Thursday, June 21, 2007

Mozilla in Brazil Day 1: Center for Technology and Society

Today we met with the management team from the Center for Technology and Society at the FGV School of Law in Rio de Janeiro to learn more about the state of the internet open source software world in Brazil... and learn we did!

Here a just a few things this group of young, talented and smart lawyers are up to:
The Director of the Center for Technology and Society, Renaldo Lemos, is also the Chair of Creative Commons Brazil, which was the 3rd CC chapter outside the US. They somehow managed to get 2,500 people to attend the launch event for Creative Commons in Brazil (beating the other launches by many zeros). In addition, Ronald is also the chair of iCommons.org.
A few of their projects:
Culturalivre.org
Open Business Project
Free and Open Source Software Legal Support
Access to Knowledge (a2k)
In addition to their normal research and teaching, they also have been contracted by the Brazilian government to draft the new SPAM laws. Very impressive group (and great hosts too)!

At Mozilla, we often struggle to relate our core goal (promoting a innovation and choice on the web) to something meaningful for daily users. This challenge isn’t unique to Mozilla. One of the main goals of CTS is to ensure that their research and work, which if focused on development, innovation and democracy, is accessible to the average person. In addition to their many blogs aimed at general consumers, they also developed a real world approach to explaining the impact of copyright owners pushing for “permanent” copyright to materials by having 20 different musicians record different tracks from a high profile Brazilian classical musician whose family is fighting to extend the copyright on his work indefinitely. If the copyright expires on January 1, for example, the 20 new tracks will be released on the 2nd and then on the 3rd, the CTS team will promote a contest to see who can do the best remix of the tracks, which could never have been done before in mass because of the copyright. Rather that just issuing a press release bemoaning the problem, their work to make copyright expiration palatable to a broader audience is down right impressive (forgive my butchering of the example).


We also learned quite a bit about the state of the internet in Brazil. The most interesting tidbit was that approximately 28% of the internet activity comes through “LAN houses,” which are nothing more than internet caf├ęs for the lower and working class in some of Brazil’s worst neighborhoods or rural areas. These pay as you surf computer stations having sprung up all around Brazil as entrepreneurs saw the money that could be made by setting up places for the local kids to play online games and use Orkut (which is another story in and of itself). There will be plenty more posted on what we learned about the state of the internet in Brazil, but considering our red eye flight last night and full day of meetings, I am going to throw in the towel. Tomorrow we have a full day at the Federa University of Rio de Janeiro and a Mozilla community gathering at Devassa Flamengo in the evening.

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