New Media Rights at the National Conference for Media Reform

Update: We have audio of the NMRC session, available here:

We are looking forward to the National Media Reform Conference this weekend in Boston, MA. We are very excited to communicate and share with media creators, remix artists, media justice advocates, media literacy educators, media policy experts and thought leaders in media reform. We look forward to sharing the work we have done offering free legal resources and fighting to improve and modernize media policy.

We hope if you are going to be in Boston, MA you will come say hello to us, but if you can't make it there are great ways you can be involved from your computer at home.

Art will be on the panel Copyright, Copyleft, CopyCenter: Can Copyright and Remix Culture Co-exist?
Saturday, April 9, 9:00am - 10:30am EST

Hear from creators, activists and academics who are trying to find ways to make copyright work for artists. We'll discuss topics like fair use, DMCA takedown notices and sampling. Listen to artists whose work relies on their ability to reuse and comment on existing, copyrighted materials. We'll also discuss the ways that copyright is shaping and limiting the ways that musicians, poets, authors and video artists are creating new work today. Can modern remix culture and copyright co-exist? Come watch our panel of experts as they attempt to answer that question.

Update: Listen to the audio from the panel.


Join Mera on Live National Media Reform Conference Online Chats!

Share your ideas and input for these live chats by joining in at:

Friday, April 8, 4:30pm - 6:30pm EST

Better Media Starts Here: featuring Craig Aaron, Lawrence Lessig, Erin Gibson, Glenn Greenwald, Sarah Jones, Malkia Cyril speaking on the future of transforming media in America.

Sunday, April 10, 12:00pm - 1:30pm

Taking it Home: featuring John Nichols, Craig Newmark, Deanna Zandt and Craig Aaron amoungst others wrapping up the conference and what we can do moving forward.


Copyright, Copyleft, Copycenter: Can Copyright and Remix Culture Co-Exist?


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How online video is effecting the future of television and the internet

by Thomas Yohannan

We are in the midst of a shift in the way we consume video content.  Nielsen released its first set of online video metrics since June 2010.  With online video usage up a staggering 45%, our content is increasingly being delivered by online services.   Along with this continued change in our viewing habits, there is a continued change in revenue streams for video content.  We can delve into piracy and its potential effects on revenue streams another time. 

While consumers migrate to online services, the only paid subscription online service that is in the top 10 is Netflix (by total video streams and unique viewers).  According to Nielsen, the average U.S. video viewer spent 11 hours, 8 minutes watching Netflix content.  This is significant not only because web rivals such as YouTube and Hulu provide free (ad-supported) content but also because Netflix is growing at a faster pace than these companies.  The eyes have it.  Netflix will continue to alter the revenue streams of the television and film industries, and all of these services are causing shifts in the revenue models of traditional media.

The long term outlook of various media may change based on policy.  While ad-supported syndications are currently winning the battle for viewership in aggregate, Netflix or its next iteration may have better prospects.  For instance, if the U.S. adopts a usage based billing (UBB) for internet data then these statistics may reverse.  Currently, Canada is attempting to use UBB over its data pipelines, and the effort in Canada is being met with criticism.  With Netflix purportedly using 1/5 of the U.S. downstream traffic (as reported by Sandvine), policy will, as always, drive strategy, though hopefully policy can avoid picking winners and diminishing competitive choices in the online video space..  

Amazon may pose a threat to the Netflix model.  In its latest 10-K, one of the ‘risk factors’ that Netflix mentions is the outsourcing of a huge portion of its operations to a division of Amazon called Amazon Web Services (AWS).  As the filing states, “Given this, along with the fact that we cannot easily switch our AWS operations to another cloud provider, any disruption of or interference with our use of AWS would impact our operations and our business would be adversely impacted.”  With Amazon poised to offer movie streaming via Amazon Prime, Netflix’s lofty expectations and revenues may take a hit.

All of this growth in the online video space runs parrellel to the steady loss of video customers disrupting Internet Access Provider’s business models(Comcast lost video customers for the 15th straight quarter; Time Warner Cable – 7 straight quarters; and Cablevision – 2 straight quarters).  

Advertising for these companies are back to mid-2007 levels because video streaming is upsetting it.


The convergence of television and the Internet will continue to move forward, and it will be important to make sure that on the other side of the change we have actual competition in the online video space, as well as an open and competitive internet.


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New Media Rights shines light on the importance of Sunshine Week and access to public information

The latest issue of San Diego's CityBeat featured New Media Rights and three projects featured at Drumbeat San Diego, in its article "Light of the day". The article highlighted our advocacy work which includes legal assistance and advocacy for access to public information, just in time for Sunshine Week. Sunshine Week takes place between March 13-19. Organizations around the country emphasize the importance of the right to information and the right to know during this week.


New Media Rights supports access to public information by assisting individuals and groups in submitting PRA & FOIA requests. In the article Art Neill, Director of New Media Rights mentions, “We’re always willing to help bloggers and citizen-journalists with Public Records Act (PRA) requests. PRA and FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests are not extremely difficult, but there really is a nuance to getting them done." If you would like assistance in getting access to public information via an FOIA or PRA request, contact us.


New Media Rights will also be creating a guide in the upcoming weeks answering questions we have received over the years regarding PRA & FOIA requests, so we invite you to send us questions that you would like answered in this guide, below in the comments, or email us at

We also support the work of the Government Accountability project through the Make It Safe Coalition (MISC) and our advocacy for the Whistleblower Protection Act. Drumbeat San Diego also highlighted several projects that support civic participation and access to open data. You can find details about the projects on the Drumbeat San Diego agenda.


A Knight Foundation-funded survey published on March 1, 2011 found, “Citizens who believe their community's information systems, government, media and such are performing well are more likely to be engaged in their community and are more satisfied with the quality of their community as a whole." Civic Participation is so valuable to our communities and to our lives, please make an effort during Sunshine Week to get more involved in your local community.


If you are interested to see what the government is doing on a federal level, on March 15, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy is holding an oversight hearing titled "The Freedom of Information Act: Ensuring Transparency and Accountability in the Digital Age". The event will also be webcast live here.


Get involved and learn more about Sunshine Week by exploring these links and finding a way to support their efforts.

Work of our friends and allies:

Open San Diego

Citizen Oversight Projects

Instant Impact

Access Humbolt, community media center to create video messages for Sunshine Week


Sunshine Week Resources:

FOIA Letter Generator

Sunlight Foundation: Sunshine Week Round up: A look at state-based events

Sunshine Week website

Sunlight Foundation Data Transparency Projects

"ROW@CASTEL_DEL_MONTE_MG_5222" by *sdp* Flickr user shared under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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The FCC Chairman & the US Broadband Spectrum

By Thomas Yohannan

The theme of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was any content, anywhere, anytime, and on any device.  It is CES, so you could expect that every company was showing off their new models from tablets to 3D TVs.  This year’s darling was the tablet, with the Motorola Mobility's Xoom and Research In Motion's Playbook garnering the most attention.  The best in show went to the Motorola Altrix.  With the major national carriers racing to launch 4G devices, including HSPA+, LTE, and, in Sprint's case, WiMAX devices, there continues to be a growing importance of the wireless spectrum in the U.S. economy.  Innovation is not only needed for the devices, but for the network on which the devices rely.  

The CES Friday conversation between FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) CEO, Gary Shapiro was about the need for a broadband mobile infrastructure.  “The consumer electronic industry is going wireless,” said Genachowski, citing a projection that anticipates growth by a factor of 35 in the coming five years for mobile broadband use.   For the U.S. to continue to be competitive, Genachowski said he hopes to foster an ecosystem which will house the “world’s best innovation. “

The past few years have seen a massive growth in the popularity of mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets and other connected devices.  While these devices are the locomotives of the broadband industry, the rails on which the devices operate must also necessarily expand.  As he has said before, Genachowski wants to free up spectrum as well as update spectrum policies.  The Chairman thinks the U.S. must not only start moving to make these changes, but that it must move faster than other countries to maintain our technological lead.  A primary way in which he hopes to accomplish this is by implementing incentive auctions.  Incentive auctions would allow TV broadcasters to sell unused spectrum, which would be used for mobile broadband purposes.  However, Congress will need to authorize the FCC to begin such auctions.


There is much to be done, but there has been at least some progress.  In March, the agency announced its National Broadband Plan which details what needs to be done to expand broadband access to all Americans.  The FCC also  voted to open up empty broadcast TV spectrum to help bring about a next-generation wireless broadband technology it’s calling “Super WiFi.”  It’s promising to see the FCC’s interest in fostering growth, but entrepreneurs and innovation will ultimately decide how long it will take to get any content, anywhere, anytime, and on any device.


"Television transmission tower" shared by Flickr user woodleywonderworks under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

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Open Attribute, a simple way to attribute Creative Commons licensed works on the web

Open Attribute - Creative CommonsA big shoutout from New Media Rights to the entire team that has put together OpenAttribute

OpenAttribute simplifies the process of attributing an openly licensed piece of content, by providing a quick link where you can get an HTML or plain text attribution. Paste this code or plain text whereever you are reusing the Creative Commons licensed work, and you can have a properly formatted attribution.

I encourage you to go install this right away and start improving your attributions today!

Back in Barcelona at the Drumbeat Festival in November, I happened to be part of the small breakout group with Molly Kleinman and Jane Park that identified the continuing problem of proper attribution of openly licensed works as a huge barrier to everyday content reuse.

In the months following Drumbeat Festival, Molly Kleinman, Nathan Yergler, and and many others have built an amazing team of individuals who lent their skills and turned that idea into a practical, useful application.  This is another testament to the community and power of the open web, and I want to thank you all for building this useful application. 

This project is a great step for improving attribution for content reuse on the internet.


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For Promotional Use Only: Promo CDs freed for resale

By Thomas Yohannan


For Promotional Use Only – Not for Resale


For Promotional Use Only – Not for Resale.  If you’ve ever listened to a promotional CD or LP (yes, they still do exist), then you’ve probably seen that phrase stamped on the front label.  By stamping the phrase on promotional records, record companies believed that the copyright laws were being preserved.  Copyright holders have battled in court to try and limit  the scope of the ‘first sale doctrine,’ which gives us the right to resell the physical copies of albums we own(and books and other copyrighted works), so that it wouldn't apply to promotional records.

The ‘first sale doctrine’ says that once you buy a book or recording then you can do with it as you’d like as long as you don’t copy it.  For example, a CD can be lent, borrowed, sold or given as a gift to your beau.  Copyright holders despise this because it takes out all the economics of the recording after the initial sale.  It also creates competition through the secondary market.  Instead of having a multitude of buyers, there may only be one initial buyer who offers the product to others.  Libraries and their books would be illegal were it not for the first sale doctrine.  This is an ongoing debate.  In 2008, the courts upheld the first sale doctrine by saying that, based on the circumstances, promotional records are owned and not merely licensed out so recipients can do with them as they wish.  

This month, in the case of UMG (Universal Music Group) v. Augusto, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, CA ruled that the sale of promotional records does not violate copyright laws.  UMG filed a lawsuit against Troy Augusto in 2007.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohman took up his case and described the circumstances as such:


"Troy Augusto makes his living basically doing the age-old thing. He buys low and he sells high. He goes to Los Angeles-area record stores, he finds CDs that he recognizes as being collectable, valuable to a certain set of fans, picks those up and resells them on eBay for, he hopes, a profit. And it appears that major record labels — not just Universal — they object to certain promotional CDs being resold. For those auctions on eBay, the labels will send notices to eBay to try to stop those auctions. And Mr. Augusto has, to his credit, stood up for his rights and said, hey, I'm entitled to sell these. I own them. I bought them fair and square. You guys gave them away. The First Sale Doctrine ought to apply."


There does continue to be some confusion in the law where licensing intersects with software.  In September 2010, the same court ruled in Vernor v. Autodesk that software companies can restrict your ability to resell a program.  


That said, this case is a victory for resellers that restricts copyright right owners from simply slapping a notice on a work and trumping your rights to resell the physical copies of a work that you purchase under the first sale doctrine.


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Drumbeat San Diego organizing meeting tonight, January 12, 2011!

We're having an organizational meeting for Drumbeat San Diego tonight at the NMR offices.

Come and help us plan logistics and outreach for the next few weeks.  Also learn about, and shape the exciting sessions that will be at Drumbeat San Diego!

What: Drumbeat organizing meeting

Where: 3100 5th Ave Suite B, San Diego, CA 92103

When: January 12, 2011

For the latest on Drumbeat, including an updated agenda, see these links!



Invitation to Drumbeat San Diego

Also, attached below is a copy of a Drumbeat flyer you can share with groups and individuals who may be interested in participating.

Drumbeat poster.pdf2.57 MB

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No Hollywood Ending: Filmmaker James Kerwin on the Future of Independent Movie Production

Guest Blogi by Thomas Yohannan

The creation of an good independent film (an “indie”) is often seen as the height of originality and innovation in the film world.  While the artistry of a film may be well thought out, the business considerations, and logistics of its production, release, and distribution are areas that a filmmaker will often dread.  An article in the January issue of Knowledge@Wharton digs into the world of film production and distribution.  In an insightful interview with an independent filmmaker, James Kerwin, the concerns and future of the indie film industry are raised.  Check this article out for some insight into the future of independent film.

Read the whole article here:

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New Media Rights: Freedom of Expression must be respected in Wikileaks debate

New Media Rights joined the Electronic Frontier foundation and over 30 other groups in sending an open letter to U.S. lawmakers today, calling on government officials to respect freedom of expression in the debate over the whistle-blower website Wikileaks.

In the wake of Wikileaks' recent publications of U.S. diplomatic cables, some lawmakers have attacked newspapers' rights to report on the information in those documents. Other government officials have cast doubt on Americans' right to download, read, or discuss documents published by Wikileaks and even the news reporting based on those documents.

Rash legislation was proposed that could limit the free speech of news reporting organizations well beyond Wikileaks. In the open letter sent Wednesday, 30 groups, including New Media Rights, urged lawmakers to remember and respect constitutional rights as Congress continues to discuss the issues at stake.

An Open Letter to U.S. Government Officials Regarding Free Expression in the Wake of the Wikileaks Controversy
December 22, 2010

Dear Public Officials:

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from legal and free speech experts about the possible application of the Espionage Act to the recent publication of  secret documents by the whistle-blower website Wikileaks, as well as to traditional media  outlets, Internet companies, and others who have also distributed and reported on that information.  All seven witnesses cautioned against attempts to suppress free speech and
criticized the overwhelming secrecy that permeates the United States government.  We write to echo these concerns and applaud those who have spoken out against attempts to censor the Internet.  We urge caution against any legislation that could weaken the principles of free expression vital to a democratic society or hamper online freedoms.  
Unfortunately, some government officials have already attacked newspapers’ rights to report on the releases by Wikileaks. Other government actors have made official and unofficial statements casting doubt on the right of government employees and others to download, read, or even discuss documents published by Wikileaks or news reporting based on those documents.  Others have rashly proposed legislation that could limit the free speech of legitimate news reporting agencies well beyond Wikileaks.
These actions have created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty among the general public, leading them to question their rights with regard to the documents posted by Wikileaks. As you continue to discuss these critically important issues, we urge you to do so in a way that respects the constitutional rights of publishers and the public that have been recognized by the Supreme Court. Specifically:  
•  Publishers have a First Amendment right to print truthful political information free of prior restraint, as established in New York Times v. United States.
•  Publishers are strongly protected by the First Amendment against liability for publishing truthful political information that is lawfully obtained, even if the original disclosure of that information to the publisher was unlawful, under Bartnicki v. Vopper.
•  Internet users have a First Amendment right to receive information, as repeatedly endorsed by a series of Supreme Court cases, including Stanley v. Georgia.  
•  The public has a First Amendment right to voice opinions about government activities. This is core political speech, which receives the highest protection under the Constitution.
It will be especially critical for members of Congress to keep these rights in mind as they consider any future legislation that may impact freedom of expression.  In a free country, the government cannot and does not have unlimited power to determine what publishers can publish and what the public can read. As the robust public debate about Wikileaks continues, please make sure that it includes the rights of all involved.
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
Arizona First Amendment Coalition
Association of Research Libraries
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Bob Barr, Former Congressman and Chairman, Liberty Guard, Inc.  
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for Digital Democracy
Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights
Communication Is Your Right!
Courage to Resist
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Feminists for Free Expression
First Amendment Coalition
Government Accountability Project
Liberty Coalition
Muslimah Writers Alliance
National Coalition Against Censorship  
New America Foundation
New Media Rights
Privacy Activism
Privacy International
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Privacy Times
Progressive Librarians Guild
Sunlight Foundation
Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University

wikileaks_open_letter_final.pdf90.7 KB

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