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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

We build infrastructure at Creative Commons. Our users build the commons itself. We are working to increase the adoption of our tools, to support and listen to our users, and to serve as a trusted steward of interoperable commons infrastructure.

Your support

In order to achieve the vision of an Internet full of open content, where users are participants in innovative culture, education and science, we depend on the backing of our users and those who believe in the potential of the Internet. We are alive and thriving thanks to the generous support of people like you. Spread the word about CC to your friends and family, and donate to help maintain Creative Commons as a robust, long-lived, and stable organization.

Creative Commons is a Massachusetts-chartered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable corporation.

Creative Commons licenses

Creative Commons licenses give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions and get credit for their creative work while allowing others to copy, distribute and make specific uses of it. Licensors have a wide range of options for choosing which permissions to grant and uses to allow.

Creative Commons licenses incorporate a unique and innovative three-layer design. The first layer is the “legal code,” consisting of traditional legal tools applicable around the world. This is supplemented with a “human-readable” explanation in more user-friendly language accessible to most creators. The final layer is a “machine-readable” description that software systems, search engines and other technology can understand and use to make searching for and utilizing CC-licensed works more convenient.

Taken together, the licenses' three layers ensure that the spectrum of rights covered by our tools isn’t something only lawyers can understand. It’s something that the creators of works can understand, their users can understand, and even the Web itself can understand.

Attribution (CC BY)
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.
Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)
This license lets others remix, tweak and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.
Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND)
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.
Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)
This license lets others remix, tweak and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)
This license lets others remix, tweak and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)
This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

Creative Commons also provides tools that work in the “all rights granted” space of the public domain. Our CC! tool allows licensors to waive all rights and place a work in the public domain, and our Public Domain Mark allows any Web user to “mark” a work as being in the public domain.

CC0 Public Domain Dedication
CC! enables owners of copyright-protected content to waive copyright interests in their works and thereby place them as completely as possible in the public domain, so that others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright. In contrast to Creative Commons licenses that allow copyright holders to choose from a range of permissions while retaining their copyright, CC! empowers yet another choice altogether — the choice to opt out of copyright and the exclusive rights it automatically grants creators.
Public Domain Mark
Public Domain Mark (PDM) is a tool that allows works already in the public domain to be marked and tagged in a way that clearly communicates the work’s public domain status, and allows it to be easily discoverable. The PDM is not a legal instrument like CC! or the CC licenses — it can only be used to label a work with information about its public domain status, not change a work’s current status under copyright. However, just like CC! and CC licenses, PDM has a metadata-supported deed and is machine-readable, allowing works tagged with PDM to be findable on the Internet.

Creative Commons Stories

TED Talks

June Cohen
Free to Spread Ideas / New York

“This phenomenal growth is entirely driven by free and open distribution, CC licensing has enabled sharing in ways well beyond what we could have done on our own.”


Now a mainstay of the online ecosystem, TED Talks started at exclusive seminars attended by a select few. Five years after publishing all TED Talks online under Creative Commons licenses, more than 200 million viewers have experienced the innovative thinking of TED speakers.

“This phenomenal growth is entirely driven by free and open distribution,” says June Cohen, executive producer of TED Media. “CC licensing has enabled sharing in ways well beyond what we could have done on our own.”

“When we decided to open our library, we had one single goal: to spread ideas,” Cohen says. “Every decision we made was based on that goal. Creative Commons was the most efficient way to empower the growth of our product and free us from conversations about what could or couldn’t be done with our videos.

“Sharing online was a very controversial decision. People feared it would capsize our business, discourage people from paying for our conference, and be rejected by speakers.

“The first year after releasing videos of talks for free, we raised the cost of the conference by 50 percent and sold out in one week with a 1,000 person waiting list,” Cohen says. “Not only do speakers lobby for the talks to be posted as soon as possible, but paying conference participants are anxious to share talks they just heard with family, friends and colleagues.”

TED Talks featuring Swedish medical doctor and statistician Hans Rosling and his presentations on developing countries show how CC licenses can popularize a subject. “Hans told me that posting his first TED Talk online did more to impact his career than all of the other things he had done previously,” Cohen says. “It opened up a whole new world for him.”

“Our unintended consequences have been explosively positive,” Cohen says. “It is not just the growth, but the way that our global audience has become a global team, embracing our brand and encouraging further innovation. A Creative Commons license clearly communicates that you are really serious about the spread of ideas.” is entirely driven by free and open distribution, CC licensing has enabled sharing in ways well beyond what we could have done on our own.”

Jonathan Worth

Picturing a New Model for Professional Photographers / London

“We don’t have all the answers, but CC lets me choose my flavor and helps me take advantage of the things working against me.”


British photographer Jonathan Worth’s work hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London. He teaches photography at Coventry University in the U.K. He has photographed actors Colin Firth, Rachel Hunter, Jude Law and Heath Ledger. He is also one of an emerging group of photographers experimenting with sustainable working practices for professional image makers in the digital age.

Worth, like almost all working pros, used to spend hours scouring the Internet to protect his images from theft. He was angry about the amount of time he wasted in pursuing breaches of his copyright. “Then I ran into science-fiction writer Cory Doctorow, who was giving his book away and making money from it,” Worth says. “I photographed him once and asked him what the deal was. He proposed an experiment.”

Worth signed on. They put a Creative Commons BY license on the image and shared high-resolution copies for free online while selling signed prints at various prices and levels of exclusivity. “The most expensive sold first,” said Worth. “No one had ever heard of me, but they were paying good money for my prints.”

Doctorow had given Worth a lesson on the new digital world and people’s digital habits. “Now I can understand how to leverage the forces of people using my images for free,” says Worth. “It’s like putting a message in a bottle and the tides can take it anywhere under its own steam and you can take advantage of those forces.”

“Creative Commons enables me to use existing architecture really smoothly and to address the digital natives’ social media habits,” Worth says. “The mode of information is the same, but the mode of distribution has changed. We don’t have all the answers, but CC lets me choose my flavor and helps me take advantage of the things working against me.”

Nina Paley

Singing the Praises of Open / New York

“I’ve never had more money coming at me than when I started using Creative Commons BY-SA. I have a higher profile. I don’t spend anything on promotion. My fans are doing it for me and buying merchandise. Sharing put me on the map.”


“Being on the same side as my fans feels great,” says Nina Paley, a New York City filmmaker, cartoonist and champion of open licensing. While many artists have become antagonistic with their fans, she can only see the benefits to artists from sharing their work. And yes, one benefit is money.

Paley’s conversion to openness was gradual. As a young cartoonist, the notion of creating intellectual property was flattering and constantly reinforced. “Everyone told me how copyright provided protection and status,” she says. “Imagining a world without it was nearly impossible.”

In 2008, the release of her self-produced, animated movie “Sita Sings the Blues” was delayed by the prohibitive cost of licensing several 80-year-old songs from little-known singer Annette Hanshaw. “When my film was still illegal and hemorrhaging money to legal and licensing costs, I joked that if the film were free, I could sell T-shirts,” Paley recalls. The idea lingered and she researched how people made a living giving away free software. “I realized that merchandise and voluntary support is actually where the money comes from,” says Paley.

“Sita Sings the Blues” was finally released to acclaim from Roger Ebert and other critics. It is available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license for anyone to download for free; it is also available for purchase on DVD, and theatrically through other distributors. It has been viewed millions of times worldwide through, YouTube, and innumerable torrent sites.

Paley takes issue with how money is used to value art. “When an artist is broke, you start thinking that it has to do with the value of their work, which it doesn’t,” she says. “I have also seen artists who refused to create unless they got paid.” For Paley, the opposite is true. “I’ve never had more money coming at me than when I started using Creative Commons BY-SA. I have a higher profile. I don’t spend anything on promotion. My fans are doing it for me and buying merchandise. Sharing put me on the map.”


Richard Tofel & Scott Klein
Making News by Sharing the Story / New York

“We aren’t building a copyright library. We have a culture of sharing and CC is a big part of it.”


Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative news organization ProPublica launched in 2007 with a clear mission to pursue stories that made an impact. According to General Manager Richard Tofel, “We knew that the more people who saw our stories the better off we would be, and the better we would fulfill our mission.” What was not so clear was how to easily allow others to reprint their work.

“Two of our early hires were familiar with Creative Commons and suggested it as the best way to accomplish our sharing goal,” Tofel says. “It has worked very well and saves us an enormous amount of time.”

Scott Klein, editor of news applications for ProPublica, was one of those early CC promoters. “Our website is our platform,” said Klein. “We are not worried about sharing our stories if it helps them get impact.” Creative Commons licensing provides the ability for others to republish ProPublica stories without negotiations. “Otherwise, they would have to call in, ask about the story and have us explain the uses,” says Klein. “That would be much too cumbersome.”

As one of the largest investigative newsrooms in the United States, ProPublica has consistently succeeded in influencing subjects it investigates. Collaborating with large national news organizations, ProPublica exposed deep flaws in the licensing of nurses in California and focused attention on officer-involved shootings in post-Katrina New Orleans. A story with Time Magazine on triage decisions in New Orleans hospitals in the days following Katrina was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. More recently, ProPublica’s Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein won a 2011 Pulitzer Prize for national affairs reporting for their coverage of the financial industry.

“We don’t see the information as a valuable object, it’s the impact that matters,” says Klein. “We aren’t building a copyright library. We have a culture of sharing and CC is a big part of it.”

Tofel agrees. “Creative Commons helps us to get the stories out, which broadens our readership and deepens the impact of individual stories,” he says. “But it also helps build awareness of who we are, and that works to the benefit of both the individual story and the future of ProPublica.”


A Basket of Nice Surprises / New South Wales

"I’d like to see a conversation with the industry to see how we can move the spirit of Creative Commons forward."


For Australian songwriter and musician Yunyu, mixing media comes naturally. Sharing work with other artists and fans isn’t something she fears, but is a productive extension of her creative process.

Yunyu credits open licensing for a successful collaboration with science fiction author Marianne de Pierres, for whom Yunyu wrote and recorded a song to accompany a young adult novel. “The publicity around my release of music for free with a Creative Commons license brought us together in the spirit of art,” she says.

The original decision to use CC licenses was part of a musical exploration. “I mostly wanted to see what was possible with my music, where you could take it,” says Yunyu. “I wondered if I set things free what people would do with them.”

“I had no idea what to expect, but what I got was a whole basket of nice surprises,” she says. Fans began making videos of her songs and posting them on YouTube. One young woman from Detroit used several lyrics to create a portrait that ended up on a popular science fiction website. An all-female French band has recorded one of her songs and video game designers have shown interest in licensing her music.

“From a songwriter’s perspective, it is difficult to discuss open licensing with the music industry, which still has concerns about the full meaning and repercussions of Creative Commons licenses. I’d like to see a conversation with the industry to see how we can move the spirit of Creative Commons forward,” she says. “Trying to control how your work’s to be interpreted and enjoyed on a noncommercial level is a lot like trying to kill a hydra. You are going to fail spectacularly.”

She adds: “Artists need some basic protections and need to be reimbursed for the use of their music commercially, but I really can’t imagine needing any more protection beyond that. I can’t see going after a fan who enjoys your work enough to share and remix it. That doesn’t seem to make sense.”

DJ Vadim

Mixing it Up Around the Globe / Berlin & London

"Music is a conversation, between creators and listeners, each bringing their own experiences to the melting pot."


Born in Leningrad, Russia, and raised in London, DJ Vadim has become a hip-hop and electronic music force around the globe. He has worked as a producer and performed with legendary artists including Stevie Wonder, The Roots, Prince and Public Enemy. He’s also released many albums of his own under various monikers.

When he looks for inspiration and new talent, Vadim uses ccMixter, a community remix site, to allow other producers to download his Creative Commons-licensed tracks and remake them to their own liking.

Three thousand people have downloaded the tracks from Vadim’s ccMixter contests and created more than 500 remixes. According to Ben Dawson, who works for DJ Vadim’s record label, Organically Grown Sounds, “People were uploading their remixes and then sharing them with their friends, which brought a lot of attention to the music. This is a great way to let people get involved in the music and put some emotion, heart and soul into it rather than just listening on the radio.”

“Vadim travels around the world constantly, collaborating and chatting with vocalists, musicians and other DJs and giving them feedback,” says Dawson. “Now the Internet provides ways for us to do this in more and more ways, from our use of ccMixter and other great music platforms.”

Collaboration like this is critical, Vadim says. “OGS is all about collaboration, writing the songs with people we meet on our journeys around the world. Music is a conversation, between creators and listeners, each bringing their own experiences to the melting pot.”

Global Voices

Solan Larsen
Spreading the News / Global

"Creative Commons gives us the liberty to facilitate translations into more than a dozen languages daily."


Big media can fall short in delivering in-depth information on world events – local bloggers and citizen journalists are often much more tuned into the communities they write about. Global Voices, a nonprofit started by journalist Rebecca MacKinnon, provides a platform for 350 editors and volunteer authors and translators from around the world to bring news from their communities to one place. These citizen journalists have provided detailed and timely coverage of everything from the earthquake in Haiti to the protests in Iran. All content is licensed under the Creative Commons BY license, so that the information can be translated and disseminated freely to those who seek more than just the snapshots provided in the evening news.

When protests against joblessness caused riots in Tunisia last December, Global Voices contributors put up dozens of posts detailing the related suicides, eyewitness accounts from ordinary citizens translated from Arabic, and tweets that broke news from the ground way before anyone in the mainstream media did. Thanks to the CC license, Global Voices has had its stories republished in The New York Times, Reuters, AlterNet and the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Global Voices is a virtual nonprofit with no office, but its impact is felt in a very real way in myriad locations. “Creative Commons gives us the liberty to facilitate translations into more than a dozen languages daily,” says Solana Larsen, Global Voices’ managing editor. “Whenever we’ve been commissioned to write posts for nonprofit organizations or even mainstream media, we’ve stuck with our CC clause and that has enabled us to republish, translate, and open up conversations to the world.”

Pratham Books

Small Publisher Making a Big Difference / Bangalore & New Delhi

"In a small organization, such as ours, time really is a valuable commodity and in our case, Creative Commons licenses have helped us save time, money and effort."


Pratham Books, a small nonprofit book publisher in India, has the simple but ambitious mission of placing a book in every child’s hand. Aware that this was a “huge and audacious goal” impossible to accomplish by itself, Pratham began sharing its books and illustrations under Creative Commons licenses on Flickr and Scribd in 2008. Gautam John, new projects manager at Pratham Books, says, “As a small publisher, we do not have the bandwidth to customize licenses every time a concerned party wants to use our content in a certain manner. What the Creative Commons licenses have allowed us to do is engage with multiple partners without the attendant overhead of legal negotiations and the time and money that it would take for such negotiations to run their course.” Instead, Pratham Books simply sends users a link to the book download and license page, which John says takes them “all of one minute to do.”

Using CC has resulted in a variety of reuses and increased community engagement. “Our communities have created multiple derivative works ranging from iPad and iPhone applications, to porting our works to OLPC (One Laptop per Child) laptops, to creating entirely new books from existing illustrations,” John says. “Organizations and individuals have converted our books to audio books, Braille and DAISY that has allowed the visually impaired access to our content – something that would not have been possible without the Creative Commons licenses. To our mind, all the derivative works were outcomes specifically linked to our Creative Commons license model. Without the Creative Commons license, we would not have engaged with communities because of the internal overhead required to support these multiple efforts.”

This also means increased visibility for Pratham Books, making it easier for the small book publisher to achieve its mission. As more communities reuse Pratham’s content, it matters less whether the organization is directly involved or not. By CC-licensing its work on Flickr and other platforms, Pratham Books ensures access to its books no matter what happens to the organization. “Our books are now hosted in multiple repositories, so they do not depend on our continued existence,” says John. “This allows communities to work on our content and books without needing or having to wait for our approval.”

Pratham Books can concentrate those saved resources on increasing its archive of CC-licensed work, and on its plan to build a new platform for reuse and remix. “In a small organization, such as ours, time really is a valuable commodity and in our case, Creative Commons licenses have helped us save time, money and effort.”

The Open University

Patrick McAndrew
Uploading Education / Milton Keyes

"We had originally put aside £100,000 for legal fees to write a viable license for OpenLearn, but none of that was spent as we adopted CC."


The Open University admits students of all backgrounds, regardless of their academic achievements or social circumstances. It was the world’s first successful distance learning university, and is one of the largest, with more than a quarter of a million students in 40 countries.

In 2005, the Open University took its openness one step further with a new website, OpenLearn, giving the public access and reuse permissions to its course materials under Creative Commons licenses. By opting to use CC licenses over developing its own set of permissions, the university saved a bundle in lawyers’ fees.

“We had originally put aside £100,000 for legal fees to write a viable license for OpenLearn, but none of that was spent as we adopted CC,” says Patrick McAndrew, associate director of learning and teaching. CC licenses also helped the university save costs when developing course training materials and dealing with third-party providers. “Using a recognized license helped us to support others getting involved. Essentially we could point people at the independent CC information rather than asking them to adopt a license developed in-house.”

Since launch, OpenLearn has seen more than two million visitors, and Open University course materials have been downloaded more than 20 million times on iTunes U, making it the most downloaded university on the Apple service.

CC has enabled reuse of university materials across platforms and localization of content, such as translations. “The power of open educational resources lies in its openness,” says McAndrew. “This gives it great flexibility so that material that we might release in the Moodle-based OpenLearn environment can be used on WordPress or Slideshare or YouTube or whatever. OpenLearn material can be exported and transferred in many ways in terms of technology and format. However that transferability also needs a license that can be interpreted and carried with the material. CC gives us that.”

Epic Fu

Zadi Diaz & Steve Woolf
Opening up Pop Culture / Los Angeles

"We had mashups that provided us with content for many months [...] It was an amazing way to involve the audience in supporting us."


Started in 2006, “Epic Fu” began webcasting episodes full of fun music, art and culture news. From the beginning, Creative Commons was a big part of the popular web video show’s plan. Producers Zadi Diaz and Steve Woolf use CC-licensed music and video content on the site regularly and all episodes are released under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.

“My personal favorite episode was called ‘Your Copyright Can Kiss My Ass,’” Woolf says. “It was about how slow traditional media has been to adapt to the modern way of delivering media. We took a very strong point of view on extending copyright as much as possible.”

Fans have taken advantage of the show’s CC licensing by uploading and sharing episodes with friends, as well as making remixes that Diaz and Woolf have used to promote the program. “We had mashups that provided us with content for many months, instead of having to create promos ourselves,” Woolf says. “It was an amazing way to involve the audience in supporting us.”

Bloomsbury Academic

Frances Pinter
Publishing Openly / London

"Publishers are worried that making content available for free will cannibalize print sales, but we believe that for certain types of books, the free promotes the print."


Academic journals are treasure troves of information, yet they’re often hard to access and very expensive. Bloomsbury Academic, the scholarly imprint of London-based publishing giant Bloomsbury, is hoping to change that by distributing free online versions of its research publications for non-commercial use under Creative Commons licenses. The company’s website lets users search content by discipline, theme, place or date with additional features such as relevance rankings and social networking share tools.

Bloomsbury Academic currently carries 10 titles under CC licenses across a variety of disciplines, including a series called Science, Ethics, and Innovation edited by Nobel Laureate Sir John Sulton. The free versions are available via social publishing site Scribd. The company continues to sell hard copies and other e-content.

“As a start-up, we needed to get to critical mass quickly to justify.” says Frances Pinter, the publisher at Bloomsbury Academic. “Publishers are worried that making content available for free will cannibalize print sales, but we believe that for certain types of books, the free promotes the print."

Indaba Music

Dan Zaccagnino
Tracks Without Borders / New York

"There was a lot of push-back in the beginning, but we’ve proven to musicians and record labels that there’s so much benefit to licensing with CC."


“People have been sending music back and forth across borders for a long time,” says Dan Zaccagnino, a songwriter and guitarist. “We wanted to make this possible in an organized setting.”

So in February 2007, he and four other musicians launched a global networking site and collaboration platform called Indaba Music. Members upload their own tracks under Creative Commons licenses or use stems from other members to create remixes or collaborate on projects. An “Opportunities” section lists free and paying requests for artists to contribute tracks to works in progress.

Indaba also hosts contests that challenge people to experiment with tracks by famous artists like Peter Gabriel, Weezer, Snoop Dogg, and Yo-Yo Ma. The remixes from these projects are made available to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) license, allowing the collaborations between upstarts and established artists to spread widely.

Indaba’s 540,000 users from 200 countries have proven that, when given the right tools, freedom can expand creativity. In late 2010, alternative rock band Marcy Playground licensed all of the components of every track from its last album, “Leaving Wonderland ... In a Fit of Rage,” under a Creative Commons license, a maneuver that yielded enough content to create a second album – called “Indaba Remixes from Wonderland” – with tracks remixed by Indaba users. In keeping with the spirit of sharing and collaboration, all of the contributors on the album will be paid royalties.

“There was a lot of push-back in the beginning,” Zaccagnino admits, “but we’ve proven to musicians and record labels that there’s so much benefit to licensing with CC.”

Curt Smith

Halfway Pleased, Fully Open / Los Angeles

"CC is a smart way to go for any artist. Why would anyone want to go around suing their fans?"


In the 1980s, rock band Tears for Fears quickly moved from college radio favorites to mainstream success. The duo of Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal sold 22 million albums and their songs “Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” became popular rock anthems.

These days, the band’s lead singer and bassist Smith uses Creative Commons licenses to distribute his work. In 2007, Smith released his semi-autobiographical solo album, “Halfway, pleased” under the CC BY-NC-SA license. “Under full copyright, we were inundated with requests from people who need permission to use Tears for Fears songs,” he says. “Now, as long as they’re not making money off my material and they credit me, they can do what they like with it without asking.”

As a result, Smith is able to focus on what he does best: making music. Smith is currently working on an album-length collection of tracks – one song at a time – as free MP3 downloads. It’s truly an album of the times: called the “social media project,” each track is a collaboration with someone Smith met through Facebook or Twitter.

“CC is a smart way to go for any artist. Why would anyone want to go around suing their fans? I’m quite happy for people to do what they like with my music. I want it to be heard.”


João Batista Ciaco
Opening Doors for New Car Design / Sao Paulo

"We are taking interaction to the highest degree, and revolutionizing our way of thinking about future projects."


Rather than letting designers decide what its Mio concept car should look like, auto manufacturer Fiat sent out a public call for ideas. In a little over a year, more than two million people from 160 countries visited the Mio design site and contributed 10,000 unique ideas for key features like propulsion, safety, design, materials and entertainment. All ideas were published and made available to the rest of the world under Creative Commons licenses.

“We are taking interaction to the highest degree, and revolutionizing our way of thinking about future projects so we can understand their needs and change the conservative way of thinking of the automobile industry,” said João Batista Ciaco, director of publicity and relationship marketing at Fiat.

The result of this openness and collaboration is a unique concept car. The Mio is a Smart Car-sized vehicle with wheels that turn 90 degrees, windshields that adjust to various weather conditions, and solar, wind and kinetic energy recovery capabilities. Because the prototype design is also Creative Commons-licensed, anyone from fine artists to designers from competing car companies can incorporate these ideas in their own future work.

Like most concept cars, the Mio may never go into production, but the innovations and direction it suggests will likely be incorporated in future Fiat designs. Because of CC licensing, these good ideas are also free to spread across the entire auto industry.

Vincent Moon

Living CC Style / Paris

"I sort of live my life under a Creative Commons license."


Award-winning filmmaker Vincent Moon is something of a nomad. He has no home and hardly any possessions: just some clothes, books, a few hard drives, recording equipment, and a beat-up laptop. He also has an unparalleled talent for making dreamy, musical films.

All of Moon’s original works are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license, meaning anyone can share or remix them as long credit is given and the use is noncommercial.

“I sort of live my life under a Creative Commons license,” he says, emphasizing that he is an active participant in the sharing economy that CC helps facilitate. “I make films in exchange for a place to stay and something to eat. My films are a pretext to meet people, travel and learn; the camera is my social tool.”

Since he started this lifestyle two years ago, the 31-year-old’s life has taken the opposite trajectory from the failed romance that first put him on the road. His 2009 film “La Faute Des Fleurs” won the Sound & Vision Award at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival, and his “Take Away Show” series – which candidly documents musicians from around the world – is a huge hit on YouTube.

Moon is currently working on a new project, “Petites Planetes,” a compilation of audiovisual recordings from his travels. “I am on a quest around the world to try to redefine the position of the ‘maker’ in our generation. The CC license is a very important part of this.”

Dan Gillmor

Getting Ideas Out Into the World / San Jose

"I thought the larger risk was in not getting the ideas out into the world."


When journalist Dan Gillmor wrote We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People in 2004, he decided to publish the book in its entirety under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Gillmor didn’t think that holding all exclusive rights he has under copyright would be in his best interest. “I thought the larger risk was in not getting the ideas out into the world,” he says.

Gillmor is also a prolific blogger who finagled an arrangement with news commentary site so that one week after his blog posts appear there, he can repost them under CC license on his own site. “The more people understand what CC does, the more people will recognize that, contrary to what some people say, it’s a great supporter of copyright in a way that honors the founders in having this kind of system.”

In December 2010, Gillmor published his second book, Mediactive. The bound version is available for $14 on Amazon, but because it’s licensed under CC BY-NC-SA, anyone can freely download the full content on his website. In the first three days after its release, 1,500 people downloaded the book in its entirety.

Gillmor says that if CC didn’t exist, neither, probably, would the success of We the Media. “Given the fact that newspapers and magazines in the U.S. ignored the book at first, it’s pretty safe to say that the whole thing would have sunk without a trace if I had not done it this way.” And contrary to what people might expect, distributing the book for free has brought Gillmor financial success. “I still get royalty checks every quarter. For a book that’s 6 years old, that’s not bad."

Riot Cinema

Nicolás Alcalá
Distribution First, Then Profits / Madrid

"[If] you don’t have the money to showcase the film, you can do it with the low-quality version for commercial purposes."


When Spanish independent film company Riot Cinema Collective started working on a science fiction film called The Cosmonaut, it wanted to prioritize wide distribution over profit-making. So the group released all aspects of the film’s trailer under the Creative Commons BY-SA license.

As a result, Riot Cinema saw the potential of releasing content under CC. One fan sent in original art that became the official movie poster. Another fan remixed some of the script, which became part of the final screenplay. A remix contest of the trailer had over 90 entries from around the world, and Riot Cinema Collective uses these fan creations to present The Cosmonaut, at conferences. A similar collaboration with the photo website Lomography yielded more than 400 photos.

When completed, every aspect of the film will be released under two different CC licenses: BY-NC-SA for the high-resolution version, and BY-SA for the low-resolution. “We assume that if you are a movie theater, an on-demand platform, a newspaper, or TV, you will need the high-quality version and reach an agreement with us,” says founder Nicolás Alcalá. “But if you’re a small amateur cineclub or a theater in a third world country and you don’t have the money to showcase the film, you can do it with the low-quality version for commercial purposes.”

Alcalá has seen the benefits of licensing films under CC in other ways, too. “A music company owner from Berlin told us he was going to ask some of his bands to make songs inspired by Cosmonaut,, license them under CC, and edit a very cool record in a USB drive with merchandising of the movie. He’s paying for it, but is sharing the profits with us.”

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Scott Nickrenz Classical Music for the Masses / Boston

"As soon as I heard about the Creative Commons license, I knew it was something we had to do, making these high quality recordings free and shareable was really important to us from the beginning."


The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston is more than a century old and carries more than 2,500 works of art, but it’s also home to one of the most progressive movements in classical music distribution. In addition to its expansive art collection, the museum owns hundreds of hours of live performances stored on CDs. For many years, this music was not being listened to at all. So in September 2006, the museum’s curator of music, Scott Nickrenz, launched “The Concert,” a classical music podcast. “As soon as I heard about the Creative Commons license, I knew it was something we had to do,” Nickrenz says. “Making these high quality recordings free and shareable was really important to us from the beginning.”

“The Concert” airs for 45 minutes every two weeks, and its success has been driven in large part by its open availability. “In the first six weeks of the podcast and music library’s existence, we had more than 40,000 downloads from 83 countries, which was unprecedented for a classical music podcast, and we’re currently averaging around 50,000 total downloads per month,” says Nickrenz.

As of December 2010, “The Concert” has been downloaded more than 1.8 million times by listeners in 190 countries, from Azerbaijan to Croatia. “Perhaps most memorably, we were contacted by nuns from the Philippines who run a nonprofit radio station. Thanks to CC, they’re able to share great classical music from the Gardner with their listeners.”


Kevin Lawver
Collaborative Storytelling / Washington, D.C.

"Once they started looking at the CC BY-SA license, they realized it was perfect and wouldn’t require any other user terms for content other than simply agreeing to this license."


In 2007, Kevin Lawver, a system architect at AOL, built a Creative Commons-licensed storytelling website called Ficlet on AOL’s platform. AOL’s lawyers were hesitant at first. “Once they started looking at the CC BY-SA license, they realized it was perfect and wouldn’t require any other user terms for content other than simply agreeing to this license.”

At Ficlet, anyone could contribute to a literary mashup project by adding prequels or sequels to short, 1024-byte CC-licensed story chunks built by other users. In just under two years, 12,000 users wrote 48,000 stories; it even attracted celebrity contributors like author John Scalzi and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” actor Wil Wheaton.

But in January 2009, AOL took Ficlet offline and scrapped all of the user-generated content hosted there. Fortunately, since everything was CC-licensed, Lawver was able to rescue and legally republish most of it to a new site.

Today, Lawver has a new literary mashup site called Ficly with more than 21,000 CC-licensed stories written by 3,000 collaborative users. Since May 2009, Ficly users all over the world have contributed new content, leading to more than two million page views. One user took several hundred stories selected by other users and self-published a Ficly compilation book. “I love building things that inspire people to be creative,” Lawver says.


Heather LaGarde Building a Healthy Collaboration / Washington, D.C.

"We use open source as a base because it maximizes collaboration and builds local capacity."


It’s hard to keep track of community health care workers in Africa – they are constantly on the move, and the lack of a good data system to monitor their mobility often causes chaos. So in 2009, IntraHealth International launched IntraHealth Open, an initiative to develop open source technology to support communications for and between health care workers.

Through this project, community health care providers will be able to share instructions via text messaging, provide training and testing, and track diseases and medical supplies. The availability of supplies will be monitored via text message using a central data map linked to the Ministries of Health, and doctors will be able to share health tips across state borders using Google Health.

“We’re hoping for a hybridization of technology and global health so that technological advances can be created with greater local relevance, impact, and efficiency and be put to better use in real world applications,” says Heather LaGarde, the partnerships adviser for IntraHealth International. “We use open source as a base because it maximizes collaboration and builds local capacity. It allows new innovations to be shared with others and tailored for each country with minimal support from IntraHealth.”

To announce the release of this product, IntraHealth partnered with Grammy-winning Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour and other artists including Nas, Duncan Sheik, Toubab Krewe, DJ Equal, Peter Buck, and Estelle to create Creative Commons-licensed remixes of the N’Dour song “Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling).” A subsequent remix contest resulted in more than 500 entries from around the world, all also available under CC licenses. Through the use of Creative Commons tools, the songs were able to spread freely and raise awareness about and support for IntraHealth and its mission.

Uncensored Interview

Melinda Lee
Re-Righting Commercial Licensing / New York

"We want to take a look at what people are doing and allow for that in our production strategy."


When Uncensored Interview founder Melinda Lee was in charge of business and legal affairs for MTV Networks’ international and new media teams, she realized that a lot of great opportunities were lost because MTV didn’t have the rights to particular content. Now she is focused on getting – and giving – rights at Uncensored Interview, a video production and licensing company that offers artist interviews to fans and producers.

UI has conducted more than 1,000 interviews with bands and personalities – including Henry Rollins, Margaret Cho, Juliette Lewis and Moby – cut into 25,000 clips. Most of those clips are available under more standard licensing rules, and those rights are purchased for use in TV shows, podcasts and commercials. But in March 2009, UI released 2,000 of those clips under the most permissive Creative Commons license, CC BY, which allows anyone to use the content for commercial use.

“We want to see what people come up with,” Lee says. “We want to take a look at what people are doing and allow for that in our production strategy.” Fans have remixed UI’s different artist profiles in creative ways, giving Lee inspiration that she incorporates into her own content creation.

Getty Images, known for the strict copyright rules applied to its content, has recently become a UI partner. Some of the same clips that are available under CC-BY licenses are also available on Getty’s platform. Lee points out that the two are not mutually exclusive. “Scalable content is really important for us. We want to be able to partner with as many people as possible.”

Uncensored Interview is expanding beyond musician interviews to food, sports and literary figures, and will continue to release clips under Creative Commons licenses. “It flips the licensing model on its head,” she says, noting that CC has helped reduce her company’s need to spend time on clearing basic rights. “It’s a lot less work for me.”


Sylvain Zimmer
Making Musicians More Marketable / Luxembourg

"We want musicians to see Creative Commons licenses, Jamendo, and the idea of free music as a real and beneficial alternative for music distribution."


When Luxembourg musician Sylvain Zimmer realized there was no good legal way to share music online with his friends, he decided to create one. In 2004, he and two partners founded Jamendo, a unique Web platform that allows musicians to make their music available under Creative Commons licenses to anyone who wants to listen to it. The company uses a freemium model, providing all content for free to the public, then charging for access to rights not permitted by the CC licenses. Jamendo splits its revenue 50/50 with musicians.

Today, more than 40,000 albums are available on Jamendo as free, legal, downloadable tracks under Creative Commons licenses. Musicians upload hundreds of new tracks every day. Jamendo boasts more than 5,000 customers worldwide, including commercial clients who pay for licenses to use the music in movies, ads and TV shows.

The results for some musicians have been very impressive. Barcelona-based instrumental artist Roger Subirana Mata joined Jamendo in 2008. Since then, his tracks have been listened to more than 600,000 times and he’s entered into more than 300 licenses with commercial clients. “Although it may seem a contradiction, having music licensed under Creative Commons has made my music more marketable, commercial and known than when it was within the normal business cycle,” Mata wrote on the Jamendo blog.

Jamendo co-founder Pierre Gerard says Creative Commons is the basis for the company’s success. “We want musicians to see Creative Commons licenses, Jamendo, and the idea of free music as a real and beneficial alternative for music distribution.”


Mark “Frosty” McNeill
Creatively Blurring Lines / Los Angeles

"It’s an exciting exploration of how you can have a money-making venture supported by CC-licensed material."


At its core, Dublab is a nonprofit Internet radio collective, but it has found its calling as the instigator of phenomenally creative audiovisual remix projects. For instance, in August 2008, Dublab and Creative Commons collaborated on a project called “Into Infinity.” Artists from around the world were invited to create art on 12-inch card stock circles or create eight-second audio loops and submit their creations to a pool of Creative Commons-licensed content. Those submissions became part of the global art exhibition “Into Infinity,” which now includes the work of more than 150 visual artists and 110 musicians from Portland, Ore., to Berlin.

“Into Infinity” has been especially popular in Japan. Kotobuki Hikaru, an artist in the northern city of Sapporo, pulled content from the pool of submissions to create a Ping-Pong paddle with audiovisual controls and sensors that would trigger different audio loops every time it hit the ball. A Tokyo DJ collective called Coffee and Cigarettes Band created a 30-minute live music performance using the “Into Infinity” sound loops, while VJ/filmmaker DBKN created new visual sequences based on the show’s content. Since its launch in late 2009, CC Japan’s “Into Infinity” iPhone and iPad app has been downloaded more than 60,000 times worldwide. More than 18,000 remixes have been generated through the app using 155 of the audio loops and submitted graphics.

Dublab’s latest project is a film called “Light from Los Angeles” that features 10 different musicians and bands playing CC-licensed material. All the footage will be shot using the Superheadz Digital Harinezumi, a tiny low-resolution toy camera that produces slightly blurred dreamlike images. The footage and music will all be CC-licensed, and the book, DVD and record will be available for sale. “It’s an exciting exploration of how you can have a money-making venture supported by CC-licensed material,” says Dublab co-founder Mark “Frosty” McNeill.

Tiago Serra

Tiago Serra and Radiohead’s Head / Lamego

"I always record my working process with photos and videos because I think it’s important to share. I learned a lot with others who do the same and feel I should give back."


In July 2008, the Grammy Award-winning alternative rock band Radiohead released a music video for the song “House of Cards.” It was produced without cameras. Instead of a traditional video, they asked digital media artist Aaron Koblin to produce a data set of 3-D images that looked as if they came from an old TV. They released the code for the visual data on the Google Code site under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.

Providing access to the open source code yielded unexpected results. Tiago Serra, an interaction designer based in Portugal, took it and created a set of coordinates using Blender to print a sculpture of Thom Yorke’s head out of ABS plastic with a 3-D printer.

Serra – who co-founded a Hackerspace in the town of Coimbra, Portugal, and is a fan of both Radiohead and Koblin – uploaded photos and a video of the manufacturing process onto Flickr and Vimeo. He posted the 3-D design onto Thingiverse, a website where users share digital designs for physical objects. Because the code for the original visual data was licensed under CC BY-NC-SA, so was Serra’s derivative work.

In the two years since he first experimented with Yorke’s head, Serra has watched as people toyed with his work. “I always record my working process with photos and videos because I think it’s important to share. I learned a lot with others who do the same and feel I should give back.”

Al Jazeera

Mohamed Nanabhay
Sharing Content for a Richer Understanding of Global News / Doha

"A large part of embracing free culture is accepting the fact that you are forsaking control in exchange for something greater."


In 2009, Al Jazeera launched the world’s first repository of broadcast-quality video footage released under a Creative Commons license. The news network made select video footage available for free under CC BY to be downloaded, shared, remixed, subtitled and even rebroadcast by users and TV stations across the world, under the condition that they attribute the material to Al Jazeera.

“A large part of embracing free culture is accepting the fact that you are forsaking control in exchange for something greater – the empowerment of the creative community,” says Mohamed Nanabhay, head of online at Al Jazeera English. Soon after the network posted the first CC videos, “surprising and delightful” things started happening. “Educators, filmmakers, videogame developers, aid agencies and music video producers all used and built upon our footage,” says Nanabhay.

While the content has proven valuable to others, what has its openness meant for Al Jazeera? Nanabhay says that increasing the availability and usability of Al Jazeera’s content has resulted in more viewers, especially ones from parts of the world that aren’t able to watch the network’s programming on TV. The numbers have been impressive. According to Nanabhay, traffic on Al Jazeera’s CC video repository increased 723 percent after footage of the Egyptian uprising was made available under Creative Commons.

Khan Academy

Salman Khan
Tutoring the World / Mountain View

"If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I could still continue to teach a million people a year."


In 2004, Salman Khan was managing a hedge fund in Boston when he began virtual tutoring sessions with his 12-year-old cousin in New Orleans using Yahoo’s Doodle. She liked them, so he began putting them on YouTube so others could learn from them. Within two years, his videos had gained so much traction online that Khan registered as a nonprofit, quit his job, and decided to make short educational videos full-time.

Khan made all of the original videos himself and published them under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Today, the Khan Academy hosts more than 1,600 instructional videos that teach everything from chemistry to algebra to the reasons for the housing crisis, to more than a million unique users a month. Khan’s not a formal educator, but the impact of his teachings has spread across state borders – 40 percent of his viewers are overseas. The Khan Academy is funded mostly by donations, and it’s growing about threefold every year. A recent infusion of support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has allowed the staff to grow to six, and vocal support from Bill Gates has raised its profile considerably.

Khan still gets letters every day from middle school students, college kids, and adults raving about the good grades and knowledge obtained through the Khan Academy’s lessons. And because the videos are free to remix and share, people are translating them into other languages and some of the lessons have gone viral.

“By every measure we have so far, they’re definitely better than what many are getting in the classroom,” Khan says. “And the neatest thing about it is, if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I could still continue to teach a million people a year. You get to scale yourself up to the present and to the future, even if you’re not around.”

But what drove a high-earning hedge fund guy to drop his day job and just make YouTube videos? “I got a letter from a student one day,” Khan says. “He was from a poor family with no college graduates and hated math. Then he found the Khan Academy videos and watched them all summer before his placement exam, and got every question right. That had never happened before at this community college, and he ended up an honors student. That was what made me quit my job.”

Human Rights Watch

Grace Choi
Changing the World with Facts / Global

"[Creative Commons] is a way to disseminate our reports in the easiest way possible."


Since the 1980s, Human Rights Watch has been uncovering rights violations around the world and publicizing them in thorough, unbiased reports read by millions. The non-governmental organization’s researchers spend months at a time on field missions that gather information about rights abuses, whether it’s the detention and torture of terrorism suspects in India or discrimina- tion against sexual minorities in Iran. “We provide accurate accounts of what goes on in the world, unfiltered through the media and unbiased, to put pressure on governments and organizations to effect change,” says Grace Choi, publications director at Human Rights Watch.

The group’s reports are available as free downloads under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license. “We were getting regular requests from universities and libraries to use our work,” Choi says. “We felt that using Creative Commons was a good way to provide the legal framework for letting them do that. It’s a way to disseminate our reports in the easiest way possible.”

HRW publishes between 90 and 100 reports every year, and recently launched an iPad app that offers the same content for free. The organization is an example of how real positive change in the world is made, and its use of CC licensing is an integral part of its proliferation to parts of the world where the bound copies might not easily be distributed.


Massimo Banzi
Opening Hardware / Milan

"By putting the Creative Commons stamp on circuit designs and board layouts, we were able to turn hardware design into a piece of culture that people can build upon."


In 2005, two interaction designers in Italy, Massimo Banzi and David Cuartielles, decided to try something new: they took the Creative Commons BY-SA license and applied it to hardware design. They called their open source physical computing platform Arduino. It’s a simple micro- controller with a circuit board that easily accommodates switches and sensors – a dream come true for DIY hardware geeks who like to build things from scratch.

Over the next few years, Massimo watched as many creative and highly successful projects spawned from the Arduino platform – from synthesizers to guitar amplifiers to voice-over IP phone routers. Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson started a DIY Drones project that flies unmanned aerial vehicles built with Arduino. Makerbot, a popular open-source 3-D printer, built its more heavy-duty design on the Arduino base model.

Because Arduino’s circuit designs are licensed with CC BY-SA, so too are these derivative projects. Banzi has sold more than 208,000 Arduino boards and sales are escalating every year. And because Arduino is open source, the team doesn’t have to provide heavy tech support. “People are much more inclined to help us and be forgiving,” Banzi says. “It’s a nice chain reaction.”

Banzi initially chose to make the foundations of Arduino open source when the design school where he was teaching lost its funding. Seeing the imminent apocalypse, Banzi uploaded his circuit diagrams onto Berlios, a German website similar to Google Code, releasing the software under the GPL license and the hardware design under CC BY-SA. Today, the implications of this reach far beyond just a bunch of free-to-use drawings.

“By putting the Creative Commons stamp on circuit designs and board layouts, we were able to turn hardware design into a piece of culture that people can build upon,” Banzi says. “Whatever happens to us, the project will always survive.”

James Patrick Kelly

Out of the File Drawer, Onto the Reader / Boston

"Creative Commons is a way for me to get stories that I’m proud to have written out of the darkness of my file drawer and under the light of readers’ eyes."


Acclaimed Hugo- and Nebula-Award-winning science fiction author James Patrick Kelly is planning to give away his upcoming novel for young adults one chapter at a time as a Creative Commons-licensed podcast. Based on the success of his last novel, Burn, he has every reason to believe in this strategy.

Before Kelly won his Nebula Award, he was publishing Burn with a small traditional publisher and on his website in the form of a free podcast, in hopes that his readership would grow. Then he discovered CC licenses.

“I was giving away fiction on my website long before Creative Commons started. So when my friend Cory Doctorow turned me on to what CC was doing, it was a tremendous relief to know I had lots of company in creating the new digital culture and that we now had some legal ground to stand on,” says Kelly.

After thousands more listened to the CC-licensed Burn than read it, the podcast was nominated for a Nebula Award in 2007 and became the first CC-licensed sci-fi publication to win. At times, the podcast was so popular that it crashed the servers of Kelly’s website: “My recollection was that the number of downloads was in excess of 15,000. Would my little novel have gotten this kind of recognition had I not given it away for free? I don’t think so.”

Ultimately, using Creative Commons licensing has helped Kelly make a name for himself in the digital world. “I believe that the most insidious enemies of writers today are not the publishers or the plagiarists or the pirates – my enemy, at least, is obscurity. Creative Commons is a way for me to get stories that I’m proud to have written out of the darkness of my file drawer and under the light of readers’ eyes. Name recognition and reputation are the coin of the new digital age.”

Robin Sloan

Diffusion Is the Name of the Game / San Francisco

"The CC license was more than passive permission, I treated it very much as an active summons to remix."


Robin Sloan knows the traditional route to getting published is laden with obstacles, not the least of which is obscurity. So the San Francisco-based writer of short fiction and the culture blog Snarkmarket took an alternate path. He crowd-funded his first novella, Annabel Scheme, by calling for donations on Kickstarter, a website that helps artists and other creators find backers for their projects.

In order to increase support, and so that others could copy and redistribute his book in both digital and physical form, he promised to release his book under a Creative Commons license. Annabel Scheme ended up raising $10,000 more than Sloan’s initial goal and was named the best Kickstarter project of 2009.

Sloan actively encourages people to make derivative works. “I wanted people to appropriate the characters and setting and do creative things with them. The CC license was more than passive permission, I treated it very much as an active summons to remix. Sort of like a blinking light that says ‘remix this please!’”

Sloan called on his fans to take advantage of his book’s permissive license and produce the most interesting remixes they could think of. This resulted in an Annabel Scheme theme song and a stunning 3-D image of the novella’s alternate San Francisco.

Without Creative Commons, Sloan says his remix challenge would have been more complicated: “I would have had to spend more time figuring out how to frame and explain it. There would have been more questions along the lines of ‘uh, wait, so when I do a remix, who owns it?’”

More than just a license, CC helps Robin communicate directly with “a posse of potential allies,” creative people who continue to share the book and remixes with others. “For a writer at the stage that I’m at, diffusion is the name of the game. Every extra copy of my work that gets into a new pair of hands, by any means whatsoever, is a win.”

Sloan’s strategy seems to be working. “Annabel Scheme continues to grow an audience online,” he says. “Every week there are tweets about it, and I see more people download the PDF. They buy the Kindle edition, too!"

Public Library of Science

Mark Patterson
Research as a public resource / San Francisco

"Open access provides the maximum possible impact for both funders and researchers."


When the open access publisher Public Library of Science (PLoS) launched its first scientific journal, PLoS Biology, in 2003, it faced a serious uphill climb. Academics are judged not only by the quality of their work, but also by where that work is published. With career advancement, funding opportunities and reputations on the line, researchers are understandably selective.

“We had many conversations with scientists supportive of openness, but who had concerns about our lack of prestige and standing in the publishing world at that stage,” recalls Mark Patterson, PLoS director of publishing. “Because of our start as an advocacy organization for openness, we had a base of supporters. Eventually, their energy carried the day and soon a few researchers took the leap and published a great piece of their research in our open journal. That gave us the foundation to get to where we are today – a sustainable and growing source of high-quality open access research, publishing hundreds of articles a month.”

The core principle behind open access journals is impact. “We set out to remove all barriers to reusing research and transforming research literature into a resource for further research,” says Patterson. “Open access provides the maximum possible impact for both funders and researchers.”

Patterson now sees a very strong movement toward open access in the publishing field. “There are more open access journals being started, more content being published, and new policies are being developed at funding agencies and within institutions which are driving open access,” he said. “There is movement amongst all stakeholders. The question now is just how quickly can we make it happen.”

Creative Commons licensing has been an integral part of the success of open access publishing, and PLoS publishes all of its journals under the CC BY license. “CC has provided a strong, consistent signal that you can use openly published research to do with what you want,” says Patterson. “Because CC licenses are created by experts and have a solid legal foundation, they have become the gold standard in open access publishing.”

Other Voices: Testimonials

"You’ve helped us build something important and valuable, that is supporting a much bigger and much more valuable ecology of creativity that everyone should be celebrating. Creative Commons will be an even bigger part of a much saner future. A world is beginning to recognize the place for reasonableness and balance. They are beginning to practice that using our tools."

Lawrence LESSIG
Founding Board Member, CREATIVE COMMONS

“At Seed, we believe in science’s unique potential to improve the state of the world. Today, this potential is being hindered by the largely closed, restricted, and disorganized nature of the world’s scientific information. Scientists deserve better. Society needs better. Seed is very proud to support and collaborate with Creative Commons in our joint pursuit of innovative solutions to open science.”


“As a writer, my problem is not piracy, it’s obscurity, and Creative Commons licenses turn my books into dandelion seeds, able to blow in the wind and find every crack in every sidewalk, sprouting up in unexpected places.”


“The Personal Genome Project is generating an ever-increasing amount of biological data and tissues. To promote discovery and advance science, we are committed to making these resources broadly available. Creative Commons provides us the tools to achieve these goals with clarity and legal rigor.”


“We collect research work from nonprofit organizations around the world and the majority of that work has no reuse information or a completely restrictive copyright notification. We point folks toward Creative Commons licensing at every opportunity because it is an excellent way to mitigate these extremes, and many of the other copyright issues we experience in between.”


“Creative Commons is a fundamental component in the march toward a new music and media industry, and their stewardship around the licensing of content and raising awareness of free culture is important work that I thoroughly support, and encourage others to do so too.”


“Creative Commons provides easy and effective tools for creators to share their creative work when they want to. The resulting ability to share and collaborate enables new forms of creativity and enriches us all.”


“I think Creative Commons licenses, the entire open attitude, is absolutely essential for artists who don’t have huge promotion budgets. Without the money to force advertising and radio play down people’s throats, you have to rely on the good will of your fans spreading your music for you. And if you handcuff them by making it illegal, I think you’re doing yourself a real disservice.”


“Creative Commons has played a key role in the success of open access publishing. The widespread adoption of Creative Commons licenses by open access publishers means that open access articles are not only freely readable and downloadable, but they can also be freely redistributed, adapted and reused. This is vital, both for the efficient communication of research results, and for the education of the next generation of researchers.”


“If we are going to achieve even just the next step in our new exploration of humanity that is Webspace, we’re going to have to make sure that freedom isn’t crushed by media companies with patents trying to prevent the future. Supporting Creative Commons isn’t just something I feel I ought to do; it’s something we all have to do.””


“I’d like to live in a world where knowledge can grow and be built upon by many. Creative Commons creates the infrastructure to make this information sharing possible.”


“Creative Commons brings major value to filmmakers and creators of all kinds. CC’s tools not only make it simple for creators to share their work, they make it easy for any member of the public to find material that they can legally use and build upon. If I need music or imagery for a project, I can turn to the enormous pool of work that CC has helped build — work that is available to literally anyone in the world to share, use and remix. I release a great deal of my work at Brave New Films under Creative Commons licenses because I want to enable other filmmakers to use my material in new and interesting ways.”


“Creative Commons plays a critical role in maintaining an open community from which everyone benefits. Nearly a quarter of the videos uploaded to are under CC licensing. By allowing for sharing, remixing and resharing on the content creator’s own terms we provide more opportunity for shows to grow and build community.”

Justin DAY / BLIP.TV

“It all started in 2003 when I uploaded a guitar track to called “My Life” and then about 2 months later, I got an email from a 17-year-old violinist in North Carolina named Cora Beth Bridges, who had added to it. She called it ‘My Life Changed.’ I remember being blown away by how beautiful the track was, and also happy to know there were others like me who wanted to collaborate across space and time.”


“Creative Commons provides a framework that allows people to share, mix and reuse content in the same way that TCP/IP and HTTP allows the open Web and a network and application layer. This openness is what makes the Internet special. CC is an important part of the fabric of the open Internet.”


“With Creative Commons, the act of creation becomes not the end, but the beginning of a creative process that links complete strangers together in collaboration. It’s a deeply satisfying and beautiful vision of what art and culture can be.”


“Our culture cannot expand and develop without people willing to share their work with each other and build on each others’ greatness. The use of Creative Commons licensing presents the best way for creative people to share work with each other and through that sharing make the world better for us all. We’re lucky that Creative Commons exists and I’m proud that we’ve supported the group’s work over these many years.”


“I truly believe that within a generation we can open the world’s knowledge to all of its inhabitants and reduce or eliminate the misery caused by lack of access to informa- tion, and Creative Commons is a crucial part of the cultural compact that makes that revolution possible.”


“Creative Commons is about building infrastructure for a new kind of culture — one that is both a folk culture, and wildly more sophisticated than anything before it.”


“Creative Commons shows that we can make the world a better and more interesting place without having to pass new laws or amend old ones. We can say we want to share what we create, under terms that express our values. And thanks to the lawyers behind CC, we don’t need lawyers to do it.”


“Lulu works every day to solve problems for authors, educators, researchers and other content creators. We’re proud to support Creative Commons and its innovative solutions to this particularly complex issue. Its goal is the same as ours; to encourage and enable creators to bring their works to the world.”


“Creative Commons advances disruptive innovation by increasing information sharing, access and collaboration. Information and resources need to roam free to fertile minds to take them to the next level. They have that home in Creative Commons.”


“Creative Commons provides an important alternative to assign rights to your content, making it easier to share, create and publish content. We have been a supporter of CC since the start and believe it is critical to open new and creative methods of communications.”


What is the Power of Open worth?


Measuring the contribution of something that is at once an idea, a movement and a platform – an enabler rather than an industry – is difficult. To give an idea of magnitude, a McKinsey Global Institute study published in May 2011 found that the Internet contributes 2.9% of global GDP, or $1.7 trillion annually.[1]" The Internet is fundamentally based on open standards, and largely runs on free and open source software. In 2007 the Computer and Communications Industry Association found that the value added in the United States alone by industries dependent on copyright exceptions and limitations is $2.2 trillion annually, or one sixth of the U.S. economy.[2]"

The power of open embodied in Creative Commons adds a new layer of openness to the open standards and software that run the Internet and creates a voluntary expansion of the default permissions to use knowledge based on copyright exceptions and limitations. How much is this new layer of openness worth? We don’t have a currency-denominated number yet, though economists are studying the issue. One might begin by asking what is the value of Wikipedia? Of open educational resources? Of open access research? Of open government? Of legal sharing and collaboration by millions of artists and other creators such as those presented in this book?

Doubtless impressive, but answers to these questions would miss something fundamental: the value of open isn’t merely static. The true power of open comes from creating an ecosystem in which innovating does not require asking permission. Some kind of electronic communications platform would exist if the Internet were not based on open standards and software. Collaboration and sharing of culture and knowledge would occur without Creative Commons. However, communications and collaboration would be less democratic, less participatory, more unequal, and innovation and growth would be stunted – the opposite of Creative Commons’ vision. A good first approximation of the value of the power of open: priceless.

How has adoption of Creative Commons grown?

A difficult question given the decentralized nature of the web, but not as difficult as measuring economic value. Since Creative Commons’ first year, we have tracked the number of web links to Creative Commons licenses reported by search engine queries and the number of works licensed at major repositories. Derived from these a very conservative estimate of the approximate minimum number of licensed works at the end of each year is plotted below – from under 1 million works after the first year, to over 400 million at the end of 2010. Grown?

Visualizing the Growth

While this chart shows incredible growth, the absolute number of licensed works is probably far larger. Due to the conservative way we estimate, only numbers from Yahoo! Site Explorer and Flickr are actually reflected. The most significant adoption event in Creative Commons’ history, the migration of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites to CC BY-SA starting in June 2009, is not directly reflected in the chart. Furthermore, due to changes at Yahoo!, even relative growth is probably understated starting around May 2010.

As use of Creative Commons licenses has grown, the mix of licenses used has changed. After its first year, only about 20% of works were licensed to permit in advance both remix and commercial use – that is, considered fully “free” or “open.” After 8 years, that proportion had approximately doubled.

This change seems to indicate that once creators have experienced the power of open, they want more of it!



The Power of Open Supporters

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
PLoS (Public Library of Science)
Omidyar Network
Open Society Foundations
New America Foundation
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Microsoft Research
Wellcome Trust
ict Qatar
FGV Direito Rio
Silicon Sentier