Creative Commons Toolkit for Business

Timothy Vollmer, November 13th, 2015

Guest post by Fátima São Simão, CC Portugal Public Lead; Teresa Nobre, CC Portugal Legal Lead

CC Toolkit for Business Handouts
CC Toolkit for Business Posters
CC Open Business Model Canvas

At the 2013 CC Global Summit in Buenos Aires, Creative Commons launched the CC Toolkits Project, an initiative aimed at developing, collecting, and organizing informational and support resources about CC. As part of that project, CC Portugal proposed to develop a toolkit to help promote the use of CC licenses in business. And last month at the 2015 Global Summit in Seoul, we presented the first “tools” to be included in the business-focused toolkit, including a handout, poster, and short video.

We were particularly interested in developing this project for two main reasons:

  • Portugal is a European country in a deep economic crisis for the last several years. Being a small economy (our population is about 10 million), its companies need as many resources as possible to gain and maintain their access to international markets.
  • We are an economist and a lawyer with experience, respectively, in business development and legal consultancy for the creative industries.

We’re very thankful for the contributions and valuable input from Paul Stacey, Eric Steuer, Sarah Pearson, Ryan Merkley, John Weitzmann, and Gwen Franck.

Why a CC Toolkit for Business?

Even if the uses of CC seem relatively clear to artists and creators, the licenses have been more difficult to justify when the authors’ activities involve commercial interests. The main goal of the CC Toolkit for Business is to allow companies to understand why the use of CC licenses can be an interesting instrument to consider in their business model.

Why Use CC Licenses in Business?

As Paul Stacey puts it, Creative Commons licenses amplify the affordances of digital technology and provide an enhanced means for social production in the networked economy. CC licenses do this by:

  • removing artificial scarcity constraints;
  • removing barriers to access;
  • enabling rapid distribution and use;
  • allowing for customization, personalization, adaptation, translation, and localization;
  • providing a means for mass participation: fellow creators, end users, customers, and partners can contribute their expertise, suggest improvements, add new features, make enhancements, create derivatives, and ensure currency;
  • distributing production, and making it possible to produce work faster, generate work of greater breadth and depth, innovate, and increase quality; and
  • creating materials that are part of a shared global commons from which resources can be extracted for local use and to which local resources can be contributed.

The 6 Economic Benefits Identified

The toolkit materials focus on the 6 economic benefits of using CC licenses that we have identified so far: 1) reduce production costs, 2) reduce transaction costs and legal uncertainty, 3) increase access to innovation and reduce marketing costs, 4) increase first mover advantage, 5) increase “opportunity benefits” and build a reputation, and 6) promote sustainability. We examine these benefit further in this document. They are a work in progress–we think there is still room for improvement and additional discussion. If you are interested on helping us continue developing these tools, please send us your feedback to

What’s Next?

  • The CC Toolkit for Business should also include practical tools (like the different open business model canvases CC has been developing), case studies from different sectors and countries, and a list of Frequently Asked Questions that will help to explain the pros and cons of CC licenses for business. CC Portugal will continue to work on developing the FAQ and other materials we find relevant to the project.
  • Creative Commons will soon publish the book Made with Creative Commons: A book on Open Business Models, as the result of an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign.
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Update from pioneering Creative Commons and open source friendly music label Magnatune

Mike Linksvayer, March 17th, 2010

We’ve been following Magnatune since it launched in 2003 as a record label that embraced the net, including giving fans the legal right to do what comes naturally given the net — share an remix music noncommercially — by offering all label music under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. At the time a fairly radical position. Fast forward nearly 7 years to Magnatune founder John Buckman’s update on the label’s business:

So really, it’s not so much that we’re changing business models, but rather that we introduced “unlimited memberships” two years ago, and they’ve been so successful we’re deciding to focus on that.

Some things that are not changing:

  • We’re still not evil: we have always paid 50% of membership fees to our musicians, been DRM free, and used Creative Commons licensing. All that stays the same.
  • We will continue selling commercial use licenses of our music, though in a few months we will be moving that business to a new music-licensing web site we’re building (

I’m personally really excited with the change, because 4 years ago I noticed that our download sales were declining, and it wasn’t until 2 years ago that I finally figured out what people wanted. Magnatune has been going since 2003, and the future looks rosy.

Also see John’s immediately previous post with an update on the label’s work with and support of free software media players, which we first noted here in 2008.

We applaud Magnatune’s long-term commitment to CC licenses and their willingness to constantly innovate based on fan and customer feedback rather than the unfortunate standard practice — treat fans poorly and hope they continue as customers anyway. Recall Mike Masnick’s Connect With Fans (CwF) + Reason To Buy (RtB) = The Business Model ($$$$) formula for a general treatment.

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The Guardian Talks With CC CEO Joi Ito

Cameron Parkins, September 25th, 2009

Headshot B&W, Photo by Mizuka | CC BY

The Guardian just posted a great interview with CC CEO Joi Ito that, while focusing broadly on Joi’s work as an entrepreneur, spends substantial time discussing his role at CC.

The piece touches on a number of topics including how CC interacts with businesses, our commitment to RDFa, and how our licenses can be used:

The advantage of the range of Creative Commons licences is that it can be tweaked as the creator likes. “Typically a professional musician will choose a licence that prohibits commercial reuse to protect their income, which usually comes from copyright. But for instance a photographer, and especially an amateur photographer, may want to be well-known, so they focus on attribution. Documentary producers often say ‘no derivatives’ because they don’t want the story to change, but will allow commercial use so that movie theatres can show their work.”

Be sure to read the interview at the Guardian’s website or check out the full transcript here. You can also listen to the interview as part of the Guardian’s Tech Weekly podcast.

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IE Business School Opens Up Multimedia

Jane Park, October 30th, 2008

IE Business School, an international leader in business, offers masters and doctorate degrees via an innovative blend of in-class and online course methods. Though its central campus is in Madrid, the school caters to students from more than 65 countries around the world, and recently it has opened up its multimedia documentation to everyone else. 

“IE develops multimedia documentation for both online and face to face courses. More than one hundred modules across all management areas have been developed in house. These modules include multimedia case studies, simulations, online games, interactive graphs and exercises.”

The multimedia is offered in both Spanish and English and is released online under CC BY-NC-ND.

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The Open Source Business Resource: Education Issue

Jane Park, August 28th, 2008

The August issue of the Open Source Business Resource (OSBR) is dedicated to education. It is now available online, including two articles specifically devoted to open education: “A Flat Network for the Unflat World: Open Educational Resources in Developing Countries” (Steven Muegge, Monica Mora, Kamal Hassin, Andrew Pullin) and “Why Give Knowledge Away for Free? The Case for Open Educational Resources” (Jan Hylén).

The Open Source Business Resource (OSBR) is an online publication devoted to open source, targeting a broad audience of “Canadian business owners, company executives and employees, directors of open source foundations, leaders of open source projects, open source groups, individuals and organizations that contribute to open source projects, academics and students interested in open source, technology transfer professionals, and government employees who promote wealth creation through innovation.”

All issues of OSBR are licensed CC BY.

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VIA Releases OpenBook, Opens CAD Designs under CC BY-SA 3.0

Jon Phillips, May 27th, 2008

VIA OpenBook Press Photo

Today VIA launched their OpenBook, an innovative subnotebook platform. You can buy it now and also download the raw CAD files released under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareaAlike 3.0 license, meaning you can get the raw machine files to make whatever case or version you want, as long as you release your modifications under the same license and give attribution back to VIA. The VIA press release today states:

The VIA OpenBook mini-note reference design introduces a host of new innovations, including the next generation of VIA Ultra Mobile Platform, based on the VIA C7®-M ULV processor and the new all-in-one VIA VX800 digital media IGP chipset. Together, this ultra compact, power efficient platform delivers richer computing and multimedia features, including a stunning 8.9” screen and greater video playback support, in a compact and stylish clamshell form factor that weighs just 1kg.

The VIA OpenBook features a flexible internal interface for high-speed broadband wireless connectivity that provides customers with the ability to select from a choice of WiMAX™, HSDPA and EV-DO/W-CDMA modules appropriate to their market. In addition, under a unique collaborative approach, the CAD files of the external panels of the reference design are offered for download under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 license to give customers such as OEMs, system integrators, and broadband service providers greater freedom in tailoring the look and feel of their device to meet the diverse needs of their target markets.

And, some blogs are praising its coolness like what crunchgear had to say (which hints at business strategy of companies like VIA):

Do you own a small fabricating plant in Taiwan? Do you have an engineering team of ten PhDs? Do you want to make small laptops? Has VIA got a deal for you. The VIA OpenBook reference design is not actually a product — it’s more of an idea. Because it is ostensibly open (the CAD plans are available on the VIAOpenBook site) you simply buy the chips from VIA and use the plans to build your own cases, keyboards, and I/O systems.

Here is my quote about the release :)

“VIA is a forward thinking company that has realized that sharing enables a healthy ecosystem which helps them provide an innovative product which supports their core business,” commented Jon Phillips, Business and Community Manager for Creative Commons. ”Making the actual raw CAD files available under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license is a brilliant first step that clearly and legally allows others to emergently build upon VIA’s open innovation.”

I’ll add that this is a very interesting project that ups the “Open” ante of the ASUS EeePC’s involvement in free and open culture beyond the software that ships on the platform, it competes strongly against the One Laptop Per Child XO-1, and the Intel Classmate, which are the predecessors of this generation of subnotebook. In fact, it appears that chip companies are realizing that in order to sell more chips, it is good to give away some parts of a product for free, or ship a free operating system which further reduces the cost barrier to selling more silicon. As an aside, this also mirrors what Nine Inch Nails did by releasing part of their product as an entry into more specific and special packages.

It should also be noted that this valiant efforts follows up the great work that FIC’s Openmoko, Open Source Cellphone, did by releasing their CAD designs, which has already led to multiple efforts to create different cases and a great set of community pages on howto get your designs manufactured. Also, we worked with Keith Packard at Intel to release some specifications of graphics chips by Intel around the same time, which has helped for more companies to realize this same level of openness, and more importantly has allowed for developers, other companies, and people to more easily support and buy more Intel chips.

If you have a product similar to the above, or something you think could benefit from Creative Commons licensing in this way, please do contact me (Jon Phillips), contact us, or comment on this post. Let’s *open* it up.


The 1st International Creative Commons Korea Conference and Naver CC Integration

Jon Phillips, March 11th, 2008

CEO of Creative Commons, Lawrence Lessig along with VP of Science Commons, John Wilbanks, and myself, Jon Phillips holder of the title of the “human inbox” of Creative Commons [1] will all be participating at the 1st International Creative Commons Korea conference, “Open Culture in CC” on Friday, March 14 in Seoul, Korea. Lessig will go big with his keynote, Wilbanks will be presenting “Information Sharing: A Universal Solvent for Life Sciences” and I will round up the CC pack with my new presentation: Share or Die: Collaborative Media Projects from Art to Business. Yes, that’s right! I will be wearing more of my art hat at this one, but will round it up by discussing how individual practice must be sustainable all the way up the ladder to a large scale web company.

These presentations are the tip of the iceberg as brilliant Korean colleagues will cover many topics as they relate to Korean society in the large global context and Chiaki Hayashi from Loftwork in Japan will discuss running a business where Creative Commons licensing is core to its daily function.

I’m quite eager though to interact with our Korean colleagues on the recently announced Creative Commons licensing integration into Naver. And, I should note that by looking at the web traffic at, there is a massive surge from Korea since the Naver announcement. The CC Korea blog states:

On 26 February, Naver, one of the major portal service providers in Korea, announced that it officially introduces Creative Commons License to its blog and café services and began a grand campaign for promoting CCL with cartoons, videos, etc. As for the largest portal service provider in user size at home, Naver has been struggling with copyright infringements, content and blog posting piracy activities of users. In a hope to find a reliable solution against them, Naver has chosen to introduce the CC license scheme. And it is very welcomed.

Relatively belated, but thanks to their introduction, most of the Korean portal sites take part in CC licensing. With this announcement, Naver becomes the third next to Daum , which has already adopted CCL to its blog service in 2005, and Paran in 2007. These portal sites are known to grab more than 90% of Korea’s portal market.

The key thing to note with Naver’s CC licensing integration and as a service that effectively everyone with a net connection uses, is that Koreans now have CC licensing front-and-center. Many know that Korea takes the crown as the most wired nation with 95% broadband penetration inside the home [2]. Korea, is a hyper-connected homogenous society that now has CC licensing on the most used service in the country. How long will it take for Korea to take the title of the country with the highest level of Creative Commons license adoption per individual?

UPDATE: Michelle already wrote a stellar blog post about the conference btw.

[1] Ok, ok, my long form title is Community and Business Development Manager.
[2] Trust me. From living in Korea, I’ve seen four year olds with cellphones on the Internet! What? And, now that I’m living 50% of my time in Guangzhou, China (the other 50 ‘cent in San Francisco), I’m feeling the burn without that 100 megabit in the home. Try 1 megabit for me…if I’m lucky!

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