Always give credit where credit is due!

Nina Paley, author of Sita Sings the Blues, just released another animation called “Credit is Due (The Attribution Song)”; another in a series of Minute Memes. She’s released a few of these shorter animations and they’re all informative and fun.

According to the page for this video on, this video is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. According to the footer on our content is released to the public and can be considered to be in the public domain: you may copy, share, excerpt, modify, and distribute modified versions of this and other pages from It’s unclear precisely how this work is licensed to you or if this work is under copyright at all. I can only guess that you are free to share unaltered copies of the work, transcode the work in its entirety to make it playable for yourself and others, and distribute copies of the work in its entirety with some reasonable amount of attribution (the more restrictive of the two sets of permissions). Until the two pages above are in sync I cannot be sure.

Update (2011-06-30): User “camille” (whom I believe is’s own Camille E. Acey) replied to my post about the confusing licensing on’s blog post about this video. Ms. Acey said that there is no licensing confusion because it is impossible to actually *put* anything directly into the public domain unless it originates from a government agency. I believe that is untrue: I believe all American copyright holders may choose to place a copyrighted work into the Public Domain thereby forgoing all copyright power for that work. I also believe if this were not the case the many lawyers at the Creative Commons would not have worked on their public domain dedication (deprecated since 2010-10-11) and then later reworked their public domain dedication into CC0 in order to broaden the usefulness of the dedication. Given Ms. Acey’s belief about placing works into the PD, she continued our statement that everything on our site is public domain is just a stance, not a legal reality which I believe only further confuses the issue. In the interest of correcting my own misunderstanding, I asked for Ms. Acey to cite sources for her belief. She cited How can I put a work into the public domain? which says exactly nothing to defend the errant notion that it is impossible to actually *put* anything directly into the public domain unless it originates from a government agency. My latest contribution to the thread awaits moderation. Until corrected I maintain the licensing confusion I list above remains. A copyright reform organization should not be unclear about licensing.

Also see:

Blender Institute videos are well worth paying for

I have been an avid supporter of the Blender Institute videos for a long time (as you can see from many posts to this blog). One reason is they treat their users well: works are licensed to share (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license). I encourage you to purchase the videos, share, and enjoy!

For all of the videos: Everything else (video tutorials, HTML, and so on) Blender Foundation |

Magnatune partners with library, patrons win sharable music

Magnatune, a music label where you can download and share all of the tracks in their entire catalog, has struck a deal with the Library system of Ann Arbor, Michigan so that library system’s 107,801 registered cardholding patrons can login to a library-made web-based system and easily download Magnatune tracks.

Unlike loaning physical media many patrons can get the music without a trip to the library, many patrons can get tracks simultaneously, and unlike the typical corporate label music these tracks can be legally shared because Magnatune licenses tracks to its members under the Creative Commons by-nc-sa v1.0 license.

Screenshots of the web interface and links to relevant statistics about their library system are available on Magnatune’s blog.

The library paid a $10,000 flat fee in a licensing agreement that runs through June 30, 2012.Ann Arbor Chronicle

Are more libraries doing deals like this? I figured librarians are the vanguard of caring about non-DRM works, so striking deals like this with media organizations that care about their listeners and artists should be a no-brainer.

Some good causes undermine their own efforts with bad substitutes for real action

I was recently asked to consider signing onto an electronic protest against the US’ Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) recent suspension of a blogger who linked to websites that allegedly distributed copyrighted movies without license. A group called “Demand Progress” rightly complained:

Brian McCarthy ran a website,, that linked to various sites where you could watch online streams of TV shows and sports networks. A couple months ago, the government seized his domain name and on Friday they arrested him and charged him with criminal copyright infringement — punishable by five years in prison.

We just obtained a copy of the complaint (below) that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made against him — and they don’t even allege that he made a copy of anything! Just that he ran what they call a “linking website” which linked to various sites with copyrighted material. Under that sort of thinking, everyone who’s sent around a link to a copyrighted YouTube video is a criminal.

This is another shocking overreach by DHS and ICE — a steamship-era department that’s proving once again that it doesn’t understand the Internet. We need to push back — and fast — before they try to lock up more Americans.

Demand Progress

Demand Progress raises good points and I think that linking to anything ought not be a crime, no matter what one links to. However:

  • the way Demand Progress collects petition signatures undermines their effort. Anyone may put in any name, email address, and zipcode into their website’s form and that address is sent feedback as if they were a signatory to Demand Progress’ petition. No verification is done to make sure the person who uses that email address wasn’t the victim of someone else signing them up for Demand Progress’ feedback (which. if unsolicited, could rightfully called spam). As a result of this any claim’s claims of petition popularity are suspect and dismissable. Nobody knows how many of the alleged signatures are actually people interested in supporting the complaint.
  • email is cheap. Handwritten letters, phone calls, and in-person support are all more meaningful. It’s easy to manufacture a large set of email addresses and make it look like a large group of people support your cause. It’s not easy to get people to send handwritten letters or postcards to their Congressional representatives, or phone into a Congressional representative’s office complaining about something and demanding specific action. In-person action is far more convincing than names in a spreadsheet. Marching in the street is, therefore, more convincing than a group of names, email addresses, and zipcodes.

As long as people think clicking a button is a good approximation for political organizing, the status quo wins. Political organizing is more about identifying and doing the legwork that needs to be done, not caving into someone’s objection that it’s too hard to catch someone else’s attention and settling for a self-selected poll.

Arduino: The Documentary

An informative new documentary is out about Arduino, “an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software” (source: You can find all sorts of free software to use with your Arduino board so you can make a lot of interesting devices: robots that crawl, 3-D printers to make other real-world objects, blinking light controllers, and tons of other things. Your imagination is really the limit of what you can do with Arduino.

Arduino comes with inseparable freedoms because Arduino’s environment is built to give you the freedom to explore whatever you want: Arduino software is licensed to share and modify under the GNU General Public License and this software has been ported to run on any operating system, Arduino’s getting-started documentation is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License so share and alter that to your taste too (so long as you pass on the freedoms you got), and the Arduino Uno board works with any computer that has USB (which is virtually every computer you’ll use). You are empowered to do all sorts of interesting things with Arduino, as participants in the documentary attest to.


Apple infringing copyright…again


In May 2010 Apple distributed copies of a computer version of the classic board game Go through its App Store. This GNU Go variant is licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2 (GNU GPL) which does not allow additional restrictions to be added to the license. Apple’s App Store imposes additional restrictions on the applications distributed through the App Store, restrictions which are incompatible with the GNU GPL. Hence the incompatibility Apple introduced when it drafted the rules for its App Store.

Apple reviews every program it distributes through its App Store so Apple knowingly distributed this Go program in violation of the GNU GPL. This constitutes copyright infringement.

Apple has all the permission they need to distribute GPLed software through their App Store. The GPL ensures this; Apple could even distribute GPLed programs commercially charging users for downloading copies of GPLed programs.

The Free Software Foundation, GNU Go’s copyright holder, pointed this out to Apple in their usual way aiming for compliance not litigation:

In most ways, this is a typical enforcement action for the FSF: we want to resolve this situation as amicably as possible. We have not sued Apple, nor have we sent them any legal demand that they remove the programs from the App Store. The upstream developers for this port are also violating the GPL, and we are discussing this with them too. We are raising the issue with Apple as well since Apple is the one that distributes this software to the public; legally, both parties have the responsibility to comply with the GPL.

The only thing we’re doing differently is making this announcement. Apple has a proven track record of blocking or disappearing programs from the App Store without explanation. So we want to provide everyone with these details about the case before that happens, and prevent any wild speculation.

Free Software Foundation’s License Compliance Engineer Brett Smith

Instead of changing the App Store rules to get themselves into compliance with the GPL, Apple decided to stop distributing GNU Go. This choice deprived Apple’s users of GNU Go.

The latest chapter: VLC

Now Apple is at it again: this time with VideoLAN Client (VLC)—a versatile media player one can use to watch all sorts of movies. VLC is quite famous in free software because it is so easy to use and because it plays so many different media formats.

Someone made a version of VLC for Apple’s iOS (the operating system Apple ships on the Apple iPad). The programmers submitted their variant of VLC to Apple’s App Store and Apple chose to distribute the program. Apple never changed the conditions which prohibit them from distributing GPL-covered programs, so they are again infringing the copyright of a free software developer.

This time one of the VLC copyright holders, Rémi Denis-Courmont who is also one of VLC’s primary developers, complained to Apple:

VLC media player is free software licensed solely under the terms of the… GNU General Public License (a.k.a. GPL). Those terms are contradicted by the products usage rules of the AppStore through which Apple delivers applications to users of its mobile devices.Rémi Denis-Courmont

and the FSF concurs:

The GPL gives Apple permission to distribute this software through the App Store. All they would have to do is follow the license’s conditions to help keep the software free. Instead, Apple has decided that they prefer to impose Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) and proprietary legal terms on all programs in the App Store, and they’d rather kick out GPLed software than change their own rules. Their obstinance prevents you from having this great software on Apple devices””not the GPL or the people enforcing it.

Apple continues to use more DRM in their products: they just announced that a Mac App Store will be coming soon to their laptops and desktops, and you can bet it will have the same draconian restrictions as today’s App Store. Meanwhile, people enforcing the GPL like Rémi are fighting against DRM, so that everyone can be in full control of their own computers. We’re thankful to him for taking a stand. If you want to show your support, too, it’s easy: just steer clear of Apple’s DRM-infested App Store.

Free Software Foundation’s License Compliance Engineer Brett Smith

Anyone failing to comply with programmers who license their work to freely share and modify comes off looking very bad because they step on the efforts of people who are trying to treat people nicely. Therefore Apple comes off looking very bad every time they deny their users free software for non-compliance with copyright.

Update (2010-11-23): Brett Smith posted FSF analysis of Apple’s terms and conditions to the VLC-devel mailing list (local copy). Karen Sandler and Bradley Kuhn also go into this issue on their show “Free as in Freedom” (Ogg Vorbis recording, local copy). As I pointed out elsewhere, Apple’s changed terms and conditions still don’t allow them to distribute GPL’d works; Apple is still disallowing themselves from distributing GPL’d works.

Update (2011-01-07): Rémi Denis-Courmont writes to Planet VideoLAN:

At last, Apple has removed VLC media player from its application store. Thus the incompatibility between the GNU General Public License and the AppStore terms of use is resolved – the hard way. I am not going to pity the owners of iDevices, and not even the MobileVLC developers who doubtless wasted a lot of their time. This end should not have come to a surprise to anyone.

Will Americans care that most of their chocolate is made by children?

Document thumbnailsDocument thumbnails[O]n Halloween much of the chocolate Americans will hand out to trick-or-treaters will be tainted by the labor of enslaved childrenAndrew Korfhage

Apparently capitalism and big business vertically integrate oppression. Korfhage writes that Congress shelved legislation that would have ostensibly kept slave child labor out of US chocolate companies but when the chocolate companies announced a voluntary plan to deal with the problem themselves, Congress backed down. As a result most Americans won’t find it easy to distinguish which chocolate was produced with slave child labor. The self-regulation plan was a ploy to keep on using child slave labor without Congressional oversight. US chocolate companies kept legislation at bay in 2005 and again in 2008 by renewing their call for self-regulation and Congress keeps buying it.

When businesses use slave child labor they have already demonstrated that they are incapable of self-regulation. I’m guessing Congress knows this but has fallen into the time-honored trap of soliciting campaign donations from the businesses they’re supposed to regulate. Any business which promises to clean things up from within should be ignored; clearly we need more punitive anti-child/slave-labor legislation. It’s unlikely that anything but disincorporation, prison time for business leaders, and heavy fines will stop businesses from being slavers.

Can you have an economic system designed to push for the lowest possible price without treating people as marketable objects? Capitalism has never demonstrated that this is possible.

With the majority of modern slaves in agriculture and mining around the world ”“ and forced labor prevalent in cotton, chocolate, steel, rubber, tin, tungsten, coltan, sugar, and seafood ”“ it is impossible to get dressed, drive to work, talk on the phone, or eat a meal without touching products tainted by forced labor. Even reputable companies can profit from abuse when they do not protect their supply chain ”“ whether at the level of raw materials, parts, or final products ”“ from modern slavery.US Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010

Relevant links

Update 2011-01-02:
I highly recommend seeing “The Dark Side of Chocolate” and continuing to only buy chocolate from the organizations the researchers, journalists, and investigators working against child slave labor have pointed to (see the aforementioned PDF for more on this).

Don’t fight your own chosen license

Occasionally you come across an informative source for information and you want to republish what you find, but you look into the licensing terms and find that the copyright holder’s opinion of how to properly interpret the license is at odds with the license text.

Consider ProPublica; an investigative journal with interesting articles and research. Their FAQ for “Can I republish one of your stories?” says yes: “Unless otherwise noted, you can republish our articles and graphics (but not our photographs) for free” and that their articles are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 US license. But their page entitled “Steal our Stories” attempts to add bizarre requirements not found in the CC license. Adding more confusion, this page isn’t in sync with their FAQ.
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GNU Telephony has their aim set the right way

The GNU Telephony project is a software project for using computers as telephones. By now this isn’t new but it is important as few other telephony projects are based in code we are all free to share and modify.

This project is also important because its politics are in the right place. Recently the US government announced intention to compel American software developers to introduce a means for investigators to get access to all communications—known as “back doors”. This pursuit specifically includes allowing the government to break encryption and allow peer-to-peer services to be intercepted by the government. Such a request defies the entire purpose of speaking freely in a manner which is technologically difficult for others to spy on. David Alexander Sugar, head of GNU Telephony, had this to say in response

Good morning my relations. Today is not such a great day. In the United States the Obama administration is actively seeking a new law to legally mandate the forced introduction of insecure back doors and support for mass surveillance into all communication systems. Specifically targeted are Internet VoIP and messaging systems.

Speaking on behalf of the GNU Telephony project, we do intend to openly defy such a law should it actually come to pass, so I want to be very clear on this statement. It is not simply that we will choose to publicly defy the imposition of such an illegitimate law, but that we will explicitly continue to publicly develop and distribute free software (that is software that offers the freedom to use, inspect, and modify) enabling secure peer-to-peer communication privacy through encryption that is made available directly to anyone worldwide. Clearly such software is especially needed in those places, such as in the United States, where basic human freedoms and dignity seem most threatened.

You’ll no doubt want to read the rest of Sugar’s post. It is well worth your time. Our privacy isn’t just convenient, privacy is critical to the proper functioning of a civilized society.