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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
A sharing approach to copyright
A new way to copyright artistic content has been launched in the UK. The man behind the Creative Commons idea, Lawrence Lessig, Stanford University law professor, explains how it works.

Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law, Stanford University
Professor Lessig is the leading advocate of the Creative Commons
What is covered by Creative Commons and who benefits most?

Anything from stories to pictures to music. People who are using it are those who use digital technologies to spread ideas broadly or mix ideas.

Someone might want to make a film and they might take images they have found of their native country and mix it with songs from their native land, and put it together on a web page or a blog to make it available to other people.

The point is, technically under the law, to do that requires permission of the copyright owner and our system doesn't really have an easy way to find out who the copyright owner is.

So there is a choice; you either have to break the law or you have to not be creative.

We thought that was not a fair choice. We wanted to create an easy way for people to mark their content with the freedoms they want other people to have.

When you come across Creative Commons content you have a simple way of understanding what you are allowed to do with it and what you are not allowed to do with it.

What exactly is the Creative Commons being launched in Britain?

The Creative Commons is a non-profit system that gives away free licences and technology to mark content.

There are lots of stories about artists who have released content under Creative Commons licences and made money on their music where they wouldn't have before
Lawrence Lessig, law professor
Those licences are the permissions that are needed to be able to do things with this content.

The British Creative Commons project is one of 60 across the world which is in the process of tailoring our licences to their local jurisdiction, making sure it is fully enforceable and valid locally.

Someone from Britain now will be able to take content and make it available under that licence.

Will artists still be able to make money?

Absolutely. The key is to recognise that the system needs flexibility for the artists to know how to make money.

Chuck D
Chuck D is already signed up
The concept of 'some rights reserved' allows artists to share music in a way that attracts the audience to them and then enables them to sell more music down the road.

There are lots of stories about artists who have released content under Creative Commons licences and made money on their music where they wouldn't have before.

Much more importantly, these licences invite the audiences to come on to the stage and participate with the music.

You can release your music under a licence that permits the audience to remix it. Many artists are beginning to realise that that kind of passion directed towards their music only increases the appeal of their music and the potential they have to make money from it.

Have any big names of the entertainment industry signed up to the Creative Commons idea?

Chuck D, the Beastie Boys, David Byrne, Gilberto Gil and Cornelius from Japan are all releasing music under the Creative Commons licence.

It will allow people to remix their music, even for commercial purposes, without going back to the author for permission first.

You can listen to the interview with Prof Lessig on the BBC World Service programme, Go Digital


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