For a wide country like Canada, a larger team of Creative Commons supporters is needed in order to build a strong affiliate team that promotes Creative Commons licences and activities as well as free culture and open resources across the country.
This is a brief overview of different profiles working with or for Creative Commons in the Canadian territory: how they started using CC licences, how this are promoted across the country, their thoughts about plagiarism, copyright VS. copyleft, free culture…
In March 2012, Creative Commons Canada was re-launched in a more institutional way, to give an infrastructure to the team and its activities. Previously, supporters at Creative Commons Canada were just individual volunteers.
As Kent Mewhort, an independent Ontario lawyer and legal project lead for Creative Commons Canada explains: “there where many people (volunteers) doing a great job developing Creative Commons in Canada but people who where involved changed from time to time and the CC headquarters in San Francisco (US) wanted to do some institutional presence so they can work on the Canadian law or, if someone needs to talk, there is an specific contact for Creative Commons Canada.”
The ‘new’ Creative Commons Canada is a progression from volunteer based to a formal affiliation that involves three institutions across Canada: Athabasca University, BCcampus and Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC).
Mewhort comes from software engineering background and his interest on software licensing lends him into Creative Commons. Formerly, he was a staff lawyer at CIPPIC, a non-profit legal clinic at the University of Ottawa.
CIPPIC mandate is to work in technologies out of public interest “and Creative Commons fits out of that mandate to persuade legal tools that people applies primarily online,” he said on an interview by Skype.
At the Creative Commons main headquarters in the US, Paul Stacey is the Senior Project Manager, since Fall 2012. Previously, Stacey was Director of Curriculum Services and Applied Research at BCcampus, a group funded by the Ministry of Advanced Education to provide collaborative services and resourcing, an advocacy for education technology, online learning and open education initiatives.
Occupying that position now there is Mary Burgess, an Instructional Designer who got exposure into Creative Commons for the first time at her studies on Educational Technology in University of British Columbia (UBC), where they used different resources under Creative Commons licenses. She is now fully involved in the BCcampus’ Open Education program, to provide CC-licensed free textbooks.
On an interview by Skype, Burgess explained all the resources they create at BCcampus are either under Attribution license (CC-BY) or Attribution-Share Alike (CC-BY-SA) and they do advocacy and consulting for different Ministries “releasing works, that are being developed using public funds, with a Commons license instead of being propriety.”
At an early stage, Mewhort explains Creative Commons Canada bases its strategy in two objectives: build web presence – through their own domain, where they post information, news and resources – and promoting Creative Commons and new ways of production and distribution through the Salons. Burgess describes those events as “a social gathering to build awareness, where (artists and creators from various fields) gather a panel and talk about their experiences with Creative Commons”.
Latest Canadian Creative Commons Salons took place in Vancouver, on October 15th. Panelists included documentary filmmaker Ian MacKenzie, who lately found a new way of funding for his work through crowdfunding funding; UBC academic David Ng, introducing the innovative game project Phylo, and Lois Klassen, who talked about open school QR_U.
Interviewed on Skype, Ian MacKenzie observes: “when I use Creative Commons, people start making really interesting remixes. The experimentation that happens because I do it in Creative Commons is way more interesting than worrying about copyright.”
Confronting copyleft and copyright models, MacKenzie predicts “these two models will come down and all that will be part of a spectrum”.
To fund his productions, he sees crowdfunding as “another example of decentralized shift in the economic system that lands us more in a open culture.”
For the documentary about Occupy Wall Street, “Occupy Love”, they raised over $80,000 through crowdfunding and, for the documentary crew, to put not the final film but clips of the documentary available under Creative Commons licences “because we’ve being funded by the open crowd and it is our way to give it back and share that materials so they can share and remix it”.
On an interview by e-mail, David NG finds Creative Commons “very handy as a way to have some structure that is different from the usual default copyright status of work, especially if sharing and being open is part of the general philosophy of the project.” He thinks, however, it needs an overall shift of more use by content makers: “The key is that the higher the quality of sharable stuff, the easier it is for this shift to happen at the individual’s level.” For NG, the non-commercial clause of Creative Commons is sometimes unclear “because an open process will still result in someone receiving revenue”.
On his card game Phylo everything is under BY-NC-ND licence but they had requests to provide options where cards can be purchased “but if we do this, we’re unclear whether selling them at a cost constitutes a non-commercial transaction,” he says.
Lois Klassen replied to an e-mail telling that she uses Creative Commons because she likes “to designate an artwork as complete and authored, but still free to be circulated and modified”.
As CC licences are getting used widely by institutions and governments, she alerts: “When large institutions like universities or governments get involved in what was once a radical action, artists begin to get suspicious about whose interests are being exploited for whose gain”.
Talking about plagiarism issues that may derivate from licensing work under CC licences and putting it free available on Internet, Klassen says: “I am giving it away and expecting it to be subject to uncontrolled actions. I like the way it makes artists and producers more aware of intellectual property rights and non-rights. I also like the way it suggests that in a property-rights obsessed world, we need to be reminded to share,” she appends, finally.
ADVISORS ON BOARD
Creative Commons Canada is announcing soon an Advisory Board with experts on different fields, from educators to artists and so on, to understand the different contexts where CC licences operate across the country.
Brian Lamb, Director of Innovation at Thompson Rivers University Open Learning in Kamloops (interior British Columbia) volunteered as a member of the Advisory Board after heard about it being the moderator in the Creative Commons Salon in Vancouver.
Lamb got interested on being part of the Advisory Board to join the discussion about how the CC licences may be widely uses in institutions. Interviewed in his office, he says Creative Commons “need to mature”.
Under his point of view, what he calls a “happy cultural agreement” (i.e. between him and a photographer his photo wants for a blog post) may work in those contexts “but it may be different for institutions with budgets of hundreds and hundreds of millions per year and government going oversight”.
EDIT: The day after this article was published, Creative Commons Canada announced the names and profiles of the six members of their Advisory Board.
* The interviews used on this post will be fully available soon in future posts.