The Power of Open/Text

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Creative Commons would like to acknowledge the many contributions of staff, consultants, sponsors, and supporters responsible for producing The Power of Open. A very special thanks goes to the organizations, artists, and creators who not only share their work with CC licenses, but shared their time and insights to be profiled in this book.

Visit to download a digital version of The Power of Open or to find out how to order print copies.


Text and layout © 2011 Creative Commons Corporation; photo credits appear alongside images throughout the book.

Cover art © 2011 Naeema Zarif ( Created as a special commission for this project.

This book uses two public domain fonts available via The League of Moveable Type: League Gothic and Goudy Bookletter 1911. For more information see

The double C in a circle, the words and logotype “Creative Commons,” and the Creative Commons license buttons are trademarks of Creative Commons. For more information, see

Except where otherwise noted, content in The Power of Open, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. For the terms of this license, please visit



The world has experienced an explosion of openness. From individual artists opening their creations for input from others, to governments requiring publicly funded works be available to the public, both the spirit and practice of sharing is gaining momentum and producing results.

Creative Commons began providing licenses for the open sharing of content only a decade ago. Now more than 400 million CC-licensed works are available on the Internet, from music and photos, to research findings and entire college courses. Creative Commons created the legal and technical infrastructure that allows effective sharing of knowledge, art and data by individuals, organizations and governments. More importantly, millions of creators took advantage of that infrastructure to share work that enriches the global commons for all humanity.

The Power of Open, collects the stories of those creators. Some are like ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative news organization that uses CC while partnering with the world’s largest media companies. Others like nomadic filmmaker Vincent Moon use CC licensing as an essential element of a lifestyle of openness in pursuit of creativity. The breadth of uses is as great as the creativity of the individuals and organizations choosing to open their content, art and ideas to the rest of the world.

As we look ahead, the field of openness is approaching a critical mass of adoption that could result in sharing becoming a default standard for the many works that were previously made available only under the all-rights-reserved framework. Even more exciting is the potential increase in global welfare from the use of Creative Commons’ tools and the increasing relevance of openness to the discourse of culture, education and innovation policy.

We hope that The Power of Open inspires you to examine and embrace the practice of open licensing so that your contributions to the global intellectual commons can provide their greatest benefit to all people.

About Creative Commons

Our vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet – universal access to culture, education and research – to drive a new era of development, growth and productivity.

The idea of universal access to research, education and culture is made possible by the Internet, but our legal and social systems don’t always allow that idea to be realized. Copyright was created long before the emergence of the Internet, and can make it hard to legally perform actions we take for granted on the network: copy, paste, edit source and post to the Web. The default setting of copyright law requires all of these actions to have explicit permission, granted in advance, whether you’re an artist, teacher, scientist, librarian, policymaker or just a regular user. To achieve the vision of universal access, someone needed to provide a free, public and standardized infrastructure that creates a balance between the reality of the Internet and the reality of copyright laws. That someone is Creative Commons.

What we provide

The infrastructure we provide consists of a set of copyright licenses and tools that create a balance inside the traditional “all rights reserved” setting that copyright law creates.

Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to keep their copyright while allowing certain uses of their work – a “some rights reserved” approach to copyright – which makes their creative, educational and scientific content instantly more compatible with the full potential of the internet. The combination of our tools and our users is a vast and growing digital commons, a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law. We’ve worked with copyright experts around the world to make sure our licenses are legally solid, globally applicable, and responsive to our users’ needs.

For those creators wishing to opt out of copyright altogether, and to maximize the interoperability of data, Creative Commons also provides tools that allow work to be placed as squarely as possible in the public domain.

Our vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet – universal access to culture, education and research – to drive a new era of development, growth and productivity.

Where we're going

Your support

Creative Commons licenses

Attribution (CC BY)
Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)
Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND)
Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)
CC0 Public Domain Dedication
Public Domain Mark

Creative Commons Stories

TED Talks

Jonathan Worth

Nina Paley



DJ Vadim

Global Voices

Pratham Books

The Open University

Epic Fu

Bloomsbury Academic

Indaba Music

Curt Smith


Vincent Moon

Dan Gillmor

Riot Cinema

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum



Uncensored Interview



Tiago Serra

Al Jazeera

Khan Academy

Human Rights Watch


James Patrick Kelly

Robin Sloan

Public Library of Science

Other Voices: Testimonials

What is the Power of Open worth?

How has adoption of Creative Commons grown?

Visualizing the Growth

The Power of Open Supporters