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2005 October

Help promote the CC fundraising campaign

Mike Linksvayer, October 31st, 2005

1. Get yourself a button.

2. Put the button code in your site template or in a blog post, or both.

3. a) Profit? b) Priceless? c) Thanks for helping promote the campaign!

Here’s a preview of the three buttons:











Become A Commoner


Support The Commons

Early examples of bloggers using a button in their site template include Jon Lebkowsky, Marc Canter,
and Lawrence Lessig. Early button-in-a-blog-post examples include
Boing Boing
and Copyfight. Watch for more via Technorati.

Special thanks to Boris Anthony for help with the button graphics.

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CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on CC & Fair Use

Lawrence Lessig, October 26th, 2005

[This is part of a weekly series written by Lawrence Lessig and others about the history and future of Creative Commons. Alternatively, if you know others who might find these interesting, please recommend they sign up at http://creativecommons.org/about/lessigletter]

From last week’s episode:

Widespread DRM would disable that interoperability. Or at least, it would disable interoperability without permission first. And while fair use is a codified exception to that control, as we see them today, DRM technologies cannot respect “fair use.”

Why is that so? And how does Creative Commons respect fair use?

The story continued…

I began this series with a bit of background. This is the last of these background emails.

In the first week, I described the basic idea of Creative Commons — free licenses that signaled to the world the freedoms an author intends his work to carry. In week two, we confessed we stole this idea from the Free Software Movement. In very different contexts, both they and we use free licenses to avoid the creativity-stifling effects of overly restrictive control. That control was the subject of last week’s email — the technical locks that control access to and use of content that we call DRM. DRM, we fear, will add a layer of restriction to the Internet that will defeat content interoperability, and weaken “fair use.”

“Fair use”: No word is more used in debates about copyright with less understanding. What is “fair use” (in America, “fair dealing” in most of the rest of the world) and how does DRM threaten it?

The law recognizes three kinds of “uses” of copyrighted works:

  1. Free uses (uses that don’t trigger the law of copyright, such as reading a physical book);
  2. Regulated uses (uses that do trigger the law of copyright, such as republishing a book;
  3. Fair uses (uses that trigger the law of copyright, but which are nonetheless free because the law deems them “fair” — such as copying words from a book in a review of the book).

Digital technologies are changing the balance between these three kinds of uses. As life moves online, “free uses” shrink. Because every act on a digital network produces a copy, and “copies” trigger copyright law, there are vastly fewer “free uses” in digital space than in analog space.

This shrinkage means that “fair use” must now shoulder the burden of protecting uses that were before free. Yet there isn’t much precedent protecting these new “fair uses.” For example, there is no case that says it is a “fair use” to give someone a book. That’s because in the analog world, giving someone a book never triggered copyright law, so no one ever needed the copyright defense of “fair use” to authorize that giving. But in the digital world, giving someone a book means making a copy. If that copy is not authorized, then it is only “fair use” that can secure the freedom to share. And those trying to defend the freedom to give must look to a body of “fair use” law built for a different world.

This point is crucial: we now must rely upon a clumsy and expensive legal defense (“fair use”) to protect freedoms that were before taken for granted. No doubt, with all the money and time in the world, we might imagine that “fair use” freedoms would balance out. But this is where DRM becomes a particularly dangerous problem.

For before you can claim your use is “fair,” you must have the technical ability to use the work in a particular way. “Fair use” is a defense; you have to be able to use the material in a way that creates a copyright question before you get to play your defense.

Yet if DRM is deployed the way most of it is designed, then the technology will remove the technical ability to use the work in a way that even gives you the right to make a fair use. “Fair use” would thus not be removed by the law. “Fair use” would be removed by code. And as in the United States at least, it is an offense to build tools to tinker with that code — even if the purpose is “fair use” — you begin to see the danger of DRM: digital technologies have shrunk the range of “free uses” (since every use produces a copy); this new generation of digital technology (DRM) will shrink the range of “fair uses,” by removing even the ability to use content in a way that would otherwise be “fair.”

That’s the problem that DRM creates for “fair use.” How can Creative Commons help solve this problem?

In two important ways:

  1. By building a layer of Creative Commons marked creativity, we increase the range of creative work that doesn’t need the locks of DRM.
  2. By banning the use of DRM that interferes with the freedoms guaranteed by our license, we assure that the freedoms we’ve built into our license are not restricted by DRM. Among these freedoms, the very first is “fair use.” As section 2 of every license says, “Creative Commons licenses do not modify or restrict ‘fair use.'”

Thus we use our licenses to build the freedoms authors want upon a reinforced layer of “fair use” freedoms. Creative Commons is thus “fair use”-plus: a promise that any freedoms given are always in addition to the freedoms guaranteed by the law.

That’s the end of the background. Next week I will describe some of the fun stuff Creative Commons has built, and some more about where we’re going.

Week 3 – CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on Interoperabilty
(Spanish Version – Thanks to Maria Cristinia Alvite for translation)

Archive of Lessig Letters

Support the Commons

Learn More about Creative Commons, view comics and movies about Creative Commons.

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Join the Discussion About Creative Commons & the African Renaissance

Mia Garlick, October 21st, 2005

Creative Commons Nigeria project lead Ayo Kusamotu will be moderating the Internetbar.org’s Africa Committee Forum as part of the upcoming Cyberweek conference to be held soon – October 23-28, 2005. Participating in Cyberweek this year will be 8 bar organizations of Africa, the Attorney General of Lagos state and Nigeria as well as major African media organizations. Topics to be discussed by the Africa Committee Forum include: Internet Telephony, Creative Commons, Ecommerce, CyberCrime, eVoting and Online Dispute Resolution as they relate to Africa. Registration is free and participation will be by way of online discussion forums. Ayo tells us even non-lawyers are welcome!

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Check Out Our New Featured Commoner – The Lonely Island

Mia Garlick, October 20th, 2005

A little while ago, we blogged about Wired’s article about The Lonely Island, LA-based comedy collective, who were recently signed to work with the Saturday Night Live team after releasing their Awesometown comedy pilot under a Creative Commons license. CC recently caught up with “the dudes” in our new Featured Commoner interview.

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CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on Interoperability

Lawrence Lessig, October 19th, 2005

[This is part of a weekly series written by Lawrence Lessig and others about the history and future of Creative Commons.
Alternatively, if you know others who might find these interesting, please recommend they sign up at

http://creativecommons.org/about/lessigletter]

From last week’s episode:
… Like the Free Software Movement, we believed this device would help open a space for creativity freed of much of the burden of copyright law. But unlike the Free Software Movement, our aim was not to eliminate “proprietary culture” as at least some in the Free Software Movement would like to eliminate proprietary software. Instead, we believed that by building a buttress of free culture (meaning culture that can be used freely at least for some important purposes), we could resist the trends that push the other way. Most importantly, the trend fueled by the race to “digital rights management” (DRM) technologies.

What’s wrong with DRM? And what about “fair use”? Great questions. Tune in next week for the start of an answer.

The story continued:

So imagine this happy picture: Your 14 year old daughter has to write a school report about the recent floods in New Orleans. The question she’s assigned is this: “How did people’s views about the disaster differ depending upon their background?” So she does what many kids increasingly do: she goes to the Internet to begin her work. She searches in Google for news about the flood. And she begins to gather places to look to complete her research.

Imagine she finds an archive with sound recordings of victims of the flood. Then she finds collections of news programs, reporting on the flood. Finally she finds some polling data asking about the response the American government should make to the flood, and about views about the responses the government has already made.

Then using these different voices, films, and descriptions, your daughter creates a short film of her own. She integrates the voices from the sound archive as narration, and then takes short clips from the news programs to show differing views. And when she’s finished, she proudly shows you her work, and you (predictably) believe you have the next George Lucas on your hands.

Interoperability. Perhaps the most important thing that the Internet has given us is a platform upon which experience is interoperable. At first, the aim of the computer and network geniuses was simply to find a way to make computers talk to each other. Then application geniuses found ways to make the content that runs on these different devices interoperate on a single digital platform. We are close to a world where any format of sound can be mixed with any format of video, and then supplemented with any format of text or images. There are exceptions; there are some who don’t play in this interoperability game. But the push of the network has been to produce a world where anyone can clip and combine just about anything to make something new. Just as the senses process many different kinds of experiences (sound, images, smell, emotions) and then offer them for translation on a single platform (the brain), so too have digital networks made it possible to combine many forms of media, and make them usable on single platform.

This convergence is what makes your daughter’s creative work possible. Of course, in a sense she’s doing nothing different from what film makers have done for almost a century. But the difference is that she’s not a film maker, and you didn’t have to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment. The digital technologies and the Internet have democratized this way of speaking. And we’re just beginning to see the creativity that this change has produced.

But think for a second about what made it possible for your daughter to produce the film she produced. It wasn’t just the existence of certain technologies — digital technology, and especially the Internet. It was also the absence of other technology — namely, technologies to control how and whether she could use the content she found. When your daughter copied the sound recordings of survivors, the computer didn’t ask, ‘for what purpose?’ When she integrated those recordings into her movie, the software didn’t demand that she show she had permission. She was able to do all the things she did because the technology is oblivious to whether she had permission to do what she did. The Internet was not built with permissions in mind. Free access was the rule.

That free access creates many problems for many — indeed in principle, it might create problems for us all. Record and film companies are notorious for complaining about this Internet feature. Given its original design, you could “share” your complete record and film collection with your 100,000 “best friends.” It’s not surprising that they view this feature rather as a bug. But I suggest any of us might regret this feature of the net in certain circumstances. Do you really like it that someone can take a personal email you sent him and forward it to his 100 best friends?

The point is that however good free access is, sometimes, at least some think its not very good, at least for them. And the most powerful of these some have therefore pushed for technologies that would be layered onto the Internet and enable them, or content owners generally, to control how digital content gets used. So if you buy a song from an online music store, perhaps you can copy it to four or five of your machines, but you can’t copy it 20 times, or post it on the Internet for others to access. Or if you are sent a confidential report, the technologies might disable your ability to print the report, or to move it to a different machine. The ability to control is essentially limitless — imagine any control you’d like, and there’s someone out there working on adding that control to the technologies of the Net.

Call these technologies in general “Digital Rights Management” technologies (DRM). My claim at the end of last week’s missive was that there was a strong push to layer DRM onto the Internet, and that that push was a bad thing.

But I don’t think DRM is a bad thing because I think that violating others’ rights is a good thing. The bad in DRM is that if it is deployed universally as a default, it would move us from one bad extreme to another. No doubt, DRM might make it easier for record companies to stop the illegal spread of their content. But it would also destroy the opportunities for the kind of uses that began this (already too long) email — creative, unexpected, critical use. We would move from a world where free use was the default, to a world where permission for every use would be the rule.

So how would Creative Commons licenses help with this problem? Our view is that they would help restore some balance between both extremes. We believed that if we provided a simple way for creators to say what freedoms they intend their content to carry, that would, for many creators, be enough. Not enough for Hollywood releasing a new film, perhaps. But enough for the widest range of creators who are making accessible their creative work through the Net.

Or put differently, we wanted to offer a technology to make it easy to say what rights were reserved, and what rights were not, which we hope would make it unnecessary to then add technology to enforce the rights reserved. “Digital Rights Expression” was our aim. And our hope was that good DRE would staunch at least some of the demand for crude DRM.

But why not add DRM to the rights expressed through Creative Commons DRE? What’s wrong with a cheap system to enforce the rights still reserved?

There are two problems at least. We can see the first by returning to the picture of what made this network amazing — interoperability. Widespread DRM would disable that interoperability. Or at least, it would disable interoperability without permission first. We could remix, or add, or criticize, using digital content, only with the permission of the content controller. And that requirement of permission first would certainly disable a large part of the potential that the Internet could realize.

The second problem relates to “fair use.” The law of copyright has never given copyright owners the right to perfect control over their copyrighted work. Fair use is a codified exception to that control. As we see them today, DRM technologies cannot respect “fair use.”

Why is that so? And how does Creative Commons respect fair use? Again, stay tuned for next week’s answers.

Week 2 – CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on How it All Began (translated to Spanish — Thanks to Maria Cristinia Alvite for translation)

Archive of Lessig Letters

Support the Commons

Learn More about Creative Commons. Also, there are comics and movies explaining Creative Commons.

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CC Talks With: Lonely Island

Mia Garlick, October 17th, 2005

Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer are the members of The Lonely Island, an LA-based comedy collective, who have released much of their music and video shorts online under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

Also known as “the dudes”, Andy, Jorma and Akiva soon found that they were developing a fan base, some of whom were remixing their music, so they posted these remixes to their site as well.

Earlier this year, “the dudes” shot a pilot for FOX called Awesometown but FOX rejected the pilot. Instead of letting the show wither on a shelf somewhere, the group posted the full video both cut and uncut to their CC-licensed site. The edgy, quirky short spread like wildfire online and eventually landed all three performers jobs on Saturday Night Live (SNL).

In SNL’s Fall 2005 season, Andy Samberg will join as a new cast member, while Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer will join the show as writers.

Creative Commons asked Andy, Jorma and Akiva to explain a little about what had led them down the Creative Commons route & their experience along the way.

Creative Commons (“CC”): How did you hear about Creative Commons?

The Lonely Island (“TLI”): We first started posting our comedy shorts, songs and music videos on the web in 2001. Some of our work involves parodies and remixing, so we were thrilled when our fans began sending us remixed versions of our songs. We even sent some of them the acapella vocal tracks to work with and posted the results. Akiva’s brother suggested we check out the Creative Commons project. Around the same time, our friend DJ Danger Mouse was stirring up a bunch of controversy with the Grey Album.

Ultimately we discovered that by continuing to do what we were already doing and then adding a Creative Commons deed to the page, we could protect ourselves, and our fans. That’s what sold us on it. It lets everyone know that they are free to share and remix our stuff, all the rules are right there – they don’t even need to ask permission. It’s really a win-win.

CC: What attracted the dudes to the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike or BY-NC-SA license?

TLI: The BY-NC-SA seemed like a safe and fair choice. It covers probably 99.99% of our audience’s needs, and anyone who would like to do more with something is free to contact us. Occasionally a commercial website or television network will ask for permission to use a video. We evaluate each offer and sometimes we’ll arrange for a nominal licensing fee.

CC: What were the kinds of reactions (both positive and negative) you experienced as a result of choosing to license the pilot under a Creative Commons license?

TLI: We’re really encouraged by the reaction so far. A lot of people heard about it through Defamer and BoingBoing and the response has been great. Still, many of our viewers don’t notice the Creative Commons license or understand what it is, so we’ve been thinking of some fun ways to get more of them involved. In the meantime, we’re really busy with our new jobs, so we’re grateful we got this opportunity to start spreading the word.

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CC on the Desktop

Nathan Yergler, October 16th, 2005

I spent last Friday through Monday in Boston for the Gnome Boston Hacker Summit, held at MIT’s Stata Center. A free form gathering of hackers and Gnome enthusiasts, I was there to see how Creative Commons licensing and licensed content can work together with one of the leading Free Software desktop environments. The three days of the conference were spent talking to developers, participating in BOFs (Birds-of-a-Feather sessions, where people with similar interests gather) and asking lots of questions like “How do you see CC working with your application?” and “What sort of integration are you interested in?” I came away with several ideas and several promising starting points.

First, we at CC are going to start doing what I’ve been promising for months: packaging our applications for Linux. I don’t have a firm time table, but it’s most likely that ccPublisher 2, due later this year, will be the first out with Linux packages. Second, expect to see Gnome desktop apps adding the ability to expose CC metadata, and in some cases add it at the time of creation. Finally, we’re going to be working on providing developers with the tools and information necessary to make integration a snap.

If you’re a developer and are interested in adding CC to your app, let me know. Or check out the Developer section of our wiki. We’ll be adding more resources there are they become available.

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Common Information Environment Should be CC-licensed

Mia Garlick, October 13th, 2005

Powerful recommendations were made by a recent report entitled “The Common Information Environment and Creative Commons,” released on October 10, 2005. The report was commissioned by a group of key public sector bodies in the United Kingdom including the British Library, the Department for Education & Skills, the Museums Libraries & Archives Council, the National Archives, the Scottish Library & Information Council, the BBC and the National Library of Scotland, among others, who together make up the Common Information Environment. The study was tasked with investigating the potential for Creative Commons or equivalent licenses to clarify and simplify the process of making the electronic resources of the Common Information Environment available for re-use. The study was undertaken by Intrallect and the AHRC Research Centre for Studies in Intellectual Property and Technology Law at The University of Edinburgh and included the results of extensive debate amongst various stakeholders during workshops that consisted of both rightsholders, being representatives of CIE organisations, and users of CIE produced digital resources such as the public, teachers, museums and library staff.

The final recommendations included the following, that:

“Creative Commons licenses are suitable for the publication of many resources produced by public sector organisations, including those produced by organisations in the Common Information Environment, because the baseline conditions and choices can meet many situations.” (p27)
“Common Information Environment organisations that are publishing materials for reuse should use Creative Commons wherever possible.”(p30)
“Public sector organisations which are not members of the Common Information Environment should consider adopting these recommendations.”(p35)

The Report also recommended other work be commenced that will likely broaden the knowledge and improve the ease of implementation of open content licensing in both the public and private sectors generally; these include recommendations that pilot studies be conducted to investigate whether the cost of administering day-to-day requests for permission to use resources are higher than the cost of administering Creative Commons licensing (p33) and recommendations for the development of ‘best practice guides’ for aggregrating and attributing resources.(p34)

Of course, the Report itself is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution UK license.

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Creative Commons Job Opening – Web Designer

Mia Garlick, October 13th, 2005

We’re looking for a Web/Graphic Designer to come and work with us in the San Francisco office. Even if you’re not the person for this job, you can help us hire the right person by forwarding this posting to someone who you think might be that person.

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OpenBusiness – Sharing Business Models

Mia Garlick, October 13th, 2005

So I’m sure we’ve all heard the refrain that free and open content licensing impoverishes artists and creators even further and/or is the bastion of those who don’t want to make money from their creativity. While there have been several examples already that disprove these contentions, a new wiki has been established to build an online resource of innovative business models. Later, the plan is the publish this resource in hardcopy as The OpenBusiness Guide. Examples and ideas of open business models, being entrepreneurial ideas which are built around openness, free services and free access, are invited and will then be ‘peer reviewed’ by comments and through collaboration with other contributors to the wiki.

The goal of OpenBusiness is to analyze and explain models by which people can share their knowledge and creativity with others whilst at the same time enjoying the more traditional incentives of profit, individual success and societal advancement.

OpenBusiness is a collaboration between, among others, Christian Ahlert at Michael Young Foundation in the United Kingdom, Heather Ford from the Link Center in South Africa and Ronaldo Lemos from FGV Law School in Brazil. Christian, Heather and Ronaldo are also involved in the Creative Commons projects in their respective countries. The project is supported by the Open Society Institute, Arts Council England and International Development Research Centre in Canada.

OpenBusiness may serve as an example of what it stands for in many respects – both as an example of the benefits of open collaboration and as an example of a work freely licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license that may also generate revenues.

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