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CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on Final Thoughts


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And so this is the final of these letters explaining the origin and aims of Creative Commons. When I started this writing about three months ago, I wasn’t sure I’d have something to say each week through the end of 2005. But as the year comes to an end, I realize I could continue writing these emails to you through all of 2006 and still not be finished with everything there is to say.

These letters have been part of a campaign to build a diverse base of financial support for the organization, Creative Commons. That organization has just under 20 employees working in offices in Berlin, London, Boston and San Francisco. About a quarter of the staff builds the technical infrastructure. Another quarter coordinates the spreading of the project internationally. One (and soon two) work on the Science Commons project from Boston. And the balance of the staff working in San Francisco keep the trains running on time, and help spread the message and the infrastructure into as many places as we can.

If you had asked me four years ago what the chances were that I’d be helping to direct a 20 person staff, I would have said exactly zero. My father was the entrepreneur. I was to be the academic. But though these years have been difficult, the most rewarding part has been to build an organization that is hard working, and committed. This is an underpaid, overworked staff that I am extraordinarily proud of. They have accomplished more in these last years than anyone — certainly I — even imagined they would.

But the part that is missing from even a complete description of the organization, Creative Commons, is the part that in my view will ultimately be the most important. That is the growing number of affiliate organizations around the world that have first ported Creative Commons licenses to their local jurisdictions and are now pushing the movement far beyond licenses.

As I described in week 7, we initially thought we would spread Creative Commons internationally by simply porting licenses to local jurisdictions. But that process sparked a network of creators, scholars, librarians and activists who all recognize that they share a common set of interests that Creative Commons can help organize. iCommons was thus launched to be the infrastructure of this network. The iCommons Summit last June marked its birth. And the most important work that we will do over the next few years is to support this international network. Not everyone within the iCommons network will be from Creative Commons. But I want Creative Commons to help build a broad federation of individuals and organizations, from the Free Culture Movement that has been launched at universities across the world, to WikiPedians and others who want to make the protections of the law that we call “copyright” make sense in a digital age.

This ultimately will be the real contribution of Creative Commons, if in fact we can make it work. As I’ve traveled to the launches of Creative Commons projects across the world, I’ve met literally thousands working on a common set of ideals. Every one of them sees a promise in the creative potential that the Internet could enable. Every one of them sees a reason to work now to make that potential real. Some have spent literally hundreds of hours spreading the work of CC, not as staff, but as volunteers. Others have just begun this work, both within CC, and outside it.

I could never say anything that would adequately thank these volunteers. The most that we all can do is to make their project work. We are extremely close to meeting the targets we set for this campaign. We must meet those targets if we are to continue. Thank you for allowing me to invade your inbox every week over these past months. But please help us in these remaining three days to meet our challenge, and spread CC.

One final word of thanks: I am grateful to Maria Cristinia Alvite and the project for their work in translating these letters. Some day we will find a leader for this movement who can speak all the languages of the movement. I promise, I am looking.

Thanks again for your time, your help, and your inspiration.

Posted 28 December 2005