Intellectual Property and the Public Domain
October 17, 2004 | Grantee Publications | Higher Education in Russia & Africa, Housing, Community & Economic Development


In the MacArthur Foundation’s monthly electronic newsletter we offer items of interest about the work we support. Thanks to the technology involved, we can tell fairly brief stories about issues, results, and research and link you to in-depth information about what lies behind the story. We welcome your comments and hope you find this information useful.


A Victory for the Public Interest in Copyright Law

In the Foundation’s Initiative on Intellectual Property and Long Term Protection of the Public Domain, the Foundation provides grants to organizations working to protect the public domain of information and ideas in the digital era. In the course of this work we have been following a number of court cases engaged in copyright issues. One of particular interest involves a U.S. District Court case in Northern California in which the Diebold Corporation, a manufacturer of electronic voting machines, sought to stop the posting of criticism of its voting machine technology on various websites, arguing that the postings violate copyright law. MacArthur grantees, including the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the Electronic Frontier Foundation along with others including Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society, filed counterclaims leading to a court ruling that Diebold was in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which makes it unlawful to try to "takedown" websites when the copyright holder is aware that no infringement has occurred. It is cases like this that are helping establish the boundary lines between free speech and copyright protection in the digital age.


Understanding the Transition to Adulthood

The MacArthur Foundation provides major grant support for a number of interdisciplinary research networks exploring issues related to human and community development. Two such networks, for example, have explored the human life course in mid-life and successful aging. An intriguing body of work is emerging from the Research Network on the Transitions to Adulthood, which is sorting out the many ways in which social, cultural, and economic changes over the last 25 to 30 years are redefining the passage from adolescence to adulthood. Among the ideas brought forth by the network is the suggestion that the time between adolescence and adulthood is now so distinctive that it should be considered a separate period of life. A national conference to consider the research and its implications for policy will be held November 8-9 at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center. The gathering is sponsored by the research network and the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago.


Protesting the Government Shutdown of a University in Belarus

To nurture the development of a new generation of scholars and researchers and to foster intellectual freedom in the Russian region, MacArthur, through its higher education initiative in Russia, has been providing funds to 34 universities and institutes including the European Humanities University (EHU) in Belarus. The independent stance of the university did not sit well with that country’s government, which forced the university to close at the start of this academic year. MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton has sent an open letter to the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, protesting the closure, and shared the message widely with education and human rights leaders. The international education community has joined ranks to help the approximately 1,000 students find other education opportunities, but that does nothing, of course, for the students who would have attended European Humanities University in the future.


Deepening Understanding of American Cities

Directly and through our participation in Living Cities, a consortium of financial, philanthropic, and public sector organizations dedicated to improving cities and their neighborhoods, the Foundation provides funding for the Brookings Living Cities Census Series, in-depth analyses of demographic trends affecting the 100 largest U.S. cities. Published by the Brookings Institution, the series also considers the policy implications of the trends for four cities: Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Baltimore.


Focus on Chicago—A Loan Guaranty to Ensure New Housing

Major initiatives of the Foundation in Chicago and nationwide involve grants and loans in support of affordable housing. Another is to help ensure the success of the Plan for Transformation, a 10-year, $1.65-billion effort that will replace distressed housing with new mixed-income and other housing and revitalize the surrounding neighborhoods. A significant step forward came on October 5 when representatives of the City and the private development team of Thrush/Granite/Heartland gathered for the groundbreaking of Jazz on the Boulevard, a new mixed-income housing development located just south of the downtown and a few blocks from Lake Michigan. Funding for new mixed-income housing was made possible in part through a $15 million loan guaranty from the MacArthur Foundation to reduce lenders’ uncertainty about the prospects for Jazz on the Boulevard and other new mixed-income communities. The innovative guarantee, or credit enhancement, enabled the City to borrow funds from Fannie Mae and other investors, and put in place the resources to construct 96 for-sale homes.

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