Free Licencing For Art

Free Culture is primarily a synonym for free speech. In art, free speech is generally referred to as free expression. Artists face limits on their freedom of expression from various laws that limit their freedom to depict the visual environment, notably copyright law and trademark law. A successful strategy for tackling the restrictions of copyright on computer programming has been the use of “copyleft” licences that ironize copyright law in order to promote rather than restrict individuals’ freedom to use and adapt copyrighted materials.

Copyleft protects the freedom to use any materials that it covers wherever an individual may encounter them. It is inalienable and indivisible freedom. Weakening copyleft weakens this, and doing so should only be considered as a tactical last option.

Legal documents such as licences, however simple, can always have unintended consequences. Copyright law is complex and licences should always be drafted by lawyers familiar with the area. But this isn’t to say that alternative copyright licences should be motivated by lawyers or simply follow the faultlines of copyright law. They should be expressions of principle made rigorous and enforcible.

Software copyleft licences are tailored to the demands of writing and using software. But software is very different from other media covered by copyright, so this does not mean that other artifacts covered by copyright should have their own medium-specific licences. Culture is a dialogue, and much contemporary culture (including much contemporary art) is multi-media, or is adapted from or refers to work created in other media. A single-medium cultural licence would limit freedom of expression rather than protect the coherence of the medium.

It is possible to use non-copyleft “permissive” alternative copyright licences as a means of making irrational economic gifts of works to other individuals. The use of these gifts may support an individual’s freedom of speech. But this does not protect freedom of speech in general as the work they create using those resources need not be licenced to respect the freedom of its audience in return. Copyleft therefore protects freedom of speech more generally than permissive licencing.

Given all this, the licence that I believe should be used by individuals committed to artistic freedom of expression is a legally drafted general-purpose copyleft licence for cultural works. This excludes software licences (like the GPL), documentation licences (like the GFDL), and non-copyleft cultural works licences (like CC-BY and CC-NC-SA). It also, for reasons I will explain, excludes the FAL.



Produces modified versions of images resembling part of an ouvre.

You’ll need opencv-python installed for this. PIL should already be installed.

[Original image by Tommerton2010 CC-BY[email protected]/5388143519/ ]

Collaboration and Freedom – The World of Free and Open Source Art

A collection of artworks, texts and resources about freedom and openness in the arts, in the age of the Internet. Freedom to collaborate – to use, modify and redistribute ideas, artworks, experiences, media and tools. Openness to the ideas and contributions of others, and new ways of organising and making decisions together.

This non exhaustive collection is intended to inspire, inform and enable people to apply peer-to-peer principles for making things and getting organised together. We hope that all art lovers, makers, thinkers, organisers and strategists will find something for them from this set of imaginative, communitarian and dynamic contemporary practices.

Curated by Furtherfield: Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett with additional texts by Charlotte Frost and Rob Myers.

1 What You will Find in this Collection
2 Essays & Interviews
3 Radio Interviews
4 Artist Projects
5 Open Source Resources
– Open source services
– Organisational models and strategies
– Guides and how-tos
– Licensing
– Glossary for Beginners in FOSS Art

Can be found at the the Foundation for P2P Alternatives

And at ACE/Thinking Digital

Commissioned by Arts Council England for Thinking Digital.

It will also be presented at the FLOSSIE (Women in FLOSS) conference in
November 15th. London.


Furtherfield commission ‘Balloon Dog’ by Rob Myers.

A downloadable freely licensed 3D model of an artwork to print and remix. 2011 Furtherfield commission.

Balloon Dog forms part of a series of shareable DIY ‘readymades’ for an era of digital copying and sharing. Iconic objects from the history of appropriation and remixing art are recreated as 3D-digital models. Users can then download and send the digital model to 3D printers via the Internet to receive their own physical artwork through the post at a scale of their choosing.

ImagePlot and properties-plot.r

ImagePlot is out:

It’s a JImage macro that plots visualizations of image statistics using the images themselves. It’s very cool, do take a look. As well as the complete software under the GPL (but version 2 only???) it has sample data, and essays explaining the project. There are some great examples of visualizations created using the system at the link above.

As what will be the basis of the next posts in my “Exploring Art Data” series, I’ve implemented a simpler version of ImagePlot in R over the weekend. The code to extract image data has been wrapped up as a command-line tool, the code to produce the final visualizations hasn’t.

You can get my code here in the image-analysis folder (it’s GPLv3 or later):

Here’s an example plot using the Mondrian images from ImagePlot’s sample folder:

Mondrian VisualizationYou can create PDF and PNG files as well as view the results onscreen. I want to tweak the display parameters and tidy up a few lines in the code then make a command-line interface for it. And maybe even a GUI interface…

Forepaw: One Step Forward….

IMG_20110914_213645.jpgI’ve finished the armature (hand sewn as I don’t have a sewing machine), added a connector so the display can be removed from the main circuit, and boxed up the main circuit.

There have been two problems so far:

  1. The vibration motors really upset the compass module. So the code now turns them off before taking a compass reading. This means that the motors now pulse a couple of times a second. If it was an intentional part of the design it would be quite good
  2. There’s a problem with the circuit. The first and last motors on the display intermittently get low power and so don’t run. I’m investigating that at the moment (you can see the multimeter probes at the edge of the picture) and hope to have it fixed shortly.

Once I’ve fixed the second problem it’s ready to go…

DDOS, Aesthetics, Speech

Distributed Denial Of Service attacks have a form. They have a political form, and they have a spatial form. The latter is the network topography of the attacks. At present the spatial form (and its properties) are incidental, but it is possible to make them part of the political message. This could make the form of the DDOS political speech and/or artistic expression.

Firstly the specific servers and the clients accessing them can be chosen for their geographic position using a system such as GeoLite. Shapes, diagrams and letters can be drawn in this way to communicate a specific message above and beyond the mere fact of the attack.

Secondly the properties of the network traffic sent to the servers can be varied to encode a message. The timing of messages can be used to transmit values and thereby numbers, text, images and even sound or video although the latter would be very slow.

The problems with these schemes are that the variation of traffic volume involved in structuring the messages, the topography of the Internet and the effects of the DDOS attack itself would work to destroy the coherency of the encoded messages. This functions as a commentary on or allegory for the effectiveness of reasoned argument versus simple rage.

Attacks of these kinds could be simulated using virtual machines on a closed network. This would function as a proof of concept and as art. Capturing and visualizing the network traffic of the attack would serve to recover the intended message or to track its degradation, and again would function as art.


SendValues is a network testing tool that sends mathematical, aesthetic and textual values using the properties of rather than the contents of network messages.

You can get the source code here:

Both a stand-alone command-line version and an IRC-client version are included.

SendValues uses a naive pulse-width-modulation scheme for encoding values. Any improvements to the code gratefully received.

Here is the README:

SendValues is a system for transmitting aesthetic expression and political speech using properties of network protocols.

There are two versions, a command-line client and an IRC client. They use the same code and concepts apart from their different interfaces.

* Concepts

** Senders

A sender is a way of sending information over the network using an IP-based protocol. SendValues has the following senders:

TCP – Sends messages as TCP/IP connections.
UDP – Sends messages as UDP packets.
SYN – Sends messages as SYN requests.
HTTP – Sends messages as HTTP requests.
PING – Sends messages as ICMP echo requests.

Senders may be specified to the command line or IRC clients by these names.

** Values

A value is a message to be sent to a host using a sender. Values are quantized by the sender and transmitted over the network as naive pulse width modulation values.

SINE – A sine wave (argument is number of steps).
SQUARE – A square wave (argument is number of steps).
SAWTOOTH – A sawtooth wave (argument is number of steps).
TRIANGLE – A triangle wave (argument is number of steps).
TEXT – A block of text (argument is text to send).
IMAGE – An image, to be sent as 1-bit pbm data  (argument is image URL).

* The Command Line Client

The command line client takes all of its arguments from the command line.

-h, –help       – Print the help and exit.
-o, –host      – The host address to send to.
-s, –sender     – The sender to use (from the list above).
-m, –method     – The values generation method to use (from the list above).
-a, –argument     – The argument to the values generation method.
-c, –cell     – How long each value takes to send (in milliseconds).
-d, –duration     – How long to send values to the host.

These all have default values, including host which defaults to localhost.

* The IRC Client

The IRC client takes its initial configuration from the command line. Once it has connected to an IRC channel it takes commands from messages on that channel.

Command line arguments:

-h, –help    – Print the help and exit.
-s, –server    – The IRC server to connect to.
-p, –port    – The port on the IRC server to use (defaults to 6667).
-c, –channel    – The channel on the server to take commands from (omit #).
-u, –user    – The user on the channel to take commands from.

Channel and user default to “artcommands”.

Commands to the IRC channel have the following formats:

START [sender:]host[:port] kind[:argument]

Start sending values of the given kind to host using sender.
Where only sender or port are specified, the clients will guess which.
Argument can be a number of steps for wave senders, a url for the image sender, or arbitrary text for the text sender.

STOP host

Stop sending to the host. The host must be specified exactly as it was in the START command


Stop sending to all hosts.

The Mind Is Obsolete

The mind senses, learns, feels, communicates. But software supplants the capabilites of mind. GPS is a super-human sense, Wikipedia and stackoverflow are knowledge, Facebook and are affect, Twitter and tumblr are communication.

The mind is obsolete.

Humanity Is A Skeuomorph

Skeuomorphs are ornamental design elements that retain the structure of their functional precursors:

There are two senses in which humanity is a skeuomorph.

The first is that the quality of humanity, of being human, is irrelevant to social networking and its streams. Attaching human concepts and identities to streams is skeuomorphic, and Real Names policies only underline this.

The second is more quantitative. Capital, corporations and their algorithms do not need human beings, they are optimizing humanity out. But to the extent that they do still need to interact with human beings, they use skeuomorphic human forms such as CEOs and quants.

Humanity is a skeuomorph.