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Created: December 16, 2002.
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Creative Commons Project Offers RDF-Based Licenses for Rights Expression.

The Creative Commons Project has announced its first official product in the form of machine-readable copyright licenses which support a distributable, royalty-free, legally clear, XML-based mechanism for digital rights expression. Creative Commons licenses "allow copyright holders to easily inform others that their works are free for copying and other uses under specific conditions. The licenses cover several kinds of creative works, including websites, published scholarship, music, film, photography, literature, and courseware. Fundamental legal concepts that inspire Creative Commons are documented on the project website: the public domain, the commons, open content, and intellectual property conservancies. Creative Commons is working to provide simple RDF descriptions of its licenses. These descriptions will put the important points of the license in a way that makes it easy for machines to process and work from. Unlike Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, which tries to restrict use of digital works, Creative Commons is providing ways to encourage permitted sharing and reuse of works." Users of the system select from a list of licenses or public domain dedications and receive support to express these declarations in three formats: "(1) a Commons Deed is a simple, plain-language summary of the license, with corresponding icons; (2) the Legal Code incorporates the fine print needed to fine-tune the copyright statements; (3) the Digital Code consists of a machine-readable translation of the license that helps search engines and other applications identify the work by its terms of use."

Creative Commons website description [excerpted]:

Creative Commons's first project, in December 2002, was the release of a set of copyright licenses free for public use. Taking inspiration in part from the Free Software Foundation's GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), Creative Commons has developed a Web application that helps people dedicate their creative works to the public domain -- or retain their copyright while licensing them as free for certain uses, on certain conditions. Unlike the GNU GPL, Creative Commons licenses are not be designed for software, but rather for other kinds of creative works: websites, scholarship, music, film, photography, literature, courseware, etc. We hope to build upon and complement the work of others who have created public licenses for a variety of creative works.

Our aim is not only to increase the sum of raw source material online, but also to make access to that material cheaper and easier. To this end, we have also developed metadata that can be used to associate creative works with their public domain or license status in a machine-readable way. We hope this will enable people to use the our search application and other online applications to find, for example, photographs that are free to use provided that the original photographer is credited, or songs that may be copied, distributed, or sampled with no restrictions whatsoever. We hope that the ease of use fostered by machine- readable licenses will further reduce barriers to creativity.

In 2003, Creative Commons will also work to build an "intellectual works conservancy." Like a land trust or nature preserve, the conservancy will protect works of special public value from exclusionary private ownership. We will encourage people to donate their copyrights to be held in public trust; in some cases, Creative Commons may purchase important works to help guarantee both their integrity and widespread availability. Our ultimate goal is to develop a rich repository of high-quality works in a variety of media, and to promote an ethos of sharing, public education, and creative interactivity.

From the 2002-12-16 announcement:

"People want to bridge the public domain with the realm of private copyrights," said Stanford Law Professor and Creative Commons Chairman Lawrence Lessig. "Our licenses build upon their creativity, taking the power of digital rights description to a new level. They deliver on our vision of promoting the innovative reuse of all types of intellectual works, unlocking the potential of sharing and transforming others' work."

"Our model was inspired in large part by the open-source and free software movements. The beauty of their approach is that they're based on copyright owners' consent -- independent of any legislative action -- and motivated out of a wonderful mixture of self-interest and community spirit," explained Creative Commons Executive Director Glenn Otis Brown. "One of the great lessons of these software movements is that the choice between self-interest and community is a false choice. If you're clever about how you leverage your rights, you can cash in on openness. Sharing, done properly, is both smart and right."

Various organizations and people have pledged their support for Creative Commons, including Byrds founder Roger McGuinn, DJ Spooky, iBiblio, the Internet Archive, MIT Open Courseware project, O'Reilly & Associates, People Like Us, the Prelinger Collection/Library of Congress, Rice University's Connexions project, Stanford Law School, and Sun Microsystems. Implementers include musicians, writers, teachers, scholars, scientists, photographers, filmmakers, publishers, graphic designers, Web hobbyists, as well as listeners, readers, and viewers.

Cyberlaw and intellectual property experts James Boyle, Michael Carroll, Lawrence Lessig, and Molly Shaffer Van Houweling, MIT computer science professor Hal Abelson, lawyer-turned-documentary filmmaker-turned-cyberlaw expert Eric Saltzman, and public domain Web publisher Eric Eldred founded Creative Commons in 2001. Fellows and students at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School helped get the project off the ground. A non-profit corporation, Creative Commons is based at and receives generous support from Stanford Law School and the school's Center for Internet and Society.

The RoMEO Project (Rights MEtadata for Open Archiving) is developing similar rights expression facilities in connection with the Open Archives Initiative: "Building on existing schemas and vocabularies (such as Open Digital Rights Language - ODRL) a series of rights elements will be developed. A demonstrator system will then be created to show how rights metadata might be assigned, disclosed, harvested, and displayed to end users via the OAI Protocol for Metadata Harvesting..."

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