Creative Commons Summit: next steps in copyright reform

The Creative Commons Summit, a bi-annual meeting of members of the CC network and friends of the Commons, took place in mid-October in Seoul, South Korea. One of the event’s tracks was devoted to copyright reform advocacy. The track was organised by member organisations of Communia, including Creative Commons.

In 2013, during the previous CC Summit, Creative Commons adopted a position on copyright reform. CC re-emphasized that even though the licenses are an essential mechanism to share creativity within the existing bounds of the law, it is now more important than ever to engage in a review and modernisation of copyright law itself. This commitment was confirmed during this year event.

Communia was especially honored to have MEP Reda, the author of the European copyright evaluation report, give a keynote at the Summit. Reda stressed that while CC has been successful in showing how the copyright debate can be reframed, the values embraced by CC are not present enough in policy debates. Even worse, the existence and successes of Creative Commons licensing can be used as proof that the current system of copyright works, and that no fundamental change  is needed. “Be more than a fig leaf”, Reda told CC activists.

The danger, according to Reda, is that CC will become “an island of free culture in a broader sea of automated takedowns and enforcement”. If we are to avoid that, we need to move the policy debate. Activists have been good at blocking the worst reform proposals, including SOPA, PIPA, or ACTA. We have been much worse at formulating a positive reform agenda.

Reda challenged the summit participants to think big—to imagine a legal and social system in which Creative Commons is the default and all rights reserved copyright is the exception. Or of a new international treaty protecting both the rights of creators, the rights of the public, and the right to share. Or even of building an international coalition to change the Berne convention.

Copyright advocacy: EFF’s tools and tips

But thinking big is also a great challenge when you take into account that most of the people just don’t think that copyright issues affect their lives, and also because of the tired memes and irrational arguments against sensible reform—the concept of a “starving artists” or “theft of intellectual property” is still very strong. During the second day of Summit, EFF’s Director of Copyright Activist, Parker Higgins, and EFF’s Global Policy Analyst, Maira Sutton, discussed how to design issue-specific campaigns to engage with audiences beyond our core group of interested activists.

Where should we start? One place is to Identify problems that matter and using a theory of change figure out what you can do to achieve the final goal, step by step. Using the EFF project “The TPP Copyright Trap”, we went through some useful techniques for crafting effective campaigns, including tools and tips on social media, branding and identifying political targets.

Next steps: copyright-free education

Members of the CC network have been involved over the last few years in a surprisingly broad range of advocacy work on copyright reform. Latin American organisations are fighting the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, civil society groups are working with us on European copyright reform, the Creative Commons United States affiliate team is co-creating a policy model for open norms, and similar efforts related to copyright reform and open licensing policy development are taking place in by CC affiliates in South Korea and Australia. The CC network made a commitment to coordinate work and cooperate at a global level.

One area of particular interest to many CC affiliates and supporters is education. The CC network has been heavily involved in the growth of the Open Educational Resources (OER) model. The time is right to extend these activities to include copyright reform work on exceptions and limitations for education. CC has made a commitment to participate in the building of an international network that can engage in advocacy work on “copyright-free education”. The CC network, with its broad, global base of members and partners, and with strong involvement in educational issues, is a perfect place to begin such work.

Common members will also be involved in this effort. We recently launched a “Copyright untangled”, a series of articles on copyright in education on Medium. Have a look at the first one, “Dear teacher, copyright concerns you”.

photo: CC Korea, CC BY.

Cropped etching of a library, bookcase and secretaire by anonymous
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