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Non-proprietary or free approaches to creating and distributing digital tools and content have come increasingly into the public eye. The Free Software and Open Source movements — centred around operating systems, programming languages, and other utilities — have inspired a diverse group of initiatives spanning a wide range: collaborative scholarship and research in the humanities and sciences, emergent art forms, and a variety of Internet applications (e.g Gnutella, FreeNet). Apparent in all these movements is a tendency to reinforce the breadth and richness of the public domain in cyberspace. They create new kinds of collective goods, while at the same time challenging traditional copyright regimes, and offer a challenge to individualistic modes of authorship.

To consider these issues the Arts Council of England and the Academia Europaea, in partnership with the new Crucible agency at the Computer Laboratory, Cambridge and the Cambridge University Law Faculty’s Intellectual Property Unit, are organising a Conference to be held at Queen’s College, Cambridge, from 4 to 6 April 2001. The conference, CODE — Collaboration and Ownership in the Digital Economy — will bring together leading theorists and practitioners in the media, software, law, technology and the arts to ask: How do non-proprietary principles contribute to creativity and collective action? What problems may be encountered in the legal domain? Will the current efforts of established IP rights holders to extend copyright enforcement eventually be reconciled with this emerging world of free-flowing network-based collaboration? What lessons may be gained from alternative concepts of ownership? How can these movements interface with regular commercial practice?

This conference will appeal to everyone concerned with the emerging software and creative media industries, particularly the intersection between those industries where new media content is being created and disseminated via software distribution methods.

It will offer insights also into issues critical to cultural and social development in Europe as well as globally. The rapid development of the open content movement has far-reaching consequences for policy makers across many disciplines particularly in a period of rapid expansion of investment in e-universities, distributed research laboratories, virtual faculties and the opening up of broadband networks which will enable high speed distribution of data and new kinds of multimedia products.


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