CEO

Why I joined Creative Commons

Ryan Merkley, May 14th, 2014

Ryan Merkley

Ryan Merkley / Rannie Turingan / CC0

I’m honored to be chosen as CEO of Creative Commons. CC is a giant of the open web, and it’s an organization that I have always believed in and truly admire. I appreciate the confidence shown by the board, and support I have already received from staff and community members has been fantastic.

My path to CC has been unorthodox, but feels logical in retrospect. My commitment to public service and the public good; my deep belief in the power of technology; and my work to support the open Web as a place for everyone to create, share, and connect. Those are common threads that run through my work at the City of Toronto, at Mozilla, and now with Creative Commons.

Why am I joining CC? Because its success is so vital, and I want to ensure we succeed. Creativity, knowledge, and innovation need a public commons — a collection of works that are free to use, re-use, and build upon — the shared resources of our society. The restrictions we place on copyright, like fair use and the public domain, are an acknowledgement that all creativity and knowledge owe something to what came before.

Without a robust and constantly growing collection of works available for use and reuse, we lose the kind of innovation and creative inspiration that gave us Disney classics, hip-hop, and the interoperable Web. The consequences of failing to grow and protect the public commons present themselves as lost opportunities: discoveries not made, innovations left undeveloped, and creativity unrealized. It’s complex and hard to quantify, but also dangerous to ignore.

A public commons is a driving force to advance human knowledge, and is essential infrastructure for the global economy.

In today’s legal environment, the commons is increasingly under threat. New works are restricted by copyright from the moment they are created until long after their creators are dead, and stricter copyright rules are almost always demanded by large rights-holders who benefited from the commons in the first place. It’s like running across a rope bridge only to cut it loose once you get to the other side. And today’s battles over copyright often ignore the fact that the Web has dramatically shifted the motivations for creators: it’s no longer only about money. Many do it just for the love of their craft, or just to be seen in the world, and still more are finding ways to share their work and get paid at the same time.

There needs to be a balance that allows business models to thrive, and allows shared work to proliferate.

In the modern copyright environment, each one of us has to make a conscious decision to share our work. It can be complicated, confusing, and expensive. But we need creators to be inspired to do it anyway. We need governments, nonprofits, and institutions to give the public permission to use their works. We need an organization that makes the case, creates solutions so that sharing is easy even when the legal frameworks make it difficult, and that champions the benefits — both to individual creators, and to society.

That’s where Creative Commons has to lead.

A lot has changed since the first Creative Commons licenses were released in 2002. While the organization has been by many measures incredibly successful — enabling hundreds of millions of works to become part of a public commons — it has also struggled to adapt to new technology and the massive expansion of content created online.

Half a billion licensed works is an impressive achievement, but today’s Facebook users upload 350 million photos a day, and YouTube users upload over 100 hours of video a minute (yes, some of it CC-licensed). I want to drive more licensed works into the commons by breaking down the barriers — legal and technical — for individual creators. And we need tools to help those who would reuse their work to find it quickly and easily.

In his 2008 book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind, James Boyle (also a former CC board member) makes an impassioned plea to build a global movement that will fight for the public commons — one modeled after the environment movement, which took something complex and hard to quantify and drew people to its cause. I believe Creative Commons must lead this movement.

We need to rally people to our cause, and ask for their creativity, their time, and their financial support.

We begin with a global network of 70 affiliates around the world who already form a vibrant, opinionated, and brilliant community of legal experts and advocates. The seeds of our movement already have roots.

We have a strong suite of free licenses that enable sharing in an increasingly restrictive legal framework.

And we have a powerful, recognizable brand that is respected the world over.

Not a bad place to start. I’m excited to step into this role, to defend and champion the public commons, and to join this global community and movement.

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A message from Larry: A new CEO and a challenge to the CC community

Lawrence Lessig, May 14th, 2014

I am thrilled to welcome Ryan Merkley as the incoming CEO of Creative Commons.

This is an important moment in the history of the organization. After eleven years, CC licenses are globally recognized as the definitive tool for sharing creative works. Millions across the world use CC as a force for good in their communities. We are building universal access to knowledge and culture as we had hoped — within the freedoms we craft inside copyright.

But the web has changed, and its users with it. And CC must too. I am excited and incredibly pleased that Ryan has agreed to join CC as the leader to take CC into its next era.

Ryan is an outstanding and recognized voice among Mozilla’s global community. From his time there he has proven that he is a strong believer in the open web, open data, and open content, and he knows how to activate and motivate community members for change. He is a leader with a great technical vision informed by the right values. He has inspired all of us, and I am confident he will be the leader CC needs.

At the last Creative Commons Global Summit in Buenos Aires, someone asked me how I’d like to see the organization change.

My answer was simple: We celebrate the tremendous achievement of Version 4.0 of our Creative Commons licenses. But we are still at Version 2.0 of the technology that we use to deliver those licenses.

Ryan will fix that, and give CC another decade of incredible growth and remarkable success. We are grateful he has agreed to share his enormous talents with us.

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Welcoming Creative Commons’ new CEO, Ryan Merkley

Paul Brest, May 14th, 2014

Ryan Merkley

Ryan Merkley / Rannie Turingan / CC0

After an extensive search, the Creative Commons board of directors is pleased to announce that Ryan Merkley will be our new CEO. He’ll start work on June 1, and we’re all looking forward to working with him.

Ryan joins us after a career working to advance social causes and public policy in nonprofits, technology, and government. As chief operating officer at the Mozilla Foundation, Ryan contributed to the development of Mozilla products and programs supporting the open web, including Lightbeam, Webmaker, and Popcorn, and also established Mozilla’s successful individual fundraising program. Ryan was most recently managing director and senior vice president of public affairs at Vision Critical, a Vancouver-based SaaS and market research firm. Before that he held leadership roles at Toronto’s City Hall, including senior advisor to Mayor David Miller, where he initiated Toronto’s open data project. Ryan also served as director of corporate communications for the City of Vancouver and the 2010 Winter Olympics. He has an impressive track record of leadership in civic-minded and technology-centered organizations — and I think he’ll make a great leader in the Creative Commons movement.

As the board has gotten to know Ryan after the past several weeks, he’s articulated a strong vision to us for the future of the organization. He understands that the internet has changed a lot since we first launched the CC licenses, and that our relevance requires an evolving technology strategy. Ryan speaks enthusiastically and eloquently about the future of Creative Commons. It is clear to me, and I think to anyone he meets, that he has been working in our world as an outspoken supporter of our mission for almost as long as Creative Commons has existed.

He also recognizes that this is a crucial moment for CC and its allies: we must work together to strengthen and protect the open web. As the web has become more stratified in a world of apps, and as new laws and court decisions stand to dramatically extend terms of copyright and make it more difficult for people to build upon the work of others, our role has never been more important.

Once again, the board would like to voice our appreciation for the work of outgoing CEO Cathy Casserly. She substantially advanced CC’s mission over the past three years. Under Cathy’s leadership, Creative Commons helped numerous governments around the world adopt open education policies, and we saw considerable growth and engagement in the CC Affiliate Network.

And finally, our sincere thanks to Lisa Grossman and staff at m/Oppenheim Associates for helping us conduct a swift and successful CEO search.

Please join me now in welcoming Ryan to Creative Commons.

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Creative Commons Names Ryan Merkley as Chief Executive Officer

Elliot Harmon, May 14th, 2014

Ryan Merkley
Ryan Merkley / Rannie Turingan / CC0

Mountain View, CA May 14, 2014: The board of directors of Creative Commons is pleased to announce the appointment of Ryan Merkley to the position of chief executive officer. Ryan is an accomplished strategist, campaigner, and communicator in the nonprofit, technology, and government sectors. Ryan was recently chief operating officer of the Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit parent of the Mozilla Corporation and creator of the world’s most recognizable open-source software project and internet browser, Firefox. At the Mozilla Foundation, Ryan led development of open-source projects like Webmaker, Lightbeam, and Popcorn, and also kicked off the Foundation’s major online fundraising effort, resulting in over $1.8 million USD in individual donations from over 44,000 new donors.

Ryan is a well-known and respected voice in the open source community, and recognized for his unwavering support to open government and open data initiatives.

“As the board has gotten to know Ryan after the past several weeks, he’s articulated a strong vision to us for the future of the organization,” board chair and interim CEO Paul Brest said. “He understands that the internet has changed a lot since we first launched the CC licenses, and that our relevance requires an evolving technology strategy. He also recognizes that this is a crucial moment for CC and its allies: we must work together to strengthen and protect the open web.”

“A public commons, enabled by the open web, is the most powerful force to foster creativity, inspire innovation, and enhance human knowledge around the world. Those who believe in its potential need to join together in a global movement to ensure its success,” said Ryan Merkley. “At Creative Commons we’re making that case, and supporting, inspiring, and connecting the various communities that are building the commons — from open education, to science, to film and photography — and working to provide tools, solutions, and policy on their behalf.”

Creative Commons provides a set of licenses that creators can use to grant permission to reuse their work. With over half a billion openly licensed works on the internet, Creative Commons is internationally recognized as the standard in open content licensing. Ryan will lead a global team of legal and technology professionals who manage and support the licenses, as well as experts who lead CC license adoption efforts in areas like education, culture, science, and public policy.

Ryan joins Creative Commons after a career working to advance social causes and public policy in nonprofits and government. Outside of his work at Mozilla Foundation, Ryan was senior advisor to Mayor David Miller in Toronto, where he initiated Toronto’s Open Data project. He was also seconded to the City of Vancouver as director of corporate communications for the 2010 Winter Games. Most recently, Ryan was managing director and senior vice president of public affairs at Vision Critical, a Vancouver-based SaaS company and market research firm.

Ryan will take up his new position on June 1, 2014. He will be based in Toronto, and will split his time between Toronto and the Bay Area.

Official biography and high-resolution images can be found at:
http://creativecommons.org/staff/ryan

Additional information

Bios and photos of Creative Commons board and advisory council members
http://creativecommons.org/board

Creative Commons launches Version 4.0 of its license suite
http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/40935

About Creative Commons

Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/) is a globally-focused nonprofit organization dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. Creative Commons provides free licenses and other legal tools to give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions and get credit for their creative work while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make specific uses of it.

For more information contact:
Elliot Harmon
Communications Manager, Creative Commons
elliot@creativecommons.org

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Welcoming Cathy Casserly as the new CEO of Creative Commons

Lawrence Lessig, December 20th, 2010

As we come to the end of this year’s fundraising campaign, I asked the organizers to let me write you to tell you about an extraordinary birthday present that Creative Commons received on its 8th birthday last Thursday.

You probably know that for the past two years, Creative Commons has been incredibly fortunate to have the pro bono leadership of our CEO, Joi Ito. Joi is a successful internet investor. He has been at the birth of companies such as Moveable Type, Technorati and Twitter. For the past 7 years, he’s also been a key leader on our board. But by far his most important contribution began two years ago when my own commitments made it necessary for me to step down as CEO. With the organization in a pinch, he volunteered to take the lead, again, as a volunteer.

Everyone recognized at the time that this sort of sacrifice could only be temporary. Yet from the time he stepped up, my biggest fear was that when he could no longer make this sacrifice, we would have no one comparable to tap. Last Thursday, I was proven wrong.

One of the most important moments in the history of Creative Commons happened on the day the Supreme Court upheld (incorrectly, in my view, but let’s leave that alone) the Copyright Term Extension Act in Eldred v. Ashcroft. After reading the decision, I had my head in my hands, buried in sadness, when my assistant reminded me that I had a 10am meeting with two people from the Hewlett Foundation. This was exactly one month after we had launched Creative Commons. I was surprised a foundation as prominent as Hewlett even knew about us, let alone had an interest in talking to us. So I put aside my sadness, and walked down to the conference room at Stanford Law School, to meet with Cathy Casserly and Mike Smith.

Cathy and Mike had heard about the Supreme Court’s decision. They recognized I wouldn’t be in much of a mood to chat. So they launched right into the reason for the meeting: The Hewlett Foundation had decided to help launch Creative Commons with a grant of $1 million dollars.

I won’t say that after I heard that news, I forgot about the Supreme Court. But from that moment on, it was much more important to me to prove Hewlett’s faith right than to worry about what the Supreme Court had gotten wrong. And I was especially keen to get to know these two people who understood our mission long before most had even recognized the problem that CC was meant to solve.

Now eight years later, after completing her term at Hewlett and a stint at the Carnegie Foundation as well, I am enormously happy to announce that Cathy Casserly has accepted our offer to become the CEO of Creative Commons.

Cathy has an extraordinary reputation among foundations and the Open Educational Resources community. She has had extensive experience coaxing creators and educators into a more sensible and flexible manner for creating and sharing their work. That was her job at Carnegie and Hewlett. Before Hewlett, she was a program officer at the Walter S. Johnson Foundation. Before that, a teacher of mathematics in Jamaica. She has a PhD in the economics of education from Stanford, and a BA in mathematics from Boston College.

Joi will stay in the hot seat as Chair of the Board. But early in the new year, he will pass his CEO responsibilities to Cathy. Between him and Cathy, we will then have the very best leadership Creative Commons has known.

So then here’s my ask: Creative Commons has been enormously fortunate to have had Joi as an interim CEO, and extremely fortunate now to have found Cathy to fill that role permanently.

Let’s show them how happy we are about both.

We are in the last laps of a very difficult fundraising year, with just two weeks to go and still about $200,000 to raise. Please reach deep in your pocket, and click here to pledge whatever you can find. We have never needed the support of our community more than we do this year. And though I am happy beyond measure about our future, I am extremely concerned about the cuts we will have to make if we don’t meet our goals.

You have supported us throughout these 8 years. We need your support this year especially. Please thank Joi and welcome Cathy in every way, including a pledge to support Creative Commons again.

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