If you love your content – set it free

Lawrence Lessig in beijing

Lawrence Lessig in Beijing

Prominent open knowledge advocate  Lawrence Lessig  argues that digital technologies allow all of us to change from passive consumers of culture to the its creators. Producing books, newspapers and movies in XX century required a lot investment into manufacturing and distribution, which made most of the population unable to take part in a wider culture, beyond a local newspaper or drama group.

The Internet and cheap electronic devices has changed this. You can shoot a small video about how to make a tie knot – thanks to whoever did it, I could  help my son with his first proper school tie. You can write an article and send it to the Huffington Post  without  buying the paper, typing it on a typewriter and going to the post office to send it off. You can take  hundreds of pictures  using your mobile and post them on Flickr or Instagram, without spending money to buy film and chemicals and sitting hours in a dark room to get prints, which  only the members of your family will see.

However, after publishing content, the things get tricky. The current state of copyright is  inherited from the past. To recoup the investment, the publishing houses and record companies had stonewalled their product with “All rights reserved” sign.  And we, citizen-creators, are following their example, not realising what it means for us: not a chance for fabulous wealth, but almost certain oblivion of our creations.

Let me give you an example. While writing a review of James Watson’s book “The Double Helix”, I remembered the DNA sculpture, which stands in the Cold Spring Harbor, the photo of which would be a good header for the article. I found an image on Flickr, which would have served well, but it had “All rights reserved”.  Before using the image  I would have would have to negotiate with the author with no guarantee of success.

Flickr licenses

Flickr files licenses  – less than 1% of content is under the Creative Commons Licences. Numbers mean different ‘flavours’ of CCL, for the explanation see http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flickr_licenses.png(Photo credit: Wikipedia) 

Instead I have used a  different picture from Flickr, published under a free license, that permits changes and commercial use on condition that the author acknowledged – CC BY-SA 3.0.  Both of the  of the photographers did not get paid, but the author of the first, copyrighted picture got  under a ten viewings of his picture, the second – at least several hundreds and free publicity, which may lead to a payment.

The Creative Commons Licenses (CCL)

CCL  are not the only type of free licences, but I doubt that even lawyers can recite all of them by heart. Scrolling down this Creative Commons Licenses page until  “The Licences” part will give you a good understanding of your options.  Next time you publish your content please use a free licence – and the world will become a better, more open, more creative place because of you.

This is a draft for a BsB Article

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