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Archive for 'Copyright/IP'

Can we turn Netarchical Platforms into worker-owned businesses?

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
18th October 2014

In answer to the question posed in the title, I don’t think we can do much to reclaim our rights as producers of content and use value in netarchical platforms. However, we can work to raise awareness on the subject and help the shift toward real P2P platforms. This is already happening right now, with Diaspora enjoying a revival in the wake of Ello’s failed promise to deliver a true alternative to Facebook. The following article was written by John Robb and originally published in Home Free America.

“We don’t get ownership because we don’t expect ownership… We’ve been conditioned to give away our work and our patronage for free while the schmucks on Wall Street walk away with buckets of money.”

Do you contribute to Facebook, Yelp, Reddit, or sites like that?

Most of us do contribute to some sites like this and our contributions, more or less depending on our contribution, are the reason these companies are valuable.

Our contributions are the reason people come to these sites day after day, so why don’t we get a bit of ownership for our contributions?

Lots of ownership goes to the employees.  But, nobody goes to these sites for the high quality software, elegant design, or robust hosting.  Further, all of the tech they are using is the result of innovation by other people.

Most of the ownership goes to the financing.  Yet, these sites don’t cost much to run.  A pittance actually.  The cloud makes them very cheap to operate.  In fact, the amount is so small, nearly all of the money needed to launch these sites could be raised by the customers using these sites.

We don’t get ownership because we don’t expect ownership.

We’ve been conditioned to give away our work and our patronage for free while the schmucks on Wall Street walk away with buckets of money.

There is a small glimmer of hope things might finally be changing (it’s something I tried to do back in 2010-12 and got my ass handed to me for trying to do it).

My hope is due to three things:

  1. Desire to do the right thing.  We don’t see enough of this in Silicon Valley anymore, despite the fact that all great innovations start with getting the “why” right.  Reddit’s CEO, Yishan Wong (formerly of Facebook) is doing the right thing.  He’s planning to make Reddit’s users into owners, depending on their contribution to the site.
  2. There’s a way to create a form of liquid ownership that doesn’t require Wall Street.  This new method is based on the bitcoin blockchain.  That technology makes it possible to issue ownership to contributors in a decentralized and trusted way.
  3. The combination of blockchain stock, Yishan’s example, and the experience of participants will set in motion a wave of change in Silicon Valley.  The message is:  if you want to build an online company, you better find a way to make your customers/contributors owners.

PS:  This is potentially a sea change in financing/ownership.  There’s much more to this.  Wall Street’s banksters should be worried.


Posted in Anti-P2P, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Empire, Networks, Politics | No Comments »

Spanish lawmakers to kill CC licensing

photo of Guy James

Guy James
17th October 2014

image by argazkiak.org

image by argazkiak.org

As usual, Spanish politicians react with fear and repression when confronted with the effects of new ways of sharing information: they are preparing a new law (to go with the ones restricting crowdfunding and services like AirBnB and Uber) to tax those who wish to share information freely. The pattern appears to be: existing industry feels threatened, lobbies government, government passes legislation to hamper innovations. The individual merits of each new service can be argued but anyone who knows the way the conservative government in Madrid generally thinks and reacts, we can be pretty sure they do not understand the milieu in which they are attempting to act.

“…all Spanish newspapers are haemorrhaging readers, consistently report revenue losses to the tune of millions of euros a year and many are already technically bankrupt.”
“…The idea that law will compensate for these losses is laughable. What isn’t so funny is the chilling effect on the free dissemination of information it will have.”

Read more…


Posted in Anti-P2P, Copyright/IP | 1 Comment »

Video of the Day: Bruce Sterling on Design Fiction

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Stacco Troncoso
12th October 2014

Bruce Sterling and his iBook

“[...This] is gonna kinda hurt: In the startup world, you work hard and you move fast in order to make other people rich.”

Don’t miss this outrageously inspiring video, where Bruce Sterling proceeds to break the hearts of a few thousands wannabe venture capital baiters at last year’s NEXT Berlin conference for “digital forethinkers and tech experts”.


Posted in Anti-P2P, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Empire, Featured Content, Featured Video, Media, Politics, Technology, Videos | 2 Comments »

Defining Ownership in a Digital Era: How Makers Are Navigating the Complexities of IP

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Guy James
24th September 2014

psfk logoHaving just set foot in a Fab Lab (two in fact) for the first time last week, I am intrigued by how the same disruption (yes, that word again!) that visited the music and movie industries is now beginning to erupt within the industry of fabrication of physical goods.  In my opinion, the change which has come to the former industries has been positive, although I would imagine that it is so far incomplete and will see further transformation of business models, probably in the direction of ‘Culture As A Commons’, when it is realised that copyrights and IP in general do more harm than good to innovation and even ‘the bottom line’.

This article by PSFK Labs describes how those involved in ‘Maker Culture’ are trying to steer a path through the murky waters of IP and ensure that there is benefit for all concerned – my reservation with the model of only allowing designs to be printed once is that although it protects the right of the designer to earn value from their work, it does so by imposing an ‘artificial scarcity’ where none is really called for – ultimately I would prefer designs to be shared freely in a Commons approach, possibly in conjunction with something like the Peer Production Licence so that capitalist entities not contributing to the Commons have to pay IP rent, and thus ensuring a flow of value back to the creators of the designs.

The key phrase from the article seems to be ‘Within the world of digital design, it can be hard to define where ownership begins and ends‘ – this is surely one of the pressing dilemmas of our age and if we get it right we can ensure a future that is more abundant than what we have known in the recent past.


An emerging set of platforms and services are making it easier for inventors to navigate the complex landscape of copyright and bring their ideas to market.

Between 2003 and 2008, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed, threatened or settled more than 30,000 cases against individuals who used peer-to-peer (P2P) networks to share music. It was an unprecedented legal campaign designed to protect copyrights and intimidate into submission anyone who might be tempted to upload or download material without giving the industry its due.

And while music lovers and open-Internet advocates screamed, the RIAA argued that it was the only way to ensure that individual artists and their recording labels could survive. Since then, as society has become increasingly digitized, the balance of democratization and rights protection has become harder and harder to strike.

To see this struggle in action, look no further than the exploding industry around 3D printing and design marketplaces like Shapeways and Sculpteo. Catherine Jewell of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) wrote last year, “Ensuring that incentives and rewards are in place for those who invest in new ideas without stifling innovation and openness in the use of online designs will be a key challenge for IP policymakers going forward. Mechanisms that facilitate the licensing and legitimate sharing of design files will play a major role in meeting this challenge.”

The urgency of finding the right mechanisms is underscored by the fact that companies spent $13 billion last year dealing with assertions of copyright infringement. Fortunately for makers on both sides of the issue, there are a number of innovations emerging that will allow innovators to fully focus on their craft without having to worry about losing ownership of their work or infringing on the intellectual property of others.

We’ve called this raft of new tools ‘Gated IP’ and this week, we take a closer look at three examples of the trend.

Continue reading…


Posted in Commons, Copyright/IP, Open Hardware and Design, P2P Business Models, P2P Collaboration | No Comments »

A short video on Commons Based Reciprocity Licenses

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
21st September 2014

Work on developing Commons Based Reciprocity Licenses (or CBRLs, for short) continues apace here at the P2P Foundation. When speaking of these types of licenses, we often find it hard to explain how they fill a niche in the alt. license spectrum, falling somewhere between the straight up copyleft and the popular Creative Commons Non-Commercial License.

To that end, I asked Michel Bauwens to condense his thinking on CBRLs into a short (5 minute) video we could share with people, which you’ll find below. It was filmed by our associate Kevin Flanagan and recorded at a break during the Open Everything Convergence held in the Cloughjordan Ecovillage in Tipperary, Ireland.



Are CBRL’s perfect or will they work? We don’t know, but we believe that we’ll only arrive at an answer by creating them and testing them out. Whatever their viability, they represent a statement that Free/Open Culture shouldn’t be appropriated by capital while the Commons withers, unable to ensure it’s own social reproduction. We’d like to thank Dmytri Kleiner, for his pioneering work in this area, not just for providing a critique of Creative Commons, but for actually getting his hands dirty (along with John Magyar) and creating the first working CBRL, the Peer Production License, which can be adopted right now. In fact, the PPL has already been adopted by a number of collectives, such as Sharelex, Infrastructures.cc, En Defensa del Software Libre and the other  organization I regularly work in: Guerrilla Translation.
I’d also like to acknowledge Primavera De Filippi and Miguel Said Vieira for their excellent critique of the concept in their must-read article: “Between Copyleft and Copyfarleft: Advance reciprocity for the commons“. The P2P Foundation is now working along with Primavera, Annemarie Naylor, Karthik Iyer, Joel Dietz and others to develop new CMRLs partly based on Primavera´s and Miguel’s recommendations.


Posted in Commons, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Video, Media, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Foundation, Peer Production, Sharing, Theory, Videos | 1 Comment »

Post Capitalism

photo of Charles Eisenstein

Charles Eisenstein
1st September 2014

PictureIn an interview recently, Aftab Omer observed that I seem hesitant to describe Sacred Economics as a post-capitalist economic vision. I replied that I am not talking about the end of capitalism, bur rather a transformation in the nature of capital, so that capitalism no longer bears the social dynamics to which we are accustomed.

After the interview, Aftab probed a little deeper. “As you know,” he said, “the essence of capitalism lies not in the kind of money being used, but in control over capital in a broader sense. Why then do you not describe your thinking as post-capitalist?”

One reason is simply strategic: the term “capitalism” is so fraught with a century and a half of ideological baggage that it is impossible to use the term without triggering blunt political categorizations, throwing the conversation onto well-worn and deeply rutted paths. For example, it invites comparisons with the failed experiments in state socialism of the 20th century, or suggests that I don’t value individual enterprise and initiative.

There is a second, and deeper, reason why I avoid the term: if we define capitalism as the private ownership of the means of production, and post-capitalism as ending that private ownership, we are still reifying “ownership” or property as an absolute category. But in fact, ownership like money is nothing but a social agreement, a system by which society allocates certain exclusive rights to decide how capital is used. Even in the most resolutely capitalist countries, this right is never absolute: to take a trivial example, zoning ordinances severely limit what we can do with our property in American suburbia. 

What is more relevant to me than the fiction of property is the precise nature of the social agreements that define and underlie property. In Soviet state socialism, despite ideology to the contrary, it was actually a small elite group that decided how the means of production were to be deployed (and who reaped most of the benefits). In that sense it wasn’t so different from Western capitalism.

Reading Sacred Economics, one might think, “This is still capitalism. It still allows private ownership of land, factories, intellectual property, and other means of production.” But if we don’t see ownership is a reified category, an absolute predicate, then the matter is not so simple. Because what is this “ownership”? What is the social agreement that the concept embodies? It is rather different than what we have today. 

Echoing Roman law, to own something today implies the right to ”use, enjoy, and abuse” it. In other words, all the benefits derived from it are yours, and you are under no obligation to use it in a way that benefits society or the planet. (As mentioned, this has seldom entirely been the case in practice.) What would ownership mean if we significantly altered this Roman law conception? That is what Sacred Economics proposes. First, it circumscribes the private right to “use and abuse” property by penalizing socially and environmentally harmful activities like polluting. Secondly, inspired by Henry George, it separates as much as possible the “enjoyment” (i.e. the fruits) of ownership from the fruits of the labor and creativity added to the thing owned. This means eliminating “economic rents” – the proceeds one obtains through the mere ownership of property, as opposed to the improvement of the property or the wise use of the property. Thirdly, it limits the extent to which one may enclose the cultural and intellectual commons, in part by curtailing copyright and patent terms. Finally, it asserts a public interest onto financial capital by subjecting money to a demurrage fee, a negative interest rate, that discourages hoarding and encourages zero-interest lending, in essence making money less of a thing you can keep, hold, and own. Hold onto it too long, and eventually it will no longer be “yours.” 

“If we define capitalism as the private ownership of the means of production, and post-capitalism as ending that private ownership, we are still reifying “ownership” or property as an absolute category. But in fact, ownership like money is nothing but a social agreement, a system by which society allocates certain exclusive rights to decide how capital is used.”

These might seem like technical reforms that leave the fact of ownership of the means of production unchanged, but actually they change what “ownership” means. When we understand that property is a fluid concept, a broad label we give to a complicated set of social agreements, then it becomes hard to say what is capitalism and what is not. 

At bottom, the blurriness of the concept of ownership implicates the blurriness of the concept of the owner. Who, or what, owns property? The 17th-century thinkers that developed the philosophical foundations of property law (and law in general), Hobbes, Locke, Pufendorf, Hutcheson, etc., despite their differences, all pretty much took for granted a world of separate individuals giving consent, entering into contracts, and making free-willed moral choices. It is from this assumption that libertarian ideas about the sanctity of property and the sanctity of contract are born, along with the irreconcilable difficulties that arise in integrating these with the good of the body politic. Private property (its presence or absence as an absolute category) goes hand in hand with the separate self. A system grounded in the understanding of our inter-existence, in the fluid and fractal co-construction of self and society, no longer takes ownership as a well-defined category. The terms capitalist, socialist, post-capitalist, and so forth, because they draw on ownership as an elemental concept, are therefore a little bit obsolete.  

Originally posted in charleseisenstein.net


Posted in Activism, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Gift Economies, Original Content, P2P Business Models, P2P Foundation, Politics | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Copyright Masquerade

photo of hartsellml

14th August 2014

A Copyright Masquerade by Monica Horten

URL = http://www.amazon.com/dp/1780326408/electronicfro-20

Review by Parker Higgins (EFF):

“Veteran journalist Dr. Monica Horten goes deep into the details of how the entertainment industries gain political sway, and how policymakers respond to the industry’s advances.”

Horten focuses on three recent policy initiatives, and painstakingly pulls together facts from publicly available sources about how those proposals came together. By comparing the development of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the Spanish “Ley Sinde,” and the UK’s Digital Economy Act, she draws a clear picture of the mechanisms that play into each of the debates, and who is behind them.

A major part of that story is the export of U.S. intellectual property policy abroad. To that end, Horten looks at the history and the development of the U.S. Trade Representative’s annual “Special 301″ report, a document mandated by law which must list countries that do not provide “adequate and protective” protection of intellectual property rights. Horten makes a solid case that the U.S. entertainment industry lobbying played a direct and deliberate role in establishing the Special 301. With the background on Special 301, its role in shaping ACTA and Ley Sinde becomes that much more apparent.

Legislators are asked to approach many problems as experts, but are rarely given the time or information to do so. The standard corporate exploitation of that mismatch is to present those legislators with information favorable to industry position.

Horten tracks how the copyright industries have taken this bargain a step further, pushing for the creation of whole new structures like the Special 301 report that funnel industry-friendly information to legislators with the imprimatur of government legitimacy.

Moreover, that system itself has been refined over the years to create a default condition that advances the copyright lobby’s goals. At the behest of the copyright industries, the U.S. Trade Representative must critique laws all over the world to a maximalist IP standard; as a result of its findings, countries around the globe are put under great pressure to change those laws.

While documenting this process, Horten provides meticulous footnotes that point to public documents and legislative proceedings. Beyond providing sources, these footnotes reveal a history of otherwise uncaptured expertise: many cite live web streams of policy debates dating back years, watched by Horten at the time.

The landscape Horten describes may be bleak for those who would like to see evidence-based copyright policy, but it’s not hopeless. After all, each of the major case studies she documents have been diminished, delayed, or defeated by popular opposition. Money and connections play a major role in politics, but few politicians can afford to ignore real and widespread dissatisfaction. A Copyright Masquerade is no handbook for activism, but it does describe effectively what political pressure points activists have been able to successfully press.

In presenting the stories of activism that have slowed or stopped proposals that had the full backing of the copyright industries, Horten raises an important question. What is so compelling about copyright policy that it gets Internet users up in arms, draws resignations from EU officials, and leads to street protests in actual freezing temperatures?

Again, Horten’s got an answer. It’s a familiar one to those versed in copyright debates. Whether the copyright industries are seeking measures that filter content (like blacklisting sites from Domain Name Servers, search engines, or payment providers) or measures that restrict user access (like graduated response programs that result in a slow-down or suspension of Internet connections), the effect is the same. When the Internet as a communications medium is the target, users’ essential freedoms and civil liberties are all too often collateral damage.” (https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/09/copyright-masquerade-corporate-lobbying-takes-spotlight)


Posted in Copyright/IP, Featured Book | No Comments »

Improve Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde’s prison conditions immediately

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Stacco Troncoso
27th July 2014

Improve Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde's prison conditions immediately

Peter Sunde

Our friend Nadia EL-Imam, from Edgeryders has alerted us to this important campaign. Please read the article below and  add your signature to the petition.

Improve Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde’s prison conditions immediately

I am suffering tremendously – socially, physically, as well as psychologically – by the shortcomings of [the prison,] Västervik.” ~ Peter Sunde, aka Brokep

Peter is most famous as Brokep, co-founder and spokesperson of the Pirate Bay. But his impact extends far beyond file-sharing. He also worked tirelessly to support creators through the payment system/social site, Flattr, and is bringing encrypted messaging to the masses through the app, Hemlis.

But now he is suffering in the restrictive conditions of Västervik prison, poorly suited to a non-violent offender accused only of “crimes” related to copyright infringement and fighting for a free and open internet. 

Peter requested a transfer to a lower security class prison, specifically Tygelsjö, that would be more appropriate for his situation and would also allow him to be closer to his family, hopefully making his imprisonment more bearable. But weeks later, the Swedish authorities have not made any move to accommodate his request.

Peter has also requested access to food that he can actually eat. Prisons are required by law to provide a diet that respects prisoners’ beliefs, however the prison diet at Västervik is so severely lacking in vegetarian and vegan meals that Peter has lost at least 7 kilos (~15 pounds) in just a few weeks. Healthy vegetables and plant-based meals are a very simple request, but there has been no effort to accommodate his dietary needs. Peter is clearly suffering serious physical and psychological stress because of the lack of nutrition available to him.

This is no way for the prison authorities to treat any person in their care. The excessive restrictions are especially shameful for a non-violent offender like Peter Sunde. The Swedish Ministry of Justice, which oversees the Prison and Probation services, must act immediately to lift the disgraceful conditions he is being kept in and to relieve his suffering by:

  1. Transferring him to a lower class prison and
  2. Providing sufficient nutrition for a plant-based diet.

More information, descriptions of prison conditions, and Peter’s request for transfer:
https://www.aftonbladet.se/debatt/article19207648.ab (Swedish)

And more on Peter’s other projects:
Hemlis – https://heml.is/

Flattr – https://flattr.com/

Photo Credit: Simon Klose

Click here to sign the petition


Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Campaigns, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Empire, Events, Open Calls, Politics, Sharing | No Comments »

Annemarie Naylor on The Radical Tactics of the Offline Library

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Stacco Troncoso
8th July 2014

We featured Henry Warwick’s “The Radical Tactics of the Offline Library” video a few days back. Today we present a guest post on the subject written Annemarie Naylor, director at Common Futures.

Annemarie Naylor

Annemarie Naylor

In the course of our work, we have called for common libraries as platforms for the production, exchange and consumption of knowledge and know-how – principally, in recognition of our increasingly read/write world, and in seeking to emphasise the scope for the capture and curation of the ‘long tail’ to grow the knowledge base to which we all have access.

However, we recently came across two films which we think others might find interesting:-

  1. The Internet’s Own Boy – https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-9D0aLWNasxaVFhZVBHTVRpcGM/edit?pli=1
  2. The Radical Tactics of the Offline Library – http://vimeo.com/95351775 /

The former concerns Aaron Swartz and, whilst tragic, highlights what a person with a passion for making the world a more transparent place can do if s/he is able to harness support via digital channels and translate that into social action. The Radical Tactics film is also available in long hand and offers a comprehensive ‘history of the library as the locus for copying rather than storing knowledge and know-how’.

The latter helpfully underlines that the UN Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy and to share in scientific advancements and its benefits.” Unfortunately, it also says: “Everyone has the right to protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic of which one is the author.”

There is, then, an ongoing battle for the commons as ‘intellectual property’ in the form of the Open Knowledge project, and despite considerable evidence to support the view that traditional patents and copyright provisions stifle innovation; notably, the BRIC and other developing countries have woken up to the potential to get ahead by embracing peer-to-peer licensing (rather than patents/copyright), so there will be considerable scope to make a strong economic case for open knowledge going forward.

To put this into some kind of local perspective: the UK faces unprecedented reductions in public library service budgets over the next 3-5 years. The Government, for its part, is preparing to recommend a number of actions to address growing concern in the run up to the General Election. In the interim, we are more and more reliant upon Amazon and Google.

The former now boasts 41% of the book-selling market in the UK today, just introduced terms in relation to publishers that will enable it to print books (that go out of stock) on demand from its warehouses, and all of this at a time when there are just 1,500 independent book shops left – no book shops at all in many places. Meanwhile, the latter has sought to perpetuate the traditional commodification of knowledge and know-how, albeit through channel shift, at the same time as reducing the search for knowledge and know-how to a corporately driven ‘question and answer’ machine. This, contrasts sharply with #humansearch services like Ask NYPL.

In effect, then, we are witnessing the wholesale privatisation of knowledge production, exchange and consumption.

This is why we’re doing our utmost to establish an open course and community-led alternative: http://www.commonlibraries.cc It also explains our interest in approaches to sharing knowledge.

We are keen to identify organisations like the Waiting Room and Islington Mill Studios who are self-organising access to knowledge/learning in a host of different ways. So, if you have any examples / suggestions about whom we should look to for further inspiration or, else, approach as potential partners – please do let us know.


Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Guest Post, Open Content, P2P Art and Culture, P2P Bibliography, P2P Books, P2P Foundation | No Comments »

The Radical Tactics of the Offline Library

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
3rd July 2014

The Radical Tactics of the Offline Library from henry warwick on Vimeo.

The Radical Tactics of the Offline Library is based on the new book “Radical Tactics: Reversalism and Personal Portable Libraries” By Henry Warwick which is free to download and share from the Institute of Network Cultures.

“The Personal Portable Library in its most simple form is a hard drive or USB stick containing a large collection of e-books, curated and archived by an individual user. The flourishing of the offline digital library is a response to the fact that truly private sharing of knowledge in the online realm is increasingly made impossible. While P2P sharing sites and online libraries with downloadable e-books are precarious, people are naturally led to an atavistic and reversalist workaround. The radical tactics of the offline: abandoning the online for more secure offline transfer. Taking inspiration from ancient libraries as copying centers and Sneakernet, Henry Warwick describes the future of the library as digital and offline. Radical Tactics: Reversalism and Personal Portable Libraries traces the history of the library and the importance of the Personal Portable Library in sharing knowledge and resisting proprietarian forces.

The library in Alexandria contained about 500,000 scrolls; the Library of Congress, the largest library in the history of civilization, contains about 35 million books. A digital version of it would fit on a 24 TB drive, which can be purchased for about $2000. Obviously, most people don’t need 35 million books. A small local library of 10,000 books could fit on a 64 GB thumb drive the size of a pack of chewing gum and costing perhaps $40. An astounding fact with immense implications. It is trivially simple to start collecting e-books, marshalling them into libraries on hard drives, and then to share the results. And it is much less trivially important. Sharing is caring. Societies where people share, especially ideas, are societies that will naturally flourish.”


Posted in Copyright/IP, Featured Video, Open Access, P2P Education, P2P Research, Videos | No Comments »