Last weekend I spent Saturday morning writing the Creative Commons License Application for Facebook. The premise is simple: installing the application allows Facebook users choose and place a CC license badge on their profile page indicating which license they want their content to be available under. Alongside the badge is text that explains what content (Photos, Videos and Status & Profile text are currently available as options) is licensed.
Users also have the option to allow the application to update their status so that news of their license choice will appear in their friends’ feed. Selecting this option will help grow our application’s audience exponentially, so we would encourage you to choose it.
There are some limitations to this application and you should consider it in beta, so apologies in advance if things break or don’t work properly. Perhaps the largest limitation is that works can only be licensed on a per-profile basis. This means that you must make the decision to license all of your work of a given media type (e.g., all of your photos) under a particular CC license or none at all. Unless Facebook integrates CC license choices into their Photo application, licensing works on a per-photo basis (as users have the freedom to do on sites like Flickr and Wikimedia Commons) is not possible. Thus, this implementation of a CC licenses on Facebook is a stop-gap solution to true integration into the service. If you’ve got other ideas or find other bugs for our application, please head over to our wiki and post them.
Otherwise, go now and install the Creative Commons License Application and let your friends know that you’ve chosen a CC license for your content on Facebook!
Thanks to everyone who helped me conceptualize and test this application, and especially to the “Creative Commons on Facebook” group of 5,000+ users who kept encouraging us to move forward.16 Comments »
As CC continues to grow and expand, one of the best ways we’ve found to communicate our mission and what our licenses can provide to new members of our community is by letting the rest of the community do the talking. We highlight stories on our blog and twitter, work with groups to flesh out pages in our case studies project, and regularly do interviews with specific community members whose work is illuminating of what CC does and what we are constantly trying to accomplish. In the past we called these interviews Featured Commoner pieces, but in an effort to increase clarity these will now be called CC Talks With.
To re-boot our efforts we have a reached out to a number of individuals working on great projects and have a number interviews waiting in the wings for the coming weeks. Our first is with MCM, an author, TV producer, and creative mind who recently began work on his new project, TorrentBoy, a CC-licensed experiment in fan fiction. MCM has been utilizing CC licenses almost as long as we’ve been around, so it is fitting to re-launch this series with someone whose perspective has evolved as much as we have in our short history. Read on to learn more about MCM’s work and his thoughts on how CC licenses can be used to help promote sharing and unintended reuse.
Can you give our readers a bit of background on yourself and the TorrentBoy project? What is your own personal history leading you to this point in your career? How did TorrentBoy begin and what is it’s current status? More importantly, what is the book about?
My history is a long and complicated subject that can make grown men cry, so I’ll skip it and get right to the fun part. In 2001, I created a web-based animated show called Dustrunners, which, when it died, became the first Creative Commons-licensed series (it used CC SA before the licenses had reached 1.0). I’d always had a passion for the open sharing of ideas and culture, and when I heard the goals that Creative Commons had set out, I was hooked. Since Dustrunners, I have made sure that every single product I’ve made (and own the rights to) has been CC-licensed, and I irritate random people on the street with my evangelism. Investment bankers are generally hostile to the idea, but everyone else at least smiles at me.
Since then, I’ve written a bunch of other “free culture” books, most (in)famously The Pig and the Box, which teaches kids about the evils of Digital Rights Management. The fact that the book was translated into 15 languages and downloaded and shared well over 1.5 million times (that I could count) really cemented in my mind the fact that Creative Commons enables creators to do fantastic things.
Four years ago, I created this idea for a show called RollBots, which now airs on YTV in Canada and will be launching on the CW4Kids in the US, with toys by Mattel. Not to sound ungrateful, but there’s just something about the “closed” nature of major TV productions that irked me. The show is great, and the people that work on it are excellent, but it always felt like there was some potential that had been left untapped. Something we couldn’t see from inside out little castle that would have made it better.
TorrentBoy is my answer to that nagging doubt. It’s an entirely “open source” franchise, where anybody can come in and build upon the first book I wrote and make it their own. There are no boundaries to it, no limits to what can be done… TorrentBoy can go on adventures I could never dream of, in languages I will never speak, and take on an entirely new life that traditional media like RollBots can never achieve (at least not until I’ve been dead for a few decades). It’s parallel, but different. Probably the best thing I’ve ever done.
The first book in the series, Zombie World! is cheekily about a kid named Wesley who has a talking watch that turns him into the super-powered TorrentBoy, so he can fight enemies like proton leeches and an army of zombies, and save the world. He’s got a teddy bear named Crash, and Crash has a “waser bwaster”, and the two of them get into all kinds of trouble as they battle the evil Lord Thorax. There are certainly a lot of bittorrent analogies to it, but at its heart, it’s just a good, fun adventure book for kids. In its first month of publication, it sold 463 copies (physical and eBooks), and was downloaded another 120,000 times. A good start, but that’s just the start.
TorrentBoy is released under CC BY-NC-SA license and is designed to be shared, remixed, and expanded upon. Why did you choose to go this route? What obstacles and benefits have you encountered by using a CC license?
The logistics of the license were a big concern for me. I wanted to ensure that people could feel free to do what they wanted to do, but I was also concerned that as a franchise, the collective work could suffer if sub-standard works could be sold alongside the really great stuff. So while everyone is free to participate, only select participants can actually “cash in” on their work. It’s an imperfect system, but it’s as close as I think we can get.
The biggest obstacle with the CC license thus far is, interestingly, my unintended role as the “benevolent dictator” (not my term). Despite the fact that, really, anyone can do anything they like, I am still asked for insights into various issues on a regular basis. There’s one really nice guy who sends me daily emails for feedback on ideas he has about a book he’s writing. I love answering his questions, but in my mind it’s more like brainstorming than informing… but I know the freedom of CC licenses is sometimes hard for people to understand. I still get emails from people asking of they can print a copy of “The Pig and the Box” for their friend, no matter how hard I work to explain the significance of the license.
On the other hand, the benefits are evident already. Just the fact that there IS someone writing a book about TorrentBoy is amazing. Another amazingly supportive contributor has made a bunch of t-shirts and designs for the project, and others are working on a comic book. With RollBots, I had a select few people taking my ideas and making them live… but with CC, I’ve got the same effect on a massive scale, with ideas you just can’t get without the genius of the commons.
You state that it is a conscious experiment in Fan Fiction – how does the CC license enable that?
Fanfic is a tricky thing, isn’t it? You have an established concept that people love so much they want to expand upon it… but even if they do the most amazing things, it’s still second-class to the world. There are some really great fanfic writers out there; artists as well. What TorrentBoy hopes to demonstrate is that legitimizing those fans is an excellent way to grow your universe and make it richer. You can either do that by blessing “unauthorized” derivative works, or you can give blanket permission to the world to do as they please, and see what happens. I hate the idea of people creating things they love under the shadow of illegality.
What kind of derivative works have begun appearing? As a creator, how do you feel about these derivative works? How are you aggregating them and keeping track of what is created?
There’s at least one book being written that I know of, as well as a comic (or two, I’m not sure). There are some posters in the works, and I have heard there’s a video game of some kind too. Someone is apparently planning a kind of Alternate Reality Game, and I myself am working on both a standard novel and a collaborative one, where we map out the structure and tag-team our way through a first draft. I keep track of the derivative works as much as I can, but I know that, to a certain extent, people will be creating in isolation for the first while, so I probably don’t know about half of the stuff that’s going on.
One of the great ideas I saw floated a few weeks ago was to branch the main TorrentBoy story off into a steampunk variant, set in the late 1800s, with one of TorrentBoy‘s predecessors and his battles to save the world. I don’t know if anyone is running with that idea, but I think it’s an amazing concept, and I’d love to see it happen.
I think creating a show for TV somewhat prepared me for this role, in a lot of ways. When you make something on that scale, you have to give up fine control of how things unfold… great ideas come from unexpected places, and you need to be confident enough in the idea to let it go where it wants. TorrentBoy is the same way, but on a larger scale. It’s not hard for me to fall in love with crazy new ideas spawned from my initial effort… the hard part is waiting to see how they all unfold!
Lastly, how can our readers participate in the TorrentBoy project? Any last words you’d like them to know?
There are lots of ways to participate, and the possibilities are evolving constantly. There’s an effort to document the world of TorrentBoy via our wiki, where you can go and theorize about everything from the finer functions of the Tracker Watch to the motives behind the Rhino-rilla villains. That’s one of my favourite aspects, because anyone can try it out, whether or not they feel they can write long-form prose.
Also on the site are discussion forums where you can suggest ideas or actually deliver new creations based on TorrentBoy… t-shirt designs or doodles or ideas for stories (that maybe you can’t write, but would like to see written). The atmosphere is really friendly and collaborative, which is great for everyone involved.
And finally, there’s a lot to be said for expanding the pool of contributors to the project, which is easily done by pointing people to the first book, Zombie World!, available here. It’s free (or you can pay for it, your choice), and it gives a crash course in the TorrentBoy world. If you know any kids in the 7-11 range that might like a good action novel, it’s a great place to start the adventure.Comments Off
Last month we rolled out a brand new look for CC’s homepage, and promised that other changes would follow. Staying true to our word, we now invite you to check out our redesigned wiki, which boasts a much sleeker and more user-friendly interface and look. The wiki is home to the CC Case Studies project, upcoming event information, resources for software developers, and much more.
The wiki is designed to get you involved and collaborating with us; anyone with an account or an OpenID can login and add to certain pages. If you’re a member of the CC Network, your profile acts as an OpenID. Not yet a member? Support the work of Creative Commons and join the CC Network today to get an OpenID!
We need your contributions to continue developing this wiki into a valuable community resource, so check out the Getting Started page and jump right in!1 Comment »
Two very important conferences were held in Warsaw earlier this month (and late last month): “Open Educational Resources in Poland” (23 April) and “Open Science in Poland” (5 May). Alek Tarkowski, Public Lead of Creative Commons Poland, elaborates on the open education workshops held at each conference, one of which was led by ccLearn’s Ahrash Bissell:
“Two practical workshops on open education were organized by the Coalition for Open Education (KOED) in coincidence with two conferences taking place in Warsaw in April and May 2009: the conference on open education on 23rd of April 2009 and the conference on open science on 6th of May 2009. The first workshop, conducted by Susan d’Antoni from UNESCO and Richard Baraniuk from the Connexions project at Rice University, provided an overview of practical issues tied to open education, such as community building, IT tools and development strategies. The second workshop, led by Ahrash Bissell from ccLearn, focused on open licensing issues.
The two workshops were attended by a dozen representatives of NGOs active in the field of education and culture, as well as representatives from the Ministry of Education. Most important, they provided an opportunity for people working with open educational projects or considering starting such a project to meet and network.
As a result of the project, the Coalition for Open Education hopes to increase its number of member institutions, as well as enable the growth of open educational projects in Poland.”
For information on the conferences themselves, check out Alek’s detailed reports for both.Comments Off
Bloomsbury Academic, the recently-launched academic publishing imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, just announced their first series publication, Science, Ethics and Innovation. The series will be edited by Nobel Laureate Sir John Sulston and professor John Harris.
The series will be released online as free, CC-licensed downloads with hard copies available for sale. More from The Guardian:
The series will be the first from Bloomsbury’s new venture, Bloomsbury Academic, launched late last year as part of the publisher’s post-Harry Potter reinvention. Using Creative Commons licences, the intention is for titles in the imprint to be available for free online for non-commercial use, with revenue to be generated from the hard copies that will be printed via print-on-demand and short-run printing technologies.
In related news, Bloomsbury Academic’s digital publication of Lawrence Lessig’s Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy has now been downloaded for free in over 105 countries, while hard copies have also been selling well.Comments Off
We somehow missed last March’s release of Mark Tovey’s collection of essays called “Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace” from the Carleton University Press. The book is a 648 page collection of essays from the likes of Yochai Benkler, Howard Rheingold and David Weinberger and is now available to download as a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial PDF. If you want to support the book’s non-profit publisher, we encourage you to purchase the hardcover copy at Amazon.2 Comments »
On Sunday The New York Times covered Annie Leonard’s massively successful “Story of Stuff” short, noting that it has been viewed millions of times and that Leonard has sold over 7,000 DVD copies of the film. We were delighted to discover that the short is licensed under our BY-NC-ND license, allowing for non-commercial reuse and sharing. On the DVD order page, the team notes that the DVDs can be duplicated and shown in classrooms, but also points those looking to prevent waste to a 50mb .mov download of the whole film. The site also encourages supporters to organize their own screenings of the shorts using free PDF resources to help with promotion and discussion.
The story of “The Story of Stuff” demonstrates a kind of savvy that more activists using media should adopt: create an engaging message and find every possible way to encourage your supporters to promote, share, and distribute it.1 Comment »
One of the social barriers to wide adoption of educational resources is the availability of them in various countries’ native languages. When educational resources are licensed openly, sans the ND term, this barrier is easily overcome via translation practices. However, a lot of issues still remain even with OER at hand to be freely translated, such as stream-lining translation processes, exploring tools that aid in translation, and seeking the best ways to distribute such translations.
To address these issues and more, FLOSSManuals.net and Translate.org.za, with generous support by the Open Society Institute, are putting on Open Translation Tools 2009, a conference that,
“…will convene stakeholders in the field of open content translation to assess the state of software tools that support translation of content that is licensed under free or open content licenses such as Creative Commons or Free Document License. The event will serve to map out what’s available, what’s missing, who’s doing what, and to recommend strategic next steps to address those needs, with a particular focus on delivering value to open education, open knowledge, and human rights blogging communities.
… “Open content” will encompass a range of resource types, from educational materials to books to manuals to documents to blog content to video and multimedia.”
One of the agenda items is “Addressing the Translation Challenges Faced by the Open Education, Open Content, and human rights blogging communities, and mapping requirements to available open solutions.” ccLearn’s Ahrash Bissell will be in attendance, having helped to shape the vision for the event.
Open Translation Tools 2009 will take place in lovely Amsterdam from June 22-24. They are currently calling for participants and do not require a registration fee (though donations are requested). Limited scholarships are also available.Comments Off
Steps towards openness were taken yesterday by the University of Oregon Library, as its faculty unanimously passed a resolution requiring all library faculty-authored scholarly articles to be licensed CC BY-NC-ND (thanks to Peter Suber of Open Access News). Although NC-ND does not allow derivations (which may include translations and other adaptations) of the articles, library faculty also have the option of licensing their works under one of the more open licenses, including CC BY-SA and CC BY.
We highly encourage library faculty (and libraries in general) everywhere to consider adopting these more open CC licenses for their content (especially CC BY). If you remember from last October, the University of Michigan Library adopted CC BY-NC for all of its works, including those to which the University of Michigan held copyrights. Stripping away the ND term enables collaboration across institutions, as you are granted more than the simple right to access, but to also adapt, translate, and improve the work.
However, adopting CC BY-NC-ND is a step in the right direction. From the announcement,
“We largely followed the leads of Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and most recently Oregon State (our friends and rivals). One area where we differ is in explicitly mandating a CC-BY-NC-ND license. Choosing that license was very conscious. We believe that it is vital that the community standardize on a small number of licenses to move beyond the present mess where every publisher and practically every author has their own unique terms. The license we chose is a good candidate for standardization. … Authors who wish to can of course also license their works under a more liberal license such as CC-BY-SA.”
For more information on our Open Access work, visit the Scholar’s Copyright Project page.1 Comment »
The Open Video Conference is a two-day gathering of thought leaders in technology, business, public policy, art, and activism from around the world to explore the future of the moving image. The conference is happening at NYU Law School on June 19th and 20th and will feature keynotes from Clay Shirky, Yochai Benkler and Jon Lech Johansen. You can read more about the panels and workshops on the schedule.
I’ll be there representing CC (so ask me for some schwag if you see me) but many other important organizations will be in attendance as well, so it will be a great opportunity to put many names to faces.1 Comment »