I'm a creative commoner

Lately Creative Commons is becoming very dominant topic in my life. First of all, I see all the people in free culture world holding their breath and waiting for Wikipedia switch to CC license. I’m waiting for that too – and personally I really endorse it. Though usually people do not really notice licenses on web content, they really do once they see something they really want to reuse. Wikipedia ends up being isolated island, if it doesn’t go after sharing and exchanging information with other projects.

It takes time to understand one is ‘creative commoner’. I do have a t-shirt with such caption, but it is much more comfortable once you start feeling real power of use and reuse of information. Few anecdotes…

Dear Mr. Mituzas,

Thank you for making your photographs available under a
Creative Commons license. I am writing to inform you that
the American Society of Civil Engineers has featured a
silhouette of “Up we go” on the cover of its new book,
“Constructability Concepts and Practice.”

Per the terms of the license, the following credit appears
on page ii of the book: “Front cover photograph by Domas
Mituzas used under a Creative Commons license.

I will be happy to send a copy of the book to you if you
will provide me your mailing address.

I got this email back in summer, 2007. Did I just steal a job from professional photographer? Or would they just leave blank book cover? Will this lead to a better bridge in future? Did I join a civil cause? All I know now, is that I’m book cover photographer, albeit quite cheap one. Also, by using CC license I simply used lingua-franca of world I’m in – and now my content can evolve into shapes that I couldn’t expect, and that would be limited by non-portable licenses.

Other anecdote is way more internal. I have cheap point-and-shoot camera (same one to shoot book cover pictures :) that I use during my travels. It fits well into my jeans pocket, it doesn’t provide me any self esteem in professional photography. Still, I get to places, I take pictures, I place them on my flickr photostream, and I license them under creative commons. And fascinating things happen – my pictures appear on top of Wikipedia articles (like this one), without any intervention of mine. People just use it, I can sit back, relax, and see how the contribution widens.

Of course, there other different stories. My colleague (and manager) runs a wiki about his own town, Bielepedia, and he wants to exchange information with Wikipedia. Now he can’t, as well as quite a lot of other free content community projects. Though of course, some may believe license difference doesn’t mean much, in this case it means that we’re building borders we don’t need nor we have intent to maintain.

I live and breathe Wikipedia technology, but I do not feel competent enough to go and push content itself around, and it just shows up there itself (oh, of course, there’s army of committed volunteers who help with that). So, I benefit the project just by being creative commoner, and I may benefit lots of other projects. We at Wikipedia technical team are very open in what we do, and try to spread our know-how in many directions. Documents I wrote about how we do things ended up downloaded hundred thousand times, and I really hope that some of that know-how will end up used and reused.

I guess I’m taking this to extremes – I ended up talking to people in government of Lithuania, journalists and non-profit activists. Imagine a government, that would commit to open licensing for produced content. Well, no need to imagine – US federal institutions release information to public domain, but in Europe it is way more restricted. Still, what one has to realize – at government level it is not only a right to be given, it also has to be a right that has to be protected. Nowadays that means going to copyright powerhouses that serve large record labels and movie studios, and will charge for services, that government has to provide for free (and does in other areas, like looking for your stolen car).

We have lots and lots of talks about knowledge-societies at government levels, but we never get to the point, that every individual is part of that, and first of all we have to teach those rights, and guard them. But of course, to prove, that our rights have to be guarded, we have to show how great our work is – and how powerful can our sharing be. To achieve that we have to build bridges between license islands, talk same languages, and of course, create.

I’m a creative commoner. So should be you.

P.S. So should be Wikimedia Foundation. I’m extremely excited about the work being done to make it reality (thanks Erik, Mike, Mako, everyone!), and you know my personal position on the matter by now :)
P.P.S. I probably have to do some more investment in free culture. My friends say Nikon D90 is way to go ;-)

8 thoughts on “I'm a creative commoner”

  1. Inspiring indeed! I, myself, am not too creative a commoner. I don’t want to release the rights for some of my creative work, like photos of my family. When I do release the rights, I’m inclined to the work into public domain, so that whoever wants to use it does not have to worry about licences, their compatibility and requirements.

  2. Ive been a “Commoner” for some time, after joining the “Re-Picture Australia Project” started on flickr by the Picture Australia / National Library of Australia.
    The benefits and exposure for some of my images has been truely amazing with the ability to delegate which images you want “All Rights Reserved” or your’e willing to share for remixing,rehashing etc etc still allows you to control where and what can be done with your work.

    Creative Commons is a great idea to not only protect your work, but also share your work with others.
    I’m proud to be called a “Commoner” and invite photographers and any other media creator to do the same.

    Kind regards
    Ross Beckley

  3. Thanks for a good post.

    I license images and music in the Creative Commons. It’s so much fun when a photo is picked up for an unexpected and wonderful use, illustrating a point, or showing a place. I am definiitely a Creative Commoner.

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