Cloudberry — on Creative Commons

In 2011, the Creative Commons communities in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and the Faroe Islands worked together in a project that I managed for the Society for Free Culture and Software (FFKP), sponsored by the Nordic Culture Fund and Nordic Culture Point.

By gathering 25 creators for a workshop in Gothenburg, the project sought to better understand the motivation for people to engage with Creative Commons, the stumbling blocks along the way, the networks and means to reach new creators, and finally to provide a common platform for activities in the Nordic region.

We gathered the input of the creators that were part of the workshop, and while this was published already when the project was running in 2011, I think it’s pertinent to tell our story again. This is part 1 of 4.

Part #1: Creative Commons is reformist, not revolutionary

It can be seen as rather challenging to be against Creative Commons: regardless of your views on politics or culture, there are good arguments to be made for Creative Commons and this contributes to the strength of it as a brand that people from all sides can gather around. Members of the copyright industry and budding artists should be able to find a common ground, and it should be an aim for any communication of Creative Commons to defuse the current tension between the various participants in the dialogue.

When Linux Weekly News wrote about the launch of Creative Commons in 2002, they expressed the view that “Creative Commons is a reaction to the steady increase in the power of copyright holders over their creations.”1 This line of reasoning and argumenting for Creative Commons might interest some, and is likely to bring a fair amount of followers. It is unlikely to attract a wider audience though, and fails to meet the aim of defusing the tensions between the various interest groups.

Creative Commons is not a counter-culture, and should not be communicated as being one. Instead, emphasis should be placed on the establishment of new grounds within existing culture. Rather than a revolution, we’re talking about a reformation of current practices. This reformation should not be a reaction against the current principles put in place by groups already vested heavily in the system, but a reformation which involve all participants jointly.

This way of communicating Creative Commons does not mean that we can not talk about it as something new though. While not a new born any more, Creative Commons can still be seen as new in relation to the industry at large, and it’s perfectly within the frame of being reformist.

New ways and means of distribution is a challenge for both publishers and creators, and Creative Commons offers a way to work with this within the frame of current policies, while at the same time opening the door to further changes down the road. We can see publishers and the industry at large as allies in a search for contemporary business practices. While the industry has a deep investment in the current system, we should work to interest them in Creative Commons, rather than bypassing them.

In presenting Creative Commons, we should aim at showing the success stories, and the individuals and organisations leading by example. We should also be aware that many creators are not interested in business models: their aim is to create, and to be rewarded for what they create. While the reward system is changing, this does not invalidate the publishers, but it can change their role within the ecosystem. Reform, rather than revolution.

One of the roles for the publishers is to remove the administrative burden from the individual creators, under the auspice of the creator, or groups of creators . This places the creator in control of the publisher, which is a reformation of the current publisher role. In this new role, publishers would have a natural interest in business models working with Creative Commons and could be as important a target group as the individual creators.

All the time, we must make sure to stress that we reform the current system and allow more people to present their works to a larger audience and to engage in a community of sharing and collaboration. This does not invalidate previous business practices, but we seek to offer new business practices that work with the principles of Creative Commons. Adoption of these new business practices and of Creative Commons overall remains with the individual creator. Think of Creative Commons as reformist, not revolutionary.

Summary

  • Work to defuse the current tensions between the different interest groups.
  • Introduce that publishers have a role even if that role is different than before.
  • Point out that Creative Commons is a new way for some creators, but that it doesn’t invalidate existing practices.
  • Be clear that new business models are required.
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