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A Report on the Commons


So, with this email, Creative Commons launches its second (now officially) annual fundraising campaign. Last year, through the course of that first campaign, I wrote a series of letters explaining a bit about where Creative Commons came from, and where it was going. Those letters (creatively labeled “Lessig Letters”) are still available here. This year, I’m going to talk a bit less, and in my place, we’re going to tell the stories of some of the extraordinary Creative Commons projects that have been flourishing around the world.


But first, a bit of recap: Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation, dedicated to making it simpler for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. We provide free licenses that mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share the work, or remix the work, or both share and remix the work, as the author chooses.


We were motivated to begin this project about four years ago because we realized a point that’s obvious once you see it: that however important the “all rights reserved” model of copyright is to some creators, it is not the model that works for many, maybe most. Scholars, scientists and educators, for example, are also creators, but they don’t depend upon the perfect control of their work – deciding who can access it, or who can copy it, or who can build upon it – for them to have the incentive to create great works. Perhaps even more importantly, for the many who create for what our board member, Joi Ito, calls the “sharing economy,” “all rights reserved” makes little sense. The millions of photos on Flickr, for example, licensed under Creative Commons licenses are made available by people who want to make their creativity available to others without demanding payment upfront, or control over how their work gets used. These people are creators – some professional, but many amateur, where amateur doesn’t mean “amateurish,” but rather people who do what they do for the love of their work, and not for the money. Creative Commons provides free tools to help these creators create in the way that they think best.

Creative Commons launched the licensing project in December 2002. Within a year, there were more than 1,000,000 link-backs to our licenses (meaning at least a million places on the web where people were linking to our licenses, and presumptively licensing content under those licenses). Within two years, that number was 12,000,000. At the end of our last fundraising campaign, it had grown to about 45,000,000 link-backs to our licenses. That was December, 2005. In the first six months of 2006, that number grew by almost 100,000,000 licenses. In June, we reported about 140,000,000 link-backs to our licenses. We have hit a stride, and more and more of the net marks itself with the freedoms that Creative Commons helps secure.


This success has been primarily built by thousands of volunteers across the world who have worked to launch Creative Commons projects locally, and worked to spread our movement to artists and educators internationally. But it is supported by the contributions of many more. Each year we ask more to join this movement in both ways. These letters are invitations to join in the support for Creative Commons.

The plea for support in these letters will be subtle. (We’ve perfected subliminal email.) But if you’d like to opt out of these letters, just click here . Alternatively, if you know others who might enjoy this weekly missive, click here and we’ll invite them to join as well. And if you’d like to just get it over, and donate, click here

Next week, I’ll talk a bit more about the values behind our movement. And the week following that, the first story from the front lines of CC.


Posted 18 October 2006