The freedom of information theme is very much in the air today: a Stanford group is using the copyright system to INCREASE the amount of material available in the public domain, according to the LA Times:
- Based at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, Creative Commons has a high-profile board and an ambitious mission. The goal is to promote creativity and collaboration by developing new forms of copyright while reinvigorating the ever-shrinking sphere of copyright-free works: the public domain.
“Using the copyright system, we will make a wider, richer public domain for creators to build upon and individuals to share,” said Stanford law professor and Creative Commons Chairman Lawrence Lessig. “Walt Disney built an empire from the riches of the public domain. We’d like to support a hundred thousand more Walt Disneys.”
As a first step, Creative Commons has developed a group of licenses that will allow copyright holders to surrender some rights to works while keeping others.
One license, for instance, allows people to copy or distribute a work as long as they give the owner credit. Another allows a work to be copied, distributed or displayed as long as it is for a noncommercial purpose. A third license permits copying but forbids using the work to make another, derivative work. (The licenses are legal documents, although that doesn’t guarantee that people will honor them.)
….That this will really happen, and that the material licensed will be things worth looking at, reading or listening to, may seem improbable. But then, so did the notion of mounting an effective challenge to the constitutionality of the current copyright law, which was the recent undertaking by several members of the Creative Commons brain trust.
The legal case arose out of the outrage felt by Eric Eldred, an Internet publisher of material in the public domain, when Congress in 1998 extended copyright terms by 20 years. The result was that no new material – no Hemingway, no Gershwin — will enter the public domain until 2019.
Lessig, then at Harvard, took Eldred as a client. He nursed the case through two lower court defeats and an entirely unexpected decision by the Supreme Court to review it. Oral arguments were in October; a decision is due by the end of June.
Blogcritics in high places:
- One of the first works to have a public domain license will be “The Cluetrain Manifesto,” an influential book on Internet marketing that was published three years ago. It was a natural evolution, considering that the text of “Cluetrain” was posted on the Web awhile ago by the authors.
“It continues to sell well in stores and on the Web,” said one of the book’s four authors, Doc Searls. “Did having the whole text on the Web help? I think so, but we can’t tell.”