April 9, 2009

Mobile solutions getting more mature

n2y4

kiwanjaIt’s incredible to think that exactly four years ago I was gearing up to write the early FrontlineSMS prototype. Although a lot was undecided, a central pillar of my early thinking was that a “platform approach” would be the most flexible and appropriate, and that it would be wrong and restrictive of me to try and build a specific, local solution to the communications problem I’d witnessed in South Africa the year before.

africajournalcoverI figured that if I could avoid the temptation to try and solve a problem that wasn’t mine, but build something which allowed its local owners to solve it, then interesting things might happen.

Today, the dizzying array of uses NGOs have found for FrontlineSMS is testament to that early approach, and the software is today driving projects in ways I could never have imagined. The Africa Journal most neatly summed up its impact when they wrote, back in 2007:

FrontlineSMS provides the tools necessary for people to create their own projects that make a difference. It empowers innovators and organisers in the developing world to achieve their full potential through their own ingenuity

Non-profits in over 50 countries have either applied, thought about applying, experimented or played with FrontlineSMS in the context of their own work, imaginatively considering ways in which the software – and the rise of text messaging – can be be turned to good use. As a result we’ve seen solid growth in the FrontlineSMS user community, but this is just one piece of the puzzle. Building community with users is one thing, but getting traction with developers is another.

And today, something very exciting is beginning to happen.

If you take a look at the 2Y4 Mobile Challenge this year, you’ll notice something quite interesting. Three of the ten finalists are building their solutions around the FrontlineSMS platform, and a fourth used it as a major component in early prototyping exercises. You can add to these work that Ushahidi’s developers have been recently carrying out, or students at MIT, or human rights activists in the Philippines, or the FrontlineSMS:Medic team, or university-based agriculture projects, all of whom have started integrating FrontlineSMS into their own tools and solutions.

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April 9, 2009

Witness puts tools for empowerment online

This post originally appeared Jan. 31, 2006, at Socialmedia.biz:

JD LasicaOver the past couple of months, I’ve been having discussions with the good folks at Witness.org about how Witness and Ourmedia could work together. Witness has announced an ambitious plan to build a set of publishing tools that would let those in repressive or abusive conditions shine a spotlight on what’s happening in their countries. We already have parts of that publishing infrastructure built, so it makes sense to join forces.

Tonight on PBS’s “Charlie Rose,” Witness founder Peter Gabriel and executive director Gillian Caldwell spoke eloquently about their stirring vision, which is now within reach. I transcribed this exchange:

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April 9, 2009

Samasource enables socially responsible outsourcing


Samasource from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaLeila Chirayath, founder and CEO of Samasource, has been popping up at nonprofit events everywhere lately. Samasource is a nonprofit organization in Silicon Valley that connects small and mid-size businesses with individuals and firms in the developing world that can perform outsourcing work (such as data entry) in a socially responsible way.

They now have pilot programs in Kenya, Nepal and rural India, and their goal, as their website says, is “to catalyze sustainable economic development and poverty alleviation by creating a thriving, active market for socially responsible outsourcing to developing regions.”

The 4-minute interview was conducted on a very windy day at the 2008 Craigslist Nonprofit Bootcamp in San Mateo, Calif. (though I do need to get a fabric microphone cover). I caught up with Leila a few minutes before her jam-packed talk. As Leila says, there’s a lot of misinformation in the media about outsourcing, and Samasource can help you sort through the best options.

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April 6, 2009

Drupal’s founder on open-source publishing


Drupal: open-source publishing from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaI finally had the chance to sit down with Dries Buytaert, founder and creator of Drupal, the open source content management system that is now powering tens of thousands of websites, including The Onion, Firefox sites, Sony Music artists (see myplay.com) and many others. Also spent time with Jay Batson, co-founder of Acquia, which just launched an important new partnership with Drupal.

In this 11-minute interview, conducted in September 2008, Dries talks about Drupal, the power of open source publishing, and Drupal’s new partnership with Acquia, the Boston-area company that gives citizen publishers a free publishing platform and basic tech support to get it up and running (it costs a subscription for deeper tech support).

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April 5, 2009

Your rights as a photographer

photographers-right

The photographer’s right: A downloadable flyer explaining your rights when confronted for photography

Target audience: Cause organizations, nonprofits, NGOs, journalists, general public. This is part of our ongoing series designed to help nonprofits and other organizations learn how to use and create media.

The Photographer’s Right is a one-page printout on what the rights of photographers are when shooting in public places. It is loosely based on the Bust Card and the Know Your Rights pamphlet that was once available on the ACLU website. It may be downloaded and printed out using Adobe Acrobat Reader.

You may make copies and carry them your wallet, pocket, or camera bag to give you quick access to your rights and obligations concerning confrontations over photography. You may distribute the guide to others, provided that such distribution is not done for commercial gain and credit is given to the author, Bert Krages 2nd, who is an attorney.

PDF

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A stand for photographers’ rights

The right to take photographs in the United States is being challenged more than ever. People are being stopped, harassed, and even intimidated into handing over their personal property simply because they were taking photographs of subjects that made other people uncomfortable. Recent examples have included photographing industrial plants, bridges, buildings, trains, and bus stations. For the most part, attempts to restrict photography are based on misguided fears about the supposed dangers that unrestricted photography presents to society.

Ironically, unrestricted photography by private citizens has played an integral role in protecting the freedom, security, and well-being of all Americans. Photography in the United States has an established history of contributing to improvements in civil rights, curbing abusive child labor practices, and providing important information to crime investigators. Photography has not contributed to a decline in public safety or economic vitality in the United States. When people think back on the acts of domestic terrorism that have occurred over the last twenty years, none have depended on or even involved photography. Restrictions on photography would not have prevented any of these acts. Furthermore, the increase in people carrying small digital and cell phone cameras has resulted in the prevention of crimes and the apprehension of criminals.

As the flyer states, there are not very many legal restrictions on what can be photographed when in public view. Most attempts at restricting photography are done by lower-level security and law enforcement officials acting way beyond their authority. Note that neither the Patriot Act nor the Homeland Security Act have any provisions that restrict photography. Similarly, some businesses have a history of abusing the rights of photographers under the guise of protecting their trade secrets. These claims are almost always meritless because entities are required to keep trade secrets from public view if they want to protect them.

For more information

U.S. law:
Legal Handbook for Photographers-The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images

Abroad:
UK Photographers Rights
NSW Australia Street Photography Legal Issues

Source: Bert P. Krages website

Please comment on, correct or expand upon this article.

Related

Guide to shooting photos in public

The rules around capturing public performances

What is off-limits to a documentary filmmaker?

April 4, 2009

Fair use in the digital age

How does fair use work in an age of social media?

JD LasicaFair use — the tradition that individuals may make use of copyrighted works for a range of purposes that are legal — is enshrined in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act. Other countries have their own versions of fair use.

Many people mistakenly believe fair use gives them broad, indiscriminate leeway to appropriate copyright holders’ works. Fair use is somewhat limited in scope. But Lawrence Lessig, the author and Harvard law professor, makes the important point that free use covers much more terrain than fair use. So does Peter Jaszi, another noted academic. Fair use is limited to carveouts, or exceptions granted to certain classes of individuals, in the Copyright Act. Free use covers longtime traditions like taping television shows on your VCR.

Fenwick-West, a prestigious intellectual property law firm in San Francisco, wrote the following fair use guidelines for Ourmedia.org members. The same guidelines apply to anyone who uploads works to any public website.

Fair use guidelines

The best way you can avoid infringement is by obtaining proper permission from the copyright or trademark owner before using it in your work, even if you only use a small part of his or her material. Simply crediting a copyright or trademark owner whenever you use his or her material is not a substitute for obtaining permission. If you do not obtain permission and you are not sure if your work falls within the fair use guidelines outlined below, consider consulting an attorney or avoid using the material altogether.

Cyberspace law differs by jurisdiction and is developing rapidly. A reasonable fair use policy seeks to reflect U.S. and international intellectual property laws, but copyright is a rapidly evolving arena.

Copyrights

A copyright protects original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression, such as published and unpublished written, visual, and audio works. Examples of copyrighted material may include music, films, television programs, and photographs. Copyright laws usually do not protect, among other things, ideas, procedures, discoveries, and works in the public domain (i.e., standard calendars).

Be mindful, however, that many things commonly thought to be in the public domain are not, so you need to be very careful to do a little research before assuming that something is in the public domain. For example, just because someone posts something online does not mean that he or she is allowing anyone to use it for any purpose. A copyrighted work does not need to say that it is copyrighted, or have the copyright symbol © on it. The copyright owner has the right to copy or permit others to copy his or her material.

Copyright infringement occurs whenever someone uses rights reserved just for the copyright owner without proper permission from the owner. You could be guilty of infringement if you improperly use another’s copyrighted material, even if that use is unintentional.

If you live outside the United States, be aware of the copyright laws governing your jurisdiction. Many countries have ratified international agreements and are members of organizations that seek to protect copyright owners.

Copyright ‘fair use’

The “fair use” of another’s copyright material means that, depending on your particular situation, you can sometimes use a part of another’s copyrighted material in your own work without permission from the owner. You may fairly use another’s copyrighted material provided that your work essentially transforms the copyrighted material into something original and creative, such as a parody, satire, or political statement.

It is not automatically fair to use another’s copyrighted material for a noncommercial, educational, or private purpose, or to exercise your First Amendment rights. It is usually fair use to use just enough of another’s copyrighted material that is necessary to communicate your ideas.

Examples of actions that may infringe others’ copyrights include the following: attempting to make money from another’s copyrighted material; completely duplicating another’s copyrighted material; creating a new work comprised mostly of another’s copyrighted material; and paraphrasing another’s copyrighted material without permission and attribution.

Trademarks

A trademark is a distinctive sign that identifies particular goods or services as those made or supplied by a person or entity. The owner of a trademark possesses the license to use the mark. Examples of trademarks include the bulls-eye symbol for Target, and word marks like Xerox and Macintosh.

Trademark infringement occurs whenever someone uses rights reserved just for the trademark owner without the owner’s permission. You could be guilty of infringement if you improperly use another’s trademark, even if that use is unintentional.

If you live outside the United States, be aware of the trademark laws governing your jurisdiction. Many countries have ratified international agreements that seek to protect trademark owners.

Trademark ‘fair use’

The “fair use” of another’s trademark means that, depending on your particular situation, you can sometimes use another’s trademark in your own work without permission from the trademark owner. You may fairly use another’s trademark inconspicuously in your own work to identify that product or service, while avoiding the risk of misattributing your work to the trademark owner. Fair use often permits “fair comment” of another’s trademark, such as comparing your product to another’s in an advertisement. A work that incorporates another’s trademark in a genuine parody or satire is often fair use, so long as it is not a disguised attempt to compete with another’s products or services.

Examples of actions that may be infringement include altering another’s trademark or the product or service associated with it, or directly or indirectly making false claims about the trademark or product or service with that it is associated.

Copyright Act

Here is the wording of the U.S. Copyright Act with respect to fair use:

Sec. 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include–

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Additional resources

U.S. Copyright Office on fair use: Can I use someone else’s work? Can someone else use mine? (FAQ)

Socialbrite’s law resources

Center for Social Media’s Fair Use Project

Stanford University: Copyright and fair use

Documentary filmmakers’ statement of best practices in fair use

Podcasting legal guide

Wikipedia on fair use

Wikipedia on copyright

University of Cincinnati Libraries: Using Images FAQs

Nolo law center: When Copying Is Okay: The “Fair Use” Rule

Stanford University Library: Summaries of Fair Use Cases

Creative Commons on remixing

Please comment on, correct or expand upon this article.