[cc-lessigletter] CC Values

Lawrence Lessig lessig at pobox.com
Wed Oct 25 13:49:36 EDT 2006

In the four years since we launched CC, the Internet, and the world's  
understanding of the Internet, have changed dramatically. In 2002,  
the media was obsessed by something called "piracy." Today, they call  
it "user-generated content." Just around the time we launched,  
Wikipedia crossed 100,000 articles; today it is the most important  
testament to the Internet's potential to enable something different  
and extraordinary.

When we started, none of us had any real idea about what the Internet  
would become. But we all had dreams. Mine was that the Internet would  
offer something different from the world of analog culture. While  
many were obsessed with how new technologies would radically change  
old businesses, I was eager to see the new ways of creating and  
interacting that would develop. iTunes does better what Tower Records  
did pretty well. But what would the Internet create in 2010 that  
didn't exist (in any significant sense) in 1990?

One dream was what Andy Raskin called in his 2004 "Business 2.0"  
article about Creative Commons [http://money.cnn.com/magazines/ 
business2/business2_archive/2004/05/01/368240/index.htm], the  
"sharing economy." The "sharing economy" is different from a  
traditional commercial economy. It is not simply people working for  
free. Instead, this is the economy that supports Wikipedia (and free  
and open source software before that). It is the economy that drives  
much of the creativity in YouTube and blip.tv. It is the world of  
"amateur" creators, meaning again, not those whose work is  
amateurish, but those who do what they do for the love of what they  
do, and not for the money.

This sharing economy is not meant to displace the commercial economy.  
Its purpose is not to force Madonna to sing for free. Its aim instead  
is to enable the millions of other people around the world who are  
also creative, but who want to create in a different kind of  
community. The editors who make Wikipedia sing are not people who  
couldn't get a job at Encyclopedia Britannica. They instead create  
for a different reason, within a very different community of creators.

At its core, Creative Commons is designed to support this sharing  
economy. Our free tools give creators a simple way to signal the  
rules under which they want to create. And, perhaps more importantly,  
by signaling clearly and reliably these freedoms, they encourage  
others who otherwise might hesitate to share and build upon that  
work. Thus, for example, the Public Library of Science [http:// 
plos.org] publishes all of its articles under a CC license that gives  
users the freedom to share those articles broadly. Libraries and  
institutions around the world can now archive these works and make  
them available locally. Without the confidence of the CC licenses, no  
doubt lawyers within these different institutions would have  
panicked. The CC licenses let that panic be avoided, and invite many  
(who otherwise would not) to help share and build upon work.

The next challenge is to figure out how this sharing economy  
interacts with a traditional commercial economy. What happens when  
Time wants to use a fantastic CC-licensed Flickr photo? Or how does a  
hit on ccMixter move into the commercial space?

CC will never become a part of that commercial economy. But it is  
important, I believe, that we play a role in enabling this crossover.  
The alternative is a world we're seeing too much of all ready: large  
entities that create sandboxes for "sharing," but then effectively  
claim ownership over everything built within that sandbox. This is,  
in my view, not a sharing economy. It is instead simple sharecropping.

The key is to build alternatives that creators on the Internet can  
use to both create as they wish and keep control of their creativity.  
That's the challenge I see over the next four years. And as we review  
over the next few weeks some of the best of CC from around the world,  
you'll begin to see how this challenge might be met.


This email is part of a weekly series written by Lawrence Lessig If  
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Week 1 - A Report on the Commons

Week 1 - A Report on the Commons - Spanish version
(Thanks to Maria Cristinia Alvite for translation)

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