Tonight I attended a Creative Commons forum featuring Larry Lessig, founder; Joi Ito, CEO; Jamie Boyle, Board Chair; and Molly S. Van Houweling, Board Member and former Exec. Director. I was fortunate enough to hear the story of CC’s start – how it went from counter-copyright to copyright commons to creative commons, how the different licenses progressed, how the first meeting went. I also listened to the milestones and achievements – how the users and volunteers and supporters of Creative Commons are preventing failed sharing, how Creative Commons is working and has worked to promote copyright education, and what users can do to promote and “proselytize” Creative Commons.
One genuine, on-the-record lesson is that Creative Commons too is suffering during this global economic crisis. It was mentioned, in earnest, by nearly each panel member; that is, many of the institutions which have funded Creative Commons over the years no longer have much to give, financially. If you are able, please, donate to Creative Commons.
My guess, though, is that the majority of my readers either donate or would donate if they could. And so, I’m going to focus on the second request of CC.
Perhaps more important than the $10 or $100 I might give to Creative Commons is my ability to spread the world. Truthfully, CC wouldn’t exist without me, and you, and you, and you. You use Flickr, you probably use some sort of attribution license, maybe your blog is under a CC license…you get it. But what about those who don’t?
Eszter Hargittai posed the problem: We learn at different speeds when it comes to technology. There’s a variety of learners out there, some of which aren’t going to pick up on Creative Commons through regular use of the Internet. Copyright is not something that people care about, sadly; nor is it a simple concept. The changes in the law over the past 25 years are enormous; not to mention the changes in our sensibilities. Therefore, Creative Commons is simply not…well, simple.
My take on the subject is that copyright education, along with such other important topics as free speech, and the concept of censorship, should be taught early and often. And by copyright, I don’t mean the dry, legal definition; I mean, the contemporary definition: to promote the creation of new works by allowing authors to have control of and profit from their works.
That alone is not a bad thing. Creators of all kinds should have say over who is allowed to control, profit from, alter, and remix their creations. But when conventional copyright is too constrictive, what is the solution? Creative Commons allows the creator to license their work under a number of “copyrights,” or “counter-copyrights” if you will. This blog, for example, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivativeWorks 3.0 United States License (my Flickr photos are Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike). Both licenses mean that non-profit organizations may quote and attribute my work; the former stipulates that no remixes or derivative works be made, whereas the latter mandates that the person who utilizes my work must then share that work with a compatible license.
In my mind, Creative Commons is synonymous with the openness of the Internet. You cannot be Web 2.0 (wow, I suddenly sound like a motivational speaker) without grasping – if not embracing – the concept of the commons. This past U.S. election embraced it, and look what happened. Even those of us who buy music and art and support the right of the industries to protect their music recognize the need for sharing. As the incomparable Joi Ito pointed out, there’s no point in arguing with those who would disagree, rather, we ought to share and sharealike with those who would ignore, or be indifferent toward, or not seek out information.
Of course I agree. Sharing – so basic, so simple, yet so uncommon. Let’s change that.