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HarperStudio Interviews Joi Ito

Fred Benenson, December 2nd, 2008


HarperStudio, an imprint of the world renown publishers Harper Collins, has an interview with Joi Ito, our CEO. In his answers, Joi tackles some of the more complex implications of Creative Commons licensing for media like books:

2) Does Creative Commons have different implications for different forms of media? Would books be affected differently than music, for example?

Joi Ito: … In the case of book publishing, we have seen a variety of different examples. The basic consideration is how much demand the book already has versus the potential demand that a free download version of the book might create. Clearly there is some cannibalization of sales if people who were going to buy the book end up reading it online. However, we have quite a bit of data which supports the fact that making the book available for free increases the likelihood that the book will get stronger coverage on blogs and word of mouth and also find its way into markets not typically marketed to by the publishers. If, for instance, one allows derivative works, a good book will often quickly get translated, whole or in part, which can drive demand in International markets.

Definitely worth a read if you’re interested in the future of publishing and CC.

Update: HarperStudio also points us towards Lawrence Lessig’s appearance on KQED.

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Must-read: The Public Domain

Mike Linksvayer, November 29th, 2008

Creative Commons Board Chair James Boyle’s new book is out — The Public Domain: Enclosing of the Commons of the Mind, published by Yale University Press. Read and comment online or download and share the the PDF under a CC BY-NC-SA license. Buy a hardcopy.


The Public Domain cover, evolved from excellent contest entries. We blogged about the contest in April.

The Public Domain covers the history, theory, and future of the public domain, taking a broad conception of the meaning and import of the public domain:

When the subject is intellectual property, this gap in our knowledge turns out to be important because our intellectual property system depends on a balance between what is property and what is not. For a set of reasons that I will explain later, “the opposite of property” is a concept that is much more important when we come to the world of ideas, information, expression, and invention. We want a lot of material to be in the public domain, material that can be spread without property rights. “The general rule of law is, that the noblest of human productions—knowledge, truths ascertained, conceptions, and ideas—become, after voluntary communication to others, free as the air to common use.” Our art, our culture, our science depend on this public domain every bit as much as they depend on intellectual property. The third goal of this book is to explore property’s outside, property’s various antonyms, and to show how we are undervaluing the public domain and the information commons at the very moment in history when we need them most. Academic articles and clever legal briefs cannot solve this problem alone.

Instead, I argue that precisely because we are in the information age, we need a movement—akin to the environmental movement—to preserve the public domain. The explosion of industrial technologies that threatened the environment also taught us to recognize its value. The explosion of information technologies has precipitated an intellectual land grab; it must also teach us about both the existence and the value of the public domain. This enlightenment does not happen by itself. The environmentalists helped us to see the world differently, to see that there was such a thing as “the environment” rather than just my pond, your forest, his canal. We need to do the same thing in the information environment.

We have to “invent” the public domain before we can save it.

That’s from the preface. I encourage you to read on, to chapters about Creative Commons (of course), evidence-based policy and the public domain (my favorite), a movement for the public domain, and much history, theory, and wit leading up to those.

You can also read and subscribe to Boyle’s blog on The Public Domain, which includes an excellent post on authors, academic presses, online publishing and CC licensing. Brief excerpt, emphasis added to the truth that will be so obvious to readers of this blog that one might wonder why it would need to be said:

The one piece of advice I would offer is to make sure that you really talk it through with everyone at the press and get them to understand the way the web works. While university presses might want to experiment only with a few titles, when it comes to those titles they need fully to embrace the idea — creating an excellent website for the book (or allowing the author to do so), allowing multiple formats of the book to be made available (pdf, html etc), being excited rather than horrified if the book gets mentioned on a blog and downloads spike. The last thing you want is a publisher who has grudgingly agreed to a Creative Commons license but who then sabotages every attempt to harness the openness it allows.

Unfortunately how the web works and what that means for copyright and publishing still needs to be explained. Repeatedly. Every day. That’s one reason Creative Commons needs your support to meet our $500,000 annual public campaign goal. Every day we explain how the web works, how to work with the web, and how to keep the web open, for scientists, educators and learners, and everyone else. And we do our bit to improve the open web.

On those notes, see the CC Network badge on every page of The Public Domain website and James Boyle’s CC Network profile. Join Boyle in supporting Creative Commons and get your own CC Network badge and profile (and other goodies).



Then send this post to your friends. Or if you’re old school, send a hardcopy of The Public Domain with a printout of this post and a personal note enclosed. :-)

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Bombardirovka

Cameron Parkins, November 19th, 2008

Last night I had the pleasure of attending Art Knows No Borders, an event that was both a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders and a release party for Bombardirovka, a book written by Crystal Allen Cook in 2004 while she was in Armenia on a Fulbright Scholarship. The novel is a work of fiction that, in the words of Cook, functions “to observe, up close, how the past, not necessarily even our own personal past, lives on the actions and bodies of people living in the present.”

Bombardirovka is free to download and released under a CC BY-NC-SA license, meaning it can be re-used and adapted in any way as long as it is non-commercial in intent, shared under the same license as the original, and Crystal Cook is properly attributed. Check out the Share Novel page on Bombardirovka‘s website in the coming weeks to find more about interesting reuse opportunities ahead.

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Spot.us: CC-Licensed Community Funded Reporting

Cameron Parkins, November 18th, 2008

Spot.us is a recentlly launched nonprofit project from the Center for Media Change that aims to pioneer “community funded reporting.” Stories are pitched online with an amount of money needed for publication – users and site visitors can donate to any pitch they deem worthy, with the resulting article released under a CC BY license. From Poytner Online:

Users create story ideas that they think should be investigated and submit them to the site. From these ideas, journalists choose to write story pitches and open the idea up to the public to make donations. Once the project reaches its funding goal, those who have donated pay up and the journalist produces the story. If the project doesn’t receive enough funding, no one is charged. After the story is complete, Spot.Us publishes it and offers it to news organizations for free (the site’s content is licensed under Creative Commons). There is an option for news organizations to buy exclusive rights to the story, with the funding money going back to the journalist.

Spot.us has been getting a ton of great press including a nice write-up in the New York Times. Check out the site – no articles have been published yet but there are plenty of great pitches waiting to be funded. Similarly, don’t hesitate to start your own.

Addendum: Spot.us and Wikinews are both presenting tomorrow at a special CC Salon San Francisco on citizen journalism. It’s cool that both sites use the permissive CC BY license — they could each reuse the other’s stories, so long as they give credit — and you could too.

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The Websters’ Dictionary

Cameron Parkins, September 24th, 2008

The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World is a newly released book on “how to create communities of thousands […] and channel their energy to effect political, social and cultural transformation.” Written by tech-advocate and political theorist Ralph Benko, The Websters’ Dictionary aims to educate on the web’s potential to motivate groups and enact change on broader issues, all while keeping in mind the complexities inherent in organizing movements online.

While the book is aimed at those with mid-level web experience, The Websters’ Dictionary has salient points that should resonate across technical prowess and familiarity. The Websters’ Dictionary is available for free PDF download – after taking the “Websters’ Oath” – and is being released under a CC BY-NC license, meaning that it can be reused in any number of ways, as long as future works credit Ralph Benko and are noncommercial in intent. Hardcover and paperbacks versions of the book should be available in October.

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Report on the First Interdisciplinary Research Workshop on Free Culture

Mike Linksvayer, September 22nd, 2008

Giorgos Cheliotis has written a report on Free Culture 2008, last mentioned here when the program was announced. Here’s an excerpt describing the final session, A Research and Action Agenda for Free Culture:

This was the most important session for the future of research on free culture. The aim of the session was to (a) identify future directions that would be ripe with research challenges but also promising to yield insight that would be useful to the practice of free culture advocacy, and (b) make an assessment of the workshop and decide whether to repeat it and in what format.

The session started with a discussion of potential areas of research, where the collection of more data and the visualization of this data for intuitive exploration and communication of findings was proposed as one potential area of focus. Action research was also mentioned as a methodology that would be relevant in the context of practice-inspired and practice-informed research. Global-scope studies and comparative studies across multiple jurisdictions were also favored by some participants as areas needing much more development. But the discussion quickly turned to practical issues, such as how to organize a network for continuous communication and collaboration among interested researchers and whether we should plan a journal special issue, or a special track in an existing research conference.

Participants tried to propose solutions to the perennial problem of engaging in interdisciplinary collaborations while at the same time being respected in one’s own scientific community. There was some consensus that we should not attempt to create a new discipline, but that we nevertheless need venues and opportunities to engage in cross-disciplinary dialogue and do research across disciplinary boundaries, as the phenomena that interest us the most tend to cut across multiple dimensions of the Internet, including law, IT, economics, communications, media studies and policy (just to name a few).

The most concrete and positive outcome of the entire workshop was the unanimous agreement of all participants to the idea of repeating this gathering on an annual basis. Epitomizing the positive assessment of this year’s proceedings was Lawrence Lessig’s proposal to help find a venue for the workshop next year and also to help turn it into a larger and more substantive academic conference, a proposal that was greeted with enthusiasm by the rest of the participants in the session.

The rest of the discussion focused on what the envisioned conference should look like, in light of the lessons we learned from Free Culture 2008. It was tentatively agreed to raise the bar for participation at the conference next year by requiring that presenters submit a full paper at some stage in the process (this year it was optional and selection was based solely on extended abstracts). This, along with having more time dedicated to research presentations and research-focused discussion will help ensure that next year’s event will be more focused and session participation will be more consistent, which will be essential to building rapport and promoting genuine dialogue among participants.

Some participants also voiced concerns with respect to the conference potentially attaining too much of a traditional academic character and losing the relative spontaneity and participatory nature of the iSummit. It was therefore suggested that we maintain some slots for open discussion and seek to synthesize perspectives and findings in the form of panels or by any other means, instead of focusing only on single-person presentations. Finally, several potential publishing venues were brought up but it was agreed that it is somewhat premature to be concerned with this at the moment and we should rather focus our energies in planning Free Culture 2009.

Read the whole report and look forward to Free Culture 2009!

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World Council of Churches Release “Love to Share”

Cameron Parkins, September 19th, 2008

The World Council of Churches (WCC), an international Christian ecumenical organization, recently released a free PDF, Love To Share, that explores the role Christianity and the church play in relation to intellectual property. Love To Share is released under a CC BY-NC-ND license and contains some incredibly well-written text that explains our licenses and how they intersect with the goals of the WCC:

[T]he present copyright legal system tends to emphasize the protection of an author/creator’s work rather than promoting a “bridge” to let ideas flow […] Creative Commons licences give you the ability to dictate how others may exercise your copyright rights, such as the right of others to copy your work, make derivative works or adaptations of your work, to distribute your work and/or make money from your work. They do not give you the ability to restrict anything that is otherwise permitted by exceptions or limitations to copyright—including, importantly, fair use or fair dealing—nor do they give you the ability to control anything that is not protected by copyright law, such as facts and ideas.

Creative Commons licences are attached to the work and authorize everyone who comes in contact with the work to use it consistent with the licence. This means that if Bob has a copy of your Creative Commons-licensed work, Bob can give a copy to Carol and Carol will be authorized to use the work consistent with the Creative Commons licence. You then have a licence agreement separately with both Bob and Carol.

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Cory Doctorow Releases “Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future”

Cameron Parkins, September 9th, 2008

CC evangelist and acclaimed author Cory Doctorow announced today the release of his new book, Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future. Content is exactly what it claims to be – 28 essays on “everything from copyright and DRM to the layout of phone-keypads, the fallacy of the semantic web, the nature of futurism, the necessity of privacy in a digital world, the reason to love Wikipedia, the miracle of fanfic, and many other subjects”. If that wasn’t inciting enough, Content also boasts an introduction from EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow and book design by acclaimed typographer John D Berry.

Like his other novels, Doctorow has chosen to release Content both as a print book for sale and as a free-to-download CC BY-NC-SA licensed PDF. In his essay, “Giving it Away” (originally published in Forbes, December 2006 – republished in Content), Doctorow describes his decision to use CC licences and the benefit he has seen as a result:

When my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, was published by Tor Books in January 2003, I also put the entire electronic text of the novel on the Internet under a Creative Commons license that encouraged my readers to copy it far and wide. Within a day, there were 30,000 downloads from my site (and those downloaders were in turn free to make more copies). Three years and six printings later, more than 700,000 copies of the book have been downloaded from my site. The book’s been translated into more languages than I can keep track of, key concepts from it have been adopted for software projects, and there are two competing fan audio adaptations online.

Most people who download the book don’t end up buying it, but they wouldn’t have bought it in any event, so I haven’t lost any sales, I’ve just won an audience. A tiny minority of downloaders treat the free ebook as a substitute for the printed book — those are the lost sales. But a much larger minority treat the ebook as an enticement to buy the printed book. They’re gained sales. As long as gained sales outnumber lost sales, I’m ahead of the game. After all, distributing nearly a million copies of my book has cost me nothing.

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Ben Rosenbaum’s “The Ant King: and Other Stories” Released Under CC License

Cameron Parkins, September 5th, 2008



Ben Rosenbaum
, an American science fiction writer and computer programmer, recently released his latest collection of sci-fi shorts, The Ant King: and Other Stories, as both a print collection through Small Beer Press and a free download under a CC BY-NC-SA license.

The Ant King gets a seal of approval from CC evangelist/writer Cory Doctorow and the excerpts from the collection I have been able to read are magnificent. Rosenbaum is encouraging his readers to send in any derivative works they make so that he can post them online. He is simultaneously holding a contest for his three favorite derivative works, whose authors will receive a signed and “extensively doodled-upon” hardcover copy of The Ant King.

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Bloomsbury Academic Launches Creative Commons Only Publishing Imprint

Fred Benenson, September 5th, 2008


Bloomsbury Publishing, one of Europe’s leading independent publishing houses (you may have heard of their fiction series Harry Potter, among other fantastic fiction and non-fiction titles) announced today that it is launching an CC-exclusive publishing imprint called Bloomsbury Academic:

All books will be made available free of charge online, with free downloads, for non-commercial purposes immediately upon publication, using Creative Commons licences. The works will also be sold as books, using the latest short-run technologies or Print on Demand (POD).

The imprint will initially publish in the Social Sciences and Humanities building thematic lists on pressing global issues, with approximately fifty new titles online and in print by the end of 2009.

Congratulations and thanks go to Bloomsbury for continuing the tradition of open access in Europe by choosing our licenses for their new imprint.

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