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New America Foundation and Creative Commons Hold Copyright Talk

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WASHINGTON, June 30, 2011 – The New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative along with Creative Commons co-sponsored an event Wednesday evening to discuss the challenges of copyright laws in a digital age.

Catherine Casserly, CEO of Creative Commons, delivered the keynote speech in which she presented the mission of Creative Commons, its growth beyond early adopters into the mainstream and the organization’s new book, The Power of Open. Creative Commons is a non-profit company that provides authors, creators and innovators with a set of tools within the boundaries of copyright law to allow for their work to be easily distributed, edited, remixed and built upon.

Casserly, and other members of Creative Commons, are currently on a world tour to promote the new book. The book highlights case studies of successful uses of Creative Commons licenses in the fields of education, medicine, automobiles, journalism and art.

The licenses are intended to reduce the costs of maintaining and protecting copyrights, reduce the redundancy of intellectual property in the marketplace, allow for the creation of dynamic assets that can be easily innovated upon, said Casserly.   The organization's licenses, which are scalable, facilitate exchange across a global marketplace where copyright laws of each country are different and complex.

“In the world of global exchange – in the world of the web and the Internet – we know that information is freely flowing and not just staying in the United States,” said Casserly.

Casserly, a former teacher and an advocate for spreading and sharing knowledge, also explained that the company is not anti-copyright – a common misconception about the company and what it does.

Creative Commons found early acceptance over the past 10 years among unknown artists as a way to promote their work without the legal costs of a maintainining and protecting copyrights; with mainstream adoption by companies like Al Jazeera, Fiat, YouTube, and mainstream artists Nine Inch Nails, Creative Commons is becoming accepted as a viable alternative to traditional copyright.

Mike Carroll, a founding board member of Creative Commons and law professor at American University's Washington College of Law, was in the audience and added clarity to the technical nature of the licenses during the question and answer period.

“Copyright is an author’s right, and Creative Commons was founded because we want to give authors a different choice than what copyright assumes they want,” said Carroll.  “The Creative Commons license picks up where Fair Use leaves off.”

Creative Commons, however, is not without its challenges.

“Your ability to enforce the terms of your license depend upon your ability to take legal action,” said Rebecca MacKinnon, Co-Founder of Global Voices Online, in reference to the legal issues surrounding Creative Commons. Casserly reiterated that there have been a number of suits where Creative Commons licenses were at issue.  In each instance the Creative Commons licenses were upheld by the courts.

Other challenges for Creative Commons lie in the area of improving the license so that it will work more efficiently in each country where it is accepted.

“We exist for remix, creativity and distribution but we don’t have a great way of tracking,” said Casserly. “I think that if artists, academics, and organizations could tell the story, [that would be] even better.”

“We know that we put it out there and we know good things happen - and we have some great examples in the book, but we don’t have all of the metrics tied to that at the moment and I think that’s really important,” said Casserly.

Josh Peterson is a DC-based journalist with a professional writing portfolio that includes work on US foreign policy and international affairs, telecom policy and cyber security, religion, arts, and music. He is currently a journalism intern at The National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C. and a former tech and social media intern at The Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship. Peterson received his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religion with a minor concentration in music from Hillsdale College in 2008. When he is not writing, Peterson lives a double life as a web designer, social media strategist, photographer, musician and mixed martial artist.

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