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Creative Commons and "Read-Write" Culture
Micki Krimmel, 28 Aug 06

220-cc.logo.circle.jpgChances are, if you’re a regular Worldchanging reader, the notion of copyfight and the good works of Creative Commons are nothing new to you. But there couldn’t be an issue more timely given the explosive growth of “user generated” media and the recent boom in popularity of Creative Commons licenses.

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Creative Commons founder, Lawrence Lessig at an event hosted by the Hollywood Hill. Given that the audience was comprised mostly of Hollywood insiders, this was Lessig’s chance to explain the value of Creative Commons and outline what’s at stake in the current debate over copyright.

Mr. Lessig noted that the intent of copyright law is to provide incentive for people to create more work. But law changes much more slowly than technology and people are instead, using the law to slow change. Remixing the creativity of others is nothing new. Culture evolves when we build on the creativity of those before us. But in a digital world, every time you interact with a piece of media, you are in effect, producing a copy. Under current copyright standards, you can’t do that without permission of the author. This puts big media companies and copyright-owners in a position to stifle the creativity of an entire generation growing up online.

“ You can’t stop creativity,” Lessig said. “You can only criminalize it.” By creating mash-ups and Anime Music Videos, kids are doing what they have always done – only the medium has changed. And yet we are telling them that those activities are illegal. Do we really want our kids growing up with such little respect for the law? “This is corrosive to our values and our democracy,” according to Lessig.

Media giants and the entertainment industry are using copyright law to turn the internet into a “read-only” medium where consumers are enabled only to passively receive the creativity of others rather than interact with it. But creativity is not a consumer product. Our culture belongs to all of us and the democratization of new technologies is empowering everyone to participate. We can interact with media in new and immediate ways, providing our own commentary and building on the work of others. This is what Lessig calls “read-write” culture and its value cannot be underestimated.

For the good of our culture and our values as a society, we need to change the law. The power to do that is in the hands of the artists themselves and this is where the Creative Commons comes in. From the CC website:

Creative Commons licenses provide a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists, and educators. We have built upon the "all rights reserved" concept of traditional copyright to offer a voluntary "some rights reserved" approach. We're a nonprofit organization. All of our tools are free.

The CC website offers an easy tool to help you choose the right license for you dependent upon the freedoms you want to allow and the rights you want to reserve with your work.

Artists all over the world (from more than 70 countries) are increasingly applying Creative Commons licenses to their work in order to reserve only the rights they need to retain the value of their creations while also supporting a vibrant culture.

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