Case Studies/Dan Gillmor

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book, publishing, Dan Gillmor


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Dan Gillmor is a journalist and author of "We the Media" and "Mediactive", books about the changing landscape of media.

...the main reason I’m still getting royalty checks for We the Media is that the book has been available as a free download since the day it went into bookstores. — Dan Gillmor


Dan Gillmor is a journalist and established author who has published two books under Creative Commons licenses. His first book, "We the Media", was published by O'Reilly Media in 2004 under a CC BY-NC-SA license. The book received wide recognition and was adapted into audio. "We the Media" tells the shift of how grassroots journalism will take over the Big Media monopoly on news.

More recently, he has published "Mediactive", also under CC BY-NC-SA, on his website at Mediactive is both a book and website aimed to help people navigate today's media landscape, building on Dan's earlier themes from "We the Media."

License Usage

Both "We the Media" and "Mediactive" are licensed under CC BY-NC-SA.


Dan's motivation for licensing his first book, "We the Media", is detailed in our interview from 2005:

"CC: Why did you decide to license We the Media under a Creative Commons license? DG: It was an opportunity to live up to the things I’ve been preaching. Creative Commons is offering one of the only alternatives to the stifling and, I believe, dangerous ways of the copyright cartel that is trying to lock everything down."

Six years later, he decided to also license "Mediactive" under the same license due to these principles but also because of the benefits he saw from openly licensing his earlier work. He writes on Mediactive:

"Almost a decade after Creative Commons was founded, and despite ample evidence that licensing copyrighted works this way doesn’t harm sales, book publishers remain mostly clueless about this option, or hostile to it. As David explained to editors, the main reason I’m still getting royalty checks for We the Media is that the book has been available as a free download since the day it went into bookstores. This is how word about it spread. Had we not published it that way, given the indifference (at best) shown by American newspapers and magazines, the book would have sunk without a trace."


As noted previously, the CC license increased the audience of "We the Media" and indirectly contributes to the book's in-print status six years later. The CC license also allowed "We the Media" to be adapted into audio without further transaction costs.

Though just published, the CC license has also facilitated Mediactive's distribution. Dan writes on Mediactive:

"In the three days since Mediactive was published here in PDF format, about 1,500 visitors here have downloaded the book, and many more have visited the Table of Contents, which connects to the HTML version. Far few have purchased the book, of course, but it’s selling — and I’ve barely begun the real marketing process, which will take place in the new year."

Publishing under CC also facilitated the speed with which Dan was able to publish his second book. He writes:

"Incidentally, had I signed with a traditional publisher, the book would not have reached the marketplace for a year or more from the date when I signed. With a company like Lulu, you wrap up the project and you’re off to the races. In a fast-moving area like media, that’s a huge benefit to foregoing the standard route."

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