By Stephen Downes
December 1, 2003

Sharing and Stealing
Litman argues convincingly that "One of the most salient lessons from the copyright wars of the last few years is that if express permission is required before one can post a collection of anything on the Internet, one will be unable to do it." Quite right, which is why such a requirement would destroy the internet. Moreover, "Thirty years ago, when you saw something you wanted to use or share, the default rule was that you were entitled to do so." Copyright rules have changed, and in such a way as to make it almost impossible to obtain copyright clearance in order to share. The world of music shows us what a world of strong copyright would be like, and what we could obtain under a different regime. "The promise of being able to find music that is not available in stores, and to share it with other consumers, in contrast, is compelling." The solution proposed is much what I would endorse: people who own copyrighted materials should 'opt out' of using systems set up for free information sharing. use your own formats (the author suggests a .drm format), use your own network. Quit trying to turn the entire network into your private distribution channel! By Jessica Litman, November, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

MIT Plans To Shut Part Of Campus Temporarily
When institutions such as MIT begin to have budget problems, you know the system is groaning and creaking at the joints. And MIT's issues may be more significant than they let on: the university "will shut down part of its campus over the holidays, cut spending and eliminate hundreds of jobs to close a looming budget shortfall blamed on higher expenses and lower-than-expected returns on its endowment. The university has asked staff and students to save costs in small ways, such as turning down the heat, using e-mail instead of regular mail, bringing brown-bag lunches to departmental meetings, and writing fewer checks, which cost 70 cents each." Brown-bag lunches to departmental meetings? How the mighty have fallen. By Associated Press, The Day, November 30, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Adobe Says LiveMotion is Dead
Here's another reason to opt for open source: you won't be left in the lurch like this. "Adobe will no longer be selling LiveMotion 2.0 and will end technical support of the product in March." Surprise! Hope you didn't invest too much in this turkey. By Joanne Cummings, StreamingMediaIQ, November 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Asian Pirates Sell Microsoft's Next Windows System
They gave away copies of the new Longhorn operating system like popcorn at the recent PDC conference, but somehow the problem of software piracy is being caused by Asian sales of the preview release? Give me a break. This is nothing more than the fostering of xenophobia, propaganda of the worst kind. By Unknown, Reuters, December 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

COOL School
Joe wrote to me with the following announcement: "A group of school districts in British Columbia formed a consortium to develop and share resources for online delivery. Over the last year we have been working on developing a Learning Object Repository. We have the repository working and have a few learning objects in it. We defined a learning object as a lesson. Within the learning objects are learning assets (could stand alone). In the next few months we will be adding a couple of hundred lessons to the repository. The lessons are available for teachers or students to view. By Various Authors, December 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Look Out, Outlook: RSS Ahead in 2004
Steve Gillmor predicts big things for RSS in 2004:

  • Metadata-driven directories that dynamically create RSS feeds based on affinity
  • Virtual conferences
  • IM/RSS presence networks for rich collaboration and e-mail replacement
  • Content-generation tools based on small, routable XHTML objects
  • A DRM network with enough creative and hardware support to blunt the Microsoft/RIAA DRM threat to peer-to-peer port hijacking.
These are pretty safe predictions; we are working on most of these here at NRC. By Steve Gillmor, eWeek, November 28, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Redefining 'Open Access'
This article looks at the increasingly difficult task of providing a community college education for everyone, and solves that problem with a little semantic subterfuge, redefining the meaning of 'open access': "To be true to their mission, community colleges must serve all segments, but not all members, of society." Nobody, of course, will be fooled by this, and calling the resulting system 'open access' is the basest sort of intellectual dishonesty. By George B. Vaughan, Chronicle of Higher Education, December 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

What to Look for in '04
Fairly routine set of technology predictions for 2004 - who says you can't predict the future? But the best of the bunch is this: IP addressable Smart Boards (or their equivalent). The idea is this: your large screen display needs to be plugged and unplugged every time you want to switch computers. But why can't you just send your screen output to the board over the internet? Next year, you will be able to with the new systems. By Phillip D. Long, Syllabus, December 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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