Kent Mewhort: “CC was looking for an institutional presence in Canada”

Kent Mewhort at CC Global Summit 2011. Photo by David Kindler (CC BY)

Kent Mewhort at CC Global Summit 2011. Photo by David Kindler (CC BY)

Many interesting points of views about Creative Commons and intellectual property did not appear in Canadians using CC licenses so, in the next weeks, the full interviews will be posted in individual posts under a new category.

 Full interviews start with a conversation on Skype with Kent Mewhort, an independent Ontario lawyer and legal project lead for Creative Commons Canada, former staff lawyer at Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), a non-profit legal clinic at the University of Ottawa. The interview starts discovering his professional background and initial involvement with CC licences and continuos explores the early history of Creative Commons.

How did you get involved with Creative Commons? 

I come from software engineering background; I’ve being always interested in software licensing and is from it that I first got interested in Creative Commons. I was a staff lawyer at Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), a non-profit legal clinic based out of the University of Ottawa, and its mandate is to work in technologies out of public interest. Creative Commons fits out of that mandate, to persuade legal tools that people applies primarily online. CIPPIC has being involved with Creative Commons in Canada well before the re-launch, when it became an official affiliate. We actually got involved with the first Creative Commons licenses, several years ago, in version 2.5.

I’m not a lawyer at CIPPIC anymore, but I continue involved with Creative Commons and its affiliate team in Canada, because is something I’m really interested in and passionate about.

– In March 2012, the Creative Commons Canada affiliate team was announced as a ‘re-launch’. What happened with the first previous launch?

As mentioned before, CIPPIC is being involved with Creative Commons for a long, along volunteers from around Canada, but there wasn’t an official presence for Creative Commons in Canada, so the Creative Commons headquarters in San Francisco (United States), were looking for a more stable institutional presence.

Is not that the volunteers were not doing great work on promoting Creative Commons in Canada. There were many people doing a great job developing Creative Commons in Canada and its activities but people who were involved changed, from time to time, and the headquarters wanted to have a more institutional presence, so they can work on the Canadian law and there is an specific contact for Creative Commons Canada. The re-launch formalize our affiliation and stabilize our presence.

What we were doing in the re-launch is just making a progression from volunteer based to a formal affiliation with the Creative Commons headquarters, involving Athabasca University, BCcampus and CIPPIC. We clarified our roles and responsibilities.

– What are the immediate plans of Creative Commons Canada?

Salons have being a way of building awareness on Creative Commons. In other activities, we have started building our web presence. At the same time as the Vancouver Salon, on October 15th, we launched our own domain and we are always looking for new ways to spread the word. Right now, our strategy is about promoting Salons and building the web presence.

We are just getting together right now in the Creative Commons Canada Advisory Board. We confirmed six people, so far, and the goal is to connect with different communities throughout Canada as Creative Commons exists in so many diverse contexts because copyright laws affect so many different contexts. The historical premises of Creative Commons licenses have being artists and musicians but these days there’s a lot of governments using Creative Commons licences for releasing their data and is being used by educators all around the world in open education…

We have all these communities using Creative Commons and, in the top of that, we have different languages across Canada that affect different licenses, so the Advisory Board is about getting people from different communities and experts in different fields so we can have advice in different topics: i.e., if we want to know how Creative Commons is going to be used for educators, we can go to an expert on education that is going to connect us with the right people. The Advisory Board is a diverse group of highly qualified people being able to tell how to help in activities, the objectives we persuade

– One of the latest news at CC Canada website is about the Open Government Licence Consultation. Did you receive feedback from the Government?

The Government confirmed they will make some changes before the final one, we don’t know what those changes will be but we remain hopeful that they will correct some of the small problems with the license and we know the federal government have tried to make their license compatible with Creative Commons so they achieve that in the final license in a way that makes easier for users to take data and combine it with Creative Commons. That will be a huge step forward to realize government data; the data release now from the federal government is not Creative Commons.

– Do you think we will she the Government of Canada releasing their data under Creative Commons?

I’m hopeful we will because, to minimize the number of licences out there, it makes easier for users to use that data on their work, recombine it and, of course, Creative Commons is by far the most known licence for that kind. If the Government just use that data it will be easier for people and we see that in other jurisdictions, just take the approach of using Creative Commons licences. The government of Australia and New Zealand simply applies Creative Commons licenses to any of their works. Certainly, our Canadian government shares many similarities with the government of Australia so certainly it is possible that our government would take that step forward and that is a stepping-stone, toward make their license compatible with Creative Commons.

– Will be possible to see more social network platforms allowing Creative Commons licences to their content?

I think it’s certainly possible because anytime you are writing content online, whether that is a tweet of Facebook status update, you generate copyright on that, because you are the author of this work. Right now, is certainly ambiguous what determines others can share these works, how to post those messages in other mediums… and certainly Creative Commons will help people on that and make it easier to clarify the terms in which users are making that available online. I don’t have any knowledge on Facebook or Twitter considering it, but that won’t be out of the question.

– Creative Commons licences need to be better widely known in Canada?

I think for people that works in fields where Creative Commons licenses are commonly use (educators, musicians, artists…), there is quite a wide people that know about Creative Commons, but in terms of breaking through in the context of everyone becoming creators and participating in web 2.0., there is certainly more work to be done to show everybody that there are ways to share their work in a way that is fair for themselves and others to re-share and remix.

One of the reasons to have Creative Commons Canada affiliate team, out of the main Creative Commons staff, is to reach out different communities and spread the word about those licenses across the country.

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