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Amara, the free/open subtitling/dubbing project that used to be called Universal Subtitles, has just landed $1,000,000 in funding from the Knight Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation. Amara is run by the Participatory Culture Foundation, a charitable nonprofit that produces technologies to increase and deepen the average person's ability to participate in the online world. Amara is a technology that lets people bridge linguistic barriers in the world of video. Here's TheNextWeb's Anna Heim on the announcement:
In other words, it is a great example of what crowdsourcing can achieve. According to its parent non-profit, Participatory Culture Foundation (PCF), the platform’s users have translated over 170,000 videos since its founding in 2010, including popular videos such as President Obama’s message to Sudan and KONY 2012.
However, it could expand into other territories, such as dubbing – hence its rebranding with a broader name, which may also help it capture the sense of community it is trying to create. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why Mozilla was interested in supporting the platform, its executive director Mark Surman explains: “Mozilla’s global translation and localization communities have always been at the heart of who we are. For the first time, Amara lets us extend our community translation work to include video,” said Mark Surman, Executive Director of Mozilla. “We are proud to support Amara as they build a crucial part of the open web.”
(Disclosure: I am proud to volunteer on the board of directors for the Participatory Culture Foundation)
A Russian communist holds placards with portraits of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin during a rally to celebrate International Workers' Day, or Labor Day, in Moscow on May 1, 2012. Related: our large photo gallery of May Day demonstrations around the world.
On Neatorama, Miss Cellania rounds up images from various international versions of Married... With Children from around the world (extracted from this Reddit thread. I featured the Bulgarian version last month, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Above, Croatian Married with Croatian Children. Right:
Ichiroya Kimono Flea Market is a company that sells vintage and new kimonos. I don't own any kimonos, and I don't expect to ever buy one. But I do subscribe to Ichiroya's email newsletter. Why? Because it's hands-down the best corporate communique I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
Honest, earnest, and unfiltered, the newsletter is written by Ichiro & Yuka Wada, who own and operate Ichiroya out of Osaka, Japan. The newsletters are not really about the company, per se. Sure, they discuss kimonos sometimes. But they're really more just a weekly personal letter from Japan. They're about life. And they're a pleasure to read, even when the life they're recording is incredibly sad.
I was turned onto the Ichiroya newsletters last month by science writer Shar Levine, who has been reading them for years. After the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan a year ago—and through the fear and madness that's followed the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns—Shar told me that the Ichiroya newsletters have been a powerful testament to how these disasters impacted the lives of everyday Japanese.
There are archives of some of the newsletters online. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find an archive that contained the letters written since March 11, 2011. However, when I got the Ichiroya newsletter today, I knew I needed to share it with you. The entire thing is posted below the cut. It tells a story of terrible sadness, strength, and rebirth that needs to be read.
Read the rest
Today is the day of global protest against ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a copyright treaty negotiated in secret (even parliaments and other legislatures weren't allowed to see the the working drafts), and which many governments (include the American government) are planning to adopt without legislative approval or debate. ACTA represents a wish-list of legislative gifts to the entertainment industry, and will seriously undermine legitimate users of the Internet. It imposes criminal sanctions -- with jail time -- for people who violate copyright, including remixers and other legitimate artists and creators. ACTA requires governments to shut down legitimate websites whose users "aid and abet" copyright infringement, creating a regime of fear and censorship for sites that accept comments and other media from users and curtailing discussion and debate in order to maximize entertainment industry profits.
The arts should always be on the side of free expression. Creative industries should always be against censorship. This secret, undemocratic agreement that seeks to "preserve the creative industries" by imposing censorship and surveillance on the whole Internet lacks all legitimacy and should be rejected. If the entertainment industry wants laws passed to its benefit, let it use the same democratic mechanisms that all bodies use in free societies. Smoke-filled rooms and crony capitalism have no place in a free society.
Here is the form to contact lawmakers all over the world and tell them to reject ACTA. Many European nations -- including, most recently, Germany -- have halted their involvement in ACTA. The tide is turning. We won the SOPA fight. We can win this one. It's time that laws affecting the whole Internet took the fate of the whole Internet into consideration, and rejected the narrow interests of a single industry body as trumping all concerns about human rights, free expression and freedom of assembly.
You can embed this form in your own website, too.
Katy from Public Knowledge sez,
It's Special 301 season at the office of the US Trade Representatvie, which means that the content industry gets its annual opportunity to tell the USTR which countries should be put on the naughty list for not doing enough to protect American IP. The first round of comments are due next Friday, February 10th, and Public Knowledge has just launched a petition regarding the USTR's blind acceptance of big content's claims about foreign countries' IP laws.
This is part of how the US pressures foreign governments to adopt more stringent and draconian IP measures, like the Ley Sinde in Spain, with little regard for free speech and due process. As the recent SOPA/PIPA outrage has proven, this kind of overreach is not acceptable. Here's the blog post our international expert and staff attorney Rashmi Rangnath wrote, and here is the petition.
An employee demonstrates a "Police Pad" at the Algorithm factory in Tbilisi, Georgia, on January 11, 2012. Five thousand police officers will receive portable field computers, equipped with features that will assist them with their work, assembled at this factory, according to local media.
Update: An official response to this blog post from the government of Georgia is here. And a response from a Boing Boing reader who is a Georgian native is here.
From the Tbilisi-based Georgian language news organization Rustavi 2:
Five thousand police officers will be handed over portable computers. New police pads were produced in Georgia by the Algorithm Company. Minister of Interior Vano Merabishvili observe the process of police pad production in the factory personally. `I have an honor to inform Georgian society and the officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, that in a few days five thousand police officers will be equipped with such field computers, which will allow the citizens and the police officers to provide services offered by the ministry to our citizens more comfortably,` Minister said adding Georgian police would soon become the most developed and modernized police in the world.
Says a friend who travels to the region often: "100% guaranteed those crooked, fat, lazy cops will be using these devices primarily for porn and russian gambling services."
Update: A counselor from the Georgian embassy to the United States has contacted Boing Boing to express disappointment that the quote above was included in this article. The remark is unfair, the official says, and it's something of a sore point for a country that has done so much to address the issue in recent years. They direct our attention to the Georgian government's efforts to reform police and fight corruption—with results, they say, that are a global example of success for an emerging democratic state. We've invited the government of Georgia to share those comments in longer form, and we'll gladly post them here as a guest opinion piece in entirety. It should also be noted that the source of the critical quote in this article loves Georgia, its people, and its culture, and travels there frequently to this day. Some who applaud the success of reforms still argue there's more work left to do.
(photo: REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)
William Patry is no copyright radical. He's the author of some of the major reference texts on copyright, books that most copyright lawyers would have on their bookcases, books like Patry on Copyright. But Patry -- once copyright counsel to the US House of Representatives and policy planning advisor to the US Register of Copyrights -- is furious with the current state of copyright law, and he's marshalled his considerable knowledge of copyright and combined it with his considerable talent as a writer to produce a new book, How to Fix Copyright, a book that is incandescent in every sense of the word.
How to Fix Copyright is a superbly argued, enraging book on the state of copyright law today, one of the great evidence-free zones in policymaking, where every measure is taken on faith and whose results are never seriously measured (except by tame, partisan researchers who always conclude that more draconian laws are in order). Patry dismantles the arguments for "strong" copyright protection like a top chef deboning a fish, deftly carving away the industry rhetoric and leaving behind the evidence.
The evidence is grim. Bad copyright law, enacted on the basis of flimsy, cooked statistics (or worse, purely anaecdotal "evidence") is not serving to enrich artists, though it is funneling enormous wealth to their corporate publishers, studios and labels (especially the executive suites in those firms, where compensation in the tens of millions is handed out by firms that are "dying of piracy"). These laws are dismantling our culture, criminalizing our children and neighbors, attacking our cherished institutions, and distorting the progress of poor nations around the world.
Throughout the text, Patry offers two important (but rare) commodities: facts, and solutions. Patry's work is heavily footnoted, and his footnotes are generous, sometimes lengthy discursions, often citing primary, peer-reviewed works. Not cooked industry statistics, but impartial evidence from economists, social scientists, and creators modern and ancient. As to solutions, Patry notes that his publisher wanted him to include a list of bullet-point solutions at the end of the book, an approach he rejected because these aren't simple problems -- they're difficult and nuanced, and so are his solutions, so they're best couched in the arguments they refer to. I agree with this approach, though two of Patry's suggestions are simple enough: first, stop making new copyright laws until we know whether the current ones are working (we'll have to define what they're supposed to be doing first!); and second, make no new laws without a strong, impartial evidentiary basis.
Funnily enough, these two suggestions do mark Patry out as a copyright radical by modern standards. Copyright is supposed to be an unassailable doctrine of faith, and asking to see the evidence of supposed gigantic monetary and job losses due to piracy, or supposed gigantic contributions to the GDP and balance of trade as a result of the industries, makes you a loony heretic in the contemporary debate.
Patry currently works as Senior Copyright Counsel at Google, and he is also a clarinetist -- in other words, he is both well-versed in technology and an artist himself. This puts him in a nearly unique position among copyright lawyers, and it's no wonder that he's one of copyright's best scholars. And while How to Fix Copyright is a book full of anger, it's never shrill or strident (though it's a good deal less calm than Patry's previous popular law book, Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars).
A global coalition of activist groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation have created "Global Chokepoints," a worldwide initiative to monitor censorship arising from copyright enforcement.
Global Chokepoints will document the escalating global efforts to turn Internet intermediaries into chokepoints for online free expression. Internet intermediaries all over the world—from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to community-driven sites like Twitter and YouTube to online payment processors—are increasingly facing demands by IP rightsholders and governments to remove, filter, or block allegedly infringing or illegal content, as well as to collect and disclose their users' personal data.
At the same time, it's unclear whether and under what circumstances Internet intermediaries have liability for content posted by their users. Hotly contested court cases in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere are considering how copyright law fits with obligations to protect Internet users' rights of privacy, due process, and freedom of expression.
Global Chokepoints analyzes global trends in four types of copyright censorship: 1) three-strikes policies and laws that require Internet intermediaries to terminate their users' Internet access on repeat allegations of copyright infringement; 2) requirements for Internet intermediaries to filter all Internet communications for potentially copyright-infringing material; 3) ISP obligations to block access to websites that allegedly infringe or facilitate copyright infringement; and 4) efforts to force intermediaries to disclose the identities of their customers to IP rightsholders upon allegations of copyright infringement. The site includes links to digital rights organizations, consumer groups, law school clinics, and technology industry groups that are opposing the spread of overbroad copyright policing efforts, as well as national advocacy campaigns to protect the free and open Internet and citizens' fundamental rights.
[video link] US-based Egyptian blogger, speaker, and journalist Mona Eltahawy was released today after spending 12 hours detained by Egyptian security forces in Cairo. According to her tweets, she was arrested by riot police while observing the ongoing protests in Tahrir Square, where thousands of Egyptian citizens are calling for the military junta SCAF to be disbanded, and a representative, democratically-elected leadership to take their place.
While she was held, Mona managed to tweet from a fellow detainee's Blackberry that she had been beaten and was in prison. When she was released, Mona tweeted more details: she had been sexually and physically assaulted, and sustained a broken arm and a broken hand from beatings inside the interior ministry in Cairo, in the early hours of Thursday morning.
"The whole time I was thinking about article I would write," she writes, "Just you fuckers wait."
A number of journalists and well-known voices from Twitter have been detained in the last few days, including Egyptian-American documentary maker Jehane Noujaim, and Maged Butter, shown below (WARNING: graphic image): Read the rest
Read the rest
This photo was taken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Virunga National Park, where the Nyamulagira volcano is currently erupting. The man in the photo is named Romeo. No last name given, and I can't help but wonder if that's for the same reason that he carries a rather large gun.
Romeo is a park ranger in Virunga. It's a very dangerous job. Virunga has lost more park rangers than any other protected site on Earth. That's due to several factors. For one thing, men like Romeo are in charge of protecting the Park's gorillas and other endangered wildlife from poachers. For another, political instability leaks into Virunga on a relatively regular basis. Back in January, three rangers and five Congolese soldiers were killed by members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Virunga borders Rwanda and members of this militia try to use the park as a hideout. In the process, they clear-cut the forest for charcoal. The January attack was thought to be in retaliation for rangers destroying a couple FDLR camps and cracking down on illegal forest destruction.
In fact, the job is dangerous enough that one of the fundraising campaigns the park is promoting is a program to care for the widows of dead rangers. You can donate online.
Who are the guys that put their lives on the line for a national park and a bunch of great apes? The park website also has some short statements by several of the rangers. Romeo isn't among them. But you can get an idea of who these guys are, and why they chose this job.
Surprisingly, despite all that, large parts of Virunga are safe enough for tourists. According to Wikipedia, the park gets 3000 visitors a year.
Via Brendan Maher