Showing posts from September, 2012

Upholding The Social Bargain: Bookshare and Copyright Compliance

Benetech's largest social enterprise is the Bookshare online library for people who are blind or otherwise disabled when it comes to reading print. We have the privilege of being able to serve people with disabilities in large part because of a generous provision in U.S. copyright law. The Section 121 copyright exception (often known as the Chafee Amendment after the Senator who introduced it in 1996) makes it possible for Benetech to scan just about any book and make it available to this community. We don't have to pay a royalty, and we don't have to ask for permission. The publishing industry and disability organizations both agreed on this provision of copyright law. The deal was: help people with disabilities that can't access books and don't hurt the economic interests of the publishers (and authors). At Benetech, our commitment is to uphold that social deal. How do we uphold the social bargain? 1. Ensure that only people with qualifying disabilit

SocialCoding4Good: Mobilizing Technology and Volunteerism for Transformative Impact

Benetech, like many nonprofit organizations building open source software for social good, often relies upon the contributions of experienced software developers to help its solutions grow and scale. We frequently have more volunteers than we have projects; while at other times, we have a list of tasks we could get done -- if only we had the people.  Often there's a mismatch between the skills of a volunteer and the skills required by our projects.  Last year, we found ourselves asking two key questions: What if we could build upon the enthusiasm and momentum that spring out of increasingly popular weekend hackathon-for-good events, and channel them towards existing, sustainable humanitarian free and open source (HFOSS) projects? What if there were a website that software industry professionals could visit to discover open source organizations like Amara , FrontlineSMS , or The Guardian Project , and learn about their technical volunteer opportunities? With a seed grant fr