Lawrence Lessig spoke at UCL on Monday 4th October to launch
the UK version of Creative Commons. This is an
initiative designed to work alongside copyright to help
authors of content to mark their content available for reuse.
The talk was very modern, in the sense that it was closer to
entertainment than your average lecture. There were hundreds of
slides that Lawrence flicked
through with a thumb switch while he was talking (many containing just a single
word that he said simultaneously with its appearance). And also
plenty of sound
and video. Some of my favourites were the Peanuts video with Hey Ya!
running over the top of it and the contest-winning
video explaining Creative Commons (7MB MPEG).
Lawrence discussed the many advantages of Creative Commons licensing with
particular reference to his own book, ‘Free
Culture‘. He cited the Free Culture Wiki where
people are free to make changes and annotations to copy of the book and also the
fact that people had recorded an Audiobook version
within a few days of its release. He is certain that these activities have
ultimately raised his profile and increased sales of the book.
Another interesting part of the talk was the discussion of the component
parts of Creative Commons licenses. The licenses come in three
formats: a human
-readable description of their intentions; a lawyer-readable legal document; and
a computer-readable RDF that display intentions electronically. This last one
is the most interesting, making a search engine of reusable
content posssible (his example was photographs of the Empire State Building
with no royalties payable for use; the possibilities are enormous). Also
interesting was the Creative Commons wrapping of the GNU Public License to create
human and computer readable versions and international lawyer readable
Lawrence was a very entertaining speaker and also (perhaps surprisingly)
showed little of the zealot. When questions of dismantling corporations or
copyright law altogether came up he was quick to point out the moderation of his
position and that he was only seeking a way for those who wished to
available to do so. That could well be the key to his success.
Update 2004-10-10 Audio of the talk (80MB).