“I’m in a race; a race to outrun a rare and deadly form of bone cancer called chordoma, with an average survival of 7 years. To find a cure, there is a lot that needs to happen sequentially, so to win the race, I need science to move quickly. Fortunately, uncanny new technologies in genomics, computing, synthetic biology, etc. have put cures for virtually any disease within the realm of possibility. Unfortunately, the way we practice science is not designed to move on the timescale of an individual’s disease.
Despite all of the technological advances that have been made in recent years, it still takes on average 1-3 years for results to be transmitted from one lab to the next; it still takes months or years for materials and data to be transferred between institutions; and untold masses of observations and creations never get shared at all. It’s no wonder, then, why it takes decades for discoveries to be translated into new treatments, and why the hurdles are often just too large to overcome for small-market diseases like chordoma.
For anyone affected, or whose loved one is affected, by a life threatening disease, this is simply intolerable. Think about it: in the very recent past, humankind has developed the tools and know-how to cure disease, yet we are stifled from maximizing the potential benefit of these new tools by social and legal systems that evolved in a bygone era. This has to change.
But let’s be realistic. Despite the fact that our scientific enterprise is not optimized for speed, it does have many virtues. And traditions such as academic tenure, peer review, intellectual property, and shareholder return are not going away any time soon – nor should they, necessarily. If we can sequence a genome in the course of a week, surely we can find sensible solutions to enable the data to be shared.
Creative Commons is leading the charge to find these solutions. By helping researchers make data open and available, by streamlining the material transfer process, and by uncovering and integrating data from various stakeholders, Creative Commons is grease to the wheels of science. It is a source of hope to me in the race to outrun my disease. It is a means to maximize our collective investment in research. That’s why I support Creative Commons, and why if there’s a disease you’d like to see cured, I urge you to give whole-heartedly to Creative Commons as well.”
Josh Sommer is the executive director of the Chordoma Foundation, which he co-founded with his mother, Dr. Simone Sommer, after he was diagnosed with a clival chordoma in 2006. He believes that patients should play an active role in bringing about treatments for their own conditions, and that patients represent a largely untapped source of funding, energy, and know-how in the treatment development process. Follow Josh on Twitter.Comments Off on Letter from CC Superhero Josh Sommer of the Chordoma Foundation
I’m delighted to introduce Andrew Rens, one of our exceptional CC Superheroes, who will tell you in his own words why he supports Creative Commons and why you should too. Rens, the founding legal lead of Creative Commons South Africa – a volunteer position he held from 2003 to 2009 – possesses particularly adept superpowers when it comes to facing tough issues around intellectual property and education in Africa. Here is his story. Join Rens and become a CC superhero – donate today.
“Since its inception Creative Commons has been instrumental in enabling so much diverse creativity, from music to design, from science to education, from business to philanthropy that I won’t attempt to refer to it all. Instead I’ll reflect on my personal experience of supporting CC, and why I think that you should seriously consider joining me in supporting Creative Commons.
From the day I first heard about Creative Commons I believed that it would be immensely helpful to two things which I am passionate about: Africa and education. Shortly thereafter I became the first legal lead for the Creative Commons South Africa project. I worked as legal lead, a volunteer position, from 2003 until 2009. What motivates someone to keep working as a volunteer for six years? What motivated me was the immense privilege of contributing to the work of others, of playing a part, however small, in some of the most inspiring initiatives I’ve ever seen.
One of those is Free High School Science Texts which offers curriculum compliant peer produced CC licensed school textbooks in math, physics, chemistry and biology. Another great project is Siyavula, a platform which enables teachers to co-create lesson materials. Then there is Full Marks, another teacher friendly site that enables teachers to co-create math and science quizzes. Astonishingly these three projects were all begun by one very smart and determined guy: Mark Horner. Yet another great project is Yoza, a self publishing platform that enables mobile access to novels and short stories, and so encourages literacy in a generation of Africans who have no ready access and whose only computers are mobile phones.
These are all good examples of the creativity of the open educational resources (OER) movement. The OER movement draws its inspiration from the Cape Town Open Education Declaration which speaks of “developing a vast pool of educational resources on the Internet, open and free for all to use.” Enabling sharing eliminates one barrier to education: highly priced learning materials. It also begins something else, described in the Cape Town Declaration as “planting the seeds of a new pedagogy where educators and learners create, shape and evolve knowledge together, deepening their skills and understanding as they go.”
One of the first seeds to sprout is Peer to Peer University (P2PU), a volunteer driven project to create a peer to peer driven learning community. P2PU bills itself as the “social wrapper around open educational resources.” Peer learning may well be the key innovation that helps resolve the crisis which tertiary education is experiencing worldwide.
Each new development is only possible because of the development before it; peer learning is only possible with open educational resources; open educational resources are only possible with open licences such as the Creative Commons licences. Each layer relies on the continuing viability of the layer which it builds on. That is one important reason that I support the ongoing work of Creative Commons, because the fundamentals of easily understood, easily used, open copyright licences need to be maintained.
Another reason I support the ongoing work of Creative Commons is the urgent need for work on patents and databases to enable people to research collaboratively and share their results. Yet another reason is because Creative Commons is committed to expanding the network of Creative Commons projects in Africa, supporting Africans not just to port Creative Commons licences to their jurisdictions but also to provide trusted local expertise to their educational communities.
I’ve had the satisfaction of seeing that the time sacrificed as a volunteer to port the Creative Commons licences has been more than repaid; the South African CC licences have been used vastly more times than any other technical legal document I’ve drafted. This is typical of how Creative Commons has worked; for every license ported there have been thousands if not millions of works using that license. The outpouring of human expression and ingenuity enabled by Creative Commons has been a huge return on every hour of volunteer time and every dollar spent on the staff who support the volunteers and keep the website working. These investments of time and money are small only relative to the creativity they’ve enabled. Every dollar donated, every hour spent could have been used to another end, and yet without them the return would not have been as great.
Although I have been privileged to participate in these exciting developments, I don’t believe that my experience is exceptional. Everyone who contributes to Creative Commons has the opportunity to be involved with a plethora of fascinating individuals and world changing projects. Please join me in supporting Creative Commons today.”Comments Off on Letter from featured Superhero Andrew Rens, former Lead for CC South Africa
I’m pleased to introduce Gautam John, one of our exceptional CC Superheroes, who will tell you in his own words why he supports Creative Commons and why you should too. Gautam John is Manager of New Projects at Pratham Books, a children’s book publisher in India that truly embodies a spirit of openness and innovation on the web. They’ve now released 105 children’s books (in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi and Gujarati) as well as loads of delightful illustrations under a CC-BY license so they can easily be shared and even remixed to create new content relevant to other languages and cultures. Here is Pratham’s story. Join Gautam in supporting Creative Commons with a donation today.
“As a children’s book publisher, we have always struggled to be as inclusive as we can. However, as a small non-profit, we do function under severe constraints of time, money and ability to live up to this ideal and it was the Creative Commons model of licensing that allowed us one of our biggest moments of joy — when our books were made available as Braille and Audio Books for print impaired children across the world. Without the Creative Commons licensing model and philosophy, we would not have been able to engage with multiple organizations to help build inclusion and scale.
At Pratham Books, we have a very simple mission – “A Book in Every Child’s Hand” and this drives all of our work and we constantly test what we do against this goal. The mission has two parts, one is to create more reading matter such that there is more available for children to read and the second really is a corollary – that we need to be able to get books to where children need it the most and that the books need to be culturally and linguistically relevant as well.
This is where our challenge lies – to massively scale the production of high quality, low-cost children’s books for a massively multi-lingual and multi-cultural market. Looking at this challenge it is fairly obvious that this is not a problem that any one organization can solve. The solution has to be scalable, flexible and catalyse our fundamental mission as well.
At this point, we realised that there were several internal questions to answer and some of them painfully introspective. Questions as to whether the books we create and distribute have to be a Pratham Book, whether it implied that every book must be paid for by either the reader or an intermediary and, from being a publisher, questions as to whether we are gatekeepers of content or content curators, how we could create infinite good with finite time and resources and most importantly, how we can create more value than we capture?
Having answered most of these questions using “openness” (whereby, we asked ourselves whether allowing unrestricted access to use and re-use our content furthered our mission) as a test and finding that it did fit our mission, the second set of questions to answer was more technical – how, as a small non-profit, do we do this and not find ourselves overwhelmed. It was at this point that we had a moment of realization – that reading is an extremely social activity and that there are communities and organizations who were more than ready to help us achieve our goals.
It was at this juncture that we hit upon the Creative Commons licensing model as one that would help us achieve many of our aims of flexibility, scalability and being able to help catalyse our mission of a book in every child’s hands. In particular, three things stood out – a shared value system of sharing and openness, a community that was deeply embedded in these ideals and, from our perspective, it was scalable because it allowed us to license content to multiple organizations and individuals, both known and unknown, with a one time effort of releasing them under a Creative Commons license as opposed to the traditional model which involves time consuming negotiations and discussions with each known organization or individual who wants to use our content.
As an organization, we did spend some time choosing a license and, from our perspective, a choice between openness and sharing which reduced to a choice between the Attribution and Attribution-Share-Alike license. We have decided that the Attribution license will be our default license with a fall-back to the Attribution-Share-Alike license in cases where needed. It is best said by P2PU “it emerged that our choice lay between two licences: Creative Commons Attribution and Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike …chose to use Creative Commons licences because Creative Commons have become a global standard and are supported by a large international community. Both licences are Free Culture licences and are more permissive than any of the other Creative Commons licences. In other words, the choice was not between two extremes but between two open licences at the same end of the licence spectrum.” Given that our goal was being as open as possible, it followed that our license choices were essentially around licenses that allowed for the greatest possible use and re-use because our initial hypothesis was, and continues to be, that being open allows us to fulfill our mission better than a traditional copyright model allows.
We now use Creative Commons licenses everywhere! We license entire books under CC-BY and CC-BY-SA licenses, we license our illustrations similarly and even photographs and other publicity material too. Over the last year we have been building the foundations for a social publishing model – where we curate communities that are passionate about reading and help us create content. Such a model rests on the idea of a participatory culture and an essential ingredient is a permissive licensing strategy – Creative Commons licenses offers us this, a large community with shared values and an ecosystem to tap in to.
While this licensing and publishing model works well in theory, it has been extremely heartening for us to see it come to life – our communities have created multiple derivative works ranging from iPad and iPhone applications, to porting our works to OLPC laptops, to creating entirely new books from existing illustrations and, my personal favourite, creating versions of our books for the print impaired – from DAISY and Braille books to rich audio books such that our mission truly does encompass every single child.
I firmly believe that we would not have been able to achieve what success we have had without the help of Creative Commons licensing. These licenses and the values that they stand for are vital to building and strengthening a digital commons from which we all benefit. I hope you will consider supporting Creative Commons and licensing content that you own or control such that we all benefit from the growth of the commons.”
Follow Gautam on Twitter.
Special thanks to Maya Hemant from Pratham Books for getting all content (books, images) up online and for managing the Pratham community.
I’m pleased to introduce Mitchell Baker, the next of our exceptional CC Superheroes to tell you in her own words why she supports Creative Commons and why you should too. As the leader of the Mozilla Project, she is responsible for organizing and motivating a massive, worldwide collective of employees and volunteers who are breathing new life into the Internet with the Firefox Web browser and other Mozilla products. Here is her story. Join Mitchell in supporting Creative Commons with a donation today.
“Creative Commons fills a vitally important role in building an innovative and creative society. Creative Commons provides an easy way for people to choose to collaborate in creative activities, complementing the default settings of copyright law. I hope you’ll join me in supporting Creative Commons.
Imagine you take two photos. You’d like to restrict use of the first photo as much as possible — you don’t want anyone to post it anywhere, or to use it or to alter it. Maybe this is because you think it’s a good candidate for selling, maybe because it’s personal and you don’t want anyone else to use it, maybe because you think it’s perfect as is and would be diminished if anyone changed anything about it. The other photo you feel very differently about. You’d like to see what people might do with it. Maybe you’d like to see it distributed widely with your name attached to enhance your reputation, or so people come to you to buy other photos. Maybe you think it would be good set to music or included in slideshows, or maybe you’d like to see how people might alter it.
Figuring out how to get maximum protection for the first photo is easy. One simply does nothing — in most countries a creative work is automatically subject to default copyright law. If one wants to emphasize this one can add a copyright notice, but this is not required. Maximum restriction is the default.
Figuring out how to let other people build upon one’s creative work is actually much harder. In fact, without Creative Commons there is no easy way to do so. Creative Commons provides a clear, effective way for each of us to choose to share our creative work when we want to, dramatically reducing the barriers to voluntary sharing. It provides legally enforceable mechanisms that live happily alongside the default of maximum restriction of copyright law. Creative Commons empowers creators to choose how our works are used and shared as well as protected.
The ability to share our creative works easily is an important complement to the traditional ability to restrict their use. It’s important for individuals and it’s important for society. There is no doubt that the voluntary sharing of effort can produce immense civic, social, and individual value. Voluntary collaboration, based on shared resources, shared data and shared creative work provides new tools for solving complex problems. By making voluntary sharing easy, Creative Commons provides new avenues for individual choice and human interaction.
Mozilla embodies this idea, as do vast portions of the Internet. Mozilla relies on voluntary collaboration to build individual empowerment into the structure of the Internet. We use a Creative Commons license for many of our materials. Creative Commons licenses have a similar spirit to the Mozilla Public License, which allows software innovators to release their creations to the public to be built upon, expanded, and improved in ways that we never thought possible. Creative Commons makes it easy to extend this idea beyond software to other creative content. We support Creative Commons financially as well.
If you haven’t tried sharing some of your creative work, I invite you to try it. Next time you need a photo for something, search your favorite photo sites for CC licensed work. Add some of your own. Share some of your music and see what comes of it. Consider a donation to Creative Commons. Be open to openness.”Comments Off on Featured Superhero: Mitchell Baker, Chairwoman of Mozilla
This year we’re letting some of our exceptional CC Superheroes tell you in their own words why they support Creative Commons and why you should too. The first is Robin Sloan, a writer who works at the intersection of storytelling and technology. Here is his story. Join Robin in supporting Creative Commons with a donation today.
“I’m a writer you probably haven’t heard of. But if I’m right about Creative Commons, and about the way books and culture work — and if I’m a little bit lucky — then your kids will read my stuff. And their kids too.
Let me bring you up to speed:
Just about a year ago, I used a site called Kickstarter to gather a posse of patrons and, in the span of about two months, wrote and published a short novel. It featured a character named Annabel Scheme, a sort of Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century.
After it was finished, I mailed the books off to my backers — about a thousand copies, total — and then put the PDF online, for free, with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 license.
Often, that’s where this story ends. Triumph! Success! Righteous sharing! Right?
I actually think there’s another step. So I’ll explain what I did next, and then I’ll explain why.
I had a chunk of change left over from the printing — around $2,000 — so I turned it into a Remix Fund. I polled my patrons for interesting ways to reimagine the story I’d just published, and interesting people to do the reimagining. I got a small avalanche of suggestions, each with a small budget attached, and so we all voted on it. The winners included a singer/songwriter and a 3D artist. They did their thing, and now there’s an Annabel Scheme song and a stunning set of images of her alternate San Francisco. (And, in true CC spirit, the raw 3D models can be downloaded and reused, as well.)
But why bother? Why not just wait for people to discover the book, get inspired, and remix it under their own steam? Isn’t that more legit?
Maybe. But for me, Creative Commons is a survival strategy.
I think the most important thing about a book is not actually the book. Instead, it’s the people who have assembled around it. It’s everyone who’s ever read it, and everyone who’s ever re- or misappropriated it. It’s everyone who’s ever pressed it into someone else’s hands. (That’s another thing about Creative Commons: it supports not just remixing, but sharing, too. I publish in Amazon’s Kindle store as well, and I love it — but if you buy one of my stories over there, you can’t ever give it to anyone else.)
Anyway, it’s that group of people that makes a book viable, both commercially and culturally. And without them — all alone, with only its author behind it — a book is D.O.A.
So I’m utterly intent on assembling that group, on nurturing it, making it passionate and resilient, and I’ll use every tool at my disposal to do so: Kickstarter, my site, Twitter, a Creative Commons license, and a Remix Fund to boot.
Did it work for “Annabel Scheme”? It’s too early to tell. There’s been more remixing since that first flurry — there’s this software project, and I just learned last week that there’s a comic in the works, too.
If you aspire to create culture today, in the year 2010, you cannot escape the vastness of it all — the sheer quantity of stuff that is being produced, and the sheer quantity of stuff that is being forgotten. In a world like this, Creative Commons is not just a license — not just a passive agreement with some theoretical public. Instead, I think it’s an active, urgent signal to a posse of potential allies.
It says: I want this thing to succeed, but I need your help.
And it says: join me. Make this yours, too.
So please join me in supporting Creative Commons. After all, we’ve got a lot of kids and grandkids to entertain.”Comments Off on Featured Superhero: Robin Sloan