Here’s a puzzle: when is the public domain not in the public domain?

Walled Culture is a big fan of the public domain. The amazing artistic uses that people are able to make of material only once it enters the public domain are an indication that copyright can act as an obstacle to wider creativity, rather than something that automatically promotes it. But there’s a problem: because the …

The EU link tax was bad enough, but Canada’s threatens to be even worse

At the heart of Walled Culture the book (available as a free ebook in various formats) is the story of the disgraceful EU Copyright Directive and how it was passed. I won’t go into the details here, except to note that Article 15, aka the snippet tax or the link tax – the idea of …

Research shows that, when given the choice, most authors don’t want excessively-long copyright terms

Last week Walled Culture mentioned the problem of orphan works. These are creations, typically books, that are still covered by copyright, but unavailable because the original publisher or distributor has gone out of business, or simply isn’t interested in keeping them in circulation. The problem is that without any obvious point of contact, it’s not …

How publishers lobbied to “axe the reading tax” on ebooks, won – and then paid it to themselves

One of the (many) villains in Walled Culture the book (free ebook versions) is the publishing industry, specifically in the context of the transition from analogue books to ebooks. What could have been one of the most important expansions of the power and possibility of the book form became instead its opposite – a diminishment …

Finnish Parliament reminds us that copyright should not trump fundamental human rights

One of the key dogmas the copyright industry fights hard to impose on the world is that copyright should trump all other considerations, and in all situations. For its supporters, copyright should even be placed above basic human rights, if ever a clash arises between them. For the most part, legislators and judges have allowed …

Peer review has failed, and that’s great news – for diamond open access, science and society

Over on his Experimental History blog, which he describes as “cognitive sneezing and interior design for your head“, Adam Mastroianni has two great posts about peer review in science. Wikipedia defines peer review as “the evaluation of work by one or more people with similar competencies as the producers of the work (peers). It functions …

A database of public domain works could reduce upload filter overblocking; it’s absurd we need one

One of many problems with the upload filters that Article 17 of the EU Copyright Directive will bring in is that they are likely to overblock. That is, they will stop perfectly lawful materials from being uploaded because of flaws in the filters’ algorithms. Among those blocked lawful materials will certainly be public domain items. …

A new US law makes it easier for copyright trolls to terrorise people with claims of alleged infringement

The legal landscape is already strongly tilted in favour of copyright holders. But that doesn’t stop the copyright maximalists from demanding more ways to enforce their intellectual monopolies. The latest expansion of enforcement powers is doubly concerning. First, because its explicit purpose is to make it even easier to bring cases against alleged copyright infringement. …

Digital books do wear out – just like digital music, digital films and video games

There’s a great post by Brewster Kahle on the Internet Archive blog with the title “Digital Books wear out faster than Physical Books“. He makes an important point about the work involved in providing and preserving digital books: The Internet Archive processes and reprocesses the books it has digitized as new optical character recognition technologies …

If Twitter goes down in flames, what happens to its huge and historically important collection of tweets?

This blog has just written about the likely loss of a very particular kind of culture – K-pop live streams. Culture is culture, and a loss is a loss. But potentially we are facing the disappearance of a cultural resource that is indisputably more important. I’m talking about Twitter, and its vast store of tweets …

No good deed goes unpunished in a world where the rules have been set by academic publishers

One of the heroes of my new book Walled Culture is Paul Ginsparg. In 1991, Ginsparg set up an automated email server while he was a staff member of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. As preprints – early versions of academic papers – were uploaded, the server would send out alerts to subscribers, who could …

Walled Culture, the book, now freely available: what that means, and how you can help

Today is an important day for this blog: Walled Culture – the book – has launched. You can download free copies now in a variety of digital formats. Or, if you prefer, you can order it in a traditional book form from your favourite online bookseller, but I’m afraid that requires a (smallish) payment to …

Open access is taking over, but academic institutions are paying as much money as ever: what happened?

The good news is that open access publishing, which allows anyone to read academic papers without needing a subscription, is taking over. The bad news is that academic publishers have managed to subvert it, so the victory is proving hollow. That’s confirmed by a new preprint from an international group of researchers: Since the early …

Best-selling organic chemistry textbook to be freely available, supported by enlightened patronage

It’s well known that textbook prices are generally high. That’s in part because academic publishers effectively have a monopoly when it comes to standard texts. Very often, there are texts that students simply must have as part of their course, which means they will pay even exorbitant prices. One such book was John McMurry’s Organic …

Ireland shows how to take the true fans idea to the next level, with a bold new arts funding programme

One of the recurring themes on this blog is the idea of true fans: hard-core supporters of an artist who are willing to send money directly to creators whose work they love. The original idea was expressed most cogently by Kevin Kelly back in 2008: You need to meet two criteria. First, you have to …

Educational publisher Pearson finds a way to make NFTs even worse

Back in April, Walled Culture noted that non-fungible tokens (NFTs) offer very little benefit for creators, despite the grand claims made for them.  Since then, the once trendy sector is collapsing, with both NFTs and cryptocurrencies revealing themselves to be little more than scams and pyramid schemes.  But just when you might have hoped that …

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