Creative Commons launched in SA

By   |  May 27, 2005

Creative Commons, the growing global movement to relax restrictions on the fair use of intellectual property, launched its South African chapter in Johannesburg this week.

Creative Commons founder Larry Lessig, speaking at the launch event, described Creative Commons as recognising the need for sharing works and cited several examples of how CC was being used to develop new artistic products. He said Creative Commons turned thousands of consumers into creators of knowledge in world dominated by the consumer culture.

Yesterday Lessig opened the \”Towards an African Digital Information Commons\” conference at Wits University\’s LINK centre with a brief introduction to the philosophy underpinning the Creative Commons sense as well as a biting attack on the US government\’s support and propogation of the Trips (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Plus agreements.

Lessig described how there were many creations that were \”non rivalrous\”. These include digital works of art and writing that can be widely distributed without depriving the original creator or owner of the product.

\”The problem is that most policy makers are opposed to the commons. They are convinced the commons are evil.\”

In the US, he said, legislators had created a scenario where \”sampling\” (re-using or extracting) music for use in another musical work without a licence has been declared piracy. \”The problem is that the process to get a licence to sample a piece of music is costly and very difficult, making it a non-option for most musicians. The message sent out is \’get a licence or do not sample\’.\”

\”These \’costly\’ elements protect the powerful,\” he said.

Lessig said that challenge is \”to get these people to recognise that the commons has its place\”.

He joked that advocates of the commons were \”commonists\”, something very different to communists, although they were sometimes mistakenly thought of as the same. \”The move to the commons is in fact a move away from regulation.\”

Lessig closed the session with a strongly-worded attack on the Trips Plus agreements being proposed and advanced by the US and other European nations. \”There is something deeply unethical and contradictory in what the US government is doing it pushing the Trips Plus agreements.

\”And the US now finds itself in a contradictory position where it supports the free market when it concerns intellectual property but not when farm subsidies are concerned.\”

This article is licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

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