Summarizing CopyCamp 2 while looking forward to CopyCamp 3

Tuesday evening and Wednesday all day was the second CopyCamp. The first CopyCamp was held in September 2006, and I actively participated in both. The first good news is that all the language coming out of the organizing committee is that they already have a desire for there to be a third, so this may become a yearly event.

The format is of an unconference where the participants themselves organize most of the sessions. There are a variety of unconferences such as BarCamp, DemoCamp, and in Toronto on the Tuesday evening there was even a StartupCamp.

There is a mixture of people who attend CopyCamp, including both the technophiles and technophobic, as well as people who see the Internet and new media as the greatest thing to recently happen to humanity and people who fear that Internet will destroy life as they know (and like) it. Nearly everyone who attends is either a creator themselves (of a variety of types and media), or represent creators in some way (lawyers, boards of associations, etc).

It is critical that these groups get together and talk any differences over, as often these differences come from a lack of communication or a miscommunication that can only be solved by talking it out.

Various tools are used to get us to know each other, and to not just talk with those we already know and agree with. Co-organizer Misha Glouberman would randomly count us off and have us get together with the people with the same number, introduce ourselves, and discuss some theme that Misha gave us. We would then be randomized again in a way that people would be sitting with entirely new people with a new theme.

We did a session of what are called SpeedGeeks where a group of 12 people would present a topic to a small group, and then the group would rotate to the next speaker and one by one hear the mini presentations of all 12 people. Very action packed, and of course exhausting for the speakers who gave their short presentation 12 times very quickly.

The core of the day was broken into 4 time periods where people would self-organize into a number of different rooms based on topic. Those wanting to host a topic would describe their topic on a piece of paper that is then put up on a table of time spots and rooms.

I had already offered to host conversations on Network Neutrality and Digital Rights Management, so I was audience for half of this time and organizer for the other half.

Those who have been reading this BLOG already know what I would want to have discussed at a talk on Net Neutrality. The main thing I want people to do is “get their heads out of the clouds” and think of the Internet as something that exists in the real world and has wires (or wireless spectrum) that has people claiming ownership over them, and where there are conflicts between various owners and the public interest just like any other physical real-world thing.

In a point form

  • Traditional media had “smart networks” and dumb terminals — examples are telephone (wired and wireless), television (and thus cable/satellite), broadcast radio, etc
  • The Internet was designed differently with smart terminals and a dumb network, meaning that innovation could happen at the endpoints without asking the permission of (or requiring the intervention of) the providers of the underlying network.
  • This creates different types of companies: traditional “smart network” companies offering something sort-of like the Internet, and competing companies that are actually trying to offer “dumb network” Internet services that better enable innovation at the endpoints.
  • Many (most?) North Americans get their Internet via a “smart network” provider, with those providers being those who least want to offer true Internet services
  • It doesn’t make any more sense for every communications provider to run their own cables to our homes as it would to have every retailer run their own roads to our driveway. This has meant that a privileged few companies have been offered “right of way” access to put cabling above and below private and public property, in exchange for public regulation. This is often cable and phone companies, which are inherently in a conflict of interest against the Internet.
  • Companies offering “dumb network” services must rely on the “last mile” connections into our homes and offices which are provided by those regulated providers who were allowed to lay cable.
  • Some of those regulated providers are trying to manipulate this regulated service in ways which are inappropriate, and most likely not allowed under the terms of the regulation. These conditions need to be enforced.
  • There are times when network congestion is legitimate (expensive Submarine Communications cables) , and there are times when it is not legitimate (ISP creating a crisis in order to institute anti-competitive network policy). Policy exists to decide what to do when this congestion occurs, and there are a variety of policy options — including hiring more bandwidth to no longer be congested.
  • There are a number of public policy alternatives to decide between the network management policy options.
  • My favoured option is to enable a free market (mandatory disclosure of network management policy, strongly enforced competitive access regulation of monopoly “last mile” providers). This would allow informed customers to vote with their feet to move to providers that use the policy that best matches what they consider to be correct.
  • Other proposals include governments mandating “no preference” policies on the providers (IE: use the incumbent “best effort” policy which degrades all traffic equally when there is congestion).

Over the next week I will try to post about other things which have come out of this conference, including articles on the following:

  • Michael Geist: fictional character, or the real person?
  • Content industry vs content delivery providers: who is the customer?
  • Sign away your first born here: Absolute freedom to contract?

Note: If you have a preference of what you would like me to be writing about, please post them in the comments. I do try to read every comment to any of my articles. If you were at CopyCamp, please post your thoughts!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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