Posts Tagged ‘permission culture’

Free movement of goods and persons

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

I have visited the US several times and I always enjoy being there. What I enjoy less is entering the United states.

A hasty last sip of water before tossing the bottle, take off your shoes, your jacket, you belt, laptop out of bag, keys out of pockets, go through the security gate, collect everything, don’t forget anything, did somebody steal my cell phone? All while the poor sods of the TSA are continuously harassing you and yelling at you (oh poor TSA, are we mean to you?)

Moreover, while going through immigration they take your picture and fingerprints, and ask stupid questions like “Why do you need to be on this business trip, can’t you do that by telephone or email?”

In Brazil they also fingerprint visitors, but with a twist: they only fingerprint US citizens. The good-old eye-for-an-eye approach, how satisfying. A US citizen, going through customs in Brazil, noticing the separate line for US citizens, made a big stink about how discriminatory this is.Yes you’re right,they don’t discriminate in the US. They just treat everybody equally badly.

Discrimination irks people. In our society discrimination is really one of the strongest taboos. But unfortunately discrimination laws are only within countries, not between countries.

That’s why it was so upsetting when’s announced that their online streaming radio will be for-pay for all countries except the US, the UK and Germany. I think is a really valuable service, I discovered lots of new music through it, and it’s probably worth paying for. But why do I pay for something that our German neighbors, less than 50 km away, get for free?

You know what, I don’t need I can get my digital music from many places. Let’s see, where else can I get digital music? Oh I know, let’s buy music from the mp3 store, great idea!

Uh oh… mp3 store alert

DVD’s are region locked, and are only available in the US, where does it end?

The root of all this discrimination is of course the opaque and complicated licensing deals that are required by the media industry. If you do not live in a large single market area (apparently everywhere but the US, UK or Germany), licensing deals become so complex that many companies don’t even bother. It’s all that is wrong with living in a permission culture

Of course it has always been like that. But in a connected world where borders are disappearing the contrast is particularly stark.

One of the founding principles of the Eurpean Union is Freedom of movement of goods and persons, that is why the EU was investigating apple for separating the iTunes music store between the UK and the rest of the continent. and Amazon mp3 are clearly violating this principle as well.

I wonder where I can file a complaint?

Free Pathway Culture

Friday, September 19th, 2008

According to this book by Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture, we are currently living in a permission culture. In our society you are required to ask permission before you copy, publish or derive from a work that was created by somebody else. If you don’t, you risk an expensive lawsuit.

But artists and inovators influence eachother. They always have. Especially in science progress comes from sharing results and building on top of the results of others. For scientists, permission culture is a nightmare.

The book is mostly about music and movies, but in the world of biological pathway databases the issues are the same. There are hundreds of collections of pathways available, but many of them are locked down. You can use a commercial pathway database to analyze and interpret your high-throughput experimental data, but you are not free to copy those pathways, extend them, derive from them, and publish the results on WikiPathways. This is understandable, after all, the makers of these commercial packages probably spent a lot of time and money on the creation of their high-quality, curated databases.

But imagine what we could do if all this information were free? Then suddenly everybody can contribute. You will never have to worry about legal details, what you can do and what you can’t do. Instead of many small databases, none of which are perfect, we can compile all free pathway information in the world into a single magnificent resource.

I think we have an opportunity here to set a standard for future generations, to set this content free once and for all. We have decided long ago that WikiPathways content will be available under a creative commons license. Our goal is to maximize the long term usefulness of the information collected in WikiPathways. The rules of the creative commons license are plain and simple. The only obligation you have is to attribute the pathway author(s), other than that you are free.