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Meet our board members: Jimmy Wales

Lisa Katayama, November 9th, 2010

Meet Creative Commons board member Jimmy Wales. You probably know him best as the founder of Wikipedia. Here, he talks to us about the importance of Creative Commons, why fundraising is hard, and his crazy travel schedule.

Why are you on the CC board?

As the founder of Wikipedia, I am very aware of the importance of thoughtful licensing regimes for creators of content who want to share it with others. We live in an era in which it is really easy for people to share knowledge. Without a legal framework that allows them to do so in the ways that they want, we won’t realize the full benefits of this era.

Why do you support CC and why do you use it on your sites?

I have always been a fan of CC’s approach as a “middle way.” For a long time, we were stuck in a debate about copyright that focused only on two categories of people: the creators who want to maintain their work under traditional copyright, and the “pirates” who want to steal that work and undermine it. What was lost in that dialogue first became obvious in the world of free, open source software: many people are creators but aren’t interested in, nor helped by, traditional copyright. CC recognized that the solutions being created in the world of software had broader applicability to culture.

What, in your opinion, are the challenges that lie ahead for CC?

Billions of people benefit in some way from the work of Creative Commons, but I fear that it is too often overlooked because the work is by nature free of charge, and because it is “infrastructure.”

At Wikipedia, we are able to fund-raise directly from small donors because we are huge, public, and visible, and our community builds something that everyone uses every day. With Wikipedia, we can always know that there will be lots and lots of $30 donors from the heart and soul of the Wikipedia donor community.  It’s harder for Creative Commons.

I’m a donor to Creative Commons, and I encourage other people to be donors as well.  Creative Commons will always have a smaller group of donors, but one that digs deeper because they know how important the work is.

I know you mentioned below that you travel a lot… what’s your daily life like? What are you traveling for? We’d love to get a glimpse of a day in the life of Jimmy Wales!

I’m writing to you from a plane, of course. :)  I’m not so sure I can explain a “typical day” for me because every day is different.  I’m on my way home to Florida now, and then next week I’m off on one of my maddening multiple-continent journeys.

I’m about to do this:

Tampa->London->Hong Kong->Mumbai->Toronto->Basel->Tampa.

I count 5 changes of continents in there… in 9 days!

Join Jimmy Wales in showing that you care about Creative Commons by donating to CC today.

IMAGE: Lane Hartwell on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation

One Response to “Meet our board members: Jimmy Wales”

  1. Gregory Kohs says:

    “As the founder of Wikipedia…” Interesting how Wikipedia itself, in its article about the creation of Wikipedia, details this Wales myth as mostly a lie.

    Larry Sanger came to Wales in January 2001 with the idea of opening up an encyclopedia feeder project with wiki software. Wales took about an hour to find and install the wiki freeware on the Bomis server. Sanger then named the new project “Wikipedia”, and Sanger issued the first public call for participation. Sanger also labored for about the first 12 months, setting up and managing many of the Wikipedia rules and guidelines that still govern today. Wales essentially signed Sanger’s paycheck. That doesn’t make Wales “the founder”. It makes his “the shyster”.

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