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Co-Creating Computer Games

The post-lunch sessions of this conference constitute a mini-conference on computer games and the law. It is opened by Greg Lane of the Brisbane-based games developer Auran, responsible for titles such as Dark Reign and Trainz. The computer games industry is significantly large - twice the size of the movie industry, and growing twice as fast. In its multimedia inputs it's also a classic example for creative industries production, which involves massively interdisciplinary inputs into its IP 'asset creation', as Greg puts it. Interestingly, too, games are increasingly involving user co-production or co-creation. This is the case with Trainz, a train simulator which enables its users to produce rolling stock models, physical environments, and action scenarios to be used in the game - and interestingly more content was produced by users for Trainz (which sold some 3-400,000 copies) than for the only competitor project by Microsoft, which sold ten times as much, due to Microsoft's reluctance to engage fully with its users.

Digital Rights Languages

The second speaker is Renato Ianella, from the Open Digital Rights Language Iniative. This project focusses on one of the three components of Creative Commons licences (human-, lawyer-, machine-readable): the machine-readable representation of licences. This is linked to digital rights management issues: on a technical level, DRM covers rights information management (RIM: rights holders, royalties, licence management) and technical protection measures (TPM: security, encryption, trust). RIM metadata is usually captured in an XML-based "Rights Expression Language" (REL).

Sharing Educational Content

The next session is chaired by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Arun Sharma from QUT. He notes the need to find pathways between commercial and free content - neither can exist simply by itself and both are needed in a fully functional environment. It is therefore important to support the entire continuum of approaches. Further, he also points out that applying creative content or other new licence schemes to new content is one project - but it is also necessary to consider the large amount of existing content and work out whether there are ways to apply such licences retroactively and thereby return older material to circulation.

Open Government Content?

On the Riverboat:
Liz Ferrier, Sal Humphreys, and Terry Cutler
After last night's riverboat excursion, the second day at the Open Content Licencing conference has begun now, with a panel chaired by my colleague Stuart Cunningham from CIRAC. The session will deal with the role of open content licencing in government and public institutions. Stuart begins by noting the shift of cultural production from traditional producers to what used to be consumers and are now users (or, in the terminology I've used in my book, produsers). Stuart notes that this shift has various implications for governmental IP regimes and governments' overall engagement with citizens.

Exploring the Knowledge Economy

The final session for today is opened by economist John Quiggin from the University of Queensland. He notes the increasing importance of the Internet as a focus of innovation, since about 1980 (previously, it was transport which drove innovation). Most of the innovations it brought about, however, were pioneered outside the market sector - they were done in the background of the main economy (think for example of blogs and wikis).

Innovations on networks are naturally non-rival, and excludability (restrictions to people's access) is problematic as exclusion undermines the network itself (as AOL has found - ultimately it was unable to restrict its users from accessing the wider network, and vice versa). Similar exclusions in online newspapers (such as the New York Times Website) are also ultimately counterproductive.

Creative Responses

The next session unites some representatives of the creative industries. We begin with Richard Neville, billed here as a futurist and social commentator. He notes that there is a resurgence of creativity in our society today, and that there also needs to be an incentive to create and disseminate - but this incentive must be more than a financial one; it is also based in collaboration and the ability to build on the work on others. In creative eras throughout human history this opportunity for mutual collaboration and inspiration was always present.

Today the large IP holders are stifling such collaboration between creators and reuse of their content - even though many of the creators themselves are actually happy to participate in the sharing of content. There is a significant bifurcation, then, between the creators themselves and the corporations which presume to manage their interests. However, overall, the issue is abut sharing, not stealing content.

Creative Commons Innovation in Queensland?

Next up we're hearing from the Queensland State Government about their involvement with creative innovation - Tony McGrady, Minister for State Development and Innovation, couldn't make it at the last minute and is therefore represented by his parliamentary secretary Linda Lavarch (who handily also happens to be the wife of QUT Dean of Law, Michael Lavarch).

From her remarks it looks like the State Government did have a major shift in thinking through its involvement with the Creative Commons project. It's already been very supportive of creative innovation and the creative industries, and the creative commons provides another important element in this context. All this is part of its overall Smart State agenda, of course.

An Australian Creative Commons

Next up is Ian Oi from Blake Dawson Waldron, the lead lawyer on the development of the Australian CC licences. His talk builds on a collection called International Commons in the Digital Age which details the iCommons and related work. The key issue in his work on the project was of course the translatability of licences across national jurisdictions, but on the other hand the Australian licence also needed to reflect Australian specificities (such as the GST, for example).

Another issue related to the collection of commercial royalties. In the Australian context, the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA), for example, first needs to have the rights of collecting royalties for musical content assigned to it, which complicates the creative commons licencing system. APRA has taken a relatively cooperative approach here, and discussions are ongoing as to how to handle royalties for musical content.

iCommons Developments

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Tom Cochrane from QUT now starts the second session, which will introduce in more detail the iCommons project. Neeru Paharia is the first speaker, and she begins by once again flagging the launch of the Australian CC licences.

iCommons recognises the need to translate the CC licences (or at least theiir legal layer) into the different legal jurisdictions for which they're aiming to apply. National laws are subtly or not-so-subtly different, of course, so it isn't possible simply to take the original US law-based licences and use them in other jurisdictions. The process began with Japan, and has now launched some 15 licences world-wide, with licences for over 70 other countries still underway. But beyond the licences themselves the aim is also to grow the number of CC adopters in each country, of course. Ultimately, this is hoped to create a global pool of licenced content, with content being able to be used under equivalent but locally appropriate licences (or a generic world-wide licence where no local licence exists). This is complicated by specific national issues such as the inability to waive specific author's rights or the existence of collecting societies.

Creating the Creative Commons

Lessig and LogoAfter these introductions we're now moving on to Lawrence Lessig's keynote. His aim today is to place the CC movement in some context, to provide a motivation for the project. His main theme, therefore is 'remix', and he notes that culture itself is remix, every day - from politics to the arts: we decide what to consume and what to construct and (re)create from this input. The main observation here is that this form of remix is free: unregulated by law; there is no requirement for permission to be able to do this. In fact, it needs to be free in order to avoid infantilising our culture, to ensure the basic human right of being able to 'write' our culture in ordinary ways


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