Commoner Letter #2 – Cory Doctorow

Melissa Reeder, October 29th, 2007

To the Commoners community, from Cory Doctorow:

My writing career and Creative Commons are inextricably bound together. My first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, was published by Tor, the largest science fiction publisher in the world, on January 9, 2003, just a few days after CC launched its first licenses. I was the first author to use the licenses, applying them to my book and releasing it for free online on the same day it appeared in stores. Today, the book has been through more printings than I can keep track of, been translated into more languages than I know, and has been downloaded more than 750,000 times from my site alone (I don’t know the total number of downloads, because, of course, anyone is free to redistribute it).

I’ve applied Creative Commons licenses to all my books since, including the comics that IDW just adapted from six of my short stories. I use CC for my speeches, for my articles and op-eds, and for articles and stories that I write for “straight” magazines from Forbes to Radar. My co-editors and I use CC licenses for our popular blog, Boing Boing, one of the most widely read blogs in the world. These licenses have allowed my work to spread far and wide, into corners of the world I never could have reached. I hear from sailors on battleships, volunteers working in the developing world, kids in underfunded school-districts, and people who “don’t usually read this sort of thing” but found my work because a friend was able to introduce them to it. My readers have made innumerable technical remixes, fan-fic installments, fan-art drawings, songs, translations and other fun and inspiring creative works from mine, each time humbling and inspiring me (and enriching me!).

CC turns my books from nouns into verbs. My books *do stuff*, get passed around and recut and remade to suit the needs of each reader, turned to their hand the way that humans always have adapted their tools and stories to fit their circumstances. As Tim O’Reilly says, my problem is not piracy, it’s obscurity, and CC licenses turn my books into dandelion seeds, able to blow in the wind and find every crack in every sidewalk, sprouting up in unexpected places. Each seed is a possibility, an opportunity for someone out there to buy a physical copy of the book, to commission work from me, to bring me in for a speech. I once sold a reprint of an article of mine to an editor who saw it in a spam message — the spammer had pasted it into the “word salad” at the bottom of his boner-pill pitch to get past the filters. The editor read the piece, liked it, googled me, and sent me a check.

CC lets me be financially successful, but it also lets me attain artistic and ethical success. Ethical in the sense that CC licenses give my readers a legal framework to do what readers have always done in meatspace: pass the works they love back and forth, telling each other stories the way humans do. Artistic because we live in the era of copying, the era when restricting copying is a fool’s errand, and by CC gives me an artistic framework to embrace copying rather than damning it.

Writers all over the world are adopting CC licenses, creating an artistic movement that treats copying as a feature, not a bug. As a science fiction writer, this is enormously satisfying: here we have artists who are acting as though they live in the future, not the past. CC is changing the world, making it safe for copying, and just in time, too.

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Source for Creative Commons Licensed (Live)Content

Jon Phillips, October 28th, 2007

Russell from, a proud sponsor of the LiveContent project which you can help fill up with CC licensed content, sent over a link from which lists 25+ sources of Creative Commons licensed content.

While Creative Commons only provides free open content licenses and doesn’t have a database or store content, we have a list on our wiki (which you can add your project to!) of content providers, which we call Content Directories.

If your favorite CC-license-powered project isn’t listed, then add it with this form. The LiveContent project will be automagically (isn’t that last years word?) pull down content from the Content Directories to give a snapshot of the CC-licensed content universe. So, please step up to the plate, add your favorite project to the Content Directories page and participate in LiveContent.

LiveContent 2.0 will go to the printers in mid-to-late November, so now’s the time to participate :)

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Music business futures: classical and services

Mike Linksvayer, October 28th, 2007

Matt Haughey (CC’s Creative Director 2002-2005) on how to see the future of the music business in today’s classical music business.

Lucas Gonze (worked on an early version of ccMixter in 2004) on the business of artist services, see comments on followup posts (roundup) for insightful discussion of the role of artists, artist services, labels, and tastemakers, featuring among others Victor Stone (ccMixter leader and remixer), Gurdonark (ambient musician and ccMixter participant), and Derek Sivers (CDBaby).

That was better than over 90% of music conference panels, and nobody had to fly anywhere.

Previous on tastemakers.

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New Zealand Successfully Ports Creative Commons Licenses

Michelle Thorne, October 26th, 2007

October has been one busy month — The CC Team in Greece held a phenomenal launch at the University of Athens (video, photos), Luxembourg became the 40th jurisdiction to port the CC licenses, CC HQ kicked off our 3rd annual fundraising campaign, and now:

New Zealand will now offer Creative Commons licenses adapted to its national law.

The Project Lead in NZ, Dr. Brian Opie, worked with his legal team under the auspices of Te Whāinga Aronui The Council for the Humanities in collaboration with Creative Commons to bring the licensing suite to New Zealand.

The launch will be celebrated October 27 in Wellington at the National Library, followed by a free seminar hosted by Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand on the new licensing environment in the digital world.

Congratulations, New Zealand!

Event on Yahoo! Upcoming.


Carved Maori Pole, photo by dartio licensed under CC BY-NC-SA.

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Help develop a course on Creative Business in the Digital Era

Mike Linksvayer, October 24th, 2007


The Open Rights Group, in collaboration with 01zero-one and funded by the London Development Agency, is beginning an exciting new research project, examining how the internet enables creative entrepreneurs to develop innovative business practices by being more open with their intellectual property. Creative Business in the Digital Era will examine new business models and the wider context in which they sit, culminating in one day-long and two evening courses at which we will share our findings.

In the fine tradition of eating our own dogfood, we are developing the course out in the open, and under a Creative Commons licence, using a wiki. But we need your help. We have only a couple of months to do our research, so we need you to help us shape of the course, figure out the format of the case studies, and carry out research. Time is genuinely tight – we must complete all the course materials by the beginning of February, ready for delivery in March.

Right now, this week, we need your ideas. What open-IP business models have you come across? And who is experimenting with opening up their IP?

This is a fantastic project with a mandate to deliver results quickly. You can participate in the research phase immediately just by tagging relevant resources on with org-cbde, or dive into the course development wiki. Follow the project’s blog and twitter.

Here are some recent and possibly relevant links from this blog, culled from the bi-monthly CC Newsletter‘s “CC in Business” links:

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Cameron Parkins, October 23rd, 2007

RIP.MIX.BURN.BAM.PFA, an art exhibit that celebrates “the cultural and artistic practice of remix”, opens this Friday at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA). From BAM/PFA:

RIP.MIX.BURN.BAM.PFA […] invit[es] guest artists to “rip, mix, and burn” elements from two digital-media works in the museum’s collection—Ken Goldberg’s Ouija 2000 and Valéry Grancher’s 24h00 (both 1999)—resulting in new artistic creations. Drawing from the open-source software tradition, with the permission of artists Goldberg and Grancher, the remix artists may alter or revise original code or media files from the source works, or they may choose to take a more conceptual route, remixing some of the methods or behaviors of the originals into their own new works.

We are co-hosting the opening of RIP.MIX.BURN.BAM.PFA, and as such there will be plenty of CC schwag and “free beer” come this Friday. The exhibit looks to be quite the happening, so make sure to check it out if you are interested!

Head to the upcoming page for more info.

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Opportunies to work at Creative Commons’ San Francisco office

Jennifer Yip, October 23rd, 2007

ccLearn, the education division of Creative Commons, is looking to fill a new internship position. This position will focus on the interface of digital educational resources and search technology. We are collaborating with Google, among other organizations, to build a functional search engine that will find and highlight open educational resources, as well as any other high-quality educational resources that are available online. The position requires a comfort with technology, knowledge of basic web research skills, and ability to stay on task and get the work done, and the capacity to understand and evaluate diverse types of educational materials. Ideally, the intern will be based at the San Francisco office, but outstanding applicants in the greater Bay Area or beyond who want to work remotely will be considered.

CC is also searching for a full time accountant!

If you are interested in applying, please follow the instructions below these job descriptions on our Opportunities page. Also, feel free to forward these opportunities to anyone who may fit either of the description.

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BloodSpell: first full length machinima feature released

Mike Linksvayer, October 23rd, 2007

Bloodspell, the machinima film project we mentioned last November, has been released as an 84 minute feature. This is a first feature length machinima production, and it’s released under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license:

We`re fairly sure BloodSpell is the largest Machinima film ever created. It`s an independent film that, because it is using Machinima technology, isn`t subject to the usual limitations of smaller films. But, at the same time, we don`t have the politics, money and producers of a Hollywood production involved, so we can experiment with ideas, styles and attitudes that wouldn`t be possible in a more top-heavy Hollywood production.

Of course, we still have some limitations, and BloodSpell won`t be beating out `Lord of the Rings` for visual effects. But we hope that what we lack in slick polish, we can make up for in originality and passion.

The other unique thing about BloodSpell is the way it`s being released. We will be releasing BloodSpell under a Creative Commons license, meaning that it will be free both to download and to modify: in other words, where even many indie filmmakers might get upset if you put their work up on Bittorrent or translate it into a new language, we`ll be encouraging work like that, and supporting it as much as possible.

Via Boing Boing, which calls BloodSpell “a pioneering and important start for a new industry.”

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Cameron Parkins, October 22nd, 2007

Artabase is a beta social networking site for the arts community that “aims to become the world’s best online database of art history” by turning contemporary event listings into a growing database of artistic happenings. Artabase’s concept is based around a collective definition of history, and as such, they recently adopted CC-licences in their uploading process for images – keeping their imagery as open as their text. Artabase joins, amongst others in the online art world, in embracing CC-licensing.

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CC Talks With: Beatpick

Cameron Parkins, October 22nd, 2007

BeatPick is a record label started in London that bills itself as a “FairPlay” music label. From the BeatPick website, users can enjoy a range of different styles of music from all over the world, from pop to electronic to hip-hop to rock; all licensed to the public under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. The website is available in English, Italian, and Chinese (with Spanish coming soon).

The idea for BeatPick came from founder David d’Atri’s Masters in Business Economics thesis. BeatPick made its public debut in February of 2006. As of October 2007, BeatPick represents around 120 artists with over 3,000 music tracks. In addition to BeatPick’s London base, the company has recently opened an office in Rome, Italy as a result of being partially acquired by an Italian software company.

Creative Commons’s former general counsel Mia Garlick caught up with founder David d’Atri earlier this year to learn more about the company, its artists, its business model, and how it uses Creative Commons licenses to achieve its goals.

It requires quite some determination to take something from a Masters project to a real live business; what was the driving force that lead you to turn BeatPick into a reality?

As a young adult, I was involved in setting up a small label: we specifically did not put a copyright warning on our vinyl and did not pay the collecting societies which we were not members of anyhow. Later on, we began to encourage people to download our music for free from our website. We felt that this was an acceptable way of getting known and making money.

During my studies, I began investigating if whether or not by relaxing the rigid existing copyright laws and decriminalizing file sharing, the music market could become truly competitive. I was also increasingly interested in finding out if it was possible to devise new business strategies that were radically different from traditional ones.

After having completed my MSC, I was hired at a small record label in London where I acquired some practical experience in music licensing. I soon realized that I wanted to replicate the model I had previously used with my old label but on a larger scale. I was curious if I could come up with my own system, something that would provide me with a secure legal framework; that’s when I found out about Creative Commons. I suppose it was discovering the much-debated issues with Creative Commons that really encouraged me to embark on a project like BeatPick.

Read More…

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