Google Goes CC

Mia Garlick, November 4th, 2005

Google now enables CC-customized searching so you can search for Creative Commons-licensed content on either Google or Yahoo!’s Advanced Search page. Creative Commons’ own “Find” page now gives you to option to use either Google or Yahoo! for your searching. With two major search engines now enabling the dissemination of CC-licensed works, this enables greater dissemination of CC-licensed works and establishes CC’s licensing infrastructure as an important component of the Internet.


iLaw, March 2006 in Mexico City

Mia Garlick, November 3rd, 2005

Get ready to broaden your minds and ask the bigger questions of what kind of world of the Internet and all things digital _should_ look like. The next iLaw is scheduled for March 16 & 17, 2006, in Mexico City. Topics to be discussed include intellectual property protection, how changing technologies are affecting policy, law and markets, the globalization of the Net and the implications of entering new markets when you don’t fully understand the legal regimes and the cultural, societal and political impacts of new Internet technologies and how changes in norms are driving changes in markets. The faculty include Professor Yochai Benkler, Professor William Fischer and Creative Commons’ own CEO & Chairman Lawrence Lessig. The details about the seminar and the program are available in English and Spanish. Get ready to broaden your mind.

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Words from CCed CNet Article Ring Around the World

Mia Garlick, November 3rd, 2005

Back in October, CNET Executive Editor Tom Merrit wrote a piece about Creative Commons considering the question “Does Creative Commons free your content?” Creative Commons’ international partners wanted to share the article with their colleagues and fellow countrymen – but the drawback was that it was only available in English. Luckily, Tom was able to persuade the CNET legal department to license the text of the article under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. Now the article is available in Japanese, Hebrew, Italian and Spanish…with possible more translations in the works. A great example of Creative Commons licenses enabling dialogue across geographic and linguistic boundaries.

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CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on Continuing the Movement

Lawrence Lessig, November 2nd, 2005

[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]

From last week’s episode:

Thus we use our licenses to build the freedoms authors want upon a
reinforced layer of “fair use” freedoms. Creative Commons is thus
“fair use”-plus: a promise that any freedoms given are always in
addition to the freedoms guaranteed by the law.

That’s the end of the background. Next week I will describe some of
the fun stuff Creative Commons has built, and some more about where
we’re going.

The story continues:

About two months ago, a friend asked:

I don’t get what Creative Commons is, beyond a bunch of servers
serving up licenses to people around the world. Why would you need

The question was completely understandable. Most who see us just see
us through our licenses. Yet there’s a great deal more to what we’re
doing. And my aim over the next few weeks is to describe that great
deal more.

This email is just a start (I promised to keep these short). Its aim
is to describe the initial core of CC.

When Creative Commons was launched in December, 2002, we had a
simple, narrow focus — to spread Creative Commons licenses. The
organization was housed in the basement of Stanford Law School. The
tiny staff worked so hard that some at Stanford thought they lived
there too.

The aim at the time was straightforward: to explain why Creative
Commons licenses mattered. We did that with lectures, with stories
for the press, and even with Flash.

Slowly, we found traction. MIT’s OpenCourseWare project used CC
licenses to free an extraordinary range of content for anyone to
build upon or share. Rice University’s Connexions project did the
same. And Tim O’Reilly gave us over 500 titles from O’Reilly Press to
release under free licenses, including some under a license (the
Founders’ Copyright) that voluntarily reduces the term of copyright
to just 14 (or 28) years.

Very soon into the project, we started getting emails from around the
world asking how others in other countries could participate too.
Technically, our licenses were designed to work anywhere in the
world. But this enthusiasm went far beyond the desire to adopt US-
based licenses.

So early on we launched the “iCommons Project.” Headquartered in
Berlin, the initial aim of the iCommons Project was to coordinate
with volunteers from around the world to develop versions of our
licenses that were tuned to the law of local jurisdictions. Japan was
the first, developing a license based in Japanese law that could also
be used anywhere in the world. These localized licenses would then
link to a translated “Commons Deed” (remember, the simple plain
English (and now, plain-Japanese, Spanish, French, etc…) explanation
of the license), and then to a universal set of metadata that would
make the freedoms attached to the content understandable by computers.


iCommons quickly exploded. Soon we had volunteers from over 70
countries around the world interested in porting our licenses to
their local law. And as countries completed the project, I began
trekking across the world to celebrate the launch of Creative Commons
internationally. With Slovenia’s launch this last weekend, there are
now 24 jurisdictions that have gone live. And a bunch more will
become live very soon.

This is the core of what CC has been — making free licenses work
wherever we can. But that’s just the beginning of the work we’ve
done. Next, we’ll describe the Science Commons. And after that,
another major new international project.

Stay tuned.


One final fundraising related bit of news: As you know, I’m writing
these letters as part of our annual fundraising campaign. This letter
might begin to help you see why such a campaign is needed. But I
wanted to tell you about a new feature to this campaign: We’re asking
our supporters to add a Creative Commons button to their site, to
help grow the Commoners Movement. Please support us by adding a
button to any page you might control. You can get the button here.

Thanks for any help you can offer.

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

Week 4 – CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on CC & Fair Use (Spanish
– Thanks to Maria Cristinia Alvite for translation

Archive of Lessig Letters

Support the Commons

Learn More

Comics and

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CC Talks With: Kembrew McLeod

Mia Garlick, November 1st, 2005

Kembrew McLeod is currently an Assistant Professor, University of Iowa, Department of Communication Studies. In addition to being an academic, Kembrew is a self-professed prankster. In 1998 he trademarked the phrase “Freedom of Expression®” as a comment on how the intellectual property law is being used to fence off culture and restrict the way in which people can express their ideas. He is the author of two books: “Owning Culture” and, most recently, “Freedom of Expression®: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity“.

The book “Freedom of Expression®” was released online under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license ( Kembrew is currently making a documentary based on the second chapter of the book “Copyright Criminals: This is a Sampling Sport“. Excerpts of the documentary are currently online at the Internet Archive licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. This documentary also inspired music that has been uploaded and remixed on the Creative Commons ccMixter site.

Both the book and the documentary make for a fascinating look at the creative process for many artists for whom sampling, recontextualization and referencing and ‘borrowing’ from the works of others is their artform.

Creative Commons’ Mia Garlick caught up with Kembrew and asked him about his experience of using Creative Commons licenses and tools.

Creative Commons (“CC”): How did you come to decide to release your book “Freedom of Expression®” online under a Creative Commons license? How did your publisher respond to your decision?

Kembrew McLeod (“KM”): While working on “Freedom of Expression®”, I always knew I would vigorously try to convince Doubleday/Random House to release a PDF file version of my book under a Creative Commons license although I suspected that Doubleday/Random House’s response would be “no way.” After all, the parent company of Random House is Bertelsmann, the media giant that also owns one of the major labels that is suing downloaders, so I didn’t think they would exactly jump for joy at my proposal.

Then Larry Lessig released his book “Free Culture”, that was published by Penguin books (another media giant publisher) online under a Creative Commons license; it made the news, and eventually it filtered back to my editor, Gerry Howard, who is a truly extraordinary person, and a really cool rock ‘n’ roll dude (not to mention a legend in the editing world). Gerry deserves the credit for getting Random House and its lawyers to go along with the idea. However, I don’t think I ever would have gotten any traction if Larry hadn’t convinced already another major press of the merits of a Creative Commons license.

CC: Have you had any reaction or comments from members of the public about your online release of the book under a Creative Commons license?

KM: It has been a truly gratifying experience to have the PDF version freely available, especially because (with the exception of Japan, where it is being translated for publication), my book “Freedom of Expression®” has no overseas distribution. I have heard from someone at a UN office in Switzerland, who shares my research interests, as well as others from various European, Asian, and African countries. Not coincidentally, soon after the book was released I was invited to speak at a really interesting event to be held this October 14-15, 2005, in Budapest, Hungary, called: “RE:activism: Re-drawing the boundaries of activism in a new media environment.”

CC: You have been selling hardcopies of your book as well. Do you feel that the online release of your book under a Creative Commons license has had any impact on the hardcopy sales?

KM: When I placed the Creative Commons-licensed PDF version online a week after it had been released, Larry Lessig endorsed my book on his blog — providing links to both the free PDF version on my website, and to Amazon. After that, my Amazon ranking (of course, not the most scientific indicator of sales, but an indicator nonetheless) shot way, way up after he posted his recommendation. Honestly, I think I got more publicity from that event than anything else surrounding the release of the book. After all, my book did not receive even a millionth of the promotion muscle of, say, Harry Potter, so the Creative Commons-prompted publicity definitely helped. It also seemed to be a positive karmic act of good faith, given the nature of what I argue in the book.

CC: You are in the process of making a documentary about the second chapter of your book – “Copyright Criminals: This is a Sampling Sport“. You used the Creative Commons ccPublisher tool to upload the video for free hosting at Internet Archive. What was your experience of using the ccPublisher tool?

KM: It was really simple and easy! It took me less than one minute to do it, and I’ve recommended this tool to everyone who has asked about Creative Commons licenses. My co-producer, Ben Franzen, and I had already placed our 10-minute work-in-progress version of Copyright Criminals under a Creative Commons license. But when we remembered that there is free hosting on the Internet Archive for Creative Commons-licensed works, we quickly uploaded it there after we blew through our bandwidth in only 24 hours.

CC: You also had an interesting experience with our ccMixter site and a remix involving your “Copyright Criminals” documentary. Can you tell us about it?

KM: Straight after we made this early version of “Copyright Criminals” available, someone (Pat Chilla the Beat Gorilla) placed an a capella rap on the ccMixter site that starts out, “It’s the copyright criminals/hit you with a blast from the past… .”

Shortly after this track was uploaded, many different remixes appeared that reworked this a capella. To date, there are 9 different remixes. Next time we do another Creative Commons-licensed cut of our work-in-progress (the feature length version won’t be finished until sometime in 2006), we are intending to use Ashwan’s “Chilla Illa Tha Cilla Killa” during the credit sequence.

This is an example of one of those gratifying creative feedback loops that makes Creative Commons so attractive for so many different kinds of people. I am glad it happened.

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Creative Commons on vinyl

Mike Linksvayer, November 1st, 2005

ug001-ccNew vinyl label Unlockedgroove is releasing LPs under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike-2.5 License:

As long as Moby doesn’t steal our stuff and make a billion dollars off of it, we want our music to be reworked

Buy the record from the super cool Forced Exposure catalog and check out Unlockedgroove’s launch events in San Francisco and New York.

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Help promote the CC fundraising campaign

Mike Linksvayer, October 31st, 2005

1. Get yourself a button.

2. Put the button code in your site template or in a blog post, or both.

3. a) Profit? b) Priceless? c) Thanks for helping promote the campaign!

Here’s a preview of the three buttons:

Become A Commoner

Support The Commons

Early examples of bloggers using a button in their site template include Jon Lebkowsky, Marc Canter,
and Lawrence Lessig. Early button-in-a-blog-post examples include
Boing Boing
and Copyfight. Watch for more via Technorati.

Special thanks to Boris Anthony for help with the button graphics.


CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on CC & Fair Use

Lawrence Lessig, October 26th, 2005

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

From last week’s episode:

Widespread DRM would disable that interoperability. Or at least, it would disable interoperability without permission first. And while fair use is a codified exception to that control, as we see them today, DRM technologies cannot respect “fair use.”

Why is that so? And how does Creative Commons respect fair use?

The story continued…

I began this series with a bit of background. This is the last of these background emails.

In the first week, I described the basic idea of Creative Commons — free licenses that signaled to the world the freedoms an author intends his work to carry. In week two, we confessed we stole this idea from the Free Software Movement. In very different contexts, both they and we use free licenses to avoid the creativity-stifling effects of overly restrictive control. That control was the subject of last week’s email — the technical locks that control access to and use of content that we call DRM. DRM, we fear, will add a layer of restriction to the Internet that will defeat content interoperability, and weaken “fair use.”

“Fair use”: No word is more used in debates about copyright with less understanding. What is “fair use” (in America, “fair dealing” in most of the rest of the world) and how does DRM threaten it?

The law recognizes three kinds of “uses” of copyrighted works:

  1. Free uses (uses that don’t trigger the law of copyright, such as reading a physical book);
  2. Regulated uses (uses that do trigger the law of copyright, such as republishing a book;
  3. Fair uses (uses that trigger the law of copyright, but which are nonetheless free because the law deems them “fair” — such as copying words from a book in a review of the book).

Digital technologies are changing the balance between these three kinds of uses. As life moves online, “free uses” shrink. Because every act on a digital network produces a copy, and “copies” trigger copyright law, there are vastly fewer “free uses” in digital space than in analog space.

This shrinkage means that “fair use” must now shoulder the burden of protecting uses that were before free. Yet there isn’t much precedent protecting these new “fair uses.” For example, there is no case that says it is a “fair use” to give someone a book. That’s because in the analog world, giving someone a book never triggered copyright law, so no one ever needed the copyright defense of “fair use” to authorize that giving. But in the digital world, giving someone a book means making a copy. If that copy is not authorized, then it is only “fair use” that can secure the freedom to share. And those trying to defend the freedom to give must look to a body of “fair use” law built for a different world.

This point is crucial: we now must rely upon a clumsy and expensive legal defense (“fair use”) to protect freedoms that were before taken for granted. No doubt, with all the money and time in the world, we might imagine that “fair use” freedoms would balance out. But this is where DRM becomes a particularly dangerous problem.

For before you can claim your use is “fair,” you must have the technical ability to use the work in a particular way. “Fair use” is a defense; you have to be able to use the material in a way that creates a copyright question before you get to play your defense.

Yet if DRM is deployed the way most of it is designed, then the technology will remove the technical ability to use the work in a way that even gives you the right to make a fair use. “Fair use” would thus not be removed by the law. “Fair use” would be removed by code. And as in the United States at least, it is an offense to build tools to tinker with that code — even if the purpose is “fair use” — you begin to see the danger of DRM: digital technologies have shrunk the range of “free uses” (since every use produces a copy); this new generation of digital technology (DRM) will shrink the range of “fair uses,” by removing even the ability to use content in a way that would otherwise be “fair.”

That’s the problem that DRM creates for “fair use.” How can Creative Commons help solve this problem?

In two important ways:

  1. By building a layer of Creative Commons marked creativity, we increase the range of creative work that doesn’t need the locks of DRM.
  2. By banning the use of DRM that interferes with the freedoms guaranteed by our license, we assure that the freedoms we’ve built into our license are not restricted by DRM. Among these freedoms, the very first is “fair use.” As section 2 of every license says, “Creative Commons licenses do not modify or restrict ‘fair use.'”

Thus we use our licenses to build the freedoms authors want upon a reinforced layer of “fair use” freedoms. Creative Commons is thus “fair use”-plus: a promise that any freedoms given are always in addition to the freedoms guaranteed by the law.

That’s the end of the background. Next week I will describe some of the fun stuff Creative Commons has built, and some more about where we’re going.

Week 3 – CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on Interoperabilty
(Spanish Version – Thanks to Maria Cristinia Alvite for translation)

Archive of Lessig Letters

Support the Commons

Learn More about Creative Commons, view comics and movies about Creative Commons.


Join the Discussion About Creative Commons & the African Renaissance

Mia Garlick, October 21st, 2005

Creative Commons Nigeria project lead Ayo Kusamotu will be moderating the’s Africa Committee Forum as part of the upcoming Cyberweek conference to be held soon – October 23-28, 2005. Participating in Cyberweek this year will be 8 bar organizations of Africa, the Attorney General of Lagos state and Nigeria as well as major African media organizations. Topics to be discussed by the Africa Committee Forum include: Internet Telephony, Creative Commons, Ecommerce, CyberCrime, eVoting and Online Dispute Resolution as they relate to Africa. Registration is free and participation will be by way of online discussion forums. Ayo tells us even non-lawyers are welcome!

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Check Out Our New Featured Commoner – The Lonely Island

Mia Garlick, October 20th, 2005

A little while ago, we blogged about Wired’s article about The Lonely Island, LA-based comedy collective, who were recently signed to work with the Saturday Night Live team after releasing their Awesometown comedy pilot under a Creative Commons license. CC recently caught up with “the dudes” in our new Featured Commoner interview.

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