Enabling Creativity in the Digital Environment

For some time now Creative Commons has been increasingly engaging with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). You can read an update on the activities at the CC Blog. This is part of a more active engagement from Creative Commons with international organizations in general. The work has been ongoing, making it clear that CC is taking its role as a vital player in the international copyright licensing scene with the utmost importance. Being part of the highest policymaking circles allows CC to make its views heard and to participate in the next generation of norms.

As part of the continuing participation from Creative Commons at WIPO, we were invited to present at a conference that took place in Geneva 13-14 October entitled Enabling Creativity in the Digital Environment: Copyright Documentation and Infrastructure. As can be seen from the program, this was an important gathering of key participants in the
international digital copyright scene; bringing together NGOs, memory institutions, industry and academics, this was a welcome meeting of stakeholders in the access to knowledge debate. The meeting was open, amiable and of a high level of discussion. We were invited to speak in two separate sessions: Infrastructure Enabling Access to Knowledge, and the concluding panel “From Making it Possible to Making it Happen”.

During the first session, we were given a very short period of time in which to make our points, so the objective of the presentation was to be both informative and brief. The presentation was then divided in four main themes:

  1. We began by making a short introduction to what is Creative Commons. While this may sound basic, it is always important to make sure that the audience knows exactly what CC is, even with knowledgeable audiences. This serves to inform those who may have heard of the organization but do not know many details, but it also helps to dispel misunderstanding about what CC stands for.
  2. Then we listed several challenges to access to knowledge, specifically in the fields of memory institutions and education. The goal of this was not only to continue to press the point that unbalanced copyright might act as a barrier to achieving wider access to valuable information, but mostly to help to make the case for the need of CC in these areas.
  3. The presentation continued listing precisely the reason why Creative Commons is a valuable tool to enable access to knowledge. This is done by empowering users to make decisions about their works in a user-friendly manner. CC is increasingly becoming a worldwide standard for open content, allowing users everywhere to use, reuse, republish and modify works in the knowledge that this is done legally and with the consent of the author. Some of the specific efforts by CC that enable access to knowledge were also listed, including CC0, the Public Domain Mark, and the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI). Finally, we went through some of the challenges for the near future. Inthis section, we were clear to make sure that CC sees as a priority the continuing takeup of its licenses by institutional adopters, e.g. governments, international organisations, educational establishments. CC is willing to continue discussions with potential adopters to try to make it easy for them to start using CC in some of the works they make available to the public.

Unfortunately, time started to run short for the last session, so we were allocated even smaller time. Besides restating some of the work that CC has been doing in this area, specifically the valuable technical work undertaken so far, it was time to make people think about what CC really entails. It is important to stress here that Creative Commons has come a long way in the last five years in the perception of copyright holders, specially the copyright industry. We used to be seen as a direct threat to copyright, and there was palpable animosity from various people. Fortunately, CC’s great success has meant that industry is more willing to engage with the movement at various levels, and
while there is still a long way to go, it seems clear that we have earned respect. To continue in this vein, I chose to illustrate the philosophy behind CC by using a story. Borrowing from the analogy that has been made before of CC as a conservancy of the mind, I used Costa Rican national parks as an example. Costa Rica has almost a third of its territory as a conservation area; what is interesting is that these consist of public and private spaces. In fact, there are some private reserves that try to fill gaps in the existing public spaces.
In my opinion, CC works like this, it allows both private (all rights reserved) and public (public domain) spaces to exist, but it works in the same way as people declaring their land as a reserve, it is flagged as a common resource that benefits the collective.

Creative Commons will continue its work to enable the wider dissemination of knowledge. We are on the right track already, but dissemination of our work is also important.

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