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Commoner Letter #4: Molly Kleinman of the University of Michigan

Allison Domicone, November 16th, 2009

Molly Kleinman is a long-time friend of CC and has been doing incredible work for all things copyright over at the University of Michigan as Special Assistant to the Dean of Libraries. From Espresso Book Machines to a CC-friendly Scholarly Publishing Office, we continue to be inspired by the University of Michigan’s innovative approach to open content, copyright, and especially open education, an area of focus CC is highly committed to developing through ccLearn. We’re honored to have Molly, a self-proclaimed dedicated advocate of Creative Commons, write the fourth letter in the Commoner Letter series of this year’s fundraising campaign.

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Molly Kleinman2
Photo by Chan Wong CC BY-NC

Hello, Fellow Commoner,

Creative Commons licenses make it easier for me to do my work, and to help my faculty and students do theirs. Today I’d like to return the favor and encourage you to support the Creative Commons 2009 Annual Campaign, and help make sure they continue the wonderful work they’ve been doing.

Why is Creative Commons so helpful and important? Because it provides a balanced, sane alternative to the madly out-of-whack copyright system I deal with every day. I am an academic librarian and copyright specialist who teaches faculty, students, librarians, archivists and others about their rights as creators and their rights as users. Anyone familiar with the state of copyright law knows it’s messy and confusing stuff, and the very notion of users’ rights is contentious in some circles. Big Content has been waging a propaganda campaign to convince the public that all unauthorized, un-paid-for uses are infringing, illegal uses. It’s not true, but the widespread misinformation is bad for educators, bad for students, and bad for all of us who benefit from the fruits of scholarly research. Professors are afraid to share educational material with their students. Parents are afraid to let their kids post homemade videos online. All this fear hinders the ability of scholars, teachers, and students to do the work of research, teaching, and learning that is their job.

As my favorite CC video says, “Enter Creative Commons.” Creative Commons carves out an arena in which people can use and build on new works without fear. It frees us from both the looming threat of lawsuits and the time consuming and expensive demands of clearing permissions. Creative Commons helps people share openly, and the more content that CC helps to open up, whether it’s music or photography or scientific data or educational resources, the more it expands what faculty and students can teach and study freely.

I’d like to call particular attention to the work of one of Creative Commons’ offshoots, ccLearn. ccLearn is striving to realize the full potential of the internet to support open learning and open educational resources, and to minimize legal, technical, and social barriers to sharing and reuse of educational materials. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this work. In the United States alone, plummeting budgets and rising costs for both K-12 and higher education are making it harder for students and teachers to access the quality educational resources they need. Until recently, most educational content was locked behind digital paywalls or hidden in print books, and the free stuff you could find online was often unreliable. Now, the pool of high quality open educational resources is growing every day, with open textbooks, open courseware, and other experimental projects popping up all the time. Many of these projects have received support from ccLearn, and nearly all of them are built on the framework of Creative Commons licenses. Every one provides expanded access that is crucial to the future of a quality educational system, both in this country and throughout the world.

This is why it is so important to support Creative Commons, in any number of ways. Though I donate (and you should, too), I believe that one of my greatest contributions has been in helping to build the Creative Commons community from the ground up, one frustrated professor or librarian at a time. Every person I teach about Creative Commons is a person who may eventually contribute to the Commons herself, attaching licenses to her works and sharing them with the world. The bigger the Commons, the better for all of us.

Molly Kleinman
Special Assistant to the Dean of Libraries
University of Michigan Library

One Response to “Commoner Letter #4: Molly Kleinman of the University of Michigan”

  1. Nell Hunt says:

    Thanks for all you’ve done and continue to do and inspire, Molly. This is the way it needs to become. This is our only hope.

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