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CC at 20: CEO Catherine Stihler Reflects on 2022 and Where CC Is Headed Next

About CC
Headshot of Catherine Stihler, wearing a black topw with a white CC logo with a tree in the background.

“Catherine Stihler” by Martin Shields is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Last Friday (16 December 2022), Creative Commons proudly celebrated twenty years of CC licensing and all the groundbreaking collaboration it has enabled. As we look back on this remarkable journey, time seems to pass more quickly than ever — yet our gratitude for each milestone remains unwavering, as do words of thanks towards everyone who helped make it possible.

The team, network, and community of Creative Commons have so much to be proud of in 2022. We celebrated our 20th anniversary with community events around the world and an in-person party in San Francisco. In these two decades, CC revolutionized the copyright landscape, creating an open access alternative to traditional “all rights reserved” restrictions. Today, this system continues to empower a new era of online sharing and collaboration that has transformed our global digital landscape. Now two and a half billion pieces of content have been freed up because our open licenses and public domain tools empower creators, researchers, librarians, archivists, musicians, artists, educators, students, and individuals globally to share content openly. We are so proud of our key relationships, where our licenses are used every second to share knowledge and culture on platforms like Wikipedia, YouTube, and Flickr. And now in new spaces, we saw our public domain tools celebrating the #CC0Summer in 2022, where NFT artists used our licenses to place their creations in the commons.

CC has made a dramatic new commitment to tackling the climate crisis this year. We’ve taken an ambitious leap forward by launching our Open Climate Campaign in partnership with EIFL and SPARC, turning open sharing of research outputs into a cornerstone of climate science. Huge thank you goes to the Open Society Foundations, whose initial seed funding led to a four-year funding award from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. CC has a huge role to play in opening up knowledge that can help solve humanity’s greatest challenge. We were thrilled to receive a further one million dollars by the McGovern Foundation to expand our efforts and do more in 2023 to open large climate data sets. We are currently recruiting for an Open Climate Data Manager. Please do come and join our team at CC if you too want to play your part in solving the world’s greatest challenge.

We were also one of the seven organizing partners who joined forces to launch the Movement for a Better Internet, a diverse community of advocates, activists, academics, and civil society groups working together to promote policies that create a better internet for people everywhere. We’ve made a great start in our mission to build an inspiring movement — with 60 committed partners and the launch of an acclaimed hub in October. The internet is at an inflection point, with many people and organizations prioritizing public interest values over eyeballs, attention and profit. With the Musk-led takeover of Twitter, the new Online Harms Bill in UK Parliament, upcoming implementation of the EU’s DMA and DSA, as well as potential Supreme Court rulings on Section 230 set for 2023 — there is certainly a lot to do. We were delighted to join both the Unfinished Network and the UN Global Goals Week Coalition, and were proud to be chosen as a Morgridge Family Foundation organization for the fellow/mentor programme.

CC has been following the crucial debates on data and AI in the EU as policy becomes law and where better sharing, our strategic theme, came under scrutiny. We have written more on data and AI than we had ever planned for, because there is just so much to reflect on and be challenged by. We must continue to pursue these policy areas into 2023, particularly giving a global perspective, so that our strategic theme of better sharing may continue and prosper. Our tireless commitment and passion for Open Education in 2022 positioned us to further the CC mission of leveraging open licenses, open access policies, and open education opportunities. Our Open Education Platform community made a lasting impression with two rounds of electrifying Lightning Talks. Their seven-minute presentations were full of inspiring stories and the latest updates in open education!

Another highlight was partnering with Fine Acts to commission the #BetterSharing collection of illustrations, inspired by quotes about Better Sharing from 12 prominent global open advocates. These CC-licensed visual pieces were created by 12 internationally renowned artists and shared on, an open repository of free illustrations focused on social justice issues.

Our CC Copyright Platform continues to highlight the global nature of the continuing copyright challenge, and our Open Culture program is going from strength to strength. A key highlight this year was launching our Open Voices series, featuring distinguished global cultural heritage professionals, which engaged 3 million people across multiple platforms. We hosted and attended numerous webinars, expert talks, panel discussions & community gatherings. Additionally, we released eight case studies that demonstrated the opportunities available for underrepresented & marginalized organizations, while our policy paper on copyright reform provided a roadmap towards better sharing of culture resources around the world.

This year saw our Open Journalism program pilot launch to great success — culminating in a global report on the state of journalism that uncovered the struggles of combating misinformation and bridging the divide between press and public. We look forward to expanding our work in Open Journalism in 2023.  This seems timely, as 2024 is set to be the year of elections across the world, from India to the US, the EU to Mexico, Indonesia to the UK and many more. If we want to uphold global democracy, supporting quality journalism has never been so important.  

However, like all our programmatic work, none of this would happen if it were not for the licenses. I hope in 2023 we will be able to secure dedicated funding to support our license infrastructure, because in supporting our licenses, all other open projects are supported, from publicly funded scientific research to all Wikipedia pages. Without CC, you could not share in the same way globally — something we need to be more intentional about in 2023 — sharing our intrinsic value and promoting the organization in new places and spaces. If we join forces and prioritize better sharing in the public interest, we can make great strides in tackling the most pressing issues of our time. Our value is everywhere, and it is our responsibility to advance CC’s impact and promote our work to a new generation of open knowledge enthusiasts and advocates.

In 2022, we met our 20th Anniversary fundraising goal, we launched two new programs, and were involved in policy deliberations at the EU in a way we have never been before. Our signature Open Culture program continued to make great strides in the global cultural heritage space. In 2023, we want to build on this success with our first in-person CC Global Summit in 4 years, which will be held in Mexico City the first week of October. This landmark event will explore emerging technologies and CC’s role in creating a more open world where everyone can thrive. Enjoy the holiday season, and wishing you all the best for 2023.

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Creative Commons empowers people, institutions, and governments to share content openly to advance knowledge, equity, and creativity for everyone, everywhere. As we look ahead to the next 20 years, our focus is on better sharing, sharing that is contextual, inclusive, just, equitable, reciprocal, and sustainable. As a nonprofit, we rely on contributions from people like you. Make a contribution of any size >

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Posted 20 December 2022