Commons News

Language Harmonization at Creative Commons

Michelle Thorne, December 21st, 2010

One of the most important values at Creative Commons is the usability of our tools. We strive to make all of our tools human-readable, often bridging dissonant vocabularies and frameworks to ensure our tools are compatible and understandable the world over. The challenge of localization is balancing legally sound terminology with culturally palatable translations. Sometimes the terms in which lawyers and courts communicate are unfamiliar or alienating to users outside of the legal profession. Moreover, even within the legal field, there can be a range of opinions about which terms are most appropriate.

Creative Commons oversees translation on two levels: our legal code and our license deeds. The former, the legal code or “lawyer-readable” layer, is adapted to the laws and official languages of jurisdictions around the world. The latter, the deeds or “human-readable” layer, are designed for everyone to understand. Unlike the legal code, the deeds are not legally-binding but rather a helpful, plain-language summary.

Historically, if two or more jurisdictions shared the same language, such as Spanish, each jurisdiction team would conduct a translation of the legal code and of the deeds. Sometimes the result is messy: for Spanish alone, we had over 10 translations of the license deeds, some differing only slightly and others more so.

Creative Commons invited its affiliates in Spanish-speaking jurisdictions to review the Spanish translations of the license names (Attribution, ShareAlike, NonCommercial, and NoDerivatives). In a conversation led by CC Chile’s Claudio Ruiz, the Latin American affiliates discussed the best linguistic solution, one that balanced usability with legal accuracy. After several months of discussion, a majority of the Latin American teams reached an agreement to harmonize their existing deeds into one under the following scheme. This is particularly notable since unlike the Arab harmonization effort discussed below, these jurisdictions had already published deeds for their particular jurisdictions.

  • Attribution: Atribución
  • ShareAlike: CompartirIgual
  • Non-Commercial: NoComercial
  • NoDerivatives: SinDerivadas

You’ll see the harmonized translations available now on our license deeds. Please note again that the deeds are not legally operative; instead, they play a critical role in helping ensure our licenses are understandable and accessible to users.

arabic translation of CC
Finally the Arabic Translation for CC Licenses
by Mohammad Basheer (mbaa) / CC BY

Similarly, Creative Commons encouraged its Arab world communities and affiliates to coordinate their translation efforts. They appreciated the importance of harmonizing the key license terms early on so that all Arabic-speaking users would have a consistent experience with CC.

During the recent CC Arab World meeting this October in Doha, Qatar, a lively discussion among attendees underscored the importance of harmonizing translation within the region. The challenge again was to balance legal compliance with user-friendly terminology. At the end of the meeting, CC affiliates and community representatives from six jurisdictions in the region reached a consensus on terms that CC will use for all future license-related work in Arabic. All the participants provided input in a session moderated by Bassel Khartabil and Mahmoud Abu Wardeh at CC’s request, with the following results:

  • Attribution: نسب المصنف
  • ShareAlike: الترخيص بالمثل
  • NonCommercial: غير تجاري
  • NoDerivatives: منع الإشتقاق
  • Creative Commons: المشاع الإبداعي followed by mention of the original English name in parenthesis (Creative Commons)

These terms will be deployed in the upcoming Egyptian licenses, as well as across all Arabic deeds and informational materials. These efforts underscore the cooperative nature of the affiliates and community members who strive to make CC simple and approachable for users across the globe. We also hope to roll out similar harmonized terms in other languages over the coming months.

If you’d like to contribute to Creative Commons’ translation efforts, you can join our translation teams at Transifex.

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Dan Gillmor talks about the challenges and rewards of publishing “Mediactive” under Creative Commons

Jane Park, December 21st, 2010

Dan Gillmor is a journalist and established author, having previously published We the Media back in 2004 under a CC BY-NC-SA license. His subject is the changing landscape of media, and the focus of his first book was on distributed, grassroots journalism and its effect on the Big Media monopoly of news. Six years later, We the Media is still in print, and Dan talks about how this encouraged him to stick to his principles when publishing his second book, Mediactive, under Creative Commons as well. Dan turned down a publishing deal with a major New York publisher because they would not allow the CC license. In a reflection well worth reading, he writes,

“Almost a decade after Creative Commons was founded, and despite ample evidence that licensing copyrighted works this way doesn’t harm sales, book publishers remain mostly clueless about this option, or hostile to it. As David explained to editors, the main reason I’m still getting royalty checks for We the Media is that the book has been available as a free download since the day it went into bookstores. This is how word about it spread. Had we not published it that way, given the indifference (at best) shown by American newspapers and magazines, the book would have sunk without a trace.”

Also Mediactive “isn’t just a book; at least, not in the way most publishers understand books, even as they dabble online. And if a principle means anything to you, you stick by it when doing so is inconvenient, not just when it’s easy.”

Sticking by his principles seems to have paid off, as just three days after publishing Mediactive under CC BY-NC-SA online, 1,500 visitors to his site downloaded the book, and more viewed pieces of it online. At this point, Dan notes that “Far few have purchased the book, of course, but it’s selling — and I’ve barely begun the real marketing process, which will take place in the new year.”

Without Creative Commons and the internet, Mediactive would still be on the publishing floor somewhere:

“Incidentally, had I signed with a traditional publisher, the book would not have reached the marketplace for a year or more from the date when I signed. With a company like Lulu, you wrap up the project and you’re off to the races. In a fast-moving area like media, that’s a huge benefit to foregoing the standard route.”

You can download, donate to, or purchase Mediactive and read more about Dan’s experience with publishing here. You can also help us improve our case study on Dan Gillmor.

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Welcoming Cathy Casserly as the new CEO of Creative Commons

Lawrence Lessig, December 20th, 2010

As we come to the end of this year’s fundraising campaign, I asked the organizers to let me write you to tell you about an extraordinary birthday present that Creative Commons received on its 8th birthday last Thursday.

You probably know that for the past two years, Creative Commons has been incredibly fortunate to have the pro bono leadership of our CEO, Joi Ito. Joi is a successful internet investor. He has been at the birth of companies such as Moveable Type, Technorati and Twitter. For the past 7 years, he’s also been a key leader on our board. But by far his most important contribution began two years ago when my own commitments made it necessary for me to step down as CEO. With the organization in a pinch, he volunteered to take the lead, again, as a volunteer.

Everyone recognized at the time that this sort of sacrifice could only be temporary. Yet from the time he stepped up, my biggest fear was that when he could no longer make this sacrifice, we would have no one comparable to tap. Last Thursday, I was proven wrong.

One of the most important moments in the history of Creative Commons happened on the day the Supreme Court upheld (incorrectly, in my view, but let’s leave that alone) the Copyright Term Extension Act in Eldred v. Ashcroft. After reading the decision, I had my head in my hands, buried in sadness, when my assistant reminded me that I had a 10am meeting with two people from the Hewlett Foundation. This was exactly one month after we had launched Creative Commons. I was surprised a foundation as prominent as Hewlett even knew about us, let alone had an interest in talking to us. So I put aside my sadness, and walked down to the conference room at Stanford Law School, to meet with Cathy Casserly and Mike Smith.

Cathy and Mike had heard about the Supreme Court’s decision. They recognized I wouldn’t be in much of a mood to chat. So they launched right into the reason for the meeting: The Hewlett Foundation had decided to help launch Creative Commons with a grant of $1 million dollars.

I won’t say that after I heard that news, I forgot about the Supreme Court. But from that moment on, it was much more important to me to prove Hewlett’s faith right than to worry about what the Supreme Court had gotten wrong. And I was especially keen to get to know these two people who understood our mission long before most had even recognized the problem that CC was meant to solve.

Now eight years later, after completing her term at Hewlett and a stint at the Carnegie Foundation as well, I am enormously happy to announce that Cathy Casserly has accepted our offer to become the CEO of Creative Commons.

Cathy has an extraordinary reputation among foundations and the Open Educational Resources community. She has had extensive experience coaxing creators and educators into a more sensible and flexible manner for creating and sharing their work. That was her job at Carnegie and Hewlett. Before Hewlett, she was a program officer at the Walter S. Johnson Foundation. Before that, a teacher of mathematics in Jamaica. She has a PhD in the economics of education from Stanford, and a BA in mathematics from Boston College.

Joi will stay in the hot seat as Chair of the Board. But early in the new year, he will pass his CEO responsibilities to Cathy. Between him and Cathy, we will then have the very best leadership Creative Commons has known.

So then here’s my ask: Creative Commons has been enormously fortunate to have had Joi as an interim CEO, and extremely fortunate now to have found Cathy to fill that role permanently.

Let’s show them how happy we are about both.

We are in the last laps of a very difficult fundraising year, with just two weeks to go and still about $200,000 to raise. Please reach deep in your pocket, and click here to pledge whatever you can find. We have never needed the support of our community more than we do this year. And though I am happy beyond measure about our future, I am extremely concerned about the cuts we will have to make if we don’t meet our goals.

You have supported us throughout these 8 years. We need your support this year especially. Please thank Joi and welcome Cathy in every way, including a pledge to support Creative Commons again.

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We met Tucows’ matching challenge! Thank you!

Allison Domicone, December 17th, 2010


A huge THANK YOU to everyone who donated in the past two days and had your gift doubled by Tucows! We are thrilled to announce that we met their generous gift and your $10,000 in donations has now become $20,000 thanks to their generosity. What a wonderful birthday week for CC!

Tucows is a company that started offering free downloads of shareware and freeware on the Internet in 1993, will take part in a matching challenge of up to $10,000. This means that whatever you donate right now will automatically be doubled. We need your help to meet their challenge and turn $10,000 into $20,000 for CC.

Here’s why Tucows supports CC:

“We support Creative Commons because all of our business philosophy is based on the open Internet. For the Internet to really flourish and remain an open, healthy, and great platform for innovation, we need to adapt old sets of rules to new paradigms. Creative Commons is one of the first and best examples of that.” -Elliot Noss, President and CEO


Will you join with Tucows and show your support for openness and creativity online by donating today? We still need your help to reach our goal and ensure a bright 2011. Donate today!

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Happy Birthday CC! “Building on the Past” creator re-releases video under CC BY and explains why

Jane Park, December 16th, 2010


Building on the Past by Justin Cone is licensed CC BY.

In 2004, designer and animator Justin Cone created “Building on the Past” as part of our Moving Images Contest and won. Justin originally made the video, which demonstrated Creative Commons’ mission in two minutes, available under CC BY-NC. At the encouragement of Wikieducator’s Wayne Macintosh, Justin decided to re-release “Building on the Past” under the most open CC license, CC Attribution (CC BY) and made a short video explaining why (also under CC BY). Both videos are featured in Creative Commons unplugged, a part of Wikieducator’s Open content licensing 4 educators workshop (a work in progress).

In the video, Justin talks about why CC is so important to him:

“Creative Commons is important to me for two reasons: The first reason is that it just makes life easier. I don’t have to worry about law suits or trying to secure permissions from people who might be impossible to get in touch with. It just makes creation easier and encourages the exchange of ideas; it encourages discussion and education. The second reason is a little more symbolic. By putting the CC license on my work, it basically says I care enough to share. I feel like I’m taking part in a community just by licensing my work with CC.”

He goes on to explain why he changed the license of his film:

“Originally I licensed my “Building on the Past” video with an Attribution-Noncommercial license. And I think the noncommercial part was there because I was just generally suspicious about corporate interest or something. It wasn’t very well thought out, but I think I was worried that somebody would take the video, re-contextualize it in a way that wasn’t appropriate for the video. Since then, I’ve kind of changed the way that I think about things. The video has been showed around the world; it has been translated and subtitled in different languages and it has taken on a life of its own. And I think that it deserves to be a little freer. There’s no reason to keep it from being used by a commercial interest because I think it has some educational value. I think it has a message that can be debated, discussed, disagreed with or agreed with, and by removing the noncommercial part of my license, it’s easier for people to now do all those things.”

At the end, he offers tips for other creators, saying we should ask ourselves two questions: “Is this project bigger than me?” and “When you finish a project, is this really the end of the project, or is this the beginning?” If your answer is affirmative in both cases, Justin notes that CC “makes it so much easier for your project to expand beyond you”:

“I like to think of projects as stories. So if you choose a traditional copyright, then the story of your project has just a limited number of possible endings. And sometimes those endings are fine and they work for the story. But a lot of times it’s more interesting to choose a different path for your story. And if you go with a Creative Commons license you’re basically saying, I don’t want this story to end. I want it to go on and on. I want it to have different endings, different twists and turns rather, and I want other people to tell this story. I think that’s a better story, it’s a more exciting story; it’s epic.”

Watch the whole meta-video here, and share “Building on the Past” under CC BY from the Internet Archive, Blip.tv, and Vimeo.

Wish CC a happy birthday by showing your support today!

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Creative Commons files comments in U.S. Department of Commerce’s Inquiry on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Internet Economy

Timothy Vollmer, December 15th, 2010

Creative Commons has filed comments in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Inquiry on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Internet Economy. The Department received nearly 900 submissions over the comment period, which ended December 10. A summary of the Department’s interest in this topic is described below:

The Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force is conducting a comprehensive review of the relationship between the availability and protection of online copyrighted works and innovation in the Internet economy. The Department, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) seek public comment from all interested stakeholders, including rights holders, Internet service providers, and consumers on the challenges of protecting copyrighted works online and the relationship between copyright law and innovation in the Internet economy. After analyzing the comments submitted in response to this Notice, the Internet Policy Task Force intends to issue a report that will contribute to the Administration’s domestic policy and international engagement in the area of online copyright protection and innovation.

All of the comments are posted to the NTIA’s Internet Policy Task Force website. The comments of Creative Commons and a few other organizations are highlighted below:

Creative Commons
Creative Commons urged the Department to ensure that the Internet remains open for innovation by adopting and promoting policies that enable and preserve the ability for users to lawfully share their creativity:

Creativity and innovation on the Internet is enabled by open technologies, open networks, and open content. Support for open licensing and public domain legal tools can help the maintain robust information flows that facilitate innovation and growth of the Internet economy.

Open content licensing is playing an increasing role in digital cultural heritage and the growth of the digital economy. Websites like Flickr, Picasa, Vimeo, Blip.tv, SoundCloud, Jamendo, Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons share millions of CC licensed free cultural works.

Educational institutions, organizations, and teachers and learners use CC tools to overcome the legal and technical restrictions that prevent educational resources from being accessible, adaptable, interoperable, and discoverable.

Scientists and research institutions seeking to overcome the legal and technical barriers to sharing and building on data and knowledge are using CC tools, maximizing potential on investments and accelerating scientific discovery and innovation.

Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation, New America Foundation

In considering the relationship between copyright and innovation, it is critical to remember that copyright is fundamentally a balance between the rights of the creator and the rights of the public at large. It is unavoidable that copyright creates restrictions on free expression and the free flow of ideas. However, it can also provide a powerful incentive to create. Effective copyright policy finds an equilibrium between the creator’s incentive to create and the public’s right to access, share and build on existing works. To that end, the Department should focus on finding ways to encourage more people to create and contribute. In addition to benefits, the costs of enforcement – both financial and in increased barriers to innovate – must be considered.

Mozilla

Whether
 for
 pleasure,
 education,
 or
 commerce,
 the
 web’s
 ability
 to
 help
 fuel
 innovation
 has
 derived
 from
 its
 tapestry
 of
 contributions,
 which
 are
 the
 product
 of
 people,
 communities,
 and
 organizations
 around
 the
 world
 creating,
 modifying,
 sharing,
 and
 hosting
 content.
 
In
 our
 view,
 it
 is
 imperative
 that
 these
 quintessential
 qualities
 of
 the
 Internet
 be
 preserved
 without
 compromising
 the
 rights
 of
 content
 producers,
 whether 
big 
or 
small, 
and
 those 
that 
host 
and 
distribute 
such 
content.

Library Copyright Alliance

[...] the federal government can most effectively promote creativity and innovation in the Internet Economy by encouraging the use of open licensing models and by requiring access to the results of federally funded research.

One of the primary sources of innovation in the U.S. economy is scholarly communications: articles, monographs, and databases written by professors, graduate students, and other researchers in all fields of human endeavor. The ideas expressed in these writings stimulate new research, advance the scientific and technology enterprise, and encourage commercial development of marketable products and services.

[...] the Department of Commerce, and the federal government as a whole, should concentrate their efforts on encouraging the creation and maintenance of robust, open platforms that support commercial and noncommercial ventures. The federal government should not expend limited resources on protecting particular business models in the face of technological change.

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Announcing $10k matching giving challenge from Tucows!

Allison Domicone, December 15th, 2010


We just received the exciting news that Tucows, a company that started offering free downloads of shareware and freeware on the Internet in 1993, will take part in a matching challenge of up to $10,000. This means that whatever you donate right now will automatically be doubled. We need your help to meet their challenge and turn $10,000 into $20,000 for CC.

Here’s why Tucows supports CC:

“We support Creative Commons because all of our business philosophy is based on the open Internet. For the Internet to really flourish and remain an open, healthy, and great platform for innovation, we need to adapt old sets of rules to new paradigms. Creative Commons is one of the first and best examples of that.” -Elliot Noss, President and CEO


As we approach the end of the year, I invite you to think about how creativity and openness have affected your life. How much would you give to see a future filled with sharing? If you’ve supported CC already this year, would you be willing to give again knowing that your gift will be automatically doubled?

Join Tucows and donate today.

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Meet our board members: Mike Carroll

Lisa Katayama, December 14th, 2010

Mark Surman
Mike Carroll by Joi Ito / CC BY

Mike Carroll was a practicing lawyer in Washington DC when the idea of openly licensed copyright landed on his desk as a pro bono project. “It was going to be a central repository of content, where we had the copyright and would openly license it to others,” he says. After a group brainstorm led by Larry Lessig at the Harvard Berkman Center in May 2001, the lawyers decided to scrap the central repository idea and create licenses that others could use freely. Shortly after that, Carroll was invited to join the board of the organization that would soon become known as Creative Commons.

CC quickly evolved from an idea that artists were skeptical about—why would any creative person be willing to give up control?—to something that proliferated across state borders and disciplines.

“The Internet is global, and we knew we would have to grapple with the complexities of international copyright and that we would add science to the mix,” he says. “But the pressure to do that came much faster than we expected. In short order, we had to organize a pretty sophisticated operation on a limited budget to engage with the international network of support for the Creative Commons idea.”

Still, Carroll says, there are challenges ahead. “We are offering tools as a solution to a problem that not everyone knows they have.” For one thing, awareness about what open content is, and why making it legally open matters, is still a bit hazy for some. The good news is that some web sites have seamlessly integrated CC into their functions, like the Flickr search engine. The challenge is to engage with the continuing evolution of the web to make sure adopting CC is easy and natural.

“We care deeply about not getting locked into things that can’t evolve as the web evolves. If it were easier to find reliable CC content, that makes using CC licenses more attractive. We’re trying to keep the web open in an interoperable space—but it’s not just the technology. It’s the values embedded in our technical choices.”

Those values—openness, flexibility, sharing—are a part of Carroll’s life both professionally and personally. Carroll is now the Director of the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at American University. In conjunction with Creative Commons, he has worked for years with the library community to promote open access to the scholarly and scientific journal literature on web.  He also serves on the National Research Council’s Board on Research Data and Information to address issues such as data sharing among scientists, and he’s a Fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

He’s also a hobby musician who sometimes gets together with other copyright lawyers to jam. “I’m one of those musicians [that loves] to play to the crowd,” he says, in the same spirit of an organization dedicated to helping other creators share.

Support the organization Carroll has been a part of from the very beginning by donating to Creative Commons today.

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CC Talks With: Mark Surman from the Mozilla Foundation

Cameron Parkins, December 13th, 2010

The Mozilla Foundation is unabashedly committed to a free and open web. They see it as a vital part of a healthy digital ecosystem where creativity and innovation can thrive. We couldn’t agree more. And we couldn’t be prouder to have Mozilla’s generous and ongoing support. We were recently able to catch up with Mark Surman, the Foundation’s Executive Director, who talks about Mozilla and its myriad projects, and how his organization and ours are a lot like lego blocks for the open web.

Mark Surman
Mark Surman by Joi Ito / CC BY

Most people associate Mozilla with the Firefox but you do much more than just that – can you give our readers some background on the different arms of Mozilla as an organization? What is your role there?

Mozilla’s overall goal is to promote innovation and opportunity on the web — and to guard the open nature of the internet.

Firefox is clearly the biggest part of this. But we’re constantly looking for new ways to make the internet better. Our growing focus on identity, mobile and web apps is a part of this. Also, we’re reaching out more broadly beyond software to invite people like filmmakers, scientists, journalists, teachers and so on to get involved.

Personally, I’m most active in this effort to reach out more broadly and to get many more people involved in our work. Much of this is happening through a program I helped start called Mozilla Drumbeat. As Executive Director of Mozilla Foundation, I also manage the overall umbrella legal structure for all of Mozilla’s activities.

What is the connection between Mozilla and CC? Do you use our tools in your various projects?

At the highest level, Mozilla and CC are both working for the same thing — a digital society based on creativity, innovation and freedom. And, of course, we use CC licenses for content and documents that we produce across all Mozilla projects.

Mozilla has given generously to Creative Commons – what was the motivation behind donating? What is it about CC that you find important?

I think of both organizations as giving people ‘lego blocks’ that they can use to make and shape the web. Mozilla’s lego blocks are technical, CC’s are legal. Both help people create and innovate, which goes back to the higher vision we share.

What do you see as CC’s role in the broader digital ecosystem? How does CC enable Mozilla to better innovate in that space?

We need an organization like CC to make sure that the content layer of the web is as open and free as the core tech upon which it’s all built. It’s at this content layer that most people ‘make the web’ — it’s where people feel the participatory and remixable nature of the web. Keeping things open and free at this level — and making them more so — is critical to the future of the open web.

Help ensure a bright future for the open web and donate to Creative Commons today.

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New copyright-like rights considered harmful

Mike Linksvayer, December 13th, 2010

Today a new German site launched, IGEL (“Initiative gegen ein Leistungsschutzrecht”; in English, “initiative against a related right”). The site, spearheaded by German lawyer Till Kreutzer, provides information on a possible proposal for a new “related right” for press publishers. Original content on the site is released under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

Additionally, Creative Commons has agreed to be listed as a supporter of IGEL. We almost never stake out a position beyond our core role of providing voluntary infrastructure to facilitate sharing. This sometimes leads to criticism of CC from both those who oppose copyright and see us as apologists, and from those who fear sharing, and see anything less than complete control, no matter how voluntary, as undermining copyright.

We take this criticism from both extremes as indication that we’re doing our job well — a job that isn’t even about copyright, let alone apologizing for or undermining copyright. CC’s job is to provide tools to help people who want to, and society overall, to get the most possible out of the sharing and collaboration made possible through communications technologies and human creativity. Copyright happens to be the legal framework that shapes how sharing and collaboration occur, so our tools operate in that framework to grant permissions in advance for sharing and collaboration.

This brings us to new related rights. Examples include sui generis database rights only applicable in Europe, proposals for special broadcast rights, which would give broadcasters a new set of exclusive rights merely for having broadcasted material, and a potential proposal for a new press publisher right to control use of non-copyrighted snippets of press material as well as specific headline wordings, for example. This potential press publisher right is what IGEL concerns.

Such new related rights, when they go into effect, make sharing and collaboration harder, for at least two reasons.

One, all communication requires some common expression. Things that fall outside of the scope of copyright (e.g., facts, abstract ideas) and copyright exceptions and limitations that facilitate quoting and critique give scope for communication, without every single sentence one utters being subject to potential lawsuit. New related and nearby rights can effectively limit the scope of what may be communicated freely, e.g., collections of facts in the case of database rights, and very brief descriptions of news items, in the case of press publisher rights — or even the facts of a news story, in the case of “hot news” restrictions recently mooted by publishers in the U.S.

New York City Gridlock
New York City Gridlock by Roy Googin / CC BY-SA
Two, with a proliferation of rights, it is harder to know who has exclusive control over what, or whether multiple parties have exclusive control over different rights over a work. This phenomena of too many property claims forms what is sometimes called an anticommons — overlapping exclusive claims can prevent anyone from using a work — the opposite (thus “anti”) of a commons, in which anyone may use a work under a clear, easily discernible set of rules.

The press publishers right as it was proposed now for Germany is expressly intended to make linking to (and viewing of) openly accessible press content on the web cost a mandatory fee, whenever it happens in any kind of commercial context. Together with the vagueness of the term “press product” in this sense and the unclear boundaries of commercial contexts, the new right is apt to spread uncertainty as to when a link can freely be set, thus harming a core principle of sharing and of the internet. At the same time, creators using Creative Commons licenses might suddenly find themselves falling into the scope of being a press publisher in the meaning of the new right. This could lead to the paradox situation of original Creative Commons content unintentionally becoming paid-content — that is if the publishers right is drafted to be non-waivable.

This brings us to why Creative Commons considers new copyright-like rights harmful. Such rights are clear barriers to getting the most out of sharing and collaboration and threatens to the open web, with no evidence of any countervailing benefits. New copyright-like rights make it a bit harder to share and collaborate with openly licensed materials, by constraining and confusing what can be openly licensed when multiple rights are involved. More significantly they make it harder to share and collaborate even when copyright is not pertinent, but the natural flow of using digital communication technologies is, e.g., sharing a link with a title.

In some ways increasing default restrictiveness makes the tools Creative Commons provides more valuable. Less default facilitation of sharing and collaboration means those who want to share must take careful steps to enable it — and Creative Commons has encapsulated the hard work in its tools. Furthermore, the more the default condition is lockdown, the more valuable works that aren’t fully locked down become. However, at Creative Commons we are are not simply working to maximize use of our tools, which after all are just a means to facilitate sharing and collaboration.

Finally, one should note, however one feels about the reality of current copyright law, that new copyright-like rights do harm — either adding insult to injury, or making copyright less efficient and credible as it becomes increasingly easy to obtain protection for non creative works, a threshold copyright requires for good reason. If you read German, we encourage you to visit the IGEL site and learn about the related rights proposals it addresses. We’ll also have more to say here, perhaps not about why new copyright-like rights are harmful, but how Creative Commons tools operate in a world in which such rights exist — some readers will be aware that European sui generis database rights are particularly troublesome — for our tools do have to do their best to enable sharing in collaboration in the world we find ourselves in, and as that world changes. (This is a difficult job. Please make a donation to support our work!)

Thanks to John Hendrik Weitzmann, Legal Project Lead of Creative Commons Germany, for introducing IGEL and assistance with this post.

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