June 21, 2006  ·  Lessig

Just got off the plane to Rio where we’re holding the second iCommons iSummit, so this is a bit delayed. But today, Microsoft has released a free Office plug-in that enables you to mark Office documents (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) with Creative Commons licenses. This has been in the works for a while, and is an extremely cool development. The plug-in will modify the FILE menu, adding an item “Creative Commons” and then when selected, link the user out to the CC site to select a license to be inserted into the license. The first document licensed with the tool is a speech by Brazil’s Culture Minister and supercool musician, Gilberto Gil, about tropicalism. (en) (pt).

Before I got on the plane yesterday, I was on some press calls about the announcement. Many were surprised CC and Microsoft would work together. Ever the naive law professor, that surprise surprises me. Office is a tool for creating. Giving the creator more control over that creativity is a way to make the Office platform more valuable to creators. And by incorporating CC licenses, more valuable to the public.

“But isn’t it strange for MSFT and Lessig to team-up?” I was asked. Well, I have yet gotten the team jersey, but no, it isn’t. Microsoft has been on the right side of a number of important issues — spectrum, net neutrality, identity — and I’m very glad they’re on the right side of this issue too. Giving creators the tools to mark their creativity with the freedoms they intend it to carry is a fantastically good thing to do.

“But it’s just for the Windows platform, isn’t it?” True enough. Now we need some enterprising sort to make a plug-in for Office on the Mac, as well as Garageband, OpenOffice, and many others. Let the competition begin.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    “But isn’t it strange for MSFT and Lessig to team-up?” I was asked.

    I’m bad at politics, but I think that was a great opportunity to do a little PR. Say:

    “No, in fact, I’m a moderate who seeks a third way, a middle path between competing extremes”.

    You’re dealing with the story in their heads, and have the opportunity to try to push it to another story (not sure if it’ll work, as I said, not my field).

  • http://www.robmyers.org/ Rob Myers


    PJ Writes: Creative Commons has announced that you can download a tool now from Microsoft that will attach a Creative Commons license of your choice to any Word, Excel or Powerpoint document. As much as I appreciate Creative Commons, I think you should look at the EULA and read it carefully before you say “I do.” I understand the hopes here, but it does seem a mismatch. I have marked the parts I particularly noticed. The tool makes the process easy, but it is not your only choice.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    Lessig says:

    Office is a tool for creating. Giving the creator more control over that creativity is a way to make the Office platform more valuable to creators. And by incorporating CC licenses, more valuable to the public.

    In theory this is true. However, Office by default implements proprietary formats which negate any direct relationship with the public right from the get-go. That is, the public must first go through the restrictions of proprietary MS Office formats in order to truly benefit.

    For instance, as a user of free software and open standards for documents, I cannot benefit from the CC-licensed work encrusted with MS Office proprietary technology. The best I can hope for is that a program like OpenOffice will be able to open the file without much distortion – which is sometimes a lost cause if the file’s complexity is of a high degree.

    The strange contradiction in this is the fact that what Larry says about giving “creators” more control is true – while the default format for MS Office documents directly conflicts with this axiom. Obviously, proprietary office formats take away control from the “creator” and give it to Microsoft.

    Don’t get me wrong though. This can only be a positive move. As Larry stated, now others may be motivated to follow – hopefully a free software office suite will soon do just that.

  • http://opendomain.blogspot.com Admiral

    I downloaded the Windows version, and it doesn’t work. I’m sure it’s a glitch.

  • http://dariosalvelli.wordpress.com Dario Salvelli

    Hi Mr. Lessig. I am writing an article on this matter for the newspaper which I collaborate with Sole 24 ore (www.ilsole24ore.com): i would like to have a personal opinion of his on the Microsoft-CC coalition and the perspectives of the copyright on the World and in Italy in the specific one. U can send me a mail to dariosalvelli at gmail dot com . Thank you very much.

  • http://gemsling.livejournal.com Nathan Jones

    Q: Is there a standard way to CC-licence ODF (Open Document Format) files, or is MS the first to offer this?

  • anonymous coward

    I’d recommend take a look at this one:

    “Free information in a proprietary format isn’t truly free.”

  • tbuitenh

    Thanks for linking, but I guess what I said on libervis requires some explanation here where it is out of context.

    If you save your cc-licensed text in a proprietary format (such as that of microsoft office), there are additional restrictions on your text, other than those in your license. You usually can get all information, including formatting, out of microsoft doc format and into another thanks to lots of reverse engineering work by, for example, openoffice.org. But if microsoft decides to change the format, where’s your freedom to use other software than theirs to use the “free” file? Even worse, will it still be possible to open the old file after a few new versions of ms office?

    Using a CC license means you want to allow others to reuse your file in some way or another.
    Using a proprietary file format means you don’t really care if others will be able to reuse it.
    These two things do not combine. Please use open standards (such as Open Document Format) for storing your free information.

    Thank you.

    Taco Buitenhuis

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    Capital airport chance encounter not character winning Luo Baisi: Liu Xiang condition also beautiful
    This morning at 7 o’clock half, our newspaper reporter stands in boat of T3 of Beijing capital International Airport building preparation took a country 8:20 boat CA145 airliner flies to Korea big Qiu, cover the championship contest of track and field of the 13rd world that will begin after a few days. Abrupt, the reporter is in board the plane the mouth discovered also will go by same flight number the Cuba track team of big Qiu and man Luo Baisi of champion of Olympic Games of 110 meters of column.
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