IP Magic: IP “negative space” increases innovation

A Yale law paper looking at Magic as a site of Intellectual Property “Negative Space” where innovation flourishes, rather than dies. (From Steve Lambert.) From the abstract:

Intellectual property scholars have begun to explore the curious dynamics of IP’s negative spaces, areas in which IP law offers scant protection for innovators, but where innovation nevertheless seems to thrive. Such negative spaces pose a puzzle for the traditional theory of IP, which holds that IP law is necessary to create incentives for innovation.

This paper presents a study of one such negative space which has so far garnered some curiosity but little sustained attention – the world of performing magicians. This paper argues that idiosyncratic dynamics among magicians make traditional copyright, patent, and trade secret law ill-suited to protecting magicians’ most valuable intellectual property. Yet, the paper further argues that the magic community has developed its own set of unique IP norms which effectively operate in law’s absence. The paper details the structure of these informal norms that protect the creation, dissemination, and performance of magic tricks. The paper also discusses broader implications for IP theory, suggesting that a norm-based approach may offer a promising explanation for the puzzling persistence of some of IP’s negative spaces.

Harvard considering freely publishing online

NYT reports on a scheduled vote by Harvard’s arts and sciences faculty on whether to publish their work for free online.  All finished works would be available online through the University’s library. All scholars would have the option to opt-out of the automatic publishing.

“In place of a closed, privileged and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn,” said Robert Darnton, director of the university library. “It will be a first step toward freeing scholarship from the stranglehold of commercial publishers by making it freely available on our own university repository.”

References for chapter design + page layout

Here are some of the references we are looking at for Chapter design and page layout. We need it to stay somewhat standardized, in order to streamline the layout process (each page cannot be completely different – would take too long and would probably be disruptive to the flow of the chapters.)

We are working around a genre of software textbooks. They have instructions and screenshots. We will be adding better content, and additional visual references. But we will still have numbered steps and screenshots in part of the chapter. The best in class (design wise) is Adobe’s Classroom in a Book series:

Adobe CIB

We are particularly enamored of Ellen Lupton’s Thinking With Type, for its ability to mix teaching with history. And for showing over telling. She shows good design in the way the book is designed and laid out. Some of my favorite spreads are here (space and calmness at begging page, use of gutter as secondary information zone, symmetry and splitting the page up into quadrants, assymetry and splitting the page into quadrants):

Ellen Lupton’s Thinking With Type Ellen Lupton’s Thinking With Type Ellen Lupton’s Thinking With Type Ellen Lupton’s Thinking With Type

Other points of reference are some of the layouts from Kimberly Elam’s Grid Systems

Kimberly Elam’s Grid Systems

Also always relevant is Ellen Lupton and Abbot Miller’s, ABC of Bauhaus

Ellen Lupton and Abbot Millers

References for cover design

These are some of the cover references we are working with.  The scanner wasn’t working, so I used the digital camera…

El Lissitzky and Kurt Schwitters designs for Merz:

El Lissitzky and Kurt Schwitters

George Grosz and John Heartfeld’s dada man / compass collage (circle triangle baseline):

George Grosz and John Heartfeld

1 free Neil Gaiman book for 1 month

Neil Gaiman has convinced his publisher to do one book as a free download for one month.  Not CC, but free.  If only for one month, is it free as in beer or free as in speech?  I would imagine Harper Collins is going to be tracking the downloads and sales stats.  I hope they publish the stats, and or publish a report on the stats etc.

One thing we’ve decided to do, as a small celebratory birthday thing is, initially for a month, make a book of mine available online, free, gratis and for nothing.

Which book, though…? Ah, that’s up to you.

What I want you to do is think — not about which of the books below is your favourite, but if you were giving one away to a friend who had never read anything of mine, what would it be? Where would you want them to start?

Julian Dibbell’s almost Creative Commons book

Julian Dibbell, noted journalist of all of the best and most interesting things Internet, has just published a solid rundown of some of the problems he has encountered in CC licensing his (99%) out of print book MY TINY LIFE. This is really useful to consider in terms of rights and permissions internationally. If it is going to be Creative Commons, it has to be Creative Commons internationally.

But once again I was getting ahead of myself. At the last minute it occurred to me to run a small question by Lessig that might, I figured, require some finessing: The rights that Henry Holt had returned to me were almost worldwide, but not quite. In the UK and Australia, the rights had been sold to 4th Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins Ltd., and there the book remained nominally in print and therefore out of my hands. Was there something I would have to do to the Creative Commons license, some tweak or another, to keep it from stepping on HarperCollins UK’s rights?

Well, no, said Larry. There was nothing I had to do because there was nothing I could do, not by tweaking the license at any rate. “The [CC] licenses cannot be geographically limited, so the conflict is real,” he wrote me. “You need a waiver from 4th Estate.”


So…I went searching through Wikimedia Commons to find copyright-friendly images (mostly images in the public domain) we might be able to use in our book. If there’s anyone out there who wants to help out on this search, I’ve started my own collection for us on Flickr. It’s here.

You can help! Either post images to Flickr and tag them with “digital_foundations” (let us know you did this) or sign into our account and add images to our database. Here is the login information on the account:

user: digfndtns@yahoo.com

pass: icanhasit

because…we can has it. yes. x


Here are the notes of a day I spent looking around for image rights:

First, I started on the Smithosonian

and thought that I would begin by searching Smithsonian and adding to my collection…but then I found their rights and reproductions page

and thought about looking at Moma’s site instead. Here’s what they listed:
All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA’s collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource, Scala’s New York representative, at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053, requests@artres.com, www.artres.com.
>OK, so I left a message with allison on Thursday and then I talked with Kerry on Friday.
212 505 8700

She said, roughly, we were probably looking at something like $250 an image and that we may also have to pay more $$ to clear w/ artist estate such as vaga, artist rights society, etc.

I sent to her the title of the textbook, print run, list of images we want.

She said that “use is use” of a photo or of a painting or even of a photo of a painting; ie. there is no “fair use”.

So that seemed sort of bleak without a budget for images. Then I checked out Fischinger’s website to see what we could dig up there. We were hoping for just one still frame of any of his works. I called the number on the site and spoke with an woman who made me repeat my phone number eight times before she was able to decipher that my LA-based phone number starts with area code 323 and has only seven digits following the area code. She took my number and said that cvm will call me regarding Oskar Fischinger, but now it’s been four days and the phone isn’t ringing. In a way, it probably doesn’t matter – they would want money, I’m sure, and we don’t have any.

DIY Image Rights

We are looking ahead to the problem of securing image rights for the images we want to include. The publisher with which we are negotiating a contract has indicated that they will not pay for image rights fees.

xtine did some research last week, and found Art Resource, which bills itself as a Fine Art Stock Photography company. Our initial estimate was around $250 per image. We have 2 images per chapter, and 20 chapters; 2 x 20 x $250 = *20*250 = $10,000! Which is not feasible, to say the least…

So: brainstorm time. What can we do to cut our costs to much much less than that:

  • Not use any images
  • Use only images that are in the public domain
  • Only use images from alive artists/designers we can call/email/write and ask
  • Are there any Museums with open image rights policies?
  • Approach one Museum and propose that we use only their works, and co-brand the book
  • Approach one/multiple art/design collectors, and ask them to use works from their collections (Collectors often really like having their work appear in print/catalogues, as it validates their works+tastes, increases provenance, and thus increases the value of their works — the anti-benjamin process.)
  • Approach a private gallery for the image rights to the works they currently have in their inventory (trouble here is that they will probably sell them during the print run of the book, and maybe our permissions will no longer be valid…)

Digital Foundations: we’re blogging the writing of a book

We, xtine burrough and Michael Mandiberg, are writing a (text)book that integrates the formal principles of the Bauhaus Basic Course with contemporary digital production instruction. We are taking the classics (like Josef Alber’s color theory exercises) and using those to teach the fundamentals of Illustrator, or using Hanah Hoch to teach Photoshop.

As professors we are tired of having to use crappy software manuals (full of drop shadows & outer glows, and the author’s mediocre vacation photographs) when we
have to teach our students how to make. So we’re making our own.

Stay tuned for more details.