April 11, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions

What is this all about?

What is Columba’s Day, Belfast?

It’s an event celebrating open culture, focused around artistic and other creative works with open licenses, to enable sharing and collaboration. We want people to be free to create, enjoy and share what they see and hear at the event.

To achieve this, uniquely, we will ask all attendees to sign a waiver on entry that any copyright created or displayed during the event, not otherwise licensed under open license (see below), is released under the Creative Commons ShareAlike License 3.0. Additionally, there will be an image and video waiver. This means attendees can take photos, share them, record video and audio of any work, performer or performance, provided it is under a Creative Commons ShareAlike License 3.0.

Naturally, no inappropriately invasive behaviour will be tolerated, any more than at any another event, and attendees will be expected to respect intentionality, that is, not to photograph or share work accidentally displayed, as a matter of basic courtesy. Moreover, it is a particularly strict condition of this event that you have any necessary third-party rights to openly license whatever you display or perform (so no covers of in-copyright songs, for instance).

What’s an open license?

Everything from copyright-expired works to Creative Commons Share-Alike licenses. For simplicity, we generally mean Creative Commons compatible licenses, not including those with non-commercial or no derivatives clauses (see below).

What isn’t Columba’s Day, Belfast?

This isn’t a statement against copyright enforcement, or against rights in creative works. We aren’t saying that all works should be openly licensed at all times, any more than all concerts should be open air at all times, or all private museums free at all times, say. But we do believe, for one event a year, creative minds can show the world that there is a value to creativity and collaboration beyond money and intellectual property - this is the message of Columba’s Day, Belfast.

Why are non-commercial licenses not considered open?

Some people do, others don’t - for more of a discussion, this Wikipedia article is a good jumping off point.

For us, it is the idea that open licensing is defined by the decision of the creator, independent of the consumer - open is open to all

But then, won’t people exploit my work?

Check out What isn’t Columba’s Day, Belfast above - for us, exploitation is the abuse of a creator’s rights. This event is about freely given participation, with no ambiguity - if you have something precious that you are willing to share with the world, without wanting to hold back, we want to celebrate that, big or small. At the same time, we recognise that many of us depend on rights protection for our livings - this isn’t exhaustive, just share the love of something you love if you can!

So is this like freemium?

No, our focus is on quality and completeness. It doesn’t have to be the world’s best, but if you are going to participate, what you are showcasing should be full and able to stand on its own - that’s the message we will be giving attendees, so even for your own commercial benefit, please make sure it’s representative of your craft! Bear in mind, attendees are giving up their time to see what you have shared.

That all said, we’re open to all skill levels so don’t feel off-put by expectations - everyone’s there in good faith, to explore the talent around us!

Can I participate without releasing any existing work?

Yes, for instance by running workshops, live performance/creation, tips talks or interviews! This isn’t about making as much IP as possible, it’s about setting aside restrictive IP for a day, and seeing what we can achieve through that.

If you want to see what people you teach can produce, and mix it with your own talents, to produce something exciting or innovative, perhaps this is an opportunity for an intro session - sharing goes both ways!

And, of course, if you just want to turn up with nothing to show, you can still contribute - just show up and look around you, talk to people, explore - we hope you’ll get plenty out of it!

Sharing IP - so, are you pro-piracy?

No! Individuals are welcome to their opinions, but we do not believe that violating the law or creators’ moral rights is a fair or sustainable approach to content. But we are passionate about the power of sharing IP; that’s why we have gone to all the effort of running this event, to respect and engage other creators, doing so in an explicitly opt-in forum.

Where did this idea come from?

Primarily from the Makerspace/Hackerspace community around Farset Labs, that mixes software developers, engineers and artists in together. We even have an NI Tech community Arts & Culture forum! Within the software field, in addition to paid work, producing top quality openly-licensed work and freely sharing it is a mark of professional pride. The IT industry in general has become dependent on that type of sharing and collaboration, both giving and receiving, to form combined works. The economic compensation in IT can work very differently to the arts, but the ideas have some overlap through the Creative Commons movement.

A year ago, during the BelFOSS event, one of the first talks touched on the story of St Columba below, and how our little corner of the globe had a critical role to play in the world history of IP. Some discussion arose that we could take this further…

Why St Columba? Is this a religious thing?

No, it’s about linking to a story from 1400 years ago, just down the road… at the time, Columba was copying a religious text owned by St Finnian in Movilla Abbey. St Finnian claimed that he owned the copy as it was made from his text, but Columba felt differently (bearing in mind the extraordinary effort involved in monastic transcription!). He said that, as the Word of God, St Finnian couldn’t own it in the first place.

Both stuck to their guns, St Columba claiming that it was freely copyable, St Finnian that it wasn’t - the world’s first major copyright battle. It escalated quickly, St Columba gaining the support of the King of Ulster and St Finnian that of the High King of Ireland, who ultimately declared “to every cow its calf, to every book its copy”. Tragically, this led to the Battle of the Book, between the opposing armies, but part of the fallout was the departure of Columba for Scotland. There he founded the monastery of Iona, which gradually became a renouned centre of European learning.

Our opening quote for the event is taken from the oldest dated printed work in existance, and the first to bear a public domain dedication, containing the Buddhist text of the Diamond Sutra:

So you should view this fleeting world— A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, A flash of lightening in a summer cloud, A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

The block print was created within 300 years of Columba’s death, and almost 600 years before the first printed works in Europe.

But isn’t using a saint’s day excluding some denominations, identities, religions, secularists or atheists?

St Columba is particularly appropriate - a patron saint of Ireland, of Scotland and of poetry, symbolised by the dove of peace. Irish-born, Columba was a native of Ulster, who brought his faith to the Dál Riata Scottish islands. Some years later, the legends of the Battle of Magh Rath have the pre-Christian King of Ulster and those Christians of Scottish Dál Riata making a dramatic last stand together, alongside an international band of soldiers and mercenaries. In the present day, Columba is often seen, across beliefs, as a symbol of commonality.

Along with sharing IP, being open to other views, perspectives and ways of life is important to us, even if they do not match our own understandings. As such, we believe that using St Columba’s Day as a focal point is about openness to all, including the many religious traditions that have celebrated St Columba, rather than side-stepping this natural choice through exclusionism.

Will content from the day go online?

We are going to record (in various forms) as much as we can, in as good quality as we can. We want to credit people with the effort they put in publicly, as well as make the most of the opportunities afforded by sharing.

What can be achieved with openly licensed work?

As a crossover between open source and open content, the work of the Blender Foundation is great for engaging kids and adults: Blender Open Projects. Their most recent short is Agent 327: Operation Barbershop.