Panel 2: Commons-based Peer Production

Friday, April 11th, 2008


The second panel of the day was opened by two presentations. The first presentation was by Ton Roosendaal from Blender and the second by Jamie king from Steal This Film. Both represented a different way of financing open source and open content projects. These models and other related topics were later discussed in a panel, also attended by Jon Phillips from Creative Commons and Felix Stalder from Open Flows.

Blender is an open source and open content 3d modeling software package that uses a pre-financed model, in which customers can preorder a movie, from which the profits are being used to create the said product. Other ways of income include foundation community, offering documentation as to how to work with the Blender software, fundings and commercial sponsoring. The main goal of the Blender Project is technological innovation. Ton Roosendaal emphasized that open content doesn’t mean that you don’t have to pay for the goods, but rather that it could be used in a free way. That is, to use that content in any way you see fit.


Steal This Film is another open source project, with the emphasis on community based funding. Steal This Film, both part I and II, are a documentary style film using clips from other movies and distributed on the BitTorrent network, using one of the largest trackers. Jamie King claimed that peer-to-peer distribution exceeds all other methods, because it is ‘…the most significant data transfer in the world’. There are hardly any costs in distributing via peer to peer, neither for the producer nor the consumer. Therefore, it’s the most easy way for a consumer to get a product.


Felix Stalder started of the panel, by acknowledging the models used by Ton Roosendaal and Jamie King and added a third model in using advertisement combined with open source and freely distributed content. This does not mean that all creative industry will be affected, but only one type of business model. This being the traditional consumer-producer model, in which the consumer directly purchases the product from the producer.


After this, the panel moved to the topic of quality, content and distribution. Jamie King stated throughout the panel that quality is not the single most important aspect of your product. Distribution is equally, if not more, important. If only you put it out in an easily obtainable manner, people will be inclined to look at your product. Jon Phillips contributed by claiming that content is equally important, after a discussion on the costs involving peer-to-peer distribution. It must be acknowledged that there are inevitable costs in running networks, he stated. Jamie King quickly responded by saying that this is included in the ADSL-connection fee.


After Peter Kaufman asked him to comment on the current situation of piracy in China, Jon Phillips responded that the illegal sales of pirated material on the black market had diminished and that the focus was now on streaming HD content via broadband. Jamie King referred to Stage 6, a similar initiative but without the advertisement, which went down over a month ago due to bankruptcy. Jon Phillips replied, and said that this initiative could be feasible because of this use of advertisements.

The last major topic that was raised concerned the narrative of the Big Buck Bunny film, just released by Blender. Anthony McCan asked why open source productions can’t steer clear from the use of violence, as violence evokes violence. Ton Roosendaal replied that this was the best way to show the technical abilities capable by the Blender rendering software and that creative freedom in the way these technological abilities are displayed is highly regarded.


Peter Kaufman: The Economics of Film and Video Distribution in the Digital Age

Friday, April 11th, 2008

In the opening keynote for ‘Economies of the Commons’, Peter Kaufman put forth one of the main concerns which will be addressed throughout the congress. In a highly digitalized information society, copyright is in some ways much more a burden and much less a safeguard, especially regarding the dispersal of cultural heritage, public knowledge and content. And so we should reconsider the current state of copyright.


Films, television programs, music and all other sorts of media content are made rapidly available through peer-to-peer networks. According to studies, music distributed through iTunes can be downloaded for free (although illegally) in an average of 8 minutes after its release, Kaufman said. In this age content becomes available for anyone, at any time, an in the immediate future at any place, as media carriers keep expanding the possibilities and storage capacity.

The consumer evolves into a producer and distributor. He distributes existing content, but he can also use digital content to recreate new content and thus also create culture. Rather than trying to stop this phenomenon by applying copyright acts, Kaufman suggested that we should embrace these possibilities and use them to our advantage when disclosing culture heritage and public knowledge.

This is already happening by initiatives in both public and private sectors. Several institutions in the public sector outside of America give way to start thinking about collaboration and the creation of platforms which help to distribute content through the proper, accessible channels. Even within America, and indeed throughout the world, private initiatives have made it clear which type of models could be used to distribute this kind of content.

After the keynote some interesting points were raised in a brief Q & A session. Topics of these questions were among others the scarcity of media in the pending future, the role of traditional, local media and the zoning of online media content. These questions could not yet be fully answered, as some were food for future thought while others would be most likely addressed at other panels throughout the congress.