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Commoner Letter #1 – Evan Prodromou

Melissa Reeder, October 15th, 2007

Hello, everyone! My name is Evan Prodromou. I’m excited and honoured to be able to talk to all of you through this email newsletter. When Creative Commons asked me to write for their fundraising drive, I simply couldn’t refuse.

In 2003, with my wife Maj, I started a project called Wikitravel – an effort to create a Free, complete, up-to-date and reliable world-wide travel guide. Inspired in part by Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Wikitravel’s text, maps, and photos are all collaboratively developed by Internet users from around the world. Together, we’re making travel guides that are as good or better than those made by traditional, proprietary travel publishers.

Collectively, Wikitravellers have donated hundreds of thousands of person-hours to realize our shared dream. But they didn’t put in that time to make great travel guides just for me personally. They did that work for a common goal: so that every traveler in the world could have high-quality, practical travel information in their own language.

Because of Wikitravel’s liberal Creative Commons license (Attribution-ShareAlike), our contributors know that their work is free today and will remain available to all. The Creative Commons name and badge on every Wikitravel page lets our users know that they are free to use, share, and re-distribute our guides in whatever way their imagination takes them.

I think that travel guides and encyclopedias are just the beginning for collaboratively-created Free Content. For that reason, I’ve started two new projects this year: Keiki, a collaborative parenting manual, and Vinismo, a collaborative guide to the world’s wines. I’ve also launched an Open Content guidebook publisher, Wikitravel Press, to compete head-to-head with proprietary publishers. There are opportunities to create Free Cultural works in so many areas it’s mind-boggling.

We are on the cusp of an explosive revolution in human knowledge and culture. We now have the tools and the global infrastructure to let the billions of humans on Earth collaboratively create their own entertainment and reference works: films, textbooks, images, and music. Regular people, working together, are smashing apart the short-sighted, curmudgeonly cultural framework of micropayments, IP portfolios, walled gardens, and dot-com data silos to free up information for everyone to enjoy, use, and share. I truly believe that within a generation we can open the world’s knowledge to all of its inhabitants and reduce or eliminate the misery caused by lack of access to information.

And Creative Commons is a crucial part of the cultural compact that makes that revolution possible. Free Culture licenses, like those from Creative Commons, are a promise between global collaborators that indeed we are working for the good of all. Creative Commons licenses tell readers and listeners that they, too, can be participants in a global community of creators.

As Creative Commons passes its five-year anniversary, the “first generation” of CC-related projects, like Flickr, Magnatune, and yes, Wikitravel, are showing the world the advantage of Open Content and massive intercollaboration. But there are literally thousands of other Open Content projects in hundreds of countries that are just getting off the ground. They’ll have new challenges, new opportunities, and with your help they’ll have the tools and infrastructure of Creative Commons to lean on as they grow.

I hope that, as a friend to Free Culture, you’ll continue to support Creative Commons in all the ways you do: with your time, with your attention, and with your advocacy. But I also ask that you make an investment in the future by donating to Creative Commons in this, their annual fall fundraising drive. Like a wiki, each contribution by people like you and me builds into a powerful fund for advancing our collective goal.

Thanks for your time,

Evan Prodromou

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