Have you ever thought about the difference between free creation and creation limited with classical rules made by big interest groups? The story of free software dates 20 years ago, in the time when Richard Stallman published the GNU Manifesto. Two decades later it is beyond any doubt that thanks to the free software we have richer and more interesting world – from Apache to Firefox.
Prof. Lawrence Lessig (Stanford University, USA), fascinated from the idea of free software, tried to transfer it metaphysically to wider scope of application – beyond the computer programs. Classical Law on Copyright and the possibility of its misuse by the big corporations is surpassed by the group of licenses available to the creators called Creative Commons. Creative Commons means creativity whose product is transferred in limited or full public domain under the conditions defined by the author. Creative Commons Licenses are localized in many countries (soon available to the Macedonian authors).
Creative Commons Licenses functions as explained below. When an author has certain creative material that wants to be published, and wants to protect some of his rights without paying lawyer to create contract and license, he visits the Creative Commons web site, chooses which rights he wants to be protected, obtains specific license that he integrates within the web page where his poem, book, web site, remix, documentary film or any kind of creative product is published. By doing this he makes his creative work available to everybody interested in it under the conditions chosen by the author himself.
On May 16, 2005 in Sofia, Bulgaria, Prof. Lessig had lecture on Free Culture organized by ISOC – Bulgaria and UNDP Bulgaria . The event was on the occasion of introducing the localized Creative Commons Licenses in Bulgaria. Prof. Lessing, who is among 50 biggest innovators of the 21 century according to the Scientific American, has simply hypnotized the public with his speech.
According to Prof. Lessig, the technologies for digital protection of copyright will become extended hand of the media tycoons and will have the power to lock works which after several centuries will not be available and will be forgotten. That is why these so called DRM technologies limit the culture. In addition, very dangerous approach in creation of these technologies is the fact that the standards are closed which means that all the content encrypted in such standard is controlled only by one company. This explosion of standards will become more intense in the following 5 years that will additionally complicate the situation.
What we must insist on is the fact that the culture does not need to be absolutely free-of-charge, but must be available in useful standard. If somebody asks why free culture, the simplest answer will be that the culture is not only the Hollywood production – according to which the current laws and technologies are created. Today we are moving between two extremes – legal system that hunts students using some kind of peer-to-peer software on one side, and piracy industry on the other. Between them, far from the big interest battle (corporate versus criminal) the Creative Commons comes into being.
Modern copyright blocks the rights of the creative author. For example, if you are a poet and the publishing house has bought off the copyright, after the first edition will be completely sold out and the publisher does not have financial interest for second edition, the work practically dies since it is not available anymore. Best examples are Laurel and Hardy generation of films recorded on nitrate tapes that start to disintegrate after one century. Since the copyright for the films is very hard to determine after one century, they are faced with extinction. A whole set of works that are cultural heritage may be lost because of the big corporations interests.
The solution proposed by the Free Culture activists is introducing the periodical extension of copyright – and if the owner is not interested or has problems in the determining copyright procedure – then he will lose the copyright over the work. By introducing this solution the companies are going to protect their profitable portfolios, and the great part of the creative works will be free (above 98% according to Lessig) and will be in public domain.
Prof. Lessig founded the Creative Commons in order to institutionalize the attempts for liberating culture from corporative influence. This organization offers legal framework for the authors that want to make their works legally available to the public under the conditions chosen by them. On the other side the big free culture movement is being defined – created by cyber lawyers, computer experts and, most important, open minded creative people. The only attack so far to this movement was from the lawyers that have lost part of their market because of the free licenses.
The attempts are not limited only in the sphere of culture. The initiative for sharing scientific inventions with the community is in inception and unlike Creative Commons will be oriented towards creating free science, something that is currently hindered because of the patent restrictiveness. The debate over the software patents in Europe is topical issue at the moment, but the story does not end here. One of the most tragic relevant examples is that the pharmacy industries refuse to release the medicine patents for AIDS for the undeveloped countries which suffer from this disease.
We will conclude this text with the Prof. Lessig’s words “freedom is the default condition”. He calls the mission of the movement for liberating the creativity “building freedom through the laws”. Soon, Creative Commons together with the Foundation Metamorphosis will localize the licenses in Macedonian and our country will join the story-in-creation. These activities are undertaken after the conference on copyright in the digital age. The conference was organized on May 10, 2005 at the Faculty of Law in Skopje by the Foundation Metamorphosis. Ms. Maja Bogataj Jancic elaborated on the topics.
Notice: If you want to get more familiar with the free culture ideas we recommend you the book Free Culture by Lawrence Lessing available for download from his web site and licensed under Creative Commons License.