[This is part of a weekly series written by Lawrence Lessig and others about the history and future of Creative Commons.
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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)No Comments »
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.No Comments »
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.No Comments »
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.No Comments »
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.No Comments »
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.No Comments »
[This email is part of a weekly series written by Lawrence Lessig and others about the history and future of Creative Commons.]
CC: Aims and Lessons
So what problem was Creative Commons trying to solve? And from what in the past did we learn?
Creative Commons took its idea — give away free copyright licenses — from the Free Software Movement. But the problem we aimed to solve was somewhat different.
When Richard Stallman launched the Free Software Foundation just over 20 years ago, he was responding to something new in the world of software development. In his experience, software had been free, in the sense that the source code was freely accessible and could be freely modified. But by the early 1980s, this norm was changing. Increasingly, software was proprietary, meaning the source code was hidden, and users were not free to understand or modify that source code. Stallman thus launched his movement to build a buttress against this trend, by developing a free operating system within which the freedoms he had known could continue.
The story with culture is somewhat different. We didn’t begin with a world without proprietary culture. Instead, there has always been proprietary culture — meaning work protected by an exclusive right. And in my view at least, that’s not a bad thing either. Artists need to eat. Authors, too. A system to secure rewards to the creative community is essential to inspiring at least some creative work.
But for most of our history, the burdens imposed by copyright on other creators, and upon the culture generally, were slight. And there was a great deal of creative work that could happen free of the regulation of the law. Copyright was important to cultural development, but marginal. It regulated certain activities significantly, but left most of us free of copyright’s control.
All that began to change with the birth of digital technologies, and for a reason that no one ever fully thought through.
If copyright regulates “copies,” then while a tiny portion of the uses of culture off the net involves making “copies,” every use of culture on the net begins by making a copy. In the physical world, if you read a book, that’s an act unregulated by the law of copyright, because in the physical world, reading a book doesn’t make a copy. On the Internet, the same act triggers the law of copyright, because to read a book in a digital world is always to make a “copy.” Thus, as the world moves online, many of the freedoms (in the sense of life left unregulated by the law of copyright) disappear. Every use of copyrighted content at least presumptively triggers a requirement of permission. The failure to secure permission places a cloud of uncertainty over the legality of the use. (The critical exception in the American tradition is “fair use,” which I’ll talk about next week.)
Now many don’t care about clouds of uncertainty. Many just do what they want, and ignore the consequences (and not just on the Net). But there are some, and especially some important institutions like schools, universities, governments, and corporations that rightly hesitate in the face of that uncertainty. Some, like an increasing number of universities, would require express permission to use material found on the Internet in classrooms. Some, like an increasing number of corporations, would expressly ban employees from using material they find on the web in presentations. Thus just at the moment that Internet technologies explode the opportunities for collaborative creativity and the sharing of knowledge, uncertainty over permissions interferes with that collaboration.
We at Creative Commons thought this was a kind of legal insanity — an insanity, that is, created by the law. Not because we believe people ought to be forced to share. But because we believe that many who make their work available on the Internet are happy to share. Or happy to share for some purposes, if not for others. Or eager that their work be spread broadly, regardless of the underlying rules of copyright. And these people, we thought, could use a simple way to say what their preferences were.
And thus the motivation for CC licenses: A simple way for authors and artists to express the freedoms they want their creativity to carry. Creators who want to say “All Rights Reserved” need not apply. But creators who want just “Some Rights Reserved” could use our licenses to express that idea simply. And individuals and institutions that wanted to use work they’ve found on the Internet could do so without fearing they would be confused with those who believe in “No Rights Respected” when it comes to copyright.
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.
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Week 1 – CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on Supporting the Commons
Week 1 – CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on Supporting the Commons – Spanish version
http://mirrors.creativecommons.org/translations/lessig-letter-1-es.pdf (Thanks to Maria Cristinia Alvite for translation)
Support the Commons
In May we noted the first ccMixter user to be discovered and signed to a record label via their participation in ccMixter. Now we have the first record label started by people who first met on the site. Victor Stone explains:
Cezary Ostrowski from Poland and Marco Raaphorst from Holland met online at ccMixter and decided to go into business together. They started an online label called DiSfish where 5% of all sale proceeds to goes to CC, 5% goes to charity and the rest is split between the label and the artist. All music on the label is licensed under CC.
Victor Stone (that’s me) from Berkeley and Robert Doiel from southern California met online at ccMixter and collaborated (without ever
meeting) on an album of Doeil’s compositions called ‘Fourstones plays Weird Polymer’ and decided to release it exclusively on DiSfish
The entire album is available for listening, purchasing or licensing.
Thanks Victor, Robert, Cezary, and Marco!No Comments »
So today, Creative Commons launches its first fund raising campaign. Until now, we’ve lived on very generous grants from some very wise foundations. But the IRS doesn’t allow nonprofits to live such favored lives for long. To maintain our nonprofit status, the IRS says we must meet a “public support test” — which means we must demonstrate that our support comes from more than a few foundations. And thus, this campaign.
This email is a pitch, asking for your support. But it is also the first in a series of emails I will write explaining what Creative Commons is, and where we’re going with it. This is something I should have done long ago. There have been many thoughtful (even if some not so thoughtful) questions raised about who we are, and where we’re going. I’ve wanted an excuse to answer them thoughtfully before. The IRS has given me that excuse.
You’re on this list because you’ve signed up to receive information about Creative Commons or been a friend to CC in the past. If these weekly emails from me (from now until Christmas, around 500 words in length, except for this one which is a bit long) will be a bother, please unsubscribe at http://creativecommons.org/about/newsletter#unsubscribe. Alternatively, if you know others who might find these interesting, please recommend they sign up at http://creativecommons.org/about/newsletter.
This first email won’t have much news to current friends of Creative Commons. You probably know all this. My aim in this initial missive is to explain what Creative Commons is, and why we launched it. There will be some bragging about what we’ve accomplished so far. Don’t worry, these emails are from me, and not a press department. There will be plenty of self-criticism later on. For the moment, let’s focus on the positive idea that got CC going.
CC: The Story
Creative Commons was conceived in a conversation I had with Eric Eldred. I was representing Eric in his case challenging the United States Congress’ Copyright Term Extension Act. Eric was enthusiastic about the case, but not optimistic about the results. Early on, he asked me whether there was a way that we could translate the energy that was building around his case into something positive. Not an attack on copyright, but a way of using copyright to support, in effect, the public domain.
I readily agreed, not so much because I had a plan, but because, naive lawyer that I was, I thought we’d win the case, and Eric would forget the dream. But nonetheless, long before the Supreme Court decided to hear Eldred’s plea, a bunch of us had put together the plan to build the Creative Commons.
We stole the basic idea from the Free Software Foundation — give away free copyright licenses. Because copyright is property, the law requires that you get permission before you “use” a copyrighted work, unless that use is a “fair use.” The particular kind of “use” that requires permission is any use within the reach of the exclusive rights that copyright grants. In the physical world, these “exclusive rights” leave lots unregulated by copyright. For example, in the real world, if you read a book, that’s not a “fair use” of the book. It is an unregulated use of the book, as reading does not produce a copy (except in the brain, but don’t tell the lawyers).
But in cyberspace, there’s no way to “use” a work without simultaneously making a “copy.” In principle, and again, subject to fair use, any use of a work in cyberspace could be said to require permission first. And it is that feature (or bug, depending upon your perspective) that was the hook we used to get Creative Commons going.
The idea (again, stolen from the FSF) was to produce copyright licenses that artists, authors, educators, and researchers could use to announce to the world the freedoms that they want their creative work to carry. If the default rule of copyright is “all rights reserved,” the express meaning of a Creative Commons license is that only “some rights [are] reserved.” For example, copyright law gives the copyright holder the exclusive right to make “copies” of his or her work. A Creative Commons license could, in effect, announce that this exclusive right was given to the public.
Which freedoms the licenses offer is determined both by us (deciding which freedoms are important to secure through CC licenses) and by the creator who selects from the options we make available on our website. The basic components have historically been four: (1) Attribution (meaning the creator requires attribution as a condition of using his or her creative work), (2) NonCommercial (meaning the creator allows only noncommercial uses of his or her work), (3) No Derivatives (meaning the creator asks that the work be used as is, and not as the basis for something else), and (4) Share Alike (meaning any derivative you make using the licensed work must also be released under a Share Alike license).
These four options — when each is an option — produce 11 possible licenses. But when we saw that 98% of our adopters chose the “attribution” requirement, we decided to drop attribution as an option. That means we now offer 6 core licenses:
- Attribution (use the work however you like, but give me attribution)
- Attribution-ShareAlike (use the work however you like, but give me attribution, and license any derivative under a Share Alike license)
- Attribution-NoDerivatives (use the work as is, and give me attribution)
- Attribution-NonCommercial (use the work for noncommercial purposes, and give me attribution)
- Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (use the work for noncommercial purposes, as is, and with attribution)
- Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (use the work for noncommercial purposes, give me attribution, and license any derivative under a ShareAlike license)
(We also offer a couple of other specialty licenses that I’ll describe in a later post).
These options get added to a basic template license. That template assures that the creator (1) retains his or her copyright, (2) affirms that any fair use, first sale, or free expression rights are not affected by the CC license, and (3) so long as the adopter respects the conditions the creator has imposed, the license gives anyone in the world four freedoms: (i) to copy the work, (ii) to distribute the work, (iii) to display or publicly perform the work, and (iv) to make a digital public performance of the work (i.e., webcasting). Finally, the license also requires the adopter to (1) get permission for any uses outside of those granted, (2) keep any copyright notices intact, (3) link to the license, (4) not alter the license terms, and (5) not use technology (i.e., DRM) to restrict a licensee’s rights under the license.
The licenses give creators a simple way to mark their creativity with the freedoms they want it to carry by default. The license is an invitation to others to ask for permission for uses beyond those given by default. A “Noncommercial” license does not mean the creator would never take money for his or her creativity. It means simply, “Ask if you want to make a commercial use. No need to ask if you want to make just a noncommercial use.”
We launched Creative Commons in December, 2002. Within a year, we counted over 1,000,000 link-backs to our licenses. At a year and a half, that number was over 1,800,000. At two, the number was just about 5,000,000. At two and a half years (last June), the number was just over 12,000,000. And today — three months later — Yahoo! reports over 50,000,000 link-backs to our licenses. “Link-backs” are not really a count of how many objects are licensed under Creative Commons licenses – a single license could cover 100,000 songs in a music database for example, or a single blog might have multiple instances of the license. But the growth does measure something: The uptake of Creative Commons licenses is growing fast, and indeed, far faster than I ever dreamed.
Next week: What problems did we aim to solve and what examples from the past did we learn from.
German version: http://irights.info/index.php?id=439 (Thanks to iRights.info for translation.)
To sign up for future emails from Lawrence Lessig, go to: http://creativecommons.org/about/newsletter
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For more on the licenses, see: http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/fullrights10 Comments »
Brad Sucks is a staff favorite musician that posts all his music online and under CC licenses. Brad’s posted most of his tracks to Mixter and got enough remixes in response that he recently collected them into a complete remix album (based on his original songs). Now he’s part of a new Online Collaboration Contest over at MyVirtualBand. The terms for all contributions are CC licensed as well. We here at Creative Commons are looking forward to all the collaborative music that comes from musicians all around the world thanks to this contest.No Comments »