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Al Jazeera Blogs Go CC

Fred Benenson, October 19th, 2009

Al Jazeera Blogs #2

Al Jazeera has just launched the latest of its online project called Al Jazeera Blogs.

The website features blog posts written by prominent journalists and correspondents from the global Al Jazeera television network. It also hosts several sub-blogs sections divided by geographical areas, such as the Africa, Asia, Americas, Europe, and the Middle East. In addition, Al Jazeera has a blog focused on international business and the ongoing financial crisis.

The project also features interesting tech extras such as integration with OpenCalais’ semantic tagging system.

Credit once again goes to Al Jazeera English’s Head of Online, Mohamed Nanabhay. Mohamed also happens to be the author of the first commoner letter for this year’s annual campaign, and was one of the key players who made Al Jazeera’s amazing CC repository a reality.

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Jonathan Lethem’s CC Licensed Philip K. Dick Essay

Fred Benenson, September 30th, 2009

Crazy FriendNotable Brooklyn author Jonathan Lethem (Fortress of Solitude, Motherless Brooklyn, You Don’t Love Me Yet among others) just released an essay titled “Crazy Friend” (PDF download) under a CC BY-NC-ND license. The story is a fantastic read in and of itself, but we’re doubly excited that its CC licensed.

Here’s io9′s summary:

The essay, called “Crazy Friend,” is a winding, mildly obsessive tale of how Dick’s stories guided Lethem out of childhood, into a turbulent adolescence, and at last settled him in a career as a critically-acclaimed writer. He begins by talking about his boyhood relationship with two cool older girls who didn’t get why he thought Dick’s writing was so important, and ends by introducing us to Lethem’s life as a Dick fanboy and showing us snippets of his early writing about Dick (some interesting stuff). Ultimately, Lethem says, Dick is the archetypal “crazy friend” whom we’ve all known. And whom we all love.

Lethem has a new book coming out on October 13th called Chronic City and he’ll be doing an epic reading of the entire book around NYC city book stores starting October 16th.

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Google Books adds Creative Commons license options

Eric Steuer, August 13th, 2009

Some very exciting news for authors, publishers, and readers: Today, Google launched a program to enable rightsholders to make their Creative Commons-licensed books available for the public to download, use, remix, and share via Google Books.

The new initiative makes it easy for participants in Google Books’ Partner Program to mark their books with one of the six Creative Commons licenses (or the CC0 waiver). This gives authors and publishers a simple way to articulate the permissions they have granted to the public through a CC license, while giving people a clear indication of the legal rights they have to CC-licensed works found through Google Books.

The Inside Google Books post announcing the initiative talks a bit about what this all means:

We’ve marked books that rightsholders have made available under a CC license with a matching logo on the book’s left hand navigation bar. People can download these books in their entirety and pass them along: to friends, classmates, teachers, and so on. And if the rightsholder has chosen to allow people to modify their work, readers can even create a mashup–say, translating the book into Esperanto, donning a black beret, and performing the whole thing to music on YouTube.

The project launched with a terrific starter collection of CC-licensed books that includes: 55 Ways to Have Fun with Google by Philipp Lenssen; Blown to Bits by Harold Abelson, Ken Ledeen, Harry R. Lewis; Bound by Law? by Keith Aoki, James Boyle, Jennifer Jenkins; Code: Version 2 by Lawrence Lessig; Democratizing Innovation by Eric von Hippel; Federal Budget Deficits: America’s great consumption binge by Paul Courant; The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It by Jonathan Zittrain; Little Brother by Cory Doctorow; and A World’s Fair for the Global Village by Carl Malamud.

Stay tuned for further announcements – as the project expands to include more authors and publishers, Google Books plans to add the ability for people to restrict searches to books they can share, use, and remix.

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ProPublica Wants You to Steal Their Stories

Fred Benenson, May 22nd, 2009

Pro Publica LogoA couple of weeks ago ProPublica posted a note on their site asking their users to “steal” their stories:

You can republish our articles and graphics for free, so long as you credit us, link to us, and don’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Put in CC terms, the public-interest journalism non-profit has chosen our Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. Since the announcement, The Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, USA Today, Salon, Politico, and Huffington Post have published ProPublica’s work and they’re encouraging other newsrooms to do so as well.

Check out the original announcement or ProPublica’s policy on advertising and commercial use.

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CC Talks With: MCM

Cameron Parkins, May 15th, 2009

As CC continues to grow and expand, one of the best ways we’ve found to communicate our mission and what our licenses can provide to new members of our community is by letting the rest of the community do the talking. We highlight stories on our blog and twitter, work with groups to flesh out pages in our case studies project, and regularly do interviews with specific community members whose work is illuminating of what CC does and what we are constantly trying to accomplish. In the past we called these interviews Featured Commoner pieces, but in an effort to increase clarity these will now be called CC Talks With.

To re-boot our efforts we have a reached out to a number of individuals working on great projects and have a number interviews waiting in the wings for the coming weeks. Our first is with MCM, an author, TV producer, and creative mind who recently began work on his new project, TorrentBoy, a CC-licensed experiment in fan fiction. MCM has been utilizing CC licenses almost as long as we’ve been around, so it is fitting to re-launch this series with someone whose perspective has evolved as much as we have in our short history. Read on to learn more about MCM’s work and his thoughts on how CC licenses can be used to help promote sharing and unintended reuse.

Can you give our readers a bit of background on yourself and the TorrentBoy project? What is your own personal history leading you to this point in your career? How did TorrentBoy begin and what is it’s current status? More importantly, what is the book about?

mcm_photoMy history is a long and complicated subject that can make grown men cry, so I’ll skip it and get right to the fun part. In 2001, I created a web-based animated show called Dustrunners, which, when it died, became the first Creative Commons-licensed series (it used CC SA before the licenses had reached 1.0). I’d always had a passion for the open sharing of ideas and culture, and when I heard the goals that Creative Commons had set out, I was hooked. Since Dustrunners, I have made sure that every single product I’ve made (and own the rights to) has been CC-licensed, and I irritate random people on the street with my evangelism. Investment bankers are generally hostile to the idea, but everyone else at least smiles at me.

Since then, I’ve written a bunch of other “free culture” books, most (in)famously The Pig and the Box, which teaches kids about the evils of Digital Rights Management. The fact that the book was translated into 15 languages and downloaded and shared well over 1.5 million times (that I could count) really cemented in my mind the fact that Creative Commons enables creators to do fantastic things.

Four years ago, I created this idea for a show called RollBots, which now airs on YTV in Canada and will be launching on the CW4Kids in the US, with toys by Mattel. Not to sound ungrateful, but there’s just something about the “closed” nature of major TV productions that irked me. The show is great, and the people that work on it are excellent, but it always felt like there was some potential that had been left untapped. Something we couldn’t see from inside out little castle that would have made it better.

TorrentBoy is my answer to that nagging doubt. It’s an entirely “open source” franchise, where anybody can come in and build upon the first book I wrote and make it their own. There are no boundaries to it, no limits to what can be done… TorrentBoy can go on adventures I could never dream of, in languages I will never speak, and take on an entirely new life that traditional media like RollBots can never achieve (at least not until I’ve been dead for a few decades). It’s parallel, but different. Probably the best thing I’ve ever done.

The first book in the series, Zombie World! is cheekily about a kid named Wesley who has a talking watch that turns him into the super-powered TorrentBoy, so he can fight enemies like proton leeches and an army of zombies, and save the world. He’s got a teddy bear named Crash, and Crash has a “waser bwaster”, and the two of them get into all kinds of trouble as they battle the evil Lord Thorax. There are certainly a lot of bittorrent analogies to it, but at its heart, it’s just a good, fun adventure book for kids. In its first month of publication, it sold 463 copies (physical and eBooks), and was downloaded another 120,000 times. A good start, but that’s just the start.

TorrentBoy is released under CC BY-NC-SA license and is designed to be shared, remixed, and expanded upon. Why did you choose to go this route? What obstacles and benefits have you encountered by using a CC license?

The logistics of the license were a big concern for me. I wanted to ensure that people could feel free to do what they wanted to do, but I was also concerned that as a franchise, the collective work could suffer if sub-standard works could be sold alongside the really great stuff. So while everyone is free to participate, only select participants can actually “cash in” on their work. It’s an imperfect system, but it’s as close as I think we can get.

The biggest obstacle with the CC license thus far is, interestingly, my unintended role as the “benevolent dictator” (not my term). Despite the fact that, really, anyone can do anything they like, I am still asked for insights into various issues on a regular basis. There’s one really nice guy who sends me daily emails for feedback on ideas he has about a book he’s writing. I love answering his questions, but in my mind it’s more like brainstorming than informing… but I know the freedom of CC licenses is sometimes hard for people to understand. I still get emails from people asking of they can print a copy of “The Pig and the Box” for their friend, no matter how hard I work to explain the significance of the license.

On the other hand, the benefits are evident already. Just the fact that there IS someone writing a book about TorrentBoy is amazing. Another amazingly supportive contributor has made a bunch of t-shirts and designs for the project, and others are working on a comic book. With RollBots, I had a select few people taking my ideas and making them live… but with CC, I’ve got the same effect on a massive scale, with ideas you just can’t get without the genius of the commons.

You state that it is a conscious experiment in Fan Fiction – how does the CC license enable that?

Fanfic is a tricky thing, isn’t it? You have an established concept that people love so much they want to expand upon it… but even if they do the most amazing things, it’s still second-class to the world. There are some really great fanfic writers out there; artists as well. What TorrentBoy hopes to demonstrate is that legitimizing those fans is an excellent way to grow your universe and make it richer. You can either do that by blessing “unauthorized” derivative works, or you can give blanket permission to the world to do as they please, and see what happens. I hate the idea of people creating things they love under the shadow of illegality.

What kind of derivative works have begun appearing? As a creator, how do you feel about these derivative works? How are you aggregating them and keeping track of what is created?

There’s at least one book being written that I know of, as well as a comic (or two, I’m not sure). There are some posters in the works, and I have heard there’s a video game of some kind too. Someone is apparently planning a kind of Alternate Reality Game, and I myself am working on both a standard novel and a collaborative one, where we map out the structure and tag-team our way through a first draft. I keep track of the derivative works as much as I can, but I know that, to a certain extent, people will be creating in isolation for the first while, so I probably don’t know about half of the stuff that’s going on.

One of the great ideas I saw floated a few weeks ago was to branch the main TorrentBoy story off into a steampunk variant, set in the late 1800s, with one of TorrentBoy‘s predecessors and his battles to save the world. I don’t know if anyone is running with that idea, but I think it’s an amazing concept, and I’d love to see it happen.

I think creating a show for TV somewhat prepared me for this role, in a lot of ways. When you make something on that scale, you have to give up fine control of how things unfold… great ideas come from unexpected places, and you need to be confident enough in the idea to let it go where it wants. TorrentBoy is the same way, but on a larger scale. It’s not hard for me to fall in love with crazy new ideas spawned from my initial effort… the hard part is waiting to see how they all unfold!

Lastly, how can our readers participate in the TorrentBoy project? Any last words you’d like them to know?

torrentboy_im_2There are lots of ways to participate, and the possibilities are evolving constantly. There’s an effort to document the world of TorrentBoy via our wiki, where you can go and theorize about everything from the finer functions of the Tracker Watch to the motives behind the Rhino-rilla villains. That’s one of my favourite aspects, because anyone can try it out, whether or not they feel they can write long-form prose.

Also on the site are discussion forums where you can suggest ideas or actually deliver new creations based on TorrentBoy… t-shirt designs or doodles or ideas for stories (that maybe you can’t write, but would like to see written). The atmosphere is really friendly and collaborative, which is great for everyone involved.

And finally, there’s a lot to be said for expanding the pool of contributors to the project, which is easily done by pointing people to the first book, Zombie World!, available here. It’s free (or you can pay for it, your choice), and it gives a crash course in the TorrentBoy world. If you know any kids in the 7-11 range that might like a good action novel, it’s a great place to start the adventure.

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Bloomsbury Academic to Release “Science, Ethics and Innovation” Series for Free Under CC Licenses

Cameron Parkins, May 13th, 2009

academic_logo
Bloomsbury Academic, the recently-launched academic publishing imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, just announced their first series publication, Science, Ethics and Innovation. The series will be edited by Nobel Laureate Sir John Sulston and professor John Harris.

The series will be released online as free, CC-licensed downloads with hard copies available for sale. More from The Guardian:

The series will be the first from Bloomsbury’s new venture, Bloomsbury Academic, launched late last year as part of the publisher’s post-Harry Potter reinvention. Using Creative Commons licences, the intention is for titles in the imprint to be available for free online for non-commercial use, with revenue to be generated from the hard copies that will be printed via print-on-demand and short-run printing technologies.

In related news, Bloomsbury Academic’s digital publication of Lawrence Lessig’s Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy has now been downloaded for free in over 105 countries, while hard copies have also been selling well.

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Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

Fred Benenson, May 12th, 2009

Collective IntelligenceWe somehow missed last March’s release of Mark Tovey’s collection of essays called “Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace” from the Carleton University Press. The book is a 648 page collection of essays from the likes of Yochai Benkler, Howard Rheingold and David Weinberger and is now available to download as a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial PDF. If you want to support the book’s non-profit publisher, we encourage you to purchase the hardcover copy at Amazon.

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Lessig’s REMIX Released Under CC License; Remix Contest Launched By Bloomsbury Academic

Cameron Parkins, May 1st, 2009

remix_cover_lLawrence Lessig‘s latest book Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy is getting the CC treatment from Bloomsbury Academic (CC coverage here and here). Starting today, the entire book is available for free download under a CC BY-NC license from Bloomsbury Academic’s website.

We are incredibly excited that a text devoted to the art and value of remixing is being released under a license that allows free and open sharing and reuse – it turns out we aren’t the only ones. To celebrate the launch, Bloomsburry is holding a contest titled Remix the Remixer:

To celebrate the Creative Commons release of Lawrence Lessig’s latest book, Remix, Bloomsbury Academic are hosting a competition you have the chance to win an original remixed item created by Cory Doctorow on the 1st of May (with a video of the event), £200 (about 300 USD) worth of Bloomsbury books and a copy of Remix signed by Lessig himself.

The competition is called Remix the Remixer. Just remix any of Lawrence Lessig’s existing work and create something that is new, unique and creative.

Here’s how it works: Find any video, interview, or written work of Lessig’s, mash it up with another piece of Lessig’s work and create something new. It can be a video (3 min max), photo (nothing offensive, please) or text.

Be sure to upload your remixes between now (May 1) and May 31 to be considered for the prize drawings.

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Oxford University Press Releases “Lessons from the Identity Trail” Under CC License

Cameron Parkins, April 21st, 2009

51q1w6tgkil_ss500_1Lessons From The Identity Trail: Anonymity, Privacy and Identity in a Networked Society is a collection of essays edited by Ian Kerr, Valerie Steeves, and Carole Lucock recently published by Oxford University Press.

Focusing on “the importance and impact of anonymity and privacy in a networked society”, Lessons From The Identity Trail is being released under a CC BY-NC-ND license, allowing for the free sharing and spreading of the work.

It has been a great week for book releases and it is always inspiring to see large (and small) publishers recognize the value of CC licenses. You can download selected chapters from the collection at the Identity Trail website, with more chapters available tomorrow (4/22/09) and the final set released May 6, 2009. Similarly, you can buy the book directly from Oxford University Press or at Amazon.

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Norwegian Minister Publishes Book under CC BY-SA

Michelle Thorne, April 16th, 2009

delte meningerFrom CC Norway:

Today, Norway’s Minister of Government Administration and Reform, Heidi Grande Røys, launched a new book, edited by the Minister, about sharing and the social side of computer networks.  The book is titled “Delte  meninger” (in Norwegian this has the dual meaning of “shared  opinions” and “conflicting opinions”). There is also a website dedicated to open, public debate about the issues raised in the book.

Both the website and the print edition will carry a ported Norwegian CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

The print edition of the book will be published by Universitetsforlaget and is the first instance of a major book in Norway that carries a Creative Commons license.

Delte meninger / CC BY-SA 3.0

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