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Germany debuts Creative Commons

'This time, we win'

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Berlin The German version of the alternative license system Creative Commons was formally launched during the third Wizard of OS conference in Berlin last week.

Larry Lessig, Stanford Law School Professor and Creative Commons wizard, presented the license as a simple idea to mark content with freedoms bestowed upon users by authors - in contrast to the trend of ever stricter copyright regimes.

"Never have fewer exercised more power over the production of culture," Lessig said, warning against a expensive and burdensome "permission culture". With the CC labels, authors, musicians or filmmakers can choose which commercial or non-commercial rights they want to offer.

The underlying problem according to Lessig lies in the attempt to shape the digital world according to the film and broadcast worlds - the "couch potato" model of the 20th century, where somebody owns intellectual property (IP) and the other consumes.

But in the world of digital technology - the other form of IP (internet protocol) - the artist and consumer share a stage and that has a huge democratic potential.

"This is not broadcast democracy, not a New York Times democracy," Lessig said, but it gave equal rights via peer-to-peer in a 21st century culture. Younger generations therefore had a different perspective on culture, "they consume and create, they remake and remix and remake."

But this depends on free culture and that was under threat from lawmakers guided by a group of "film culture" lobbyists. All of Lessig's examples of fun remixes were illegal: the Atmo duet featuring US President George Bush and UK prime minister Tony Blair being an example. The reason that the Atmo team were turned down when they sought permission to use the clips was the duet was not funny. Now there a war in the US, said Lessig, against 12-year-olds who themselves would reject any rule of law because the found "the rule of law means an unjust rule".

He said there was an urgency in the process to promote alternatives such as the Creative Commons licences because as soon as the copyright regimes were no longer tried before courts but embedded in the technology itself, usage would "not be just be illegal, but impossible".

Much more optimistic on that point was Lessig's collegue Eben Moglen, professor of law and Llegal history at Columbia Law School and general counsel of the Free Software Movement. He confirmed that the entertainment industry only could uphold its business model if hardware was under their control. But: "We have the devices and they belong to us."

Today, said Moglen, it was not possible for industry to more effectively distribute music than a 12-year old and that was why the children were pursued so fiercely. As soon as alternative spectrum was available in addition to hardware, devices, free software and free culture products, then, said Moglen, "we can leave them with their copyright lawyers and their co-ax cable. With Wi-Fi there is already the necessary code up and running. This time, we win."

Swiss filmmaker Michael Grob, alternative music Label co-founder Bjoern Hartmann and Telepolis book author Armin Medosch described how their works have been published under the new German version of the CC license. Many adjustments have to be made to the respective national laws, for example the German Urheberrecht.

Such legal adaptation work is going on now in around 60 countries. At the Creative Commons Summit representatives from Finland, France, Austria, Croatia and South Africa presented ongoing work to launch the licenses in their respective countries. Many more launches will happen this year.

Ronaldo Lemos da Silva from Brazil said the uptake by artists in Brazil was considerable; he gave as an example a recent alliance with an artists association which will partner with CC Brazil. Talks have also been held with TV stations and sponsors like the Ford Foundation in Brazil. ®

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