Archive for December, 2009

Mini fest@NID showcasing Under Construction films!!

December 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Mini fest@NID showcasing Under Construction films.

We are happy to announce a two-day mini-fest organized and hosted by National Institute of Design at the National Institute of Design Campus. The festival will be showcasing films selected by NID from the Under Construction collection of films.

Date: 30th – 31st January 2010
Venue: National Institute of Design Campus, Ahmedabad
Time : 10.30 am to 6.00 pm


Article on Copyright: Copyright law to change

December 28, 2009 Leave a comment

An article in the Times of India dated 25th December 2009.


Copyright law to change

NEW DELHI: Authors of musical, cinematographic and literary works may now be entitled to royalty in case their works are used for commercial purposes. This has been made possible because certain amendments to the Copyright Act, 1957, were approved by the Cabinet on Thursday. The amendments propose to give “independent rights to authors of literary and musical works in cinematograph films”, information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni said.
“It has been proposed to introduce statutory licensing to ensure the public has access to musical works over FM and TV and at the same time the owners are not disadvantaged,” she said.

Article on piracy: Dead man’s test: Pirates trawl political seas!!

December 27, 2009 5 comments

An article in the ‘Times of India’ dated December 19, 2009 :


Dead man’s test: Pirates trawl political seas

We’re pirates, we love copying!” says Christian Engstrom, the first pirate representative in the European Parliament. Take it as the war cry of the freeweb society or a political slogan, but web pirates are rising from the ashes of all the verdicts hurled against it. A fledgling political movement started by a group of young Scandinavian file-sharers is trying to make the worldwide web a better place to copy.

Ironically, the emergence of the Pirate Party – launched in Stockholm in 2006 – was only boosted by the Pirate Bay trial in Sweden, in which the four young men behind the website were sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to pay $4.5 million in damages. In the days after the trial, membership in the Piratpartiet, as it is known in Sweden, surged to over 40,000 members. In a development that would have been laughable in the early months of 2009, the Pirate Party has earned two seats in the European Parliament, piggybacking on their strong support in Sweden, where they garnered 7.1 per cent of the vote in the elections in June 2009. Today, it is the third-biggest political group in the country by membership numbers and the most popular among voters under 30 – an unlikely success story underscored by prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who said that his own Moderate Party will formulate a clear policy regarding net integrity and copyright issues before the national elections in September 2010. The pirates hope to win around 5 per cent of the vote, giving him the balance of power between the two major political blocs. That would make them the “kingmakers”.

To the horror of artists and entertainment executives, the Pirate Party believes peer-to-peer networking should be encouraged rather than “criminalised”. In a manifesto posted on /english, the party says it is focused on three main goals: “Fundamentally reform copyright law, get rid of the patent system, and ensure that citizens’ rights to privacy are respected.”

On paper, the debate over piracy is a black-and-white no-brainer – thieving is wrong. But, with nearly 90 per cent of music and practically all software and films being downloaded illegally across the world every day, the issue of free downloads, file-sharing , kleptomania en masse and utopian internet is a lot more complicated.

The history of internet is marred by the volatile co-existence of two competing philosophies. The first is an egalitarian, utopian vision – all information should be free and every connected human being should have the same access and privileges. The second philosophy looks at the web as a means to make money. The success of Google, eBay, Amazon, iTunes and Facebook more than validate the belief. Most of these firms argue that file-sharing services like BitTorrent are killing the creative industry by eating into the bank accounts and livelihoods of musicians, producers, filmmakers and novelists.

The second philosophy flies in the face of web tradition, but if distortions of the market, as those caused by BitTorrent users continue, something will have to change.

Rick Falkvinge, founder of the original Pirate Party and a former employee of Microsoft, believes file-sharing can never be stopped. “You can argue about whether it should exist all day, pretty much like you could argue about whether blueberries should be allowed to grow in the forest all day. In economic terms, there is an enormous oversupply of people wanting to live off creativity,” he says.

Falkvinge’s argument will find many takers and perhaps that’s why the Pirate Party is now being seen as a serious competitor in world politics. Patronised by young, tech-savvy voters, it now has a presence in 33 countries. The Bavarian chapter of the Pirate Party got approximately 1% of the votes in the German elections in September, a huge step, though far from the threshold needed to get seats in the parliament. In the UK, the party was officially registered at the Electoral Commission in August, and Canada and Australia have been pursuing the same goal for a while. Last week, the US Pirate Party held its annual elections.

But what if the established parties simply plagiarise the pirate poll plank? “Then we will have reached our objective and we will abolish ourselves,” says Engstrom.

When the EU parliament meets in the summer of 2010, there will be at least two pirates amid the 785 world leaders – and, as one pro-web freedom blogger puts it, “just one of them is enough to hijack a whole ship”. Aye, aye cap’n.

When two favourites come together…

December 24, 2009 Leave a comment

When two favourites come together a kind of magic happens. A favourite author reviewing a favourite film. Sameera Jain’s Portraits of Belonging: Sagira Begum is a very old favourite and Paromita Vohra reviews it for the Open Magazine. Read the review here:
Gargi Sen

The 11th Madurai Film Festival – a brief report!!

December 24, 2009 Leave a comment

11th Madurai International Documentary & Short Film Festival 2009-10

The first phase of 11th Madurai International Documentary and Short Film Festival 2009-10 was organised by MARUPAKKAM on 15-19 December 2009 at The Madura College, Madurai in association with Media Research Centre, Department of Philosophy, The Madura College.

Dr. Karpaga Kumaravel, the Vice-Chancellor of Madurai Kamaraj University, inaugurated the festival on 15th December at 10 a.m. “Pandhi Bhojanam” a Malayalam short film directed by Sreebala K.Menon was screened as the inaugural film.

Around 80 films were screened in 5 days on two screens between 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday. Around 500 people took part in the screenings. Documentaries and Short film were screened under the following six sections: Retrospective (films by Sanjay Kak), Country package (films from Kyrgyzstan curated by Paul Lee, presented by Cinema Development Fund, Kyrgyzstan), International films, Rest of India, Films from Tamilnadu and Under Construction (films distributed by Magic Lantern Foundation, New Delhi). Discussions were held after almost every screening.

Filmmakers K.P.Sasi, Sarat Chandran, Sreebala K.Menon, Kutti Revathi, Manohar, and K.Jayamurugan participated in the festival and screened their films.

Interactions with writers were organised every after noon. Writers Kutti Revathi, Samayavel, Jayabaskaran, Sureshkumar Indrajith, and Sa.Tamilselvan participated in the discussions.

Painting and Photo exhibition was organised along with the festival for 5 days. Artists Arasan, Balu, M.G. Rafeeq Mohammed, James Peter, Babu, Senthil, Siva and Ibrahim and the photographer Senthil exhibited their works.

V.M.S.Subhagunarajan, a theatre activist cum publisher and Yadhaarthaa Rajan, a film society activist took part in the closing ceremony along with Dr.Murali, Head of the Department, Department of Philosophy, The Madura College participated in the closing ceremony on 19th Decemeber 2009 at 5 p.m.

“Valli thirumanam” a mythological music theatre performance was presented by traditional artists Munirajan and company on 19th December 2009 at 6 p.m. as part of the closing ceremony.

The second and third phases of the festival will be held between January and June of 2010 that include screenings at various colleges, public halls, street corners, villages and small towns in and around Madurai in association with educational institutions, voluntary organisations, trade unions, theatre and film groups, and interesting and interested individuals.

The festival is supported by ZINDABAD Trust, New Delhi. IDEAS and EVIDENCE also supported the festival.


The Free Culture Roadshow!! – an experience!

December 22, 2009 Leave a comment

The “Free Culture Roadshow” organised by The Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore in collaboration with The Magic Lantern Foundation, held at the India International Centre on December 20, 2009, had me leaving home at 8:15 a.m. on a Sunday morning!
An interesting set of three presentations by Elizabeth Stark, Ben Moskowitz and Dean Jansen.

Elizabeth Starke, helped by Dean Jansen as Ben Moskowitz looks on.

Elizabeth, a leader in the global free culture movement and founder of the Harvard free culture group, talked on copyrights in the digital domain versus the physical domain, and the inherent complications. You can own a house or any other physical property and hand it down from generation to generation, but what about a photograph that is worked upon digitally and then distributed. Who has the rights to that ? Remixed music, parody’s and remakes of classics are something that has become a virus that hits all of us today. However much I may dislike a remix of a classic song from Bollywood, it does not affect the fact that there are so many others who dance to the beat. An interesting aspect brought up was the copyrights by Walt Disney on classics that they are rendering from the public domain. The concept sounds as ridiculous as herbal remedies using garlic or yoga being patented.

As the internet becomes more and more broad based, sharing and modified content has become the norm rather than the exception it was not even 5 years ago. Peer to peer sharing of files is another aspect that is massively distributing both copyrighted as well as free material, legally and illegally. For instance Napster was shut down after litigation by the Music labels worried about loss of revenues. Elizabeth also brought up the example of Wikipedia – an open online encyclopedia – and how it has become the reference point that many treat as the ultimate source of ‘true’ information. With thousand of ‘editors’ – all of whom despite their bias try to remain neutral, and are liable to be edited by others of an opposing viewpoint.

Ben Moskowitz started off with the interesting example of Diebold – the voting machine in the US. It was eventually discovered that the code was badly written and fraught with errors. These errors were published on many internet sites, but the company filed a suit and got the comments and code taken off. A mass movement got the code and comments as well as leaked emails of errors from technicians posted on many sites. The posting of this information to get the errors corrected was finally considered as ‘Fair Use’ by the US court. The other interesting example was of an Indian educational institution that has digital copies of publications on its site available to students. Legally, they can circulate hard copies of books they have purchased amongst their students in the library. However, the circulation of that same material in digital form amongst their students is illegal.
The International organization ‘Students for Free Culture’ where Ben currently serves on the board of directors, is instrumental in how research and teaching material is made available free. As he enumerated, though MIT makes all it’s educational tools & material available free on the internet, that still does not reduce the value of a MIT degree.

Ben Moskowitz speaks about free culture as Dean Jansen looks on.

In academia, a lot of work is funded by various organizations and then published in journals. But, there’s the catch – once the material is published in the journal, both the researcher as well as the funder lose access to the research. Even if they subscribe to the journal, they cannot re-distribute the work that they have paid for or worked on. Ben also mentioned, the other side to it – how does a researcher make his / her work financially viable? There are a number of options that need to be explored in terms of making the release of information in the public domain more to their interest. One possible way could be to retain the ‘creator’ tag so that the reputation of the person creating the content is enhanced. Then as a specialist in their specific line of expertise, they have more of a chance of being consulted by firms on specific issues.

Nitansh Rastogi and Pranav Chacha

Dean Jansen a Free Culture activist and guerilla artist based in New York serves as outreach director at the non-profit Participatory Culture Foundation, the makers of Miro Internet TV player. Dean spoke about the promise of open video and the Open Video Alliance, a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to the idea that the power of moving image should belong to everyone. Open Video Alliance that has made a non-proprietary codec that doesn’t require permission or royalty to distribute content. The idea behind it is to move away from Flash and other proprietary codecs (or video transmission / compression / delivery formats that are licensed and would make a startup website with audio / video content unviable). The fascinating aspect was the controls being brought up in the dissemination of the content.

Dean Jansen, Ben Moskowitz and Elizabeth Starke in conversation.

YouTube owns a huge share of the video sharing market – the difference being as large as the variation between a football and a small necklace bead. And it allows publishers the option of restricting viewers by country, etc. Dean brought up the example of video footage available on the internet about Neda Agha Soltan, the young student who died in the Iran protest and became an icon of the movement. Public participation that allows many to many content distribution on a collaborative level.He also mentioned the issues that arise alongside. Would Neda have wanted to be an icon? Is it ethical?

Prateek Purkayastha, Partha Dasgupta

The entire context was in terms of freedom – of ideas and expression, of content, of platforms and of access to the content.
The discussion did bring many questions to mind, to mention a few –
1. If our expressions are an amalgamation of what we have heard, read, seen and experienced – is it plagiarism? So what is ‘original’ content ?
2. What makes an expression or movement ‘popular’?
3. Isn’t ‘truth’ relative to my viewpoint?
4. How do I restrict my minor children from viewing all the open content, open expression available on the internet?
5. Is it ethical?

To be fair, as all the speakers mentioned, there are a lot of gray areas. The discussions and the ‘ambiguous’ areas are exactly why there must be more retrospection about the quality, veracity and legality of shared information. The internet has both democratized and liberalized information dissemination. Now we need to rewrite laws and concepts to fit in with digital reality that is as ambiguous as the ‘zero and one’ of the new frontier.
NB: Am not a legal expert, or a tilak wearing Hindu or even something as respectable as a PHD holder in any stream. Just a 40+ professional working in the IT industry bothered enough to throw away a lazy Sunday and try to assimilate the many issues that we block away.
I think it’s time we take a look at what is not any more the future, but the present that we have to deal with.


Partha Dasgupta

The Free Culture Roadshow! All are invited!

December 18, 2009 Leave a comment

The Centre for Internet and Society and the Magic Lantern Foundation take pleasure in inviting you to the Free Culture Roadshow, a presentation on ‘The Right to Share’ and ‘The Promise of Open Video¹.

Venue: Conference Room ,

India International Centre
40, Max Mueller Mar,
New Delhi -110003

Date: 20th December, 2009
Time: 9.00am to 01.00pm

Entry Free: All Welcome

For more details and profile of the speakers please visit:

A Brief Abstract of the two discussions is given below:

The Right to Share: What Does Copying Have to Do with Freedom? by Elizabeth

The Internet has unleashed the potential to communicate and collaborate like
never before, and the result has been an unprecedented flow of culture and
information. Millions of individuals are now sharing and creating culture:
copying, cutting, remixing, and participating in new and different ways.
Sometimes this activity is transformative. Sometimes it’s straight copying.
In either case, there is a clear connection between this sharing of culture
and personal freedom.
This talk will explore how various conceptions of “freedom” have shaped the
social movements for free software, free culture, and free knowledge, and
how this ideology has manifested itself in real action. It will connect
theory with practice, exploring the cultural innovations and political
changes that have spawned forth from these movements. Lastly, it will make
the case that the broad-based availability, accessibility, and abundance of
culture is a good thing for our global society.

The Revolution Will Be Recorded, Remixed, and Redistributed: The Promise of
Open Video

by Dean Jansen and Ben Moskowitz
Between news, cinema, television, and documentary film, we find ourselves
swimming in a sea of moving images. This has been the story of the 20th
century. Yet in this age, the tools for creating and sharing video are
becoming widely distributed in the hands of millions of individuals. Desktop
video editing software is pervasive; webcams and video-equipped mobile
phones abound. Video now belongs to everyone. It is becoming a powerful
medium for self-expression, a kind of cultural currency.
How will this phenomenon change the Internet? How will it change society?
What questions persist for the architecture of the Internet, and how will
public policy address this ultimately political transformation? This talk
sets forth a vision of networked video as a truly participatory medium, one
that will power the next 10 years of innovation on the web. Dean Jansen and
Ben Moskowitz introduce some core technologies for open video, and the
obstacles they face on the road to mass adoption.

Speaker Profile:

Elizabeth Stark is a leader in the global free culture movement. She is a
Fellow at the Yale Information Society Project and a Lecturer in Computer
Science at Yale University. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Stark founded
the Harvard Free Culture Group and served on the board of directors of
Students for Free Culture. While at Harvard, she was Editor-at-Large of the
Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, and worked on using new media to
promote human rights with the Harvard Advocates for Human Rights. Elizabeth
has worked extensively with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and
has taught courses in Cyberlaw, Digital Copyright, Technology and Politics,
and Electronic Music. She recently produced the inaugural Open Video
Conference in NYC, garnering over 8000 viewers across the web. Elizabeth
regularly gives talks around the world on free culture, and has collaborated
with myriad organizations on promoting shared knowledge and the open web.

Dean Jansen is a Free Culture activist and guerrilla artist based in New
York. He attended Harvard University and was a leader in the Harvard Free
Culture Group.
Dean assisted in teaching media studies and law courses at MIT and Harvard,
and has organized numerous academic conferences.
He currently serves as outreach director at the non-profit Participatory
Culture Foundation, makers of the Miro internet TV player. His art projects
can be viewed at

Ben Moskowitz is general coordinator at the Open Video Alliance, a coalition
to democratize the moving image. Ben co-founded the UC Berkeley chapter of
Students for Free Culture and taught a seminar on the politics of piracy at
Berkeley’s School of Information.
He currently serves on the board of directors of the international
organization Students for Free Culture, dedicated to promoting access to
knowledge, technological freedom, and participatory culture.