Beyond Law

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Creative Commons, in spite of its reluctance toward non-copyright focused projects, has undertaken a few novel experiments. The Sensored City project is designing and implementing sensor-based air-quality (AQ) hardware, collecting AQ data at high temporal and spatial scales, and setting up a data-drive installation of public art to engage citizens. The workshop exploring the tension between sharing and privacy will investigate the role of non-traditional governance structures. The Open Policy Network and its Institute for Open Leadership is striving to create local agents of change, and the proposal to set up a global network of Science Fellows seeks to do the same for science from within the academy. The TDM-related activities—hands-on workshops in collaboration with Content Mine, institutional presentations and advice and support in library negotiations with publishers, and work on data-citation principles—they are examples of involvement practice, program and policy.

But more needs to be done, and not all of it is possible within the current focus and structure of Creative Commons. As hinted earlier, Creative Commons is not a legal organization. Yes, it has lawyers, and yes, its primary product is a set of licenses. But Creative Commons does not provide legal advice, and a majority of employees at Creative Commons are not lawyers. Instead, they are experienced in their own fields, and act as a bridge between their constituents and copyright law. This works well in some areas, especially where the bulk of content is copyrightable.

Where other organizations are taking a lead, Creative Commons can provide support via its power to convene a trusted community. But where gaps still exist, a new structure is required either within or outside Creative Commons to explore initiatives that go beyond the relatively narrow bounds of copyright. This may be possible more easily in a new kind of environment that brings together experimentation, research and project work.