INDEPENDENT MEDIA by Steve Anderson
WHEN I STARTED this column, I wanted to find a way to both make it free and easy for a number of groups to share it, including bloggers, small non-commercial publications and individuals, whilst also giving syndicating publications something they could stake a claim in. Luckily, I was aware of a new copyright licensing system called Creative Commons that enables just such a hybrid model of media production. Not only is it a useful tool for media producers, but it’s also an important part of the larger trend that is blurring the lines between media producers and consumers of media.
Started in 2002, the Creative Commons (CC) licensing system allows artists – professional and amateur – to copyright their work with as many restrictions as they choose, including the capacity to completely "un-copyright" their works. According to its website, "Creative Commons provides free tools that allows authors, scientists, artists and educators to easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry."
Creative Commons allows cultural producers to easily add an individually defined copyright badge to their work (usually a small graphic). These badges provide a clear indication of the specific copyright restrictions (or lack thereof) for other cultural producers and users. Big corporate media organizations use synergies and joint ventures to bring in larger audiences. Independent and online media need to create their own synergies by building and sharing audiences, drawing upon their own unique strengths. I figured what better chance to experiment than with a column focusing on the intersection between media, culture and technology.
The Creative Commons licence I use asks each organization that publishes the Media Links column (democraticmedia.ca/blog/steve-anderson) to post a statement at the end of each article acknowledging and linking to all the other syndicating publications. Creative Commons and the open Internet enable this and other new forms of collaboration and synergy.
Are we all "produsers?"
Some consider Creative Commons to be not only representative of the break from passive mediums like TV to the more interactive medium of the Internet, but also a key element of a new category of media content producers/users called "produsers." According to Axel Burns, who coined the term "produsers," the "traditional value chain of producer-distributor-consumer has condensed to a singular point, the produser, interacting with and potentially enhancing existing content." Thus, we now have produsers with "fluid roles" and perpetually unfinished media.
While media production has always been a collective process involving production ingredients from our collective cultural heritage, Creative Commons further enables (or perhaps re-enables) and encourages a greater re-mixing of a friendly media system and culture. Rather than conceiving of and distributing media items as commodities, Creative Commons (CC) encourages the production, circulation and reception of media as a continuous and shared process.
While the open sharing elements of Creative Commons’ licensing system are voluntary, according to a 2007 survey of CC users, over 80 percent of the CC-licensed works permit derivatives – meaning they allow others to build upon their media. While many medial producers and users do not yet use Creative Commons, it is becoming more popular. As of 2007, there were an estimated 60 million Creative Commons-licensed cultural artifacts on the Internet, and CC use is still increasing.
In an unprecedented move in 2007, Yahoo! announced plans to allow users to employ Creative Commons licensing in its huge menu of online spaces and tools. It doesn’t appear that the announcement has come to full fruition, but, at the very least, it means that its popular photo sharing service Flckr has remained Creative Commons friendly.
Creative Commons licensing is not limited to media production. There is also the ever- expanding open-software movement, and in the US, the Creative Commons group also recently launched a new project called Legal Commons that will "collect and make available machine-readable copies of government documents and law."
Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. Let’s just share the idea and see where it leads us.
Steve Anderson is the national coordinator for the Campaign for Democratic Media. He contributed to Censored 2008 and Battleground: The Media, and has written for The Tyee, Toronto Star, Epoch Times and Adbusters. Reach him at: