Know Your Digital Rights, Photographers

You want your shots seen and used. But Creative Commons and copyright have you confused. Read on.

Lewis Kelly sat in front of his computer drumming his fingers on the desk. The university student wanted to change the copyright settings on his Flickr pictures, but the transition wasn’t as straightforward as he’d hoped.

“Why is this so confusing?” muttered Kelly, who goes by the username oncethiswas on Flickr. “The interface is so counter-intuitive.”

Kelly had started by clicking on the help button, but the drop menu didn’t mention copyright settings or how to change them. Next, he went to the FAQ page, where he was confronted by 33 different categories of questions. Eventually, he found something that looked promising: “How can I copyright my photos?”

He read that in most parts of the world, including Canada, creators are automatically granted copyrights to their photos, all rights reserved. But Kelly, who has a nascent interest in contributing to the intellectual commons, did not want all his rights. He wanted something other than the familiar circled C beneath his pictures, and Flickr — a powerhouse of photo sharing — seemed an appropriate place to waive some of his rights for the benefit of others.

In Canada, Flickr is the most popular website that is expressly dedicated to storing photos in image galleries (The Tyee has its own ‘Flickr pool’ of readers’ photos of B.C.). More generally, the site is just shy of the top 20 most visited websites in Canada, ranking 25th in terms of overall traffic. Unlike other photo repositories like Facebook, where many indiscriminately upload photos to share within closed networks of friends, Flickr has more of a reputation for attracting both professionals and talented amateurs with more artistic intentions.

Sharing on your own terms

Since 2004, Flickr has allowed users like Kelly to waive some of their rights through a non-profit organization called the Creative Commons, which aims to expand the collection of creative work available for the general public to build upon and share.

Currently, the Creative Commons offers six different licenses made up of four core elements (please see the side bar). All of the alternatives are more permissive than Flickr’s default setting of full copyright. The licenses compartmentalize ownership rights so creators can be specific in the ways they wish to share their rights—but knowing which license to select requires some deliberation.

“I’m not sure which license to pick. There’s six of them,” said Kelly as he read through the paragraph descriptions of each license. Ultimately, he settled on an Attribution (BY) license, which allows others to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt his photos for both commercial and non-commercial purposes so long as they attribute the work to him in a way to which he consents. It’s the most permissive option.

“I’ve used the Creative Commons and breached copyright so often, the least I could do is remove the threat of litigation for other people who want to use my work,” explained Kelly, who admits his dinosaur avatar on Flickr is probably copyrighted.

By making his Flickr pictures more accessible, Kelly has added to a growing resource. There tens of thousands of photos available under Attribution licenses like Kelly’s, and hundreds of thousands licensed under all six alternatives.

“We’re really happy to finally be able to provide Creative Commons licenses,” reads the Flickr blog dated June 29, 2004. “As individuals and as a company we wholeheartedly support and endorse the Creative Commons’ mission and hope to help contribute to the preservation and enhancement of creative freedom and personal expression.”

full story here


A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to Mental Illness

David Granirer’s comedy training for the mentally ill is proving to be a hit.

Granirer with his Stand Up for Mental Health troupe. Photo courtesy Pat Bayes

When David Granirer stood before medical students at the Vancouver General Hospital, explaining his alternative to traditional forms of therapy, his audience laughed at him.

Just as he’d hoped they would.

Granirer has developed a comedy workshop for people living with mental illness, which he’s dubbed Stand Up For Mental Health (SMH).

He runs weekly classes that bring together people with an array of mental health diagnoses such as bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Over the course of a year, he helps his students develop stand-up comedy routines for live audiences.

Six years after thinking this approach might help people better manage mental illness, his program is so popular that he has to turn away aspiring comics.

When he addressed the medical students, who are enrolled at UBC, UVIC and UNBC, Granirer knew there might be skeptics in the crowd. He blended serious and humorous points, screened performance clips, and invited a few comedians to partake in small discussion groups after the lecture. The event was part of a pilot project, which aims to give tomorrow’s doctors a greater understanding of — and empathy for — people with mental illness.

We often say laughter is the best medicine, but nowhere in the system do we say, ‘You’ve got a great sense of humour… let’s see what we can do with that,'” said Granirer, who is experienced at both stand-up comedy and depression.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians is directly affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. Indirectly, every Canadian is affected through a family member, colleague or friend.

“There are many myths about mental illness. Until people learn the truth, they will continue to deny that mental illness exists or avoid the topic entirely,” states CMHA’s website.

A personal knowledge of depression

Granirer hasn’t always enjoyed visiting hospitals and talking to doctors.

Although his silly facial expressions and lively gestures may not suggest it, Granirer was diagnosed with depression in his mid-thirties. He believes the condition began sometime during his teen years. In those days, he said he felt an incredible sense of shame and worthlessness, and would even cross streets to avoid people he knew.

Full story here

‘Pirate’ activists to storm Canada Place Saturday

Picture by Flickr user andrewasmith// BY-SA

The “Pirates of Justice” — a costumed crew of activists — are raising a literal warning flag against cruise ships on which they say workers are overworked, underpaid and sometimes abused.

The group will converge tomorrow at 12 p.m. to stage a flash mob at Vancouver’s Canada Place, using theatrical tactics to increase attention.

“Although this is a very serious issue, we’ve still got a sense of humour and it’s a good way to connect with people who might not normally be involved in this sort of thing,” said spokesperson Craig “Blackbeard” Greenfield. He said last year’s event attracted about 100 people.

This year, the pirates are focusing on Carnival Cruise Line vessels hosting Olympic security personnel.

The activists say that Canadian forces and the RCMP have commissioned three ships — the MS Statendem, the MS Oosterdam and the Carnival Elation — at a cost of $76 million from Carnival Cruise Line, a company that activists accuse of maintaining exploitative working conditions.

Cruise ship worker Jessie Campbell, who worked on the MS Stantendam, claimed that some staff members work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week but don’t complain for fear of losing their jobs.

“I’ve been really burdened lately with the unfair treatment of the Indonesian and Filipino workers onboard,” said Campbell in a release. “The dining room staff are only paid $50 per month because they are not getting a cut from the gratuity.”

Research by the International Transport Workers’ Federation, a cruise-industry watchdog, highlights, among other things, the prevalence of insecure, short-term contracts; illegal agent fees; low wages; poor management practices, including gender and racial discrimination; and resistance to unionization.

But Carnival spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz painted a different picture of her company, highlighting employee access to unpaid accommodation, medical and dental care, and retirement plans.

“We have more than 100 different nationalities represented among our crew who have gravitated to cruise ship jobs because in most instances they represent superior earnings opportunities versus what they can make in their home countries,” Cruz told the Globe and Mail, adding that the activist’s cause is not legitimate.

Greenfield wasn’t surprised: “They basically wrote us off as a stunt but didn’t deny our allegations,” he said. “They could have easily said ‘that’s wrong, they’re not paid $50 a month,’ but they didn’t do that.”

Organizers have set up a Facebook event page, where there are 63 confirmed attendees at time of writing. The flash mob is being advertised as a family friendly event.

Original story here.

Robertson wants citizens to lead way with city’s open data

Mayor Robertson wants to be more open-handed with city data || Photo by Flickr user kk+ //BY-NC-SA

Vancouver’s mayor says he doesn’t know where his city’s open-data policy will lead. He expects you and your fellow citizens to help show the way.

“The overall frame here is that we don’t really know exactly where this is going and we shouldn’t pretend to,” said Gregor Robertson as part of a panel discussion today during Open Data + Culture Day at W2, the independent social media hub located in Vancouver’s lower eastside. “We want to open it up, we want to make it possible for people to develop these next steps and encourage that.”

The panel — which included Coun. Andrea Reimer, techno-anthropologist Jon Husband and David Eaves, a technology blogger and mayoral advisor on open government — was held to swap ideas on citizen engagement, digital media and remix culture.

Reimer proposed the city’s open-data policy, approved in May, which among other things allows people access to certain city-collected data and city-created software.

Reimer added: “The number one business of the city of Vancouver is collecting, analyzing and responding to data… If the tremendous collection of data, paid for by tax dollars, is inaccessible, expensive or unusable, “there is no way that you can run a representative democracy.”

When citizens make use of information, the results may be minute, like setting up email reminders of garbage day, or momentous, like modelling sea level rise in Vancouver.

Eaves said it “isn’t just about applications, it’s also about citizens analyzing what their city is doing.”

All the panelists agreed that ordinary people can and should be involved in crafting solutions for the future. Mayor Robertson added that politicians must keep in mind the platforms on which citizens voted, striking an appropriate balance between elected leadership and community contribution.

This morning’s panel discussion, however, was not opened up to the ordinary people in the audience, though some attendees did have questions.

“Who’s collecting the data?” asked Gillian Young, who has been sleeping in the Olympic tent city nearby. She also wanted to know who and what was being counted, emphasizing the importance of collecting stories that inform hard numbers.

The Open Data + Culture Day began at 10 a.m. and caps off with an open-source-sensory mash-up party tonight.

The Tyee recently described W2 as “a red-hot node of influence and information, providing a space for non-accredited journalists, writers, tweeters and bloggers to expand the Olympics overview past the corporate hype.”

Check out corresponding video by Justin Langille, embedded in original post

Museum of Anthropology: crowd-free, must-see

In the great hall of the museum

As published by the Tyee, the Museum of Anthropology wins my vote as the best crowd-free must-see during the Olympics. Many of Vancouver’s top museums have seen a spike in visitors. The Vancouver Art Gallery, for instance, has had about 61,000 visitors since the games began. But the Museum of Anthropology on the UBC campus has not done as well, despite great reviews.

“The artifacts that this museum possesses in its collection are truly astounding,” wrote Khamis H. of Phoenix, AZ on one forum. “I felt extremely lucky to make it across town after wasting time trying to see some silly Olympic venue.”

During the Cultural Olympiad, the museum unveiled $55.5 million dollars in renovations, some of which began before the Olympic bid was won. The reopening attracted thousands of visitors when full access to the building began on Jan. 23. Some expected a similar surge during the Olympics. Instead, says gift shop worker Eleanor Dean, “all of a sudden it’s gone quiet.”

Donald Sutherland, Queen Sonja from Norway, and President Horst Köhler of Germany are among those who have visited the museum. And an official told The Tyee that visits are up six per cent over last February.

But Wednesday Paul Marsh stood before a glass display case filled with Kwakwaka’wakw mourning masks, savoured the uncrowded quiet.

“I like the fact that there are fewer people,” said Marsh, who was leisurely taking photographs and reading about the artifacts. He thinks the lower traffic levels are “strictly a question of location.”

Dean agreed, saying that a visit to the museum is a good way to “get away from the madness of downtown.”

For more Olympic reviews, visit the original article in the Tyee.

A different angle on Bill Reid's "Raven and the First Men"

Low-income B.C. seniors lose homes to Saturday fire

Their homes went down in flames on Vancouver Island on Saturday, just outside the international media spotlight.

Residents of Kiwanis Village, a housing complex for seniors, were forced to evacuate their homes after a devastating late-night fire in Duncan, B.C. The flames affected one building, or 28 of 90 units, in the four-building complex, leaving many low-income seniors without homes and most of their possessions.

“[The fire] was under control at about 2:30 in the morning,” said Deputy Fire Chief Rob Laver, who received the emergency call at 11:53 p.m. Saturday evening. Forty-five firefighters in four engines promptly arrived on the scene; two sustained minor injuries. Although all the seniors escaped unharmed, they still face uncertainty in the long run.

“We have 27 residents out of the apartment complex long term,” said Dan Derby, general manager of public safety for the Cowichan Region, “We’re trying to develop, with B.C. housing and the Kiwanis Club, a long-term strategy for housing.”

The seniors are currently being housed at two local hotels by the provincial emergency program.

“They were forced out with just the clothes on their back, and some didn’t have any shoes or slippers, so we’re dealing with even the most basic [items] — right down to the toothbrush,” said Dave Clark, president of the Duncan Kiwanis Club, to the CBC. Derby said that the fire department was back at the scene on Sunday, and were able to retrieve a few items, such as walkers and special medical equipment, from the lesser-damaged units.

The investigation to determine the cause of the fire begins today.

“I suspect that at the end of the week we’ll have a definite answer,” said Laver. “At this point if anybody wants to help they can contact the [Duncan] Kiwanis club.” He added that what they really need are “27 rooms for the long term.”

Searchlight artist calls own project ‘obscene’

Click above to watch the video at

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, the artist behind the prominent searchlight art installation that is currently illuminating the Vancouver skyline, has called his own project “obscene” given the projected cuts to provincial arts funding.

“As I do this project and I learn more about the dire situation of the arts in B.C., I’m outraged by the complete lack of vision that has been expressed for after the Olympics,” said Lozano-Hemmer.

Lozano-Hemmer’s installation, on display from Feb. 4 to Feb. 28, was commissioned by the 2010 Cultural Olympiad and the City of Vancouver.

The B.C. Liberals are expected to slash core provincial arts funding by more than 88 per cent over two years, to $2.25 million in 2010-’11 from $19.5 million in 2008-’09.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Lozano-Hemmer of the cuts. “This is important not just economically, because culture brings in a net worth, but also in terms of quality of life.”

Yesterday Stop BC Arts Cuts posted footage of Lozano-Hemmer in which the artist makes several critical statements.

Such comments from contracted artists are infrequent, likely due to a contentious clause in their VANOC contract: “The artist shall at all times refrain from making any negative or derogatory remarks respecting VANOC, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Olympic movement generally, Bell and/or other sponsors associated with VANOC.”

But the artist’s public comments are no slip-up.

Lindsay Brown, a representative with Stop BC Arts Cuts, said Lozano-Hemmer was enthusiastic about putting the footage online. “He definitely meant to make these statements,” she said.

“I don’t know why Rafael decided to speak out, except that I guess he may have felt that his international stature gives him the security to do so,” said Brown, who explained that Lozano-Hemmer made the comments without prompting.

And the artist didn’t mince words: “It’s very romantic, I know, but I hope the Olympics will reactivate the dull minds that are running this province into giving money to the arts,” he said.

The footage of Lozano-Hemmer was shot after his speech at the CODE: Dialogue conference at Emily Carr University, during which he addressed several public arts students.

Lozano-Hemmer’s reference to 9-11 in the video is in response to a criticism that his project is “an environmental 9-11” because it uses so much energy, a point he contests in the full transcript, available here.