Molly S. Van Houweling
When Molly Van Houweling ran Creative Commons back in 2001, she was the only staff member, working out of a small office on the third floor of the Stanford law school building. Her work there was mundane but critical: taking off from the pivotal meeting among the founders at the Harvard Berkman Center earlier that year, the once-advisee of Larry Lessig was doing paperwork and drafting the legal language that would become the foundation of Creative Commons.
Van Houweling worked with the founding team to settle on the idea of making machine-readable licenses for creative works and to begin designing the infrastructure and drafting the legal language for these licenses. “We received some skeptical responses from people and didn’t do a lot of market testing to guarantee adoption, but moved forward based on the creativity that we were sensing and observing on the Internet.” The free software movement of the 80s and 90s also suggested that there was a market of creativity not motivated by the traditional copyright model of selling things under exclusive rights. From the beginning there was a wide range of CC adopters, including Boing Boing, PLoS, Magnatune, and the MIT OpenCourseWare project.
In the summer of 2002, she handed off the executive director role to Glenn Otis Brown and moved to Michigan to teach law. She has since continued to champion CC by promoting our “some rights reserved” approach at conferences and teaching the principles of CC to her classes.
Today, Van Houweling is a law professor at UC Berkeley, where she teaches classes about copyright and intellectual property. She always starts her classes by explaining the traditional justifications for this body of law–the fear that some creativity might not happen if the creators were not protected from having their work copied and distributed in a way that prevents them from reaping their investment. But she also encourages them to think about how sound this argument is when looking at the bigger picture. “As students have become more familiar with models like CC and the explosion of creativity on the Internet, it’s become easier for them to see the limits to this explanation of copyright protection.”
Creative Commons has influenced her life in other ways, too. Van Houweling is a competitive bicycle racer–she’s the reigning champion in Northern California and Nevada in the women’s individual time trial event and the 2010 winner of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic stage race. “It’s a big thrill for me when the pictures taken of me are CC licensed,” she says. “Some of the best pictures of me from Mt. Hood were taken by [MetaFilter founder] Matt Haughey and have been used by local papers and on the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic web site.” She’s also an avid traveler who likes to take pictures of food and drink that she encounters on her journeys, and was delighted to find that one of her CC-licensed Flickr photos was used in several Wikipedia entries to illustrate a Spanish herbal brandy. “My creativity was never motivated in a way that had to do with copyright, and it’s much more rewarding now that people don’t have to ask for my permission.”
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As many of you may remember, last December CC paired up with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society to host a panel discussion entitled, “The Commons: Celebrating accomplishments, discerning futures.” Panelists included James Boyle, The Public Domain; Lawrence Lessig, Remix; Joi Ito, Free Souls; and Molly S. Van Houweling, Creative Commons’ first Executive Director. Jonathan Zittrain, of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, moderated.
A video of the panel discussion is now available at Internet Archive for you to watch and download.
We hope you’ll enjoy the video, which offers an intimate glimpse into CC’s history through the eyes of the people who were there from the beginning. Larry, Molly, Jamie and Joi each recall some wonderful stories and anecdotes from the early days of CC, and offer up new perspectives on where the organization should be headed. It’s a great video that speaks to the importance and relevance of CC as an organization and a leader in the move toward a more participatory culture.1 Comment »
On Dec. 12th, 2008, CC will be pairing up with two of the most influential and innovative institutions in the “open” movement: MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
For those of you interested in the tech side of Creative Commons, MIT’s CSAIL is hosting CC’s second Tech Summit from 9-4:30. The first Tech Summit, held at Google this past summer, was a complete success; those archived presentations are here.
And for those of you interested in CC generally, CC and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society have joined forces to bring you the panel discussion: “The Commons: Celebrating accomplishments, discerning futures.” Panelists include James Boyle, The Public Domain; Lawrence Lessig, Remix; Joi Ito, Free Souls; and Molly S. Van Houweling, Creative Commons’ first Executive Director. Jonathan Zittrain, of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, will moderate. A reception will follow at 7:30 pm. Details are here.
We hope you will join us in celebrating Creative Commons’ sixth successful year and the culmination of our 2008 Annual Fundraising Campaign, “Build the Commons.” This event is open to the public, but because we’re closing in on the end of our campaign, we encourage you to bring your check books (or cash rather) and help sustain CC by donating at the door!
Space is limited. Please RSVP by December 1st to Melissa Reeder, Development Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.Comments Off