Joi Ito from Creative Commons

Joi Ito is the CEO of Creative Commons. This presentation turned out to be more interesting than I expected. Copyright is, of course, a huge issue for libraries.

What has worked well in the evolution of the Internet: Non-linear complexity. Small pieces loosely joined. Interoperability. Lowering the cost of failure to encourage entrepreneur-driven innovation.

Creative Commons is part of “the stack” – the core standards (W3C, Internet Engineering Task Force) that make the Internet work.

Legal issues have become the most significant source of friction now that technical interoperability has come so far. Creative Commons is trying to address this, to get legal issues out of the way of innovation and growth. The different types of licensing are meant to clarify what is meant by “you can use this” by defining permitted uses (e.g., sharing, remixing, non-commercial only).

Problem of licence proliferation. One Internet is what makes the Internet great. This is why Creative Commons tries to discourage other licensing standards.

There is a lot of techno-utopianism at SXSW. Ito sees Creative Commons as part of a larger phenomenon of the Internet changing the world for the better. He talks about programs like Witness (using online video to promote human rights) and Architecture for Humanity (architects licensing their designs for anyone, especially people in developing countries, to use).

Corporations like Microsoft and Cisco fund charities to help bridge the digital divide (e.g., training programs in the developing world), but they promote their own proprietary technologies at the same time, which becomes a barrier when people with little money want to develop projects and can’t afford the licensing costs. There is a challenge for open-source technologies to reach disadvantaged communities and empower them. Mozilla Drumbeat is trying to bridge this gap.

Ito talks about his experiences in the Arab world. The leaders of the Arab world are mostly American-raised and pro-Western, so to be anti-establishment, disaffected citizens become religious extremists – the web-savvy people wearing Mozilla t-shirts are fundamentalist Muslims.


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