World Intellectual Property Day

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Revision as of 22:47, 24 April 2007 by Eric Steuer (talk | contribs) (Creative Commons: Encouraging Creativity)
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World Intellectual Property Day is observed on 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

World IP Day is observed on April 26th. This year’s theme is "Encouraging Creativity."

Encouraging creativity has been Creative Commons’ goal since the organization was established four and a half years ago. Creative Commons empowers creators to use copyright law to enable creative new ways of sharing, reusing, and remixing culture.


The advent of the digital revolution and the Internet 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 wants and to complete tasks and solve problems by the cooperation this interconnection enables. The convergence of technologies and media also creates multiple new possibilities for creating derivatives of existing works – for example, remixes and mash-ups.

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.

These 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) trying to prevent the deployment of technologies that can be put to infringing uses; (b) 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) lobbying for support of these technological measures through legal restrictions; and, (d) 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.

Creative Commons

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" alternative to default 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: Require attribution with link back? Permit sharing? Permit remix? Restrict commercial use? Require remixers to share alike?

Encouraging Creativity

Creative Commons licenses legally enable voluntary sharing and collaboration across space and time, without needing to call in the (very expensive) lawyers.

Our licenses come with "human readable" explanations of license terms, enabling non-lawyers to quickly understand the licenses, and get back to creating and collaborating.

We also use "metadata" to describe our licenses and licensed works in a way computers can understand. This enables software tools such as Web search engines that help you find, organize, and use media.

Below are just a few examples of creativity that builds upon this infrastructure:

  •, a music community that makes the genealogy of remix explicit, launching long-term creative and business collaborations, with participation by musicians across the globe, as well as by both major and independent labels.
  • Wikitravel, a community-built, CC-licensed travel guide, that demonstrates the compatibility of community, Creative Commons, and business.
  • Flickr, where users have CC-licensed over 33 million photos. This content and Flickr's API support for Creative Commons has led to innumerable creative reuses and Web mash-ups.

We're constantly improving the CC infrastructure to make legal creativity easier still. For example:

  • Our licenses have been ported to 36 different legal jurisdictions, with many more to come.
  • We're helping to make collaboration the norm across the Web, rather than just within one site.
  • We're exploring ways to make the sharing economy and commercial economy build upon each other, creating more growth and resources for creativity.
  • Our Science Commons division is working to lower barriers to creativity in science, using Creative Commons copyright tools, as well as legal and technical tools specific to science.
  • CC Learn will use our tools to encourage creativity in education.

In sum, the Creative Commons toolset encourages and enables participation in creativity by everyone, not only those with access to copyright lawyers. This is as it should be in modern democracies, where the tools for expression and creativity are available to everyone as everyday consumer goods.

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