2005 April

Christiane Asschenfeldt

Glenn Otis Brown, April 10th, 2005

When Christiane Asschenfeldt joined Creative Commons, in April 2003, Creative Commons offered one set of copyright licenses: in American English, based in good part on U.S. law. Two years later, CC offers fifteen different localized licenses, in thirtheen languages, from countries on four continents. (A couple dozen other localized licenses are in some state of draft.) Once a two-employee operation in the basement of Stanford Law School, CC is now an international network of law schools, thinktanks, nonprofits, and — most important — dedicated and expert volunteers. We have Christiane, and the many iCommons volunteers she personally brought together, to thank for this night-and-day difference. That Christiane until recently worked solo from Berlin, and is now raising a beautiful little girl, makes this accomplishment even more amazing.

Christiane met Larry and me at iLaw in Cambridge in the summer of 2002. We got along famously from the get-go, but little did I know that even then Larry was laying his plans for CC International. (He probably kept his vision for iCommons from me to prevent me, my hands already plenty full, from having a heart attack.) Looking back on it, I should have recognized then what I would come to appreciate when Christiane joined CC: Expert in the EU Directive on intellectual property, friendly and funny, and up-to-speed on the latest in film, scientific research, and pop culture, she was an obvious asset to the organization.

Apart from all she’s done for CC, I am particularly thankful to Christiane for her hospitality during my first and only visit to Berlin two years ago. I have fond memories of visiting the Reichstag and the Berlin Wall with her, and of getting to know her man Florian (a rising-star film director). I trust we’ll get to hang out more in the future, and I wish Christiane the best as her work on making CC a truly global force continues to bear fruit.

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View source added to Flash

Matt Haughey, April 8th, 2005

Earlier this week at the Flash Forward conference (centered around Macromedia’s Flash product), Creative Commons Chariman and CEO Lawrence Lessig gave a talk about bringing a culture of sharing to the Flash community like the one that exists for HTML. Every web browser can view source of any HTML document, and millions of online publishers got their start by looking at each others’ code, but Flash doesn’t directly allow for it. Although flash sharing sites have sprung up to fill the void, there was no easy way to share all your code in Flash.

Macromedia’s Mike Chambers answered the call and less than 24 hours later produced an actionscript file that adds a view source option to any flash movie. If you use Macromedia’s Flash product and want to share your work with others, by all means give it a try. I hope to see this functionality become an option in upcoming releases of the Flash authoring environment.

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Signal/Noise 2k5 – Creative Revolution at Harvard Tomorrow!

Mia Garlick, April 7th, 2005

For those people in the Harvard area, check out the Signal/ Noise 2k5: Creative Revolution conference being held at Harvard tomorrow April 8, 2005. Find details about it here.

The original and first Signal/Noise in 2000 was organized by none other than Creative Commons’ recently departed but dearly beloved Executive Director – Glenn Otis Brown. The conference has a great line-up of academics, musicians, practitioners and enthusiastic commentators from the reuse field – all of whom will be discussing questions such as: is all art derivative? how new technologies facilitate new genres, creators and business models (did someone say “Creative Commons”?) and how artists react to downstream uses of their work and how these reactions should be balanced with the public interest in facilitating downstream reuse. All interesting topics! The site also contains a useful Briefing Book and links to some great sites for those interested in remixing, mash-ups etc – including Creative Commons’ own ccmixter site.

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Nice uses of CC

Matt Haughey, April 6th, 2005

A couple quick things: I thought it was cool that blogging software company Six Apart republished an essay by Adaptive Path on the failings of Content Management Systems, all about software of the type Six Apart develops. It’s all in accordance with Adaptive Path‘s license, which allows commercial redistribution.

Another cool thing was seeing Blogcritics.org do a “featured content of the week” type feature we’ve done in the past here. Phillip Winn found eight amazing photos at Flickr, and posted links to check them out, all available under Creative Commons licenses.

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Mike Linksvayer

Glenn Otis Brown, April 5th, 2005

(Next in a continuing series of blurbs about Commoners I’m thankful to have worked with.)

If there is one person whose heroics are most unsung at Creative Commons, it could very well be Mike Linksvayer. Mike has been the CTO for about two years. He came on at a crucial time, when CC was growing jerkily from a loose network of contractors to a real organization, and he brought stability from the get-go. Stability isn’t sexy, and it’s not very visible from the outside. If CC is like a band, then Mike’s the drummer. People not in bands rarely ever get how much a tasteful, subdued drummer matters. But people in bands know that they’re impossibly valuable. And CC, when you boil it down, is all about the drums.

Mike is the force behind, among other things: the vibrant cc-metadata mailing list (our most active), our membership at the W3C, our amazing multi-language license interface and Commons Deeds (have you taken a good look at our stuff in Suomeski?, Dutch? — amazing!), the discovery and harnessing of the mighty talent called Nathan Yergler (profiled here earlier), the move to leverage CC Search off Nutch‘s open code base, countless tech developments and deals, a huge chunk of our blog posts, and who-knows-how-many other technological things that I don’t know about (because I simply don’t understand them). Something else you may not know: He also knows the the nitty-gritty of our licenses as well as anyone.

Mike’s got a fine, bleak sense of humor, which I for one appreciate. This year he sported the best, most efficient Halloween costume — shorts, and a tshirt declaring a single phrase — that I’ve seen in a while. Maybe the same fearlessness that fuels his humor also drives his ability to call anyone on their b.s. — a skill and a will that are rare and crucial in this “space.”

Another thing I love about Mike is his taste. I’m a firm believer in the notion that the more stuff you hate, the better taste you have. Mike, I can testify, hates a lot of stuff. Which means he loves the stuff only really worth loving. So I’ve learned a lot from him — about what arguments are too cheesy, what sentiments too sentimental, and not least, what Bay Area radio is actually worth listening to.

Here’s a toast to Mike Linksvayer, in the hope I get to work with him again very soon. All of you who still get to are luckier even than you might think.

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Democratizing Innovation

Mike Linksvayer, April 4th, 2005

Eric von Hippel has released a PDF version of his book Democratizing Innovation under a Creative Commons license. Hippel explores the growing importance of innovation by users, and sharing of innovations by users.

The book is dedicated to “all who are building the information commons.” Let’s hope that’s you!

Via Boing Boing.

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Matt Haughey

Glenn Otis Brown, April 4th, 2005

In the spirit of fuller liner notes and proper attribution, I’d like to take a few minutes to point out a few things I am particularly grateful for — specific accomplishments of specific Creative Commoners that may not have yet been attributed fully enough to them.

(I tried to start doing this a few months ago, but work pulled me back into the vortex.)

Matt Haughey has been at Creative Commons since April 2002; we’ve worked together since the very beginning. Anyone who knows Matt’s presence and prominence online knows that Creative Commons’ early growth — among bloggers, in particular — would not have been the same without him. He’s been the ideal liaison to social software developers and companies (like Flickr), and less visibly and glamorously, the backbone to CC’s own internal communications tech. He’s also, on top of the regular and heavy stream of UI and information design work, done hundreds if not thousands of tight-deadlined designs, at all possible hours of the day, for things as different as CD covers (e.g.) and Featured Commoner spreads (e.g.).

Matt has also, with DeMaggio-like consistency, pointed blog readers to some of the coolest Creative Commons content with his Featured Content of the Week posts (e.g.: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

Matt took our website from looking like this, to this, to this, to this, to the site’s stunning design today.

This speaks for itself.

And in case it doesn’t, and in case I haven’t said it expressly enough (which I probably haven’t), thanks to Matt for all of this and more.

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Meet Mia

Glenn Otis Brown, April 4th, 2005

One bit of joy amidst the sadness of leaving Creative Commons is the opportunity to introduce you to Mia Garlick, our new General Counsel. Mia is an IP expert who just recently came to CC from the Silicon Valley branch of the top-notch law firm Simpson Thatcher and Barlett, which she joined after getting her LLM from Stanford (specializing in Law, Science, and Technology). Before coming to the States, Mia had a far-ranging and powerful IP and media law practice in Australia, her home. I’ve gotten to work with Mia over the last two weeks and am wildly excited both for the staff and for her, as the great CC experiment continues to expand. Mia’s strengths in media, international law, and science fit the organization’s future needs to a T, and her quick wit and energy will make her a blast to work with, inside CC and out. Congrats and best wishes to you, Mia!

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Top twenty memories at CC

Glenn Otis Brown, April 4th, 2005

I tried limiting this list to ten, but I couldn’t do it. There’s no way I could really limit it to twenty, even, but I’ll go with the first score that come to mind, in no particular order.

(1) Meeting the World’s Coolest Man.

Gil and Team

(2) Singing karaoke in Seoul with the lawyers of KAFIL, CC’s affiliate institution for the newly launched Creative Commons Korea.

(3) Getting a phone call in January 2002 from my former professor and long-time hero Lawrence Lessig — who, I couldn’t be sure, really remembered me — inviting me to join Creative Commons.

(4) Seeing Gilberto Gil and David Byrne perform Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In” at the WIRED Creative Commons benefit concert.


(5) Brainstorming on and making “Get Creative” and “Reticulum Rex” with Neeru Paharia, Ryan Junell, Benjamen Walker, and Christopher Lydon.

(6) Seeing the Brazilian Portuguese translation of both movies at the launch of CC Brazil.

(7) First trying out the phrase “Some Rights Reserved” at a meeting with the great folks — and later, friends — of Rice Connexions.

(8) Talking about rock-and-roll, over beers, with Jamie Boyle, Mike Carroll, and Eric Saltzman after my first CC board meeting in Cambrige, MA.

(9) Sharing countless lunches (and jokes) with CC staff at the Treehouse, on Stanford’s campus.

(10) Receiving the amazing going-away gifts of an iPod Shuffle full of CC music and a beautiful CC Taiwan poster from Lessig and the CC team on my last day.

(11) Seeing Grandmaster Flash perform, in a very weird context, at SXSW.

(12) Watching Justin Cone’s “Building on the Past” for the first time.

(13) Seeing Christiane‘s daughter Lara playing with Willem at Larry and Bettina’s house.

(14) At Duke’s FRAMED! conference, seeing Negativland’s Mark Hosler meet, confront, and then make friends with the lawyer who set the U2 brouhaha in motion.

(15) The CC Europe Summit.

(16) Awaking from a nap under my desk to hear everyone from CC and Stanford CIS singing Happy Birthday on my 30th.

(17) Hearing a crazed David Byrne fan tell my mother, age 73 — at her first rock show ever — that the song “Psycho Killer” reminded him of her.

(18) Eating at Carl’s Jr. at 3am with two members of the Polyphonic Spree.

(19) Experiencing the mayhem before, and the joy during, every Creative Commons party.

(20) Doing an interview, with Lessig and Neeru, with the cartoon blogger Machina in Tokyo.

And there are so many more.

What kills me about putting this list together is to think of all the great things that I will miss out on from today forward.

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Dream job

Glenn Otis Brown, April 3rd, 2005

This news hasn’t exactly been a secret up until now, but it hasn’t been official either. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be hanging up the Creative Commons jersey to start work full-time at Google, as a product advisor and eventually product counsel. Before I go, I have plenty to say about, and many people to thank for, the amazing experience Creative Commons has been.

Just over three years ago, I started work at Creative Commons with little idea of what I was getting into. It involved copyright, I knew, and it involved Lawrence Lessig, and that alone was enough to ditch my plans to practice law in New York. (Ok, practicing law wasn’t too tough to pass up, but New York was.) It became clear shortly into the job that the decision was even better than I’d ever imagined. It was as if everything I’d done, in school, at work, and through my hobbies, had culminated in this position working for an embryonic nonprofit called Creative Commons.

Here are three little anecdotes that give a glimpse into how winding up at Creative Commons was, for me, like making a brand-new friend whom I felt I’d known forever.

In college, I played in a band. We weren’t particularly good, but we had a great time, and over two years I learned the single most important lesson about creativity that I’ve learned to date: Next to romance (with which creativity shares a few features), making something with friends, with everyone contributing different but equal parts, has got to be the most fun thing in the world. It’s also, I realized, the only way things really get made. I don’t care if you’re Bob Dylan — nothing comes out of your own head and into life without the influence of others, whether living or dead. (Every time you pick up a guitar, you’re collaborating with the dead.) I started looking more closely at CD liner notes, at writers’ biographies, at the acknowledgements sections of books, looking for clues into the real story behind the creation of anything credited to only one person. I didn’t find much, and I didn’t understand why.

In law school, I wrote an article about the musical Rent — not my favorite piece of art, by a long shot, but one with a great joint-authorship dispute at its center. The playwright worked closely with a dramaturge to get the show into Broadway shape, and pretty much everyone agreed that without the dramaturge’s contributions, the final show would never have existed. Problem was, they had no contract, and no other paperwork demonstrating an intent to share authorship credit. So, a federal court gave the full copyright to the playwright. In the article I argued that it was nonsense to expect artists to begin a jam session by filling out paperwork. (If you’ve seen “Get Creative,” our first flash movie, the line “we interrupt this brainstorm to call the lawyers” comes straight from that experience.) But, as sure I was that the rules were wrong, I had no idea what to recommend in their place.

By the time I finished school, and thanks to a lot of people at the Berkman Center, I was fully infected with the IP bug. I was genuinely obsessed with the riddle that we’re all still trying to figure out: How will all this stuff work in the future? How can we keep up this technological progress without giving artists the shaft? I still didn’t have an answer. I remember very well doing my first stab at public speaking on a panel at a conference in New York. Siva Vaidhyanathan also spoke, as did the Dead Kennedy’s Jello Biafra. Biafra was railing against the music industry and professing his love for Napster (which was then at its peak), but also explaining how he didn’t want his songs winding up in Coca-Cola commercials. I remember saying something like, “Hey, Jello, you can’t have it both ways.”

That statement ranks right up there with the time in 1995, when I told a scholarship interview committee that the Internet “was overrated,” as the dumbest thing I’ve ever said.

It wasn’t until I finally wrapped my brain around the idea behind Creative Commons, cooked up collaboratively by our board of directors, that I felt someone had begun to crack the riddle. That epiphany was the first of many in my three years here; over and over again I found myself the lucky steward of other people’s amazing ideas. From our logo (thank you, Ryan Junell) to our icons (thanks, Molly) to the vision of iCommons (Lessig, Christiane, Roland) to the Tech Challenges page (Hal Abelson) to the sampling licenses (Negativland!) to the WIRED CD (Conde Nast and the whole editorial staff) to CC Mixter (Neeru) to CC Publisher (Nathan Yergler) to CC Search (Mike, Nutch, Yahoo!) to our site re-design (Matt, Adaptive Path) — the list could go on and on — I’ve had the chance to stand at the hub of a giant collaborative creation without really doing much of the creating. It’s been a bit like being in a band, but I feel more like the guy behind the soundboard than one of the musicians. And I feel awfully fortunate to have been there to witness it all.

I’m sure that, in some form or other, I’ll carry on with the CC effort. But in any case, I like to think that like Menudo or Spinal Tap, we’re the kind of band that stays together regardless of the particular line-up at a given time.

(This is the first of a few posts I’d like to write before offically signing off. I’m a lame-duck with a few hours of bully-pulpit left, so bear with me.)

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