... in media

Free Gaza footage from Al Jazeera

13 Jan 2009 | 258 words | gaza media propaganda war censorship

Al Jazeera has launched the AL Jazeera Creative Commons repository that hosts TV quality Al Jazeera footage from Gaza under a Creative Commons Attribution license. This effectively allows all uses of the footage (even by other TV networks) as long as attribution is given to Al Jazeera. As far as i can tell (and they also boast about this in their press release) this is the first time that a major broadcast organization is making it’s own footage under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

This is especially relevant as Al Jazeera is one of the very few foreign news organizations that has camera teams and correspondents inside the Gaza strip as Israel is currently denying access to foreign journalists. Or as the International herald Tribune puts it:

In a conflict where the Western news media have been largely prevented from reporting from Gaza because of restrictions imposed by the Israeli military, Al Jazeera has had a distinct advantage. It was already there.

Screenshot from Gaza Zeitoun / War on Gaza day 18.

Given that the licensing terms allow other broadcasters (commercial and public) to rebroadcast the footage provided by Al Jazeera it is interesting to see if they will indeed make use of this opportunity and start offering a view of the conflict that relies less on the propaganda videos provided by the Israeli military. Personally i doubt that there will be many takers but i would love to be proven otherwise….

In the meanwhile congratulations to Joi, Mohamed, Donatella and everybody else involved to make this happen…

Salat | ‏صلاة‎

I spend last weekend at ars electronica speaking at the symposium on a new cultural economy curated by Joi and hanging out with an amazing bunch of people. Did not see much of the exhibitions, but at least managed to see the cyber arts 08 exhibition in the OK center and found another nice CFL for my collection. Most of the works were rather underwhelming. One of these exceptions was ‘Salat‘ by Johannes Gees which was documented at the OK center. Salat (the arabic/quranic term for prayer) consisted of a series of interventions that Gees did in the summer of 2007 in Swiss Cities. He constructed so-alled sound bombs that consisted of adapted megaphones combined with a time controlled the mp3 player that – once activated – would play the pre-recorded call to prayer of the muezzin of the grand mosque in mecca at prayer time.

Gees secretly placed these sound bombs on church towers in Basel, Zürich and Sankt Gallen and documented the reactions by passers by on video. While the work itself is certainly not the most original (apparently similar things have been done before), Gees had the luck of being sued by an overzealous Swiss christian who claimed that he had insulted objects of religious worship (which is a criminal offense in Switzerland) and as a result the police impounded one of the sound bombs and opened a case on him. After a while the public prosecutor came to the conclusion that there was no criminal wrongdoing involved. Now this being a proper legal case the public prosecutor had to write down the reasoning in the document that declared the case closed. At ars electronica Gees had displayed copies of the official documents from the public prosecutor alongside video stills and one of the sound bombs (see picture above). The interesting aspect of the installation is the way the public prosecutor attempts to get a grip on this artistic intervention in legalese. I cant find the text of the documents online but here is a short snippet (in german) that i could reconstruct from one of the pictures i took:

Im vorliegenden fall käme allenfalls die Tathandlung in Form von Verspotten in Betracht . Die Verspottung selbst gilt nach herrschender lehre als Unterfall de Missachtung und beschreibt Äusserungen, durch welche die angegriffenen religiösen Überzeugungen als lächerlich dargestellt werden (Stratenwerth, Schweizerisches Strafrecht BT II Straftaten gegen Gemeininteressen , Bern 2000 §39 N 5). Indem der Angeschuldigte den Ruf des Muezzins erschallen liess, ist eine Verspottung der religiosen Überzeugung des Geschädigten Richard Scholl, welcher gemäss Anzeige an das Stadtrichteramt Zürich vom 13. Juli 2007 der evangelisch reformierten Kirche angehört, nicht ersichtlich. Mithin wird durch das Verhalten des Angeschuldigten die glaubensbezogene Überzeugung des Geschädigten als Christ nicht in unsachlicher weise herabgesetzt oder lächerlich gemacht. Das heisst der Gottesglaube des Geschädigten wird nicht tangiert. Es gilt festzuhalten dass vielmehr sich Angehörige der islamischen Religion, mithin gläubige Muslime, durch die Aktion des Angeschuldigten in ihrer Ãœberzeugung in Glaubenssachen – Achtung vor dem Mitmenschen und seiner Überzeugung in religiösen dingen – hätten verletzt fühlen müssen, zumal der ruf des Muezzins in der hiesigen Geselschaft bis dato nicht zum Alltags- bzw. Ausleben der islamischen Religion gehört. […] Dennoch vermag der Ruf des Muezzins das Durchschnittsempfinden eines vernünftigen Durchschnittsbürgers (sic!) nicht in schwerer Weise verletzen. Ebenso wird durch den Gebetsruf nicht die christliche Überzeugung der Geschädigten tangiert, da der gläubige Mensch in seinem Innersten und seiner religiösen Entscheidung nicht beeinflusst wird.

In the end the case against Gees was dropped but he was ordered to pay CHF 900 in legal costs because he ‘could have asked for permission’ before placing the sound bombs. As if someone would have given him that permission…

Telecom Package: we are not going to take it

The French/European advocacy group La Quadrature du Net (Squaring the Net) has issued an urgent appeal to act against a number of entertainment industry sponsored amendments to the legislative undertaking to reform the European law on electronic communications (“Telecoms Package”) which are currently being discussed by the European Parliament in Brussels. These amendments are aimed at closing the open architecture of the Internet and to introduce more control and surveillance of users as well as the introduction of censorship of internet communications by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) at the request of the entertainment industry and/or national governments:

European Internet users could be blocked from lawful activities by mandatory spyware, in the interests of their security. The right to use free software for internet access would therefore not be assured anymore. The neutrality of the Internet is also directly attacked, as is the principle that technical intermediaries have no obligation to prior surveillance of contents. Other amendments will de facto enable administrative authorities to obligate ISPs to work with content producers and rights-holders’ private police, including the sending of intimidating messages, with no judicial or regulatory oversight.

These measure goes further than the French “graduated response” project, which has been subject to widespread opposition, including by the European Parliament on April 10th. That is undoubtedly why those amendments have turned up on early July, and why those drafting them use subtle rhetoric and crossed-references to make the overall text harder to understand (more than 800 amendments on 5 directives were tabled).

“The politicians who engage in these summer manoeuvres dishonour Europe and their mandate. They rely on the fact that nobody watches them a week before Parliamentary holiday, to divert the Telecoms package from its primary objectives of consumer protection. They pave the way for the monitoring and filtering of the Internet by private companies, exceptional courts and orwellian technical measures. It is inconceivable for freedom but also for European economic development. We call on all MEPs to oppose what they have already rejected.” said Christophe Espern, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net (Squaring the Net).

These torpedo amendments are currently subject of a series of secret, back-room negotiations between a handful of MEPs who do not always understand all the implications of these issues. Accomplices of lobbyists who hold the pen are in every political party. Instructions for the plenary vote will be established this week for a vote in IMCO and ITRE committee on Monday, July 7th.

La Quadrature du Net has compiled detailed instructions on how to contact the Members of the European Parliament involved in this process and how to attempt to convince them that these amendments are extremely harmful to the interests of all European Internet users. More background information on the amendments in question can be found in this excellent (and very timely!) draft briefing paper on the Telecoms Package by Monica Horton. The paper also contains a very good summary of the core argument against introducing legislative measures that transform the position of ISPs from neutral providers of a bitstream into chain-dogs of the content industries and governments:

Why we should protect “mere conduit”?

The political issue here is that the “mere conduit” status of the ISP was put in place to protect individual privacy and freedom. Once this change to telecoms framework law is in place, “mere conduit” is effectively eroded, and this apparently small legal change will give corporations and governments control over the Internet which they have not previously been able to get. If it is legally possible for Internet content to be monitored and blocked to support copyright infringement, what is to stop it being used for other forms of censorship, including political purposes?

Under the current legal framework, we are protected from such censorship by the “mere conduit” status, combined with data protection law. It is therefore vital to retain that “mere conduit” status, in order to protect citizenship rights to communicate freely using the Internet.

And if we are going to make any changes at all to the ISP status, it must be properly and publicly debated and go through the full legislative scrutiny in a transparent manner, so that all stakeholders, including civil society, can input to it.

Apart from straightforward censorship at the ISP level these amendments also pave the way for the graduated response (three strikes and you are out) type regulation currently under discussion in France and the UK. If these stealth amendments will pass the EU parliament and get enacted they would undermine (if not reverse) the explicit condemnation of activities aimed at cutting off internet access from European Citizens passed by the same parliament back in April. Cory Doctorow has a spot-on observation regarding these insane propositions in yesterdays guardian which underlines why these henchmen of incompetent and inflexible corporate interests must be stopped.

So if you have a little time to spare, go contact your local MEP (especially in case (s)he is in the ITRE or IMCO committee) or bring this whole mess to the attention of friendly journalists to shine a bit more light on the whole affair.

p.s: The title of this post obviously refers of the song ‘we are not going to take it‘ by twisted sister.

Steal this Film II revisited

05 Jan 2008 | 475 words | future movies file sharing copyright piracy media

So Felix (make sure to check out that splash page!) has posted an really good review of Steal This Film II to the nettime mailing list. If you still need a reason/excuse to download and watch STFII i suggest reading his review:

This experience reinforces the main point of the film: file-sharing – a technologically super-charged, deep cultural practice – is beyond the point where it can be stopped. The old media industry has lost control over the distribution of content, radically reducing the power of the current gate keepers to determine who can access the archives, who can produce new works, and who can reach an audience with those works.

The film’s premise is that file-sharing is transforming the basic mechanism of how culture and information is distributed with consequences as profound as the transformation brought about by the printing press. Now, for anyone who remembers the late 1990s, this introduces a certain deja-vu, since this argument was pretty much what fueled the dot.com boom back then. But here, it is delivered with a twist. It’s not the happy venture-capital infused entrepreneurs who turn the wheels of change, but the pirates who expand the scope of the possible for the masses, and the teenagers who have already claimed this new space as their natural cultural environment. This is not a top-down revolution.

Meanwhile Jamie has written up some thoughts about the amount of donations The League of Noble Peers is receiving as a result of their call for support. Seems like suggesting to donate a higher amount of money ($15 as opposed to 1$ as they did for when they released the original Steal This Film in 2006) works rather well. In his blog post Jamie is combining these first experiences with research about the spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (a gonorrhea epidemic to be precise) to come up with the expectation that it is perfectly possible to produce profitable documentaries based on voluntary donations:

What is also necessary is a spreading of the “generosity virus”, not just for STEAL THIS FILM (although boy, could we use it!) but for all independent creators who’ve dispensed with the restrictive, punitive, retrograde commodity model and chosen to work with a new, more far-sighted paradigm. In these first days of distributing STF II, we have learned that by setting aside the artificial barriers of DVDs, cinema tickets and pay-per-download, the way is cleared to a new world of voluntary, supportive donations. The sooner we all stop moaning about how “no one is going to make any money” after P2P, we can get on with encouraging each other to look after our cultural environments. No one is saying we’re there yet, but like the man said, we’re beginning to see the light.

Read the rest of ‘The Future Doesn’t Care About Your Bank Balance, But the 1/1000 Do!

Steal this Film - Part 2

The second installment of Steal This Film has just been released. you can download it in 4 different resolutions) here and Torrentfreak has an interview with Jamie. By now i have seen it it numerous times (in different stages of production) and i will probably watch it again just for the sake of it (i am downloading the HD version right now).

Now it does not really matter if i watch it again or not but this movie is essential viewing for all those out there who still believe that file-sharing, and distributed communication and growing up in an age without scarcity (when it comes to media) does not constitute a fundamental break when it comes to cultural (re-) production:

These are strange times indeed. While they continue to command so much attention in the mainstream media, the ‘battles’ between old and new modes of distribution, between the pirate and the institution of copyright, seem to many of us already lost and won. We know who the victors are. Why then say any more?

Because waves of repression continue to come: lawsuits are still levied against innocent people; arrests are still made on flimsy pretexts, in order to terrify and confuse; harsh laws are still enacted against filesharing, taking their place in the gradual erosion of our privacy and the bolstering of the surveillance state. All of this is intended to destroy or delay inexorable changes in what it means to create and exchange our creations. If STEAL THIS FILM II proves at all useful in bringing new people into the leagues of those now prepared to think ‘after intellectual property’, think creatively about the future of distribution, production and creativity, we have achieved our main goal. [from the STFII website]

Oh, and if you have not yet seen Steal this Film I yet you can download it here

Apparently the war on terror has been won

01 Jul 2007 | 292 words | terrorism media stupidity england

Have been following the recent events in the UK with a mix of amusement and amazement. Did not really expect that the next ‘wave of attacks‘ would be even more incompetent than the last one.

There are a couple of good articles that call these ‘terrorist attacks’ for what they are (‘Terrorist Special Olympics in the UK‘ on Bruce Schneiders blog, ‘Beavis and Butthead in London jihad‘ by Thomas C Greene and ‘‘al-Qaeda’ puts on big shoes, red nose, takes custard pie‘ by Lewis Page both on the register). All three are well worth reading. This quote from the article by Lewis Page kind of sums it up:

If these guys at the weekend really were anything to do with al-Qaeda, all one can really say is that it looks as though the War on Terror is won. This whole hoo-ha kicked off, remember, with 9/11: an extremely effective attack. Then we had the Bali and Madrid bombings, not by any measure as shocking and bloody but still nasty stuff. Then we had London 7/7, a further significant drop in bodycount but still competently planned and executed (Not too many groups would have been able to mix up that much peroxide-based explosive first try without an own goal).

Now we have this; one terror-clown badly burnt and nobody else hurt at all. An event about as significant as the teenagers burning cars down my way – and don’t I wish those little sods got as much police attention and jail time.

Reading this article brought back some fond memories of blowing up propane gas canisters in on construction sites in Hannover Davenstedt when i was 14 or so. And in case you are intrested in real car bombs, go read this book

National anthem...

27 Jan 2007 | 160 words | amsterdam germany media radio

Yesterday night (while standing on my balcony listening to the radio) I realized that my neighbours must have a rather strange idea about my identity:

Dutschlandfunk (the german national news/culture radio station) has the annoying habit of playing the german national anthem at the end of every single day (and now during the german EU presidency they also feel compelled to play the European anthem, right after it). Now i tend to listen to Deutschlandfunk a lot (particularly the 23h to midnight wrap up of the days news) and this means i end up playing the national anthem every other day or so. To my neighbors this must look (sound) as if i am some Über-patriotic weirdo who keeps misses his home country so much that he has to listen to the national anthem before being able to fall asleep. Guess i have to explain this to my neighbors (or better someone should tell the Deutschlandfunk to stop this silliness).

Casino Royale

10 Dec 2006 | 386 words | delhi dubai china media conspiracy copyright business

So i have been trying to buy a dvd copy of the latest James Bond movie all along my trip. finally managed to score a decent copy with proper english sound in Shenzhen (china) yesterday. in total i bought 4 different discs which gives a nice little insight in the dynamics of movie piracy in asia:

25/11 Dubai, Karama market: got a 4-1 dvd with three other crap movies on it in a upstairs room behind one of the numerous fake brand clothing shops in the Karama Market Shopping Complex. Paid 20 Dirham, to the guy who claimed that he had seen it the other night and that image and sound quality were ‘good’. turned out to be really crappy image quality (blurry 320*240 pix) and the sound was distorted and out of sync. the seller claimed he got his DVDs supplied form Malaysia.

28/11 Delhi, Palika Bazaar: got the same 4-1 DVD with the same unwatchable video and audio files on it from one of the many stalls in the palika underground shopping complex for 200 rupees.

08/12 Temple Street Night Market, Hong Kong: got a single movie DVD from a market stall on the Temple Street Night Market. According to the cover it is a region-code less English language version with English, Chinese and simplified Chinese subtitles. The person i bought it form for 20 Hong Kong Dollars claimed that he had seen it the night before and that audio and video were fine. Turns out that audio and video are good quality, except that the audio is in russian (so is the DVD menu) and that there are no english subtitles. the disc also contains a muted and inaudible english sound track.

09/12 DVD shop near the Shenzhen railway station, China: Nobody claimed anything, because nobody spoke english. bought a single movie DVD for 10 yuan in a shop near the railway station. The back cover contains a senseless machine translation which seems to refer to the movie, plus the credits for the latest ‘harry potter’ movie. The disc label looks professional but there is the same russian language menu as before. however this time there is actually an audible english soundtrack which runs in sync with the images (except for 4 minutes in the second half where it runs out of sync).

One Friday

01 Nov 2006 | 236 words | england islam migration xenophobia media terrorism

The Guardian is running quite an impressive piece titled ‘One Friday‘ on its website today [i know that it is wednesday today but then those brits drive on the wrong side of the road and are generally confused when it comes to just about every measurement, so this not all too shocking]:

Criticised for their beliefs, clothing and attitudes; accused of not being British enough; reviled as the enemy within – not a day passes without Muslims being attacked in the media. So how does it feel to be Muslim in Britain today? Guardian writers asked people around the country – from a rear admiral to an organic farmer, a rapper to a gay rights campaigner, an accountant to a niqab-wearing teacher – to tell us how they spent last Friday. A G2 special.

Go read it here (warning, it is really long!). My favorite sentence is ‘the other day the internet cafe opposite me was raided, allegedly as part of a transatlantic terror plot. It was ridiculous.’

Which reminds me that we still know next to nothing about that transatlantic terror plot in question. still no news on how exactly they planned to blow up those planes without passports, explosives or tickets. Also not much more information on why liquids on a plane are dangerous. We do however know that denying people to take liquids on a plane is not only stupid but actually dangerous.

For the benevolence of expression....

08 Oct 2006 | 311 words | europe media islam modernity civilisation

Patrice (thanks!) posted a translation of a posting by the french philosopher Fréderic Neyrat to the internal multitudes mailing list to nettime. It was made as a comment on the appeal by French intellectuals for a Salman-Rushdie-style protection of Robert Redeker, a philosopher threatened by fundamentalist groups after publishing statements deemed insulting to Muslim culture in general (more background here). well worth the read:

For the benevolence of expression and against the ‘clash of civilisation’ discourse.

Against a commonly held belief, the “clash of civilisations” monicker is not a descriptive, but a prescriptive statement.

Thinkers, university professors, publications that pretend to be ‘modern’, and politicians, all have actively participated in the manufacture of conflicts between a West gone delirious and the Orient it imagines.

This mind-set is grounded in despise and fuelled with insults. When the aggrieved party reacts violently, one can exclaim : “DidnÂ’t we tell you so? They’re all savages !”

This is a vicious circle. No identity, no civilisation will be ever its outcome – but deaths certainly will. This circle must be broken.

As far as intellectual work is concerned, this first and foremost requires to avoid the pitfalls of what Hegel has called “the fiendishness of expression”.

The media would like to impress on us that one is entitled to say whatever one likes to whomever one likes in whatever way one likes. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Words do matter. They shape the reality in which we live.

The issue at stake is not one of (self-)censorship, or of freedom of expression, but is about the need for a ‘benevolence of expression’ : we must avoid those words that make our common space unliveable.

Then, there will be no need to call in the police, to demand protection from the state, and no man shall henceforth need to live in fear.

Fréderic Neyrat

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: