‘secure’ even before they started messing with this. and why was there no public discussion of some sorts about this?

After a bit of googling it turns out that the signs are a rather blatant lie. apparently the police and the borough have decided to install spray installations in a few stores that can be used to mark robbers with some kind of substance that is encoded with a unique id of the store. apparently this substance is really hard to get of your body and can be made visible with UV light for a long while. Pretending that this scheme somehow secures ‘the area’ is as much bullshit as calling a spray with an embedded ID ‘DNA spray’. Rather pathetic that the cops get away with this kind of bullshit…

I have changed my mind...

About the Noord Zuid Lijn: i really think that instead of finishing of the line and having subway trains running somewhen past 2015 they should just finish the tunnel and then turn it into a super deluxe underground bicycle express-path. The tunnel would dramatically cut down the time needed to get to the center, prevent you from rain and would probably be used by more locals on a daily basis than a subway ever will. The thing needs to have lots of smooth on- and off-ramps that connect it to the cross streets and of course tourists need to be prevented from using it.

North south line tunnel under the sixhaven by Mauritsvink

Taking the copy out of copyright

15 Jun 2009 | 1243 words | amsterdam copyright piracy media

Last Wednesday I attended the launch of ‘Adieu auteursrecht, vaarwel culturele conglomeraten‘ the new book by Joost Smiers. In this book he argues that (a) copyright is harmful, because it has led to large conglomerates dominating the production of culture and that (b) the world would be better off without copyright because it would be better of without these conglomerates and therefore (c) copyright needs to be abolished and the conglomerates must be broken apart. According to Smiers and his co-author Marike Schijndel this will lead to a level playing field for artists and other cultural producers and result in both a more diverse culture and better abilities for artists and cultural producers to live off their work.

Now I have not read his book yet, but I have listened to Smiers for a number of times, and he always looses me at the point where he assumes that the absence of copyright and conglomerates will quasi automatically lead to a more just distribution of attention and wealth among artists and cultural producers.

Regardless of his rather haphazard line of argumentation the public at the Balie seemed to like his ideas a lot (not really surprising since just about everybody can agree on the fact that the current copyright system is not working very well in ensuring that artists can live of their work, and the public that frequents these kind of events sure loves to see the blame laid on American cultural conglomerates) and there was no real discussion about the validity of his analysis or the nature of the ‘new business models’ that Smiers and Schijndel predict to emerge once we have gotten rid of copyright and the conglomerates (the last one being a bit of a shame).

During the non-debate (you were assumed to argue form a the perspective of a society without copyright and conglomerates) a number of people came up with arguments against copyright that were based on a variation of the argument that copyright restricts dialogue and is therefore a constraint on artists practices.

This argument is very much in line with a recent paper1 by the Canadian copyright scholar Abraham Drassinower. In ‘Authorship as Public Address: On the Specificity of Copyright vis-a-vis Patent and Trade-Mark‘ Drassinower makes the argument that “copyright is not about copying, pure and simple” [p.205] but rather about the right of an author to be associated with his work. Or to put it in Drassinowers own, more legalistic language:

Thus, copyright is less an exclusive right of reproduction than an exclusive right of public presentation. [p.221]

Drassinower arrives at this conclusion by examining the differences between copyright law, patent protection and trademarks. From these differences he tries to distill which particular kind of wrongdoing copyright law sanctions and tries to prevent. According to Drassinower this is not the simple unauthorized use of the a copyrighted work by persons other than the author or his agents, but a very specific form of use:

Put in terms of copyright doctrine, we need to understand (1) that originality is not about the absence of use, (2) that fair dealing is not about the absence of originality, and (3) that therefore originality and fair dealing are not opposing impulses or exceptions to each other, but rather radically continuous and integral aspects of copyright law as a whole. The fundamental problem is that of grasping the nature of the continuity. […] Thus, copyright is less about a prohibition on copying per se than about a distinction between permissible and impermissible copying—that is, between saying things in one’s own words and merely repeating the words of another. Authorship is less about the absence of copying than about the cultivation and exercise of modes of imitation that amount to more than mere repetition. Copyright law can no more prohibit copying per se, than it can prohibit authorship. [p.208-9]

According to Drassinower the fact that copyright law regulates cultural production which he (and many of the participants in the discussion following the book launch in the Balie) sees as a form of speech (or dialogue) means that copyright law can’t exclude others from using protected works as part of their own engagement in this dialogue: “… Persons are entitled to use the works of others provided such use is consistent with the equal authorship of those others” [p.213]. According to this conceptualization of copyright law no harm to the original author is done as long as I do not present someone else’s work as my own work, but rather use it in a way where it is instrumental to my own undertakings.

This gets more interesting once Drassinower expands this argument and applies it to other types of activities regulated by copyright law. In the 2nd part of his paper he applies his concept to copying in the digital context and comes to the conclusion that the mere making of digital should not trigger copyright law, since it rarely happens in order to communicate the copied works as a work:

The distinction between the reproduction of a work in the physical sense and its reproduction as a work in the normatively relevant sense is also at play in the ongoing encounter between copyright law and digital technology. It is generally accepted, for example, that Internet browsing— which requires the making of temporary copies—is legal on the grounds that by posting the work online, the poster is granting an implied license to others to reproduce that work in order to view it. […] Whereas the implied license and public interest approaches more or less successfully cloak the rupture between copyright law and digital technology, the authorship as public address approach interprets the legal significance of technology from the viewpoint of a renewed understanding of the law – that is, of the nature of the right and wrong at issue. Because it dislocates the centrality of reproduction as the organizing principle of copyright law, the authorship as public address approach can find that the reproductions involved in browsing and caching do not amount to uses of the work as such. Instead, since browsing and caching2 are neither implied licensing nor public interest exceptions, they constitute user rights precisely because they amount to non-authorial use. [p.227]

While Drassinower’s paper is somewhat complicated and lengthy3 I do think that his approach is well suited to bring copyright law back into line with reality: In a time where copying is one of the most basic cultural technologies it is more and more absurd (and inefficient) that copyright law even attempts to regulate the mere making of copies. The beauty of Drassinowers argument is that he does not depart from this observation but rather arrives at the conclusion that copyright law cannot be about the regulation of copies by looking at the balance between user and author rights. By framing the subject matter of copyright as ‘dialogue’ between author/users and user/authors he saves copyright law from falling prey to the explosion of everyday copying.

  1. Drassinower, Abraham, Authorship as Public Address: On the Specificity of Copyright vis-a-vis Patent and Trade-Mark. Michigan State Law Review, No. 1, 2008. Available at SSRN ↩︎

  2. Of course the same argument can be made for private copying [a.k.a. unauthorized downloading] which Drassinower considers to be a user right as well. ↩︎

  3. On the other hand he references Jorge Luis Borge’s 1956 shot story ‘Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote‘ which, as far as i am concerned, is the most insightful essay on copyright ever. ↩︎

Streetfighting immigrants rocks

11 Jan 2009 | 42 words | streetart railways urbanism migration amsterdam

Photo of a grafitti on a metro bridge between the A4 motorway and the Amsterdam-Zuid schiphol train tracks near the knooppunt nieuwe meer. Without climbing fences and walking on railway tracks it is only visible from trains running between Amsterdam-Zuid and Schiphol…

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: