If only sharing were really simple…

Mike Linksvayer, November 21st, 2005

Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie writes that Microsoft has released another RSS extension specification under CC:

One other important point: We’re releasing the SSE specification under a Creative Commons license – Attribution-ShareAlike.
I’m very pleased that Microsoft is supporting the Creative Commons
approach; you can see more about this at in the licensing section at
the end of the spec.

It’s great to see positive recognition of Creative Commons at a high level in Microsoft.

The spec released is meant to making sharing (in the technical sense of data exchange) of calendars and contact lists really simple by building on data formats used to syndicate blogs.

Sharing calendars and contact lists, though conceptually very simple, turns out to be hard, as evinced by the lack of widely adopted solutions that work outside of a single website or corporate network. Sort of reminds one of the conceptual simplicity and harsh reality of sharing creative works, though the obstacles, largely technical and legal respectively, are very different (though something like “standards politics” plays a role in each).

Note that Creative Commons’ office neighbors are also working on interoperable calendar and contact list sharing.


Music 100 years ago, today

Mike Linksvayer, November 19th, 2005

The Cylinder Presservation and Digitization Project has placed online amazing collection of over 5000 recordings from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Unrestored digitizations available as large .wav files are in the public domain, while restored mp3s are licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial, as described in the project’s note on copyright.

Browse the collection. Listen to a 1902 track by Geroge W. Johnson, the first African-American phonograph star, and one from 1914 by Henry Burr, the biggest Canadian star of the era. Needless to say there are some remix possibilities here.

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Discussion Draft – Proposed License Amendment to Avoid Content Ghettos in the Commons

Mia Garlick, November 17th, 2005

For those of us dedicated to creating, expanding and enabling a commons of creativity and knowledge (expressed in a variety of formats), the issue of license interoperability is an important one. Already there has been valuable commentary about the interoperability between content licensed under different types of Creative Commons licenses — specifically, those that permit both commercial and noncommercial uses and those that restrict use to noncommercial uses only. These concerns are valid and important, and we are working to address them in our FAQ and general messaging. It is critical that license adopters make a sufficiently informed choice about which license satisfies their requirements, and that they understand the consequences of their license selection _before_ they choose a license.

However there is another — arguably more pressing — interoperability issue that arises in the context of content licensed under a Creative Commons license and content licensed under other “free” licenses. As many of these licenses are now crafted, there is no way for creativity to be shared among these licenses, even if the underlying freedoms guaranteed by the licenses are the same.

Thus, for example, Wikipedia is licensed under the Free Software Foundation’s GFDL. That license essentially enables the same freedoms as the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license; but you can’t take content from Wikipedia and mix it with BY-SA photos from Flickr because the licenses don’t permit interoperability. Even though the underlying freedoms are the same, the legal codes make the content non-interoperability.

We want to fix this problem. Over the next few months, Creative Commons will be announcing a project to facilitate the federation of free licenses. Our aim is to make the legal code of those licenses interoperable. We will be working with as many representatives from the free culture movement as we can to build this federation of free licenses. We will appreciate your advice and feedback as we do that.

Today we are launching a discussion as a small first step towards that interoperability. This is by no means a solution to the general problem. But it is an effort to smooth the differences between two of the most important free license families.

Many have talked about dual-licensing as a solution to the interoperability problem. That is a good first step, but it raises obvious problem that has been eloquently discussed on our cc-licenses list — namely, that whichever license you take content under, any derivatives that you make must then stay under that license.

To solve that problem, and to begin this discussion of license interoperability, Creative Commons seeks comment on proposed amendments to Creative Commons licenses that contain a ShareAlike license element. These amendments would enable dual licensing of derivatives. By proposing (and hopefully effecting) the amendments posted here, Creative Commons hopes to enable interoperability between “free” content licenses, encourage dual licensing of open content projects and avoid the depletion those projects by barring the return of derivatives to that project. Again, this is not a long term solution. But while we begin the process of discussion to find that long term solution, we believe this will help many important free culture projects achieve a limited interoperability immediately. We are committed to doing whatever we can to assure that creative work licensed freely can move as freely among licenses as the principles embedded in those licenses will allow.

Please circulate your comments to and participate in the debate on the cc-licenses list.


CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on iCommons

Lawrence Lessig, November 16th, 2005

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

Two weeks ago, I described our first efforts to build CC
internationally. That was the beginning of the “iCommons Project.”
Directed from Berlin, this project began with a single objective: to
“port” Creative Commons licenses into the law of local jurisdictions.
Our aim was to build an infrastructure of free licenses
internationally so that creative work could move from jurisdiction to
jurisdiction while preserving the freedoms that the creator chose. In
less than three years, we have over 70 volunteer projects working to
port Creative Commons licenses and 25 jurisdictions that have already
launched their local licenses.

This first effort to build an international Commons has been much
more successful than I ever imagined. There were many sleepless
nights when I worried whether we would find any international
partners Let’s just say the sleeplessness has now moved far from
that concern. Indeed, if anything, we’ve seen the iCommons project
become much more than we imagined. As CC projects developed around
the world, they connected with movements that had the same ideals.
These ideals of a “Commons” are not American. They are human. And as
iCommons opened channels of discussions of these ideals, we began to
recognize that the iCommons Project would have to grow.

Last June, around a hundred of our volunteers from more than 40 of
our iCommons jurisdictions gathered in Boston for the first iCommons
Summit. We began a discussion then about how we could best support
this growing international movement. And as I listened to the
iCommons participants describe the work that they wanted to do, I
realized then that iCommons promised to become much more than the
(relatively) simple project that Creative Commons was. Creative
Commons was launched to build an infrastructure of freedom; iCommons
promised to build a global movement that would embrace and extend (in
the best possible way) that infrastructure of freedom.

So in June, we began to discuss publicly an idea that had been
suggested by one iCommons participant — that we separate iCommons
into its own organization, led by the many young leaders of this
movement from around the world. And with this email, I am very happy
to announce that we have done just that.

iCommons is now a separate nonprofit, organized under the laws of
Britain. Its board will comprise a wide range of activists from
around the world. And while iCommons will continue to support the
spread of Creative Commons licenses, it will also do much more.
iCommons will become the core of a federation of movements all
pushing to enable creativity and the spread of knowledge and culture

Creative Commons will seed this movement with financial and
organizational support (yet another reason we need your support!).
But as iCommons becomes its own movement with its own voice, the role
of Creative Commons in this federation will be just one of many.

What happens then to the project designed to port Creative Commons
licenses internationally? That work will remain with Creative
Commons. Christiane Asschenfeldt will continue to lead that part of
our project. But its work will be focused upon building the legal
infrastructure that Creative Commons needs internationally.
Christiane will continue to identify international volunteers to help
port our licenses in their local jurisdictions. We will continue to
celebrate as these licenses are locally launched. And some (we hope
all) of these local partners of Creative Commons will join iCommons.

So “what more than licenses” is Creative Commons? We’re building an
infrastructure of free licenses internationally. We’re working with
scientists and scholars to extend these ideals to science. And now
we’ve helped seed an international movement that will work with
artists, educators, collecting rights societies, museums, publishers
and governments, to build upon this infrastructure free cultures.

Creative Commons is all this that these emails have described. More
importantly, it is all this that needs your support.

In the next two weeks, I’ll describe two other new initiatives that
will define our work over the next year. And then this path of
missives will turn to consider some criticisms of what we’ve done and
where we’re going. Stay tuned, but fear not: I promise to be finished
by Christmas!


Before I end this week’s email, some news from the fundraising-front:
On November 3 in San Francisco, over 120 supporters and friends of
Creative Commons attended a cocktail event to celebrate new iCommons
board member Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia. The event was sponsored by
the law firms that first launched Creative Commons, Cooley Godward,
and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, as well as a new supporter of
CC – Scharffen Berger Chocolate. Thanks to everyone who helped make
that event a success. And after you view some of the photos from the
, please feel free to join them in supporting CC today!


To link to or comment on this message, go to:

Week 6 – What is Science Commons? By John Wilbanks, Science Commons
Executive Director
– Thanks to Maria Cristinia Alvite for translation

Archive of Lessig Letters

Support the Commons

Learn More

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Building Web 2.0

Mike Linksvayer, November 16th, 2005

It is my duty as a member of the Xtech 2006 program committee to inform you of the call for participation. The theme of the conference, to be held May 16-19 in Amsterdam, is “Building Web 2.0.”

Whatever you think of the Web 2.0 name, it is clear that Creative Commons is highly relevant, as remix of various forms (e.g., of content and web services) is core to the phenomena, with an attendant need for interoperability and flexible copyright licensing.

Xtech 2005 featured presentations from Creative Commons and Science Commons. I hope to hear about projects using Creative Commons at Xtech 2006.

Check out the simultaneously expansive and 100% on point Xtech 2006 CFP now. Proposals are due 2006-01-09.

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New Featured Commoner – Ottmar Liebert

Mia Garlick, November 15th, 2005

Ottmar Liebert is our new Featured Commoner. Ottmar composes, performs and records music in a Nouveau Flamenco style. Seven of his albums have gone platinum and two other albums gold; he has also been nominated for a Grammy. He uses the Creative Commons Sampling Plus license to make large amounts of his music available to the public for remixing. Read more about Ottmar’s musical background and his experience with CC licensing here.

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CC Talks With: Ottmar Liebert

Mia Garlick, November 14th, 2005

Photo © Greg Gorman / Santa Fe

Ottmar Liebert composes, performs and records music in a Nouveau Flamenco style, which mixes elements of flamenco with jazz, bossa nova, and other genres. Seven of his albums have gone platinum and two other albums gold; he has also been nominated for a Grammy.

At Ottmar’s and the Lunanerga site you can both buy CDs and merchandise and, via the Listening Lounge, enjoy music licensed under the Creative Commons Sampling Plus license. The Listening Lounge offers tracks as well as loops and parts. Musicians Jon Gagan, t-one, Canton and Steve Stephen also offer their music via the Listening Lounge.

Creative Commons (“CC”): When did you start recording and performing music? How did you first hear about Creative Commons?

Ottmar Liebert (“OL”): I have been playing guitar since I was eleven years old. I arrived in the USA in May of 1979 and starting out as a dishwasher. I have also worked as a bank teller and a bike messenger. I played in a rockband in Boston for several years. In 1986 I moved to Santa Fe and started playing classical guitar in restaurants. I took Flamenco lessons and recorded “Nouveau Flamenco” in 1989. That album was released in 1990 by Higher Octave Music and sold over 2 million copies. After recording three albums for Higher Octave I signed with Epic Records and stayed with them from 1991 through 2001. I first discovered Creative Commons a couple of years ago by following a link to Professor Lessig’s site.

CC: What attracted you to the idea of Creative Commons?

OL: When I was a teenager, copyright lasted 50 years; now it lasts for much longer. In a time where the wheel turns much faster, we should not extend copyrights. Nowadays corporations are allowed to copyright ideas, mere notions of technology that doesn’t even exist yet. Why would anybody want to invent something that some corporation has already claimed in theory. We are building fences around land we haven’t even approached yet….

I feel that artists create not only in order to experience the process of creation itself, but also for the ripples. I find that the act of creating is like throwing a pebble into a still lake to watch the ripples. Being able to share my work via a CC license enables me to experience more ripples. Sometimes the ripples can inspire more work in me.

Besides using a CC license for my music I also use it for my photos on Flickr as well as for my online journal.

CC: Why did you choose the Sampling Plus license for your music?

OL: Musicians sample one another one way or another. Whether actual samples are used or a cool sound, riff or feel is actually re-created. Might as well officially allow it and even encourage it (see also my answer to the last questions and the concept of ripples)

I am genuinely interested in hearing what other musicians might do with some of my work. In the past I have commissioned people to remix some of my work—this is going a step further.

As a musician I want to take part in the larger cultural landscape, want to see my ideas noted, accepted, reflected, used or otherwise messed with. I want to be swimming in the river of culture, to partake of that larger experience. The Sampling Plus license lets other people know that I am open to that engagement, that exchange.

I read a book by the Japanese Zen Master Uchiyama called “Opening the Hand of Thought.” Using a Sampling Plus license does that for me.

CC: At the Listening Lounge, you offer loops and parts of your tracks, in addition to the completed track. What was the reasoning behind this?

OL: I am not just allowing people to sample the music, I am enabling them to do it by offering isolated tracks. More ripples. And it is theoretically potential business because I can sell the same piece of music as a stereo mix as well as in the form of isolated tracks.

CC: What has been the reaction of fans and visitors to the Listening Lounge?

OL: I feel that introducing people to the Listening Lounge and downloading in general is a process that will take some time. That process is partly one of education. For example, fans have expressed that they prefer to buy the “original” rather than a download and I have to explain that CDs are not original at all. They are no less copies than a download would be. In fact downloading is much more direct than buying a CD in a store.

I think some fans are realizing the advantages of the Listening Lounge. I started a new download-only album of solo-guitar improvisations called “Tears in the Rain.” The pieces are uploaded as they are recorded, rather than waiting for a complete album or manufacturing a CD. A PDF for the album is also available for download with drawings and some writing. At first fans asked for a complete CD release, but soon they discovered how exciting it is to hear music as it is created, since I usually upload the “Tears in the Rain” pieces within a few hours of creating them.

One interesting reaction came from Mark Hamilton’s blog “Notes from a Teacher” who says of the Listening Lounge:

“This really is an amazing site, and obviously the product of someone who has thought long and hard about distributing music in a way that gives fans a range of choices and an enjoyable experience. In short, it treats those who visit as music lovers, not consumers.”

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Opsound Transit

Mike Linksvayer, November 10th, 2005

CC label Opsound launched a completely redesigned site in September, adding a podcast, stream, forum, happenings, and tags.

If you’re into innovative and free sounds, check out Opsound now.

The Opsound news feed is also well worth following. It’s where I discovered SoundTransit, a community collecting under a CC Attribution license, with a cool travel motif and mapping feature.

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What is Science Commons? By John Wilbanks, Science Commons Executive Director

Lawrence Lessig, November 9th, 2005

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

Last week, I said this week’s email would describe the Science
Commons. Let me introduce John Wilbanks, executive director of the
Science Commons. Here’s his description:

Science Commons (SC) was launched in early 2005. SC is a part of
Creative Commons – think of us as a wholly owned subsidiary – drawing
on the amazing success of CC licenses, especially the CC community
and iCommons. But we’re also a little different. Whereas CC focuses
on the individual creators and their copyrights, SC by necessity has
a broader focus. That necessity is caused by, for example, the fact
that most scientists sign employee agreements that assign
intellectual property rights to a host institution. Another example
is that scientific journals regularly request that scientific authors
sign over their copyrights, and scientists eagerly do so in return
for citations in what are called “high impact” journals. There’s a
very real collective action problem here: no one individual or
institution has strong incentives to change the system.

But the system is causing problems in the scientific and academic
communities. Scientific articles are locked behind firewalls, long
after their publishers have realized economic returns. This means
that the hot new article about AIDS research can’t be redistributed
much less translated into other languages (where it might inspire a
local researcher to solve a local problem). The difficulties faced
in relation to the “open access” of publications are easy compared
to those presented when we consider access to tools and data.
Published research indicates that nearly half of all geneticists have
been unable to validate research from colleagues due to problems with
secrecy and legal friction.

So Science Commons works on these problems: inaccessible journal
articles, tools locked up behind complex contracts, socially
irresponsible patent licensing, and data obscured by technology or
end-user licensing agreements. We translate this into projects, with
work in three distinctly different project spaces: publishing
(covered by copyright), licensing (covered by patent and contract)
and data (in the US, covered only by contract). We work on agreements
between funders and grant recipients, between universities and
researchers and between funders and universities—all in the service
of opening up scientific knowledge, tools and data for reuse. We
also promote the use of CC licensing in scientific publishing, on the
belief that scientific papers need to be available to everyone in the
world, not simply available to those with enough resources to afford
subscription fees.

The Publishing Project

Scholarly communication in the sciences generally involves three
components: data generated by experimental research, a peer-reviewed
article explaining and interpreting the data, and metadata that
describes or interprets the underlying data or the article.
Traditionally, journal publishers were predominantly responsible for
gathering, distributing and archiving this information.

The Internet and associated digital networks create a range of
opportunities and challenges for changing the nature of what
information gets stored and communicated, how and when it gets
communicated, and how it is marked with metadata to aid in its use
and reuse. Science Commons is devoted to using its legal and
technical expertise to help scientific researchers make the best use
possible of these new communication technologies. For example, some
science publishers experimenting with a new business model for
scholarly communication require authors of peer-reviewed articles to
grant a Creative Commons license in their articles. These publishers
include the Public Library of Science, BioMed Central, and Springer

Science Commons also has convened a working group to discuss other
means for better associating research articles with research data and
for standardizing metadata associated with both of these components.

The Licensing Project

In licensing, we work in a focused manner on the funding of disease
research. Such work involves a lot of basic science carried out by
many individuals at a diverse range of institutions, both public and
private, and each with different policies about intellectual property
rights, different licensing agreements, and, to some extent, even
different funders. When the research begins to yield the kinds of
leads that might attract drug company attention, it will be desirable
(both in remuneration, and also in encouragement to pharmaceutical
companies interest and participation) to offer drug companies an
efficient package of rights that covers the basic permissions they
need to turn research into viable drugs and treatment regimens. The
current practice will certainly not allow the benefits of such “one
stop shopping.”

Using Huntington’s Disease research as a case study, Science Commons
is exploring a “technology trust,” which will combine an intellectual
property rights conservancy, patent pool and other related rights-
bundling methods. We are assessing the types of problems of rights-
fragmentation, a range of possible legal solutions to this problem
(including compulsory terms in funder agreements), the institutional
design of the trust or conservancy, and the question of what
institution would be best suited to administer such a trust or
conservancy. While the project aims to produce a method to ameliorate
the problem for Huntington’s, we would hope to provide guidelines for
solving such problems more generally.

The Data Project

In the United States, there is no intellectual property right on data
(there is such a right in the European Union, albeit with mounting
evidence that it was not needed). But current expansions in
intellectual property law could generate an entirely new set of
obstacles to sharing data among scientists or with the public.
Extending intellectual property rights to databases are likely to
result in basic data being locked up, made more expensive, or more
easily subjected to restrictive licensing agreements.

Additionally, there is a wasteful data economy evolving in which raw
data is not made accessible; scientists are either leery of the risks
of losing control over their data or subject to institutional
requirements that mandate a closed approach. Implicit in data sets
are answers to questions the researcher perhaps did not specify –
answers that are a consequence of the throughput of the experiment.
This data could be reused many times over if properly annotated and
preserved. This, however, requires a cultural shift among scientists,
not a technical shift driven by lawyers.

The Science Commons Data project has two aspects. First, we assert
that data should not be covered by intellectual property law. As part
of this project we provide a resource for database providers
struggling with licensing. Second, we are looking to improve on the
data economy by aiding in the construction of an integrated web of
data, papers, tools, and policy with the explicit goal of
facilitating research into brain disease – the NeuroCommons.

John Wilbanks

To link to or comment on this message, go to:

Week 5 – CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on Continuing the Movement (Spanish
– Thanks to Maria Cristinia Alvite for translation

Archive of Lessig Letters

Support the Commons

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Create & remix like a teenager

Mike Linksvayer, November 7th, 2005

Many people have written to tell us about the Pew Internet & American Life report on Teen Content Creators and Consumers, which found an astounding 57 percent of online teens in the U.S. create online content and 19 percent are remixers.

The report doesn’t mention Creative Commons, though the implications are apparently obvious to our correspondents and many in the media, for example this BBC article on the study, which lists Creative Commons as one of two related links (the other being the study itself): participatory culture is only just getting started and flexible copyright licenses are a necessary part of the equation.

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