Today marks the tenth death anniversary of Aaron Swartz, who died far too young. The tragic event still casts a long shadow over MIT, the US government, and copyright extremists so hopelessly behind in time. When I feel stuck in my thoughts or when I struggle to find meaning with what I do, I go back to these words by Aaron Swartz:
”What is the most important thing you could be working on in the world right now? … And if you’re not working on that, why aren’t you?”
Aaron Swartz advocated public access to information and was involved in the Open Library project, which recently has been under attack from publishers who claim that ”the Internet Archive is engaging in wilful mass copyright infringement” because of their National Emergency Library, where they made all their books more readily available ”to meet students’ and readers’ needs while schools and libraries are closed at global scale”. There are certainly different ways to tackle a global pandemic.
Let us never forget Aaron Swartz. Let us continue to work for what he stood for and continue on the path he staked out. And if you haven’t seen the film about him, The Internet’s Own Boy, go watch it now, and then share it with everyone you know.
”I love libraries, you know. I’m the kind of person who goes to a new city and immediately seeks out the library.”
I’ve done a minor update on the interactive map page, adding public art in Uppsala with English text. I am planning to add more art in Uppsala and other cities, but time is (as always) scarce.
I wish I had been more of my usual enthusiastic self in the lightning talk but as soon as I stepped of the plane in Manchester on Monday I felt this terrible cold coming on and it still has me in a firm grip. As I’m staying the week in Liverpool for LILAC 2018 this is mighty annoying. Due to low energy levels I skipped this morning’s parallel sessions.
I did however attend the wonderful session on The Publishing Trap and I am now very keen to make a copy of the game to play at home (which is Uppsala University Library for the time being – surprise!). Luckily, some things are unbound by the unnatural national borders we keep up by copyright, so there’s not too many adaptions needed (if any?); open access and scholarly perceptions on publishing and openness are quite similar in Sweden and the UK. (A Brask note* that I haven’t studied all the board game materials in details.)
Well, while everyone else has been networking and checking out the terracotta army (did you know Liverpool has the oldest Chinese community in Europe?) at least my feverish sinuses has inspired this blog post.
* A Brask note is a sort of disclaimer, although the etymology behind the Swedish brasklapp is so intriguing that it, like lagom, should be exported to the English language. And possibly many other languages as well.
As part of Kista Library’s Welcome Refugee Days on 17-20 June I arranged a Mozilla Maker Party to teach the public library users about copyright in everyday life. While copyright might seem like a difficult and dull topic of interest only to a select few (mainly creators and lawyers), it is actually one of the most urgent topics of media and information literacy (MIL).
Why is copyright essential to media and information literacy?
In the 2013 UNESCO publication Media and Information Literacy: Policy and Strategy Guidelines, UNESCO gives ”a full recognition that copyright is essential for enhancing individual creativity, for the advancement of knowledge and cultural expressions, and for the promotion of cultural diversity”, while underlining that there is a difference between protectionism and empowerment when advocating for ethical use of media and information. A protectionist policy would e.g. be ”focus[sing] on copyright of scientific and educational resources”, while an empowering policy would be ”advocacy through MIL for open education resources and open access to scientific information”. Marika Alneng, author of Folkbibliotek i förändring – navigera med medie- och informationskunnighet (The changing public library – a navigation through media and information literacy, my translation), describes copyright as one of eight common denominators for the MIL teaching practises of public libraries in Sweden. She notes – and I wholeheartedly agree – that teaching copyright literacy to librarians (who in turn will teach the library users) could be done on a more positive note. To focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t do would be much more beneficial for the creativity and innovation that the European Union strives for (cf. (4) in the InfoSoc Directive (2001/29/EC)). Such an empowerment focus should also aim to increase the legal confidence of librarians – a greatly desired skill, as librarians are the citizens’ go-to-persons for all things digital in the information society.
”[A] structured set of data held in a computer, especially one that is accessible in various ways.”
This means posting pictures of public art in Sweden online (whether it is on a tourist selfie or on a Wikipedia page) is copyright infringement. This includes sharing pictures on social media platforms such as Flickr, Facebook, and Instagram. Oh, to imagine I used to make fun of photographing the Eiffel tower in the day time vs. the night time…!
So, what to make of this? I had an idea.
Activity 1: A City Tour of Public Art
Cameras ready! And back to the Maker Party in Kista: I decided to construct a city tour of public art, where the library users were given a map pointing out public art in the vicinity of the library. They were invited to walk this tour and learn a bit more about the works of art, and by doing so also learning about their local society, it’s history and the cultural landscaping of the city. Indeed, the colourful pillars at the metro station in Kista is not an architectural curiosity like the tower in Pisa, but an artistic interpretation of the transition between rest and dynamic movement. Who knew? PDF’s with the City Tour maps can be found at the bottom of this post. When finishing the tour, the participants were introduced to a second map, one where the location markers had been replaced with either a red x (meaning the work could not be photographed and shared in a digital format) or a green check (meaning the work could be photographed and shared in a digital format). As the Swedish copyright law states that copyright expires 70 years after the author’s death, any public work of art made by an artist who died 1946 or earlier can be photographed and shared freely online.
The second activity was meant to empower the users (much welcomed after introducing the supreme court’s protectionist view on public art) and was presented in a simple poster exhibition which introduced the Swedish copyright law, Creative Commons licences,where to find CC materials, and the photo challenge of Wikimedia Commons. This activity was based on the Mozilla Maker Party activity with the same name. Due to the drop-in organisation of my maker party it wasn’t possible to follow their schedule, but the components were there all the same. The aim was to, in a simple way, explain how digital creativity and copyright can be used to share and remix content, and also showcase how this can be built upon to support digital innovation and entrepeneurship. While it may seem a bit far-fetched, there is a strong connection to the Welcome Refugee Days event: by teaching library visitors about the legal system governing digital innovation and creativity they can get the knowledge and confidence to start their own businesses – which leads to both digital inclusion and integration into society. In other words, getting a key to solve one issue may get you past all those other doors as well.