Today in the Wall Street Journal, Creative Commons co-founder Lawrence Lessig has a thoughtful piece about Bassel Khartabil, the longtime CC volunteer who has been detained by Syrian authorities since March.
In late 2012, Foreign Policy named Mr. Khartabil one of this year’s top 100 thinkers. The magazine singled him out for “fostering an open-source community in a country long on the margins of the Internet’s youth culture.”
But Mr. Khartabil wasn’t able to accept that honor. He was arrested in March by Syrian authorities because of his work and has been held — at times in utter isolation — ever since. His family fears the very worst.
Mr. Khartabil isn’t a partisan, aligned with one Syrian faction against another. He represents a future, aligned against a totalitarian past. The Syrian government is fearful of the potential threat to the totalizing control that defines the modern Syrian state. The government thus wants to shut the free-software, free-culture movement down, in a way that only a totalitarian regime can.
Please join us in urging Syrian authorities to release Bassel. Sign the letter of support and follow the most recent updates at freebassel.org.
- Call for the Release of Bassel Khartabil
- Please help us Free Bassel, open source developer and CC volunteer
A few weeks ago, CC received an interesting email from filmmaker Annie Berman. She told us about a CC-licensed documentary she’s been working on called The Faithful. The film explores issues of fandom and ritual, with Elvis Presley, Pope John Paul II, and and Princess Diana as its focal points.
As Annie was working the film, she contacted by Robert Sillerman — owner of the name, image, and likeness of Elvis Presley — for an interview. And suddenly, The Faithful was not only about the followers of iconic figures, but also about who owns their images.
The film features an interview with CC founder Lawrence Lessig. In the clip below, Larry answers a pressing question: can Annie Berman make this film?
Updated November 20: We incorrectly reported that Robert Sillerman initially contacted Annie Berman while she was working on the documentary. She contacted him.No Comments »
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Over the weekend, the Czech Republic celebrated Liberation Day and officially introduced the complete Czech translation of Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture. The translation was the culminating work of fifty volunteers over three years, and was enabled by the CC BY-NC license of the original English publication. The Czech version is also available under the same license. Adam Hazdra, project initiator and coordinator, writes, “I hope it will contribute to the promotion of Creative Commons and free culture it aims to restore.”
On Febuary 25th the Open Video Alliance will be hosting a wireside chat with CC founding board member Lawrence Lessig to discuss copyright, fair use, and online video. While the talk itself will be taking place at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, it will also be broadcast live online – as such, the OVA are encouraging screenings to be set up around the globe:
This is a talk about copyright in a digital age, and the role (and importance) of a doctrine like “fair use.” Fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, and is essential for commentary, criticism, news reporting, remix, research, teaching and scholarship with video.
As a medium, online video will be most powerful when it is fluid, like a conversation. Like the rest of the internet, online video must be designed to encourage participation, not just passive consumption. Tune in here on February 25th, 6:00pm US Eastern time (GMT -5), or check out our screening events in cities across the world.
Events are already planned for New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles with more in the works in Washington DC, Austin, Toronto and Rio de Janeiro. If you are interested in hosting your own, head to the OVA website where you can fill out a registration form and apply for a microgrant to help get your event off the ground.1 Comment »
The University of Amsterdam will present CC founder Lawrence Lessig with an honorary doctorate for his scholarship in cyberlaw and his advocacy to design a standard for open content licenses, Creative Commons. Prof. Bernt Hugenholtz of the Institute for Information Law (IvIR) will confer the degree on Prof. Lessig this Friday, Jan. 8.
The following day, Prof. Lessig joins several speakers at an academic symposium on open access publishing, organized by IvIR and Creative Commons Netherlands. If you cannot make the ceremony but would like to hear Prof. Lessig speak about copyright, you may find this recent talk of interest.
On behalf of the creators who’ve benefited from your remarkable work, thank you and congratulations, Prof. Lessig!No Comments »
Though our 2009 Commoner Letter series has officially come to an end, we are pleased to announce one final letter, this time from our Founder and Board Member Lawrence Lessig. Professor Lessig needs little introduction, so I’ll leave it to him tell you in his own words why supporting the mission of Creative Commons is vital for anyone who cares about building a culture of free and legal online sharing. If you, like Professor Lessig and hundreds of thousands of creators and consumers around the world, care about sustaining CC in the long term, then I encourage you to give back to CC and invest in the work we do. As an added incentive to answer Professor Lessig’s call for support, Attributor and wikiHow are currently matching gifts made to CC – so donate today and make your year-end gift really count!
It is the end of another year, and I find myself frantically reaching out through as many channels as I can to get friends of the commons to support Creative Commons. I’ve been writing emails — yes, actual hand-made emails — to everyone who’s given significant contributions to us before but not this year. I’ve been writing to others who should be giving but haven’t so far. And I’ve been writing more machine made emails (like, for example this) to everyone else.
My freneticism about this is in part personal, part not. The part that’s not is the stuff that you’ve been reading about — about Creative Commons — in all these letters. You’ve helped us build something important and valuable, that is supporting a much bigger and much more valuable ecology of creativity that everyone should be celebrating. If I had thought at the start to predict when I knew we had marked our space, it would have been when the White House, Al Jazeera, and Wikipedia all adopted CC licenses. That happened this year. And now that it has happened, we all have an even stronger obligation to make sure this thing that thousands helped build over the past 7 years continues to grow and succeed and inspire.
But the part of the frenetic that’s personal is that I worry that I myself am not doing enough for this amazing organization that I helped found. That I’m an absent father — or worse. That because I felt I had to devote the majority of my energy to a new, and truly impossible project — fighting “institutional corruption,” especially as it debilitates our government — I was leaving this child on its own a bit too early.
I can’t hide that I fear exactly this. This year in particular, despite our receiving more contributions than ever in our history, we are struggling to meet our goal. The desert that is corporate contributions has hit us hard, and that forces all of us (and especially, absent fathers) to work harder.
That is why I asked the team at Creative Commons to let me write this last Commoner letter for the year. Tough times force us to shake out the old, and focus on the future. Creative Commons will be an even bigger part of a much saner future. A world is beginning to recognize the place for reasonableness and balance. They are beginning to practice that using our tools.
But you need to help us to continue building that future. One click will get that started. Please, as you complete the list of great orgs to support this year, be certain you have reserved a space for us. This year more than any other before, we need that support. Donate today.
Photo by Mr. Mayo CC BY-NC
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk to George Mayo, known as Mr. Mayo to his students, a middle school Language Arts teacher in Maryland. Mr. Mayo was brought to CC Learn’s attention by Lawrence Lessig, CC’s founder and current board member, who Skyped with Mr. Mayo’s class for thirty minutes, answering questions on copyright, YouTube’s take-down policy and downloading music. Mr. Mayo and his class have integrated CC licensed works into their daily activities, documenting it all at mrmayo.org. Instead of elaborating on the various innovative ways Mr. Mayo and his class uses CC, I’m going to let George speak for himself. The following is the interview I had with him via Skype. You can also listen to the audio here.No Comments »
Used in connection with Creative Commons the word “hybrid” has typically denoted an “economy” or “models” involving both sharing and commerce. Over half of CC founder Lawrence Lessig’s most recent book is devoted to exploring this sort of hybrid — see Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. CC licenses are a vital tool for enabling such hybrids in an environment where the default is hostile to the “sharing” side of the equation.
In a series of thought provoking blog posts Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, has introduced a different but entirely complementary “hybrid” — hybrid organizations. What is a hybrid organization? Mark asks and tentatively answers that question in the first post of the series:
So, what is a hybrid org? In the case of Mozilla — and an increasing number of other orgs — it’s a mix of social mission, disruptive market strategies and web-like scale and collaboration. Or, at least, that’s the definition I see emerging.
Another intriguing description, from the same post:
All of these organizations are trying to ‘move the market’ on the web in a way that both engages and benefits a broad public. As they do so, they are charting new territory.
Many of the comments and blogged replies are well worth reading, offering refinements and alternative descriptions. Frank Hecker, also of the Mozilla Foundation, provides some critical grounding in the theory of disruptive innovation. Commenter Stephan provides an alternative and also compelling description:
I find it easier to think about these organizations as a hybrid between a classical (hierarchical) organization and a social movement (or network).
It is the mix of the two that requires both a market perspective (the classic organization needs to make money to function) and a social mission (need that to create passion for the product or service among your the movement or network).
Much has been said about the interaction of movements and organizations — see Epistemic Communities and Social Movements : Transnational Dynamics in the Case of Creative Commons for a paper looking at the CC case — and how digital networks are changing the boundaries and interactions of movements and organizations. Nearly all of the organizations Mark mentions in his series have a strong “movement” aspect. One open question I have about hybrid organizations is their relationship to movements, or more broadly, non-organizational actors. Are hybrid organizations better able to leverage (and be leveraged by) the non-organizational sector, itself abetted by digital networks? Or even have hybrid organizations arisen in order for non-organizational actors and movements to achieve things in the world that require just-enough-organization and market savvy?
Stephen DeBerry provides an astutely skeptical comment on hybrid organizations:
One can approach this hybrid space with varying intent. In your/my case public benefit is central and necessary. In other cases the claim of public benefit is great marketing, but the actual public benefit is secondary or worse.
If that’s the case then there’s an interesting question for those seeking to drive public benefit: how do you ensure the public benefit remains core to the hybrid model?
This is a place where CC plays a vital role as a tool for hybrids. Just as CC licenses enable healthy hybrid economies and models, use of CC licenses by a hybrid organization help signal that such an organization takes its public benefit side seriously, and help ensure that it continues to do so. With so much of hybrid organizations’ output being digital media, offering that media under CC licenses, in particular free as in freedom ones, serve as a continual check-up on the organization’s public benefit intent, and an assurance against lock-in if that intent wavers. There may be useful parallels to be drawn between unhealthy “sharecropping” hybrid models (typically where a web company retains all of the rights to media created by users, making users unfree to use their own creations) and the hybrid organization as “great marketing” or worse described by Stephen. It should also be noted that free and open source software licenses provide a similar and complementary check on hybrid organizations that produce software — and nearly all do, at least in the form of customization of web site software.
What about CC as a hybrid organization? We’re very carefully exploring the most obvious incarnation of hybrid in the form of the CC Network. However, the addition of a non-donation revenue stream to a nonprofit isn’t necessary or sufficient to qualify it as a hybrid organization (see Frank Hecker’s post). Mark Surman’s initial descriptions of hybrid organizations (see above) don’t even mention business or revenue. These are worth quoting again, as the top of this post is far away:
[A] mix of social mission, disruptive market strategies and web-like scale and collaboration … trying to ‘move the market’ on the web in a way that both engages and benefits a broad public.
This of course describes just what Creative Commons does. Through free (as in freedom as well as gratis — and yes zero price is a market strategy as is freedom) and carefully branded legal and technical tools deployed on a web scale in collaboration with businesses, affiliates, supportive movements, and individuals, Creative Commons is “moving the market” consensus and practice away from default lockdown and toward more hack-remix-opportunity-generative-ness (to quote another and not explicitly related Mark Surman post) or more conventionally, more sharing, freedom, openness, autonomy and lower transaction costs and barriers to collaboration and innovation.
Creative Commons will be watching this discussion closely, and participating. Do you find the “hybrid organization” construct useful? What insights can be gained from the construct and experiences of other hybrids to make CC a more effective organization (hybrid or not) and enabler of healthy hybrids — organizations, models, and economies?No Comments »
The Wikimedia Foundation board has approved the licensing changes voted on by the community of Wikipedia and its sister sites. The accompanying press release includes this quote from Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig:
“Richard Stallman’s commitment to the cause of free culture has been an inspiration to us all. Assuring the interoperability of free culture is a critical step towards making this freedom work. The Wikipedia community is to be congratulated for its decision, and the Free Software Foundation thanked for its help. I am enormously happy about this decision.”
Earlier today we blogged that results of the Wikipedia community vote on adding the CC BY-SA license. Over 75% of votes were cast in approval of the change, but as has been pointed out by Wikimedia Foundation Deputy Director Erik Moeller and board member Kat Walsh, this number understates the level of support for the change. 14% voted “no opinion”, while only 10% opposed.
In any case we are deeply gratified that such an overwhelming majority (88% of those who voted with an opinion) approved this change worked on over several years by the Free Software Foundation, Wikimedia Foundation, and Creative Commons, are proud to stand with such trusted organizations, and will live up to that trust!
The addition of the CC BY-SA license to Wikimedia sites should occur over the next month. Now is a good time to start thinking about whether your works and projects ought to interoperate with Wikipedia. If you’re using (or switch to) CC BY-SA, content can flow in both directions (your work could be incorporated into Wikipedia, and you can incorporate Wikipedia content into your work). If you use CC BY or CC0, your work could be incorporated into Wikipedia, but not vice versa. If your work isn’t licensed, or is under a CC license with a non-commercial or no derivatives (NC or ND) term, nothing can flow in either direction, except by fair use or other copyright exception or limitation.1 Comment »
And we’d like to not think of ourselves as blockheads, either. If you came across Mark Helprin’s bizarre Op-Ed from a couple of weeks ago, you might have caught the legendary novelist playing the guilt-by-association-game by arguing that we’re “antagonistic to the authorial right.” In fact its the “authorial right” that makes CC work — without it, authors wouldn’t have the ability to choose which rights to reserve and which rights to give away using CC licenses.
Lawrence Lessig, CC’s founder penned a lengthy review of Helprin‘s recent book “Digital Barbarism” (buying a copy through Amazon will donate the referral fee to our organization). Of particular interest is Lessig’s analysis of how Helprin misconceives what we do:
Helprin’s errors are not limited to the stuff he should have learned from books. He even messes up his Internet research. The organization that I helped found, Creative Commons, is named by Helprin as the leading anti-copyright organization. Here is how he explains to his readers what Creative Commons is:
Creative Commons is the self-congratulatory name of a self-congratulatory movement. Somewhat like kibbutz on the internet, the idea is to write programs–”free ware”–and distribute them without charge. While presumably striking a blow at corporate giants like Microsoft, this demonstrates the generosity and selflessness of the programmer, musician, writer, or scholar who donates his work to the common weal. And it becomes in turn a premise that is promiscuously extended to those works the authors of which do not want to give them away, of whom the presumption, becomes that they are not generous. Therefore, they are selfish. Therefore, they should be brought around, one way or another, to the ideal–for the public good and to save their souls. (51)
The reader of Digital Barbarism might then be surprised to read (as is stated directly on the Creative Commons site): “Creative Commons licenses should not be used for software.” She might be puzzled as well to read an op-ed by Helprin in the Wall Street Journal, where he explains that Creative Commons is “richly financed by … Microsoft….” Those silly people at Microsoft, “richly financ[ing]” a movement aimed at “striking a blow at … Microsoft.”
Lessig calls his review “insanely long” but in this blogger’s opinion, its also “insanely great”, so be sure to pass it along to anyone who tries to raise any of Helprin’s demented arguments.No Comments »