Support Creative Commons (Campaign)


As you might know, I’m a big fan of Creative Commons (CC), a very easy way to share your content online and thus contribute to an ever-growing pool of freely available body of text, picture, videos and music to work with. It’s not a replacement to copyright, but an addition that gives the content creators (that’s you) more rights to share their works and others more rights to use them. Creative Commons is a building block for a free culture.

A few days ago, the annual fundraiser campaign has kicked off. As you can imagine, like many industries, non-profits like Creative Commons have also been hit hard by the economic crisis as they have to rely on donations both by institutions and individuals.

Before getting into the details, though, a quick intro video for those of you not familiar with Creative Commons. A good place to start is the video “A Shared Culture” by filmmaker Jesse Dylan, known for the “Yes We Can” Barack Obama campaign video:

A few brief examples how Creative Commons is relevant to my work:

  • Practically all the images used in this blog are licensed under CC. The blog itself is licensed under CC – with one of the most liberal licenses (CC Attribution). Anybody can use all the content that I created here as long as they point out who it’s from (that’s the “attribution” part), no matter if for non-commercial or commercial uses.
  • My photos on Flickr are all licensed under a slightly more restrictive license (CC Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike), which means anyone can use them as long as they point to me as the creator, but they may only use them in a non-commercial context (because I wouldn’t want a friend of mine ending up in some kind of commercial or anything along those lines), and as long as they share the work based on my photos under similar conditions (thus also contributing to the growing pool of available works).
  • In practically every client project I argue for sharing as much as possible on the web, and usually a Creative Commons license is the easiest, most reliable (and most legally sound) way of doing so.

For different kinds of uses and content, Creative Commons offers me the chance to pick just the right license and keep the rights I want to keep while giving up the ones that aren’t important to me. That’s the main difference between the old model you know from old-school copyright aka “all rights reserved”. With Creative Commons, it’s “some rights reserved”.

The official fundraiser kick-off post has the details on the campaign (and a neat CC shirt motif), Joi Ito has some more background.

So what can you do to support a free culture? You can spread the word, share your content (thus enabling others to build on it while also building your reputation), or donate cash, which helps fund the (small) organization behind the scenes:

Here’s more ways and hands-on tipps on how to support Creative Commons and spread the word. Thanks for your contribution.

Changing to German ported version of CC (by-nc-sa) 3.0


Since I don’t believe in restricting the flow of information, or in DRM, this blog has been published under a Creative Commons license all along. And I’ve been absolutely happy with the way it went. The web is built on sharing and remixing, and that’s exactly what Creative Commons licenses allow for, easily:

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. Others can download and redistribute your work just like the by-nc-nd license, but they can also translate, make remixes, and produce new stories based on your work. All new work based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also be non-commercial in nature.

Licenses aren’t fixed, they change and evolve over time, and a while ago Creative Commons launched a version 3 of their license. So far, so good, but you may note that this license was the unported version.

I’ve been using the unported version until now for several reasons even though a German ported version has been around since July. (More on internationalization of CC licenses here – it’s more interesting, and way more complex than I ever expected.) The thinking was this: I’m based in Germany, but I blog in English and the vast majority of my readers is U.S.-based.

So now I’ve taken the step to use the German version of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Sharealike 3.0 license. Everything else stays exactly as it always has been: Feel free to use, remix and play with my content, as long as you link back to me. Also, if you’re planning on using my work commercially, you’ll need my agreement. (Get in touch.)

So here’s the code the Creative Commons license code generator provided:

Creative Commons License
The Waving Cat. Peter Bihr on Social Media, Web 2.0 & Digital Life by Peter Bihr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.

Creative Commons for German Public TV Could Save Costs, Archives


German public TV and the Some Rights Reserved content licenses by Creative Commons don’t seem to be a natural mix.

Then again, maybe they do.

As NDR, one of Germany’s regional public TV stations, proved by putting some shows under Creative Commons, open licenses and public TV may be a pretty good match indeed. (This goes both ways: During production of pieces, for example by using Creatice Commons music, and to license the TV shows.)

(For the US-Americans of you: Public TV plays a very different role in the media landscape in Germany than it does in the US. Like, people actually watch it, and it’s good stuff.)

At re:publica, Chief Editor of NDR Online Jürgen Werwinski shared the broadcaster’s experiences with going Creative Commons. Despite quite a bit of internal resistance (or rather: unfamiliarity with the subject), the station hasn’t regretted taking the steps towards to licensing their content more freely. After all, all the content is paid for by public funds, and making the content accessible is part of the public stations’ legal mission. (At Netzpolitik.org, Markus Beckedahl has been asking for more Creative Commons-licensed coverage for a long time.)

To stress my point of how important freely licensed content from public stations is, let me share a story that a friend told me. She works for public TV, where she’s an editor for a kids news program, Logo. The show is great, and also technically up to date, they even offer all the shows as a video podcast. Yet, the archive only goes about a week back, then disappears.

Of course, the shows don’t get deleted (I assume), but they aren’t accessible from the outside anymore. This is, to a large extent, due to the background and atmo music used in the news pieces: The music licenses only cover online use for a week or so, after that extra licensing fees would be due. Of course, the stations can’t just go on and keep paying ever-growing amounts of licensing fees of public funds, so they hide the archives. Effectively, this destroys these huge amounts of great shows which would be a priceless knowledge base for kids and teachers.

For obvious reasons, Creative Commons or similar licenses would help solve this issue single-handedly. Depending on the exact license, the music is available free of monetary costs, i.e. the stations wouldn’t have to pay at all; All they would have to to is credit the works, and – again, depending on the license – also license their content for external use. (More about share-alike licenses here, German version here.)

This, of course, is a highly political decision: Do we really want to give up a little bit of control, open up, and allow people out there to distribute our content freely?

My take? Yes, yes, and yes.

That’s not because I’m an info anarchist. (I’m not!)

Creative Commons make perfect rational sense for the public TV stations to use to fulfill their mission.

Why is that? First of all, Creative Commons licenses make it easy for viewers (users? citizens?) to share the content they like. This has both a valuable social aspect and helps the stations distribute their content more cost-efficiently. More reach, better distribution, easier and more wide-spread access.

Second, if you allow viewers to use and endorse this publicly funded content, it increases the feeling of ownership. That’s a key issue for public education.

Third, Creative Commons allows for fairly granular control of what you want to allow to do with your content. (An overview of the available licenses here.) For example, you could allow non-commercial use only, or also allow commercial use. (Non-commercial probably being the right way to go in this particular case.) Also, while allowing to remix your shows is pretty darn awesome, it’s understandable that institutions like public TV stations wouldn’t be comfortable with remixed versions of their content, so they could settle for non-derivative use, i.e. a no-remix license. Only the show as such may be redistributed, no changes allowed. This is particularly important if you’re worried about your stuff being used out of context.

Fourth, it’s free advertisement, as every show needs to be credited to the original creator.

Fifth, and most importantly, without the licensing fees you get an ever-growing archive of shows and knowledge that you don’t have to take offline anytime, ever.

And sixth, not having to pay licensing fees means saving a lot of money. This money can then be spent on furthering the cause of spreading knowledge and fulfilling public TV’s legal mission.

Of course, there are downsides as well.

First, in day-to-day work, editors often pick music more or less by association: If you deal with a certain topic and a song just comes to mind, this song it is. (Example? It’s a piece on the end of the school year, so School’s Out by Alice Cooper it is.) This works well and is easy to do because we all have a common base of pop cultural references we grew up with. Most Creative Commons songs haven’t reached this kind of popularity, they simply haven’t been around long enough. (Keep in mind that CC have been around for less than a decade.)

Second, this very mechanism (or lack thereof) also means that it takes longer to pick songs, simply because the editor has to go through a lot of songs to find some stuff they see fit.

However, these problems seem to be temporary – once the mechanisms are in place and editors get more familiar with what’s out there, speed picks up. Also, more and more songs become available as I’m typing this. There’s no inherent reason not to switch to a different policy here.

Who can change this policy?

Now the tricky part is who to talk to about this. As I see it, there are two main arguments you could make to convince the stations to switch to Creative Commons licenses, both for their own content and the music they use:

First, the mission statement argument: Creative Commons can help the stations fulfill their missions as best as they can by making access to their publicly funded contents easier. We’re talking distribution and archives here.

Second, the cost argument: Without horrendous music licensing fees, the shows can be produced with the same level of quality but for less money, making a more cost-efficient alternative. The savings can be used to either produce more stuff or to experiment with new formats, both of which the stations have inherent and legitimate interest in.

So where are the economists out there to crunch the numbers? Who’s got the ear of the decision-makers? This is something we all should be interested in. I’m very interested in personally, and I could imagine some of you are, too. Get in touch?

How Creative Commons Can Interact With Commerce


Over the last couple of years, Creative Commons licenses have become pretty widely adopted in the non-commercial field. (You’ll find a great number of blogs and podcasts under a non-commercial Creative Commons license.)

But what about commercial use? Are Creative Commons licenses the natural enemy of commercially used contents? By no means, quite the contrary. Here’s a great video explaining why Creative Commons and Commercial mix pretty well, and how:

Too deep into the topic already? Cross-posted from my work for blogpiloten.de, here’s an interview with Michelle Thorne of Creative Commons International. Michelle gives us the basics on Creative Commons:


How to build your own mesh network?


As you may know, I’ve been obsessing about the One Laptop Per Child Project (OLPC) for awhile, for both its aims and potential. Here’s another project that ties right in, a simple guide on how to build your own mesh network. (The OLPC laptops support meshing out of the box, but if there’s no network to connect to…)

Wireless Africa has a guide for building your own DIY Mesh Guide. It’s particularly aimed at rural areas, and it features real step-by-step explanations (including a planning sheet) which should be useful even for non-tech folks.

DIY Mesh Network (image courtesy of http://wirelessafrica.meraka.org.za via Creative Commons) Image courtesy of Wireless Africa

Download the DIY Mesh Guide (PDF, 3.2MB). It’s released under Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA).