Monday, December 01, 2008

Please Support Creative Commons

Creative Commons is asking for your support this year to enable us to continue the work we've been doing in promoting openness in the cultural, educational, and scientific fields.

If you support the vision, please help to staff the vision. Why? You might ask. How hard is it to host a web site?

Well, first of all, running a site that needs constant updating is more work than you might think. But, there's also much more to the organization. For example, CC staff, most of whom are professionals, promote the commons through a series of activities such as fielding inquiries from organizations that want to implement CC licensing, explaining CC licenses through public speaking engagements, working with communities - such as the open education community - to understand copyright law and CC licenses.

Some of that work is the more visible aspects of what we need support for. We continue to work with creators and other owners of copyrights in cultural works, our ccLearn division is promoting the use of CC licenses as a tool to support open education, and our Science Commons division is engaged in pathbreaking work on a number of fronts.

Here, I want to write about some of the less visible work that is hard, important, and really requires your support to continue.

Most people know Creative Commons through the licenses. We have been busy on that front. With support from the Mellon Foundation, CC is in the midst of a study about people's understandings and intuitions about commercial and non-commercial use to see if more should be done to clarify the non-commercial term of some CC licenses.

In addition, CC staff have worked with the network of affiliated professionals around the world to create a legal tool that will enable a person to waive copyright or dedicate their work to the public domain anywhere in the world. Because copyright law is national, and varies by nation, creating standardized tools that are effective on a global scale is challenging. Every copyrighted work is on its way to the public domain because all copyrights expire.

But around the world, the law makes it difficult for copyright owners to speed up that process by putting works into the public domain ahead of time. The CC zero tool is a substantial refinement of an existing tool that enables copyright owners to dedicate their copyright to the public domain in those countries that accept this and to otherwise waive or promise not to assert copyright-related rights against anyone.

One use for this tool is to help clean up the boundaries of copyright. Because copyright has become so expansive, this tool will be useful to those who want to put works at the edge of copyright that are connected to public domain information into the public domain. A prime example is arguably original database structures wrapped around factual data.

With your support, we would like to also improve on the tool that allows a person to assert that a work already is in the public domain, such as older works and works produced by U.S. government employees within the scope of their employment.

The CC tech staff also do amazing and important work. From the beginning, CC licenses were designed to be machine readable. Not all search tools currently fully exploit the machine-readable aspects of CC licenses, but one day they will. I've argued at length that copyright is an example of "use relevance" and anyone searching for information on the web with the question "What can I do with this" cares about use relevance. CC licenses provide an answer, and the Flickr search engine, which does use the license metadata, organizes the information according to its use relevance.

CC metadata has also become a case study for the future of the web, what some people call Web 3.0. CC people have been essential and instrumental in promoting a flexible technical standard, called RDFa, within the World Wide Web consortium. The vision behind this standard supports the decentralized architecture of the web while providing a means to enable machines to make better sense of the information published to the web.

The goal of this work is to enable tools to develop to support the commons by making works in the commons easier to find and to use. Importantly, these standards are also designed to support the role of attribution in the gift economy. With the right implementation, machines could do a better job at identifying the source material and its creators in mash-ups, remixes, and the like.

No comments: