Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Volunteer at OVC 2011

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Volunteers sign-up is now available for the 2011 Open Video Conference. Volunteering at OVC gets you free admission to the conference, an Open Video Alliance t-shirt and our sincerest appreciation. We will also, of course, feed you.

Sign-up will be open through the date of the conference (Sept 10-12) but we will be planning on having at least one orientation in late August. You’ll be able to meet your fellow volunteers and learn more about what the tasks will be day to day. Sign up today!

The SecureSmartCam Project: Protecting Human Rights

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

The SecureSmartCam project, a collaboration of WITNESS and the Guardian Project, aims to design and develop a new type of smartphone camera app that respects the visual privacy, anonymity and consent of the subjects they photograph or record. It’s designed for capturing images in politically sensitive situations where preserving the anonymity of subjects is a serious consideration.

The SecureSmartCam project recently crossed a major milestone with the beta release of the ObscuraCam app for Android, which automatically pixelates the faces of subjects captured by the app.

The SecureSmartCam project was developed in part at OVC 2010, and in association with WITNESS, the project will be returning to this year’s Open Video Conference.

We sat down with Bryan Nunez, Technology Manager at WITNESS, to discuss the project.

Q. What is the plan for getting this technology deployed?

We’ve been very open and transparent about the development of the technology from the outset of the project. We’re using open source tools such as Android, OpenCV, and using GitHub to publicly manage the code. So all the source code and builds have been available to the public.

In addition to GitHub we’re also distributing the app via the Android Market. We plan to distribute the app to our human rights partners through trainings as well.

Q. How does the SecureSmartCam idea fit in with other things happening at Witness?

SecureSmartCam is part of larger initiative we’ve started called, “Cameras Everywhere.” Essentially we recognize that video is becoming more accessible and more ubiquitous both in terms of technology and distribution channels. This flood of video represents more opportunities to expose human rights abuse, but as more people
post videos online, there’s also more potential that people might be endangered if they’re not aware of the possible risks.

We hope to enable an environment where people can use video for human rights in a safer and more effective way, by working with technology developers and providers as well building tools such as the SSC.

Bryan Nunez, WITNESS (CC Image courtesy of Joichi Ito)

Q. This year’s SecureSmartCam session continues some work that began during last year’s OVC. Tell us more.

Although WITNESS and the Guardian Project have been talking about collaborating for awhile now, we really kicked off our formal collaboration at the 2010 OVC. Last year’s conference was made up of three parts, the first being a discussion of the problems and risks of having human rights video online, the second a brainstorming workshop around how to address these issues, and finally a hack day in which we actually sat down and built a rough prototype of a facial recognition app on an Android phone.

This year we hope to showcase the work that’s been done over the past year. The risks we discussed last year haven’t gone away and have only been highlighted further with the videos that have come out of the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. We’d like to continue this discussion and re-check our assumptions as well as get feedback from the OVC community that will help us as we continue development.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish?

We hope we’ll have made some significant progress on the app and that we’ll be able to have people test it out. We’d also like to continue the dialog we started at the 2010 OVC.

Q. What are some challenges you’re expecting?

Right now the ObscuraCam only works on stills. Video may be difficult, but we’re optimistic.

Q. What are the ultimate wishes for this project? Where would you like to see it in
two years time?

Ultimately we hope that the work we do with the SecureSmartCam project is adopted by more people, that the concepts of visual privacy, informed consent, and basic human rights ideals are good for everyone and that this thinking finds its way into the design of technologies beyond SSC.

Bryan has told us that development of the next version of ObscuraCam is moving along and will be more robust with plans to feature options such as video support. The next version is tentatively entitled “InformaCam.”

Can a Defensive Patent License Help Protect and Promote Open Video?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Open video standards and tools are essential for participatory media. Yet, in order to keep them open, there must be strategies for managing intellectual property—both within the community and outside. Free and open source licenses have helped manage copyright issues for quite some time, but concerns over patents still abound.

In this session, Jennifer Urban and Jason Schultz, Co-Directors of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law School, introduce a new approach to protecting open video from patent threats—the Defensive Patent License. In many patent-heavy industries, defensive patenting is a common strategy used to control patent threats and create freedom to operate and consensus around standards. The concept is simple. Rather than prosecuting and obtaining patents for the purpose of excluding competitors or seeking license fees, defensive patentees acquire patents solely as a deterrent and potential counter-weapon against any entity that threatens them legally.

Despite this tradition, the practice of defensive patenting has been very limited in the open source community, in part because of the costs of patenting, political and cultural objections to patents, and anti-innovation “bullying” tactics by both dominant industry players and “patent trolls.” There has also been important skepticism about whether or not defensive patents will actually stay defensive over their lifetime.

The DPL attempts to change this trend by providing a legal mechanism that will lower the costs of patenting, align patent with the cultural and political objectives of open technology communities, and make patents permanently defensive as to those who agree to the terms of the license. It publicly commits organizations, companies, and individuals to using their patents for defensive purposes only and creates a broad open patent cross-licensing program available to anyone on a royalty-free basis as long as they agree to do the same. We believe this license would help promote the goals of the open video community, especially in regard to ensuring that open video technologies are available and affordable across the web.

Jason Schultz and Jennifer Urban, Co-Directors of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law School

Jason Schultz and Jennifer Urban, Co-Directors of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law School


This session will introduce the DPL and the rationale behind it. Session participants will offer their ideas as to the types of patent issues confronting open video projects and which technologies or standards they target, as well as explore whether or not using the DPL could help address patent problems in the open video landscape. Participants will also help to detail the specific needs the open video community would have in order to implement the DPL and will ultimately produce a set of recommendations for defensive patent licensing in open video.