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CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on iCommons


[This is part of a weekly series written by Lawrence Lessig and
others about the history and future of Creative Commons. If you know others who might find these interesting,
please recommend they sign up at]

Two weeks ago, I described our first efforts to build CC
internationally. That was the beginning of the “iCommons Project.”
Directed from Berlin, this project began with a single objective: to
“port” Creative Commons licenses into the law of local jurisdictions.
Our aim was to build an infrastructure of free licenses
internationally so that creative work could move from jurisdiction to
jurisdiction while preserving the freedoms that the creator chose. In
less than three years, we have over 70 volunteer projects working to
port Creative Commons licenses and 25 jurisdictions that have already
launched their local licenses.

This first effort to build an international Commons has been much
more successful than I ever imagined. There were many sleepless
nights when I worried whether we would find any international
partners Let’s just say the sleeplessness has now moved far from
that concern. Indeed, if anything, we’ve seen the iCommons project
become much more than we imagined. As CC projects developed around
the world, they connected with movements that had the same ideals.
These ideals of a “Commons” are not American. They are human. And as
iCommons opened channels of discussions of these ideals, we began to
recognize that the iCommons Project would have to grow.

Last June, around a hundred of our volunteers from more than 40 of
our iCommons jurisdictions gathered in Boston for the first iCommons
Summit. We began a discussion then about how we could best support
this growing international movement. And as I listened to the
iCommons participants describe the work that they wanted to do, I
realized then that iCommons promised to become much more than the
(relatively) simple project that Creative Commons was. Creative
Commons was launched to build an infrastructure of freedom; iCommons
promised to build a global movement that would embrace and extend (in
the best possible way) that infrastructure of freedom.

So in June, we began to discuss publicly an idea that had been
suggested by one iCommons participant — that we separate iCommons
into its own organization, led by the many young leaders of this
movement from around the world. And with this email, I am very happy
to announce that we have done just that.

iCommons is now a separate nonprofit, organized under the laws of
Britain. Its board will comprise a wide range of activists from
around the world. And while iCommons will continue to support the
spread of Creative Commons licenses, it will also do much more.
iCommons will become the core of a federation of movements all
pushing to enable creativity and the spread of knowledge and culture

Creative Commons will seed this movement with financial and
organizational support (yet another reason we need your support!).
But as iCommons becomes its own movement with its own voice, the role
of Creative Commons in this federation will be just one of many.

What happens then to the project designed to port Creative Commons
licenses internationally? That work will remain with Creative
Commons. Christiane Asschenfeldt will continue to lead that part of
our project. But its work will be focused upon building the legal
infrastructure that Creative Commons needs internationally.
Christiane will continue to identify international volunteers to help
port our licenses in their local jurisdictions. We will continue to
celebrate as these licenses are locally launched. And some (we hope
all) of these local partners of Creative Commons will join iCommons.

So “what more than licenses” is Creative Commons? We’re building an
infrastructure of free licenses internationally. We’re working with
scientists and scholars to extend these ideals to science. And now
we’ve helped seed an international movement that will work with
artists, educators, collecting rights societies, museums, publishers
and governments, to build upon this infrastructure free cultures.

Creative Commons is all this that these emails have described. More
importantly, it is all this that needs your support.

In the next two weeks, I’ll describe two other new initiatives that
will define our work over the next year. And then this path of
missives will turn to consider some criticisms of what we’ve done and
where we’re going. Stay tuned, but fear not: I promise to be finished
by Christmas!


Before I end this week’s email, some news from the fundraising-front:
On November 3 in San Francisco, over 120 supporters and friends of
Creative Commons attended a cocktail event to celebrate new iCommons
board member Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia. The event was sponsored by
the law firms that first launched Creative Commons, Cooley Godward,
and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, as well as a new supporter of
CC – Scharffen Berger Chocolate. Thanks to everyone who helped make
that event a success. And after you view some of the photos from the
, please feel free to join them in supporting CC today!


To link to or comment on this message, go to:

Week 6 – What is Science Commons? By John Wilbanks, Science Commons
Executive Director
– Thanks to Maria Cristinia Alvite for translation

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Posted 16 November 2005