December 10, 2006  ·  Lessig

People are often very kind (at least to me) about my speeches. But the truly inspired rhetorician of our age is Eben Moglen. Here’s a video of his keynote at the Plone conference in Seattle. The speech is transcribed here.

December 8, 2006  ·  Lessig

Creative Commons is turning 4 on December 16. To celebrate, there are a host of parties springing up around the world. You can read about it on this blog entry. I’ll be in Portugal to launch CC Portugal, but will be getting up early to make a Second Life appearance at the San Francisco event. If you can’t make it to a physical party, come virtually. I’ll be making a pretty significant announcement (for me at least) at the party.

December 8, 2006  ·  Lessig

For almost 10 years now, I’ve been waging a war against retrospective term extension. My simple argument has been that copyright is about creative incentives, and you can’t create incentives retrospectively.

I now see I am apparently wrong.

As reported yesterday, there was an ad in the FT listing 4,000 musicians who supported retrospective term extension. If you read the list, you’ll see that at least some of these artists are apparently dead (e.g. Lonnie Donegan, died 4th November 2002; Freddie Garrity, died 20th May 2006). I take it the ability of these dead authors to sign a petition asking for their copyright terms to be extended can only mean that even after death, term extension continues to inspire.

I’m not yet sure how. But I guess I should be a good sport about it, and just confess I was wrong. For if artists can sign petitions after they’ve died, then why can’t they produce new recordings fifty years ago?

December 7, 2006  ·  Lessig

My CC fundraising letter this week describes the launch of CC Labs — a test bed for new CC technologies. There’s a new licensing engine that emphasizes more clearly the freedoms you’re enabling. Toggling through the options gives you a very clear sense of the contours of the CC licenses.

The most important experiment, however, is also the hardest to describe. We’ve begun testing an architecture that will enable people to specify (in the metadata attached to the license) where to go for rights, or stuff, beyond those specified in the license. Thus, for example, if you’re a Flickr snapper, and license your photos under a noncommercial license, you can specify in the metadata who or where someone should go to clear commercial rights. (See, e.g., Scoopt)

So here’s an example. Gary New Vision‘s got a mySpace page. On that page, you can download some of his music. That music is licensed under a CC BY-NonCommercial license. But if you click on the CC icon, the Commons Deed now tells you where you can go to license the music commercially.

As I explain in the extended entry, this “rights beyond” link need not be to commercial rights. It could be a tip jar, or t-shirts, or even another CC license. Thus, anyone offering content under a CC-NC license should, in my view, offer an alternative licenses as well — CC-BY-SA — which would mean the content could also be included within copyleft projects. But more on that soon …

The tech here has been tricky, no doubt. But the hardest part will be to begin to make clear the potential this added capacity adds. Read below, and if you’ve got any great ideas, I’d be eager to hear them.


[CC-lessigletter: 12.7.06] CC-Labs

From our last letter:

“CC has come to be about much more than just licenses, and certainly much more than any of us dreamed.”

The story continued:

So this week we launched a fresh face to the Creative Commons website. Built within WordPress, we hope the site will make it easier for people to understand and use our tools. Most noticeable are the new CC license icons, which expressly indicate the terms of the particular CC license used.

But with this letter, we also launch a new page at the CC site — At CC Labs, we begin to demo some cool new innovations that the CC team has been working on. In this letter, I’ll describe three of these innovations. The most important — by far — is an extension to the CC model that I first described in these letters last year. I suspect nothing will be as important in spreading the CC model as this critical extension.

First, however, let me describe the other two innovations.

One very difficult issue we’ve faced from the start is making understandable the freedoms our licenses are intended to provide. We’ve made that task more difficult by emphasizing in the names we’ve given to our licenses the limits on the freedoms, rather than the freedoms themselves. Thus, we talk about the CC-BY license – which says you must give attribution, but doesn’t say “you have the freedom to share and remix this content.” For people who get it, this isn’t a problem. But for people not yet on this page, emphasizing requirements, or restrictions, doesn’t seem very free.

One step towards solving this problem is a tool to give people a more intuitive sense of the freedoms they’re allowing, and the conditions they’re imposing. That’s the aim of our Freedoms License Chooser.

When you open the page, you’re presented with four puzzle pieces that are interlinked. The top two – in green – specify the freedoms you can select to apply to your creativity: the freedom to Share, or the freedom to Remix, or both. On the bottom, there are two limiting conditions — in red — that you can select to restrict the freedoms you have granted: NonCommercial, or ShareAlike, or both. Not all combinations are possible. (For example, if you don’t give the freedom to Remix, you can’t require that others ShareAlike, since ShareAlike is a restriction on remixes or derivative works.)

As you toggle the freedoms and limitations, the resulting license is displayed in the center of the puzzle. Click through all the options and you begin to get a much more intuitive sense of the shape of the commons.

The second example of CC Labs is also a licensing engine, again designed to make it easier to understand and implement CC licenses. It begins with the same questions that the Freedoms License Chooser has — select the freedoms and select the limitations. More insistently than before, it also asks you to give more information about your work, so that the metadata attached to your work makes the license more valuable.

But then this License Generator gives an option we haven’t had before. In the current version, it asks where the license will be applied — on a web page, or (and this is the cool part) in MySpace.

If you select a web page, then, as always, the tool gives you the code to paste into the web page. But if you select MySpace, then it asks you to select a style, and indicate whether you want a floating license or a license for your profile. If you select a floating position, then the CC license governing the content on your MySpace page will live at the bottom of the screen.

Ok, so these innovations are designed to do a bit better what we’ve always done. The last innovation on CC Labs, however, will radically change the scope and reach of CC licenses.

You might not think so given the title of this innovation — “Metadata Lab.” It’s the nature of tech-types to be understated. But I don’t think we could overstate the importance of this new innovation. And in the few words left in this letter, I want to introduce you to this potential.

As you know, CC licenses are nonexclusive. That means the terms of the CC license are general, offered to anyone in the world. But they don’t limit the author’s right to enter into other deals.

So for example, my book, Free Culture, is offered under a CC BY-NC-SA license, meaning anyone is free to take and modify the work, but only for noncommercial purposes. Yet I also have another deal with my publisher that permits it to sell the book (something that’s not permitted by the NC license). That deal is not inconsistent with the CC license, since again the CC license is not exclusive. The CC license says, “Here are the terms that anyone in the world can take.” But you’re always free to strike different deals with particular people.

Some people don’t want to strike different deals. They want their CC license to specify all terms for everyone. My blog, for example, is offered under a CC-BY license. That’s an invitation to anyone to commercialize my content without worrying about contacting me. Some have. CNET Japan, for example, was translating my blog and selling advertisements around it. That’s perfectly fine with me, given the license I selected.

But some people are quite happy to strike deals that complement their CC license. A Flickr photographer, for example, might post her photos under a BY-NC license. But she’d be happy to license the photo to a magazine for commercial purposes — so long as the magazine asked.

So far that second step has been somewhat difficult. Of course, it’s often easy to go from a CC licensed work to the original author, just because the work is online, and links are easy. But it’s been hard to integrate the CC license into other applications. And very hard to specify upfront just what the terms of a different license would be.

Soon, this will no longer be the case. What the Metadata Lab demonstrates is a particular example of a much more general facility that we will enable very soon. Using our licensing engine to add the appropriate metadata, users will be able to specify rights or applications beyond those specified in the license itself. Those rights, or applications, might include commercial rights, or things people can buy, or, as I describe more below, other CC licenses.

So for example, the CC license might say CC-BY-NC. But when wrapped in the appropriate metadata, the CC Commons Deed could have a link to an agent, or just a web site, where commercial uses could be negotiated.

Or alternatively, the CC license might say CC-BY-NC. But the metadata would indicate a tip jar, where a donation could be made.

Or where you can get a CD of the music offered under a NC license.

Or one of the band’s t-shirts.

Thus, the general facility this innovation will provide is a simple and automatic way to say,”the CC license gives you these rights automatically, but go here to get different rights, or different applications.”

Here are some examples from companies we’re beginning to work with. Click on the CC License icon to see how the “Rights Beyond” is handled.

Now as I indicated last year, CC is not hosting these different applications. We’re not in the business of selling content, or (other peoples’) t-shirts. So this is not an architecture to enable CC to become commercial. Our stuff is still free (well, not our t-shirts). Our tools will always be free.

Instead, what this innovation does is to give people a simple way to point to places beyond the CC license for uses or applications that the CC license doesn’t itself provide.

Must these uses be commercial? No. In my view, perhaps the most important case for using this “rights beyond” facility is to specify alternative CC licenses.

For example, let’s say you offer your content under a CC-BY-NC license. But you’d be happy to have your content included within Wikipedia. One solution would be to dual license your content. But a simpler solution would be to use this “Rights Beyond” facility. You can specify your primary license as the NC license. But offer as an alternative, through the “Rights Beyond” facility, the same content under a CC-BY-SA license. And assuming we fix the problem with CC/FDL interoperability — assuming, wink, wink — that would mean your creative work could be included within Wikipedia (or other copyleft projects), even though the general license you offer is a NC license.

But won’t this innovation encourage people to mark creativity with BY- NC when they would otherwise just make it free? It may, for some. It will also encourage many to use CC licenses who otherwise wouldn’t. But if it does push some to adopt a NC restriction where you believe they shouldn’t, then you should join us in arguing against that restriction.

I believe, for example, with the Public Library of Science, that scientific journals should be freely available. All PLoS content is licensed under a CC-BY license. If some other scientific journal started to make its content available under a CC-BY-NC license, then you should join me in arguing that that model is inconsistent with the ethics of science. The CC licenses give us a vocabulary to make that argument. But it is up to us to actually utter the words of the argument. Code has no ethical obligation to do ethical politics. We do.

There are more details to this important innovation. But the general message is clear: Using this technology, you can specify rights beyond those granted by the CC license. Any rights, or any applications, however the adopter chooses. I trust as you think through this innovation, you’ll see why I think it is the most important change we’ve introduced since we introduced CC.

Remember the hybrid economy from this year’s first post. Here are the tools to help this hybrid flourish.

December 7, 2006  ·  Lessig

December 7th. A date which will live in infamy.

So the day after the Gowers Review issued perhaps the most sensible document about IP produced by a government related entity in the 20th or 21st century — the report, remember, that after a careful review of the evidence, concluded that as a matter of principle, the copyright term of existing works should never be extended — 4,000 artists signed an advertisement in the FT calling for “fair play for musicians” by extending the copyright term for recordings from 50 to 95 years. As CNN reports,

Without a change in the law, the catalogue of McCartney’s Beatles could be up for grabs from 2012 and 2013, including early hits like “Love Me Do” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.

Oh jeez. Poor Paul, you may think. Robbed in his old age. Except of course, as popculture maven Jon Zittrain reports, and popstar-blinded CNN omits, McCartney doesn’t own his “catalogue” and anyway, the only right at issue is the recording. The underlying composition right will be “McCartney’s” for at least 70 years more.

But I get the fairness argument: Congress cheated the American people by violating the Gowers principle against extending existing terms, so it is only fair that Parliament cheat the British people too. How else will Sir Cliff afford the upkeep on the house in Barbados that Tony Blair likes to visit unless he gets another 45 years monopoly on his 1956 recordings?

What’s needed here is some good user-generated guerrilla content — remember Napster_Bad — so that the other side of this story might pierce the press-relation’s wall of these cultural elites, and they can begin to explain just why 90+% of our past should be buried for another two generations so that they can profit even more.

Or I’d be happy if they could just answer my question: Why would they oppose a system in which to get the benefit of an almost doubling of their copyright term, they had to ask?

December 7, 2006  ·  Lessig

Nick Carr on DRM:

No, DRM is about controlling the business model for selling online music. And if it looks like there won’t be much additional sales growth through iTunes, then music companies are going to start selling unprotected MP3s. In an iPod world, they have little choice.

Unless, of course, Apple starts allowing other kinds of DRM-protected song files to play on iPods. But even that unlikely event might not matter much. It would seem that the best business strategy for record companies at this point is to open the floodgates for online music retailing, which would almost certainly bring a burst of innovation in packaging and pricing.

December 6, 2006  ·  Lessig

The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property has been released. It is here.

Meanwhile, you can read two reports the Review commissioned. One is a fantastic report about the economics of term extension. You can download it here.

The second is a report about Orphan Works (I’ve not read this yet). You can get it here.

My piece in the Financial Times today about the report is here. The punch line:

There are some who believe that copyright terms should be perpetual. Britain did the world a great service when it resolved that debate almost 300 years ago, by establishing one of the earliest copyright regimes to limit copyright to a fixed term. It could now teach the world a second important lesson: any gift of term extension should only go to those who ask.

December 5, 2006  ·  Lessig


Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will visit Second Life on December 7th, from 6-8pm Second Life Time (PST). Read all about it here.

I was a law clerk for Judge Posner. It was the best job a lawyer could imagine. Unlike must judges, Posner writes his own opinions. That meant the job of a clerk was simply to argue — and he invited, indeed insisted upon, strong and vigorous argument. (Once I sent him a letter very strongly criticizing a draft of a book he was writing. The next morning I had second thoughts about the tone of the letter. I wrote a letter to apologize. He wrote back immediately: Never apologize for strongly stating your case. “I’m surrounded by sycophants. I don’t need that from you.”

He is the most prolific person I know. He is the most influential lawyer of his time. His work in law and economics revolutionized the legal academy. His opinions as a judge are easily among the most influential in the federal judiciary. You may not agree with his politics (as I don’t on many things). But don’t let political correctness block the chance to “see” this extraordinary figure.

Most won’t like the conclusions of the book he’ll be discussing. But there are always many more interesting Posner channels. He’s a big fan of The Matrix. And cats.

Were it not 3am my time when he is in Second Life, I’d be there too. Let me know how it goes.

December 4, 2006  ·  Lessig

Let’s say you release a draft of a paper using PDF. But when people open the paper to read it, you’d like the PDF to check whether there’s a more recent version available. If there is, you’d like it to indicate as much — somewhere. Obviously, you could always include a link that says “For the most current version, go here.” But is there a way to say, “A more recent version of this document is available here.”?