World Intellectual Property Day

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World Intellectual Property Day is observed April 26th. "Encouraging Creativity" is the theme for 2007.

The following article addresses this theme from a Creative Commons perspective.

Please spread: PDF version (forthcoming) and translations.

Creative Commons: Encouraging Creativity

Copyright protects creators by giving them certain exclusive rights to their creations. As a general rule, copyright automatically attaches to creative and expressive works once they are fixed in tangible form. In other words, the minute you put pen to paper, brush to easel, hit the "save" button on your computer, the "send" button on your email, or take a photo, you have created a copyright protected work.

As the copyright owner, you enjoy exclusive rights to control (subject to some limited exceptions) who may copy, adapt, distribute, publish, and electronically transmit your work.

With the advent of the digital revolution and the Internet, it is suddenly possible to distribute works in a variety of formats of a high, often professional quality; to work collaboratively across contexts; and to create new, derivative or collective works—on a global level, in a decentralized manner, and at comparatively low cost.

This presents an opportunity for an enormous and unprecedented stimulation of creativity and production of knowledge. As more and more people are interconnected and communicating, it becomes easier to obtain exactly the content one needs or want and to complete tasks and solve problems by the cooperation this interconnection enables. The convergence of technologies and media also create multiple new possibilities for creating derivatives of existing works – for example, remixes and mash-ups.

Another notable aspect is that globalization is not only happening on the corporate level, its effects can also be observed in the areas of science and education and in other sectors of society where new models of fruitful cooperation have appeared. The free encyclopedia Wikipedia and the free and open source software community are examples of these sociological and economic phenomena. The activities of many contributors to projects in these areas are not motivated by the desire to gain (immediate) financial benefit but by the desire to learn, to get recognition, and also to help others.

The downside of these exciting new developments and possibilities is that the new technologies can also be used to violate the rights of copyright owners as they are currently defined. In turn, major rights holders have reacted to this with a fourfold strategy: (a) by trying to prevent the deployment of technologies that can be put to infringing uses; (b) by developing tools that enable them to manage their rights with an amount of precision hitherto unknown and unthinkable: digital rights management and technological protection measures against unauthorized copying; (c) by successfully lobbying for support of these technological measures through legal restrictions; and, (d) by starting huge publicity campaigns designed to teach young people that they must keep their hands off copyrighted material – or else.

These responses are understandable, if regrettable. Our concern is that their combined effect will be to stifle the opportunities for digital technologies to be used widely to encourage creativity and for the problem solving and collaboration discussed above. If creators and licensors have to negotiate not only complicated legal rules, but also burdensome technical barriers, many will either ignore the rules or not create.

Our alternative is to provide creators and licensors with a simple way to say what freedoms they want their creative work to carry. This in turn makes it easy to share, or build upon creative work. It makes it possible for creators and licensors to reserve some rights while releasing others. This, at its core, is our mission. Copyright gives authors certain rights. We want to make it simpler for authors to exercise those rights in ways others can understand.

Creative Commons is a voluntary "some rights reserved to copyright." The system empowers creators to use copyright law to enable a new creativity that has been given rise to by digital technology. Creative Commons' legal tools let creators mix and match license terms that reflect their personal preferences.

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