Monday, August 15, 2005

The Copy Left is Not Right

A new “rights movement” is taking shape around the issue of creators’ rights. In theory, its goal is to benefit the general public. But if successful, it will affect the careers and legacies of freelancers everywhere. And artists, writers and photographers who are already confused about how to protect their copyrights can now say hello to a new ride at the Funhouse.

The issue involves the length of copyright protections, and its advocates are a small group of attorneys, activists and legal scholars, known loosely as the “Copy Left.” Their legal argument is that prolonged ownership of intellectual property robs the public of “free” information to which the public is “entitled.” And they’ve set themselves the goal of rolling back or abolishing copyright protections. Their stated mission is to serve the public interest by speeding the passage of copyrights from private hands into the public domain. Some portray themselves as visionaries trying to restore the “Jeffersonian” ideal of a “free society” by making all culture accessible to consumers for “fair use.” Others might say they’re simply trying to make the public a generous gift of other peoples’ work.

On the surface, the rhetorical target of these activists is corporate copyright holders. But in their effort to stigmatize Big Media as hoarders of information, Copy Leftists fail to distinguish between copyrights held by corporations and those held by individuals. This failure has consequences because corporations don’t create; individuals do. And in their drive to enact laws to restrain Big Business, they could well damage freelancers instead.

The current situation has its roots in the 1976 revision of the U.S. Copyright Act, a law that went into effect in 1978. Before that time, freelance artists, writers and photographers in the U.S. generally didn’t own the secondary rights to the work they did for clients and publishers.

If an artist did a painting for a large national magazine, for example, the publisher could claim all rights to it, just as major corporations now do for a logo they commission from a graphic designer. The 1976 Copyright Act revised all that and gave secondary rights to the freelance artist. This set up the working environment American creators have known for the last quarter century.

Over the years, publishers and others in the U.S. have lobbied for increased length of protection for the copyrights they held. Currently, an American copyright protects the work of a copyright holder for the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years. Twenty years of that term were added within the last decade by the “Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.” Some say this legislation, sponsored by the former Pop Star and Congressman, was a favor done for the Disney corporation, which feared losing their early copyrights on Mickey Mouse material. Others point out that the Bono Act merely brought the United States into closer compliance with international copyright law, a necessary step if the U.S. wishes to maintain reciprocal overseas trade agreements.

But the Internet has spawned opponents to these long-standing copyright protections. Upstart commercial interests, backed by the Copy Left, contend that copyright is actually a “black hole” which keeps content in the hands of corporations, inhibits free speech and overreaches the intent of the Constitution’s framers. They point out that American copyright was originally intended to protect only authors of “maps, charts and books,” and they seek to overhaul the entire U.S. copyright system to conform to their collectivist’s reading of Original Intent.

One of the leaders of this movement is legal scholar Lawrence Lessig, author of the newly published “Free Culture: How Big Business Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity” (The Penguin Press, 2004). Lessig has previously proposed reducing copyright to a period of five years, with 15 increasingly expensive renewal options.

The purpose would be to make the downstream paperwork of copyright holders so onerous that copyrights would fall through the cracks more often and enter the public domain more quickly. But this solution chases the problem without catching it. Anyone familiar with the workings of Big Business will understand that corporate copyright holders faced with increased paperwork and administrative costs would simply staff up to handle the overload, then pass the added cost along to the public. The people more likely to be swamped and defeated by multiple copyright filings and incessant, staggered renewals would be the overwhelmed, deadline-ridden freelancer. In short, the goal of checking corporate overreach by making copyrights harder to maintain would be very likely to burden the wrong parties.

There is some logic in questioning how far corporations should be allowed to go in conglomerating intellectual property. Corporations acquire copyrights in one of two ways: from the work of employees whose creative product is considered the company’s property; or from freelancers who deed their copyrights to the corporation - often as a forced condition of accepting assignments. Once acquired, corporate copyrights can, in theory, be retained as long as rolling copyright extensions can be lobbied into law. Here, the case against Big Media may be on target. But since the argument has no meaning when applied to freelancers, the true believers of the movement have borrowed the logic of Deconstructionism to simply remove creators from the equation.

Following Postmodern theory, Copy Leftists argue that “the romantic myth of authorship” is an artifact of less sophisticated times. To Deconstructionists, artists are nothing more than manifestations of the societies they live in. And since all artists are influenced by the work of previous artists, they say, each individual work of art owes a debt to the past that must be repaid to the public domain — in their minds, sooner better than later. The Copy Left may be breaking new ground here by trying to base statutory law on literary theory, but we don’t need to argue the merits of Postmodern criticism to see the flaws in the argument. Compare copyrights to home ownership and a stronger case prevails.

The principles of building construction are a collective body of wisdom accumulated over the ages. This information is available to everyone, as are building supplies to anyone who can afford them. Yet, the house you build or buy is yours and your heirs. Your debt to the fair use of public information does not obligate you to inhabit your home under a limited government grant, then surrender it back to the public at the end of that term. Let the Copy Left explain why individual copyrights should be treated any differently.

Most freelance artists and writers have no other source of income but their creative work. The accumulated value of that work is no different than the value that accrues to your home; and the copyright that protects it no more robs the public of an "entitlement" than does the ordinary ownership of private property. Indeed, without the incentives guaranteed to individual creators under copyright law, the tradition of independence in the popular arts would be at risk - and with it, the variety of independent viewpoints that freelancers bring to public life. That would rob the public in a noticeable way.

For decades, freelance artists and photographers have given shape to the content of popular culture. Within the last two decades their ability to earn a living has come under assault: from publishers who demand they surrender copyrights in return for assignments, from corporate interests who wish to sell access to “free culture,” from cutthroat competition with discount "image providers," and now from legal "visionaries" who wish to repeal or emasculate copyright.

The case for abolishing copyright can be likened to a scheme for the redistribution of income. In theory it sounds public-spirited. In reality it deadens motivation. Protecting a creator's individual copyrights will cost the public nothing, but it will insure the continued flow of creative work from which the public will ultimately benefit.

This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2004/05 issue of ALT Pick
Magazine. It is being shipped currently.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Response to the Orphan Works Study

Of all the excellent responses spawned by the IPA’s Orphan Works campaign, this was one of the most incisive. In it medical illustrator James Perkins pinpoints the problem with stripping art of its copyright protection based on the difficulty potential users encounter in locating the author. Jim notes that a user’s determination of “difficulty” will be influenced by how much he/she respects the principle of author’s rights in the first place.

We think the letter makes an important contribution to the debate on this issue and we’re e-mailing it to you with the author’s permission.

-The Board of the Illustrators’ Partnership

March 11, 2005

Jule L. Sigall
Associate Register for Policy & International Affairs
U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright GC/I&R
P.O. Box 70400 Southwest Station
Washington, DC 20024.
Via email:

It has come to my attention that the copyright office is soliciting input on the issue of “orphanworks,” i.e., copyrighted works whose owners are difficult or even impossible to locate. I am a medical illustrator and a university professor. As such, I am both a creator of intellectual property and one who uses others’ intellectual property in my teaching and research. I would like to comment on the issue of orphan works from both perspectives. My comments will focus on artistic works and illustrations since this is my area of expertise, but I believe they apply to all copyrighted materials.

We live in a time when there is little respect for the concept of intellectual property. Modern technology has made it easier for individuals to steal copyrighted works with no compensation to their rightful owners. Software piracy, cable TV theft, and Internet downloads (e.g., Napster) are but a few examples. Our society seems to feel that if something is “out there” on the Internet, it is free for the taking. Even my own students are reluctant to accept the idea that sharing software and music is wrong - not until I explain to them that their future survival as freelance illustrators depends upon strong copyright protection of creative works.

Meanwhile, the “Free Culture” and “Alternative Copyright” movements suggest that open access to information is more important than protecting the rights of creators. This notion is further advanced by BioMed Central and other so-called “Open Access” publishers who insist that all scholarship be available free of charge. While the notion of free access to information is very romantic, it denies the reality that many creators make their living by controlling the distribution of their intellectual property. Researchers who publish in open access journals earn their income from academic appointments and research grants. Freelance illustrators and writers do not.

Defining certain works as “orphaned” will further undermine the value of intellectual property, particularly in the eyes of the general public. Since many people already fail to grasp the concept of intellectual property, they will view this law as condoning the theft of copyrighted material. If it’s not immediately apparent that someone owns the copyright (e.g., by affixing a copyright notice), the average person will feel little obligation to track down the rightful owner before using the work.

Permitting the use of orphan works would have a particularly devastating effect on individual creators such as writers and artists. Big publishing companies can ensure that their works are never orphaned. Through unique identifiers such as ISBN and ISSN numbers, it will always be possible to trace a published work back to its owner. The Copyright Clearance Center, established by the publishing industry, helps ensure that their member companies are compensated for every use or reproduction. However, it is often difficult to identify the contributors to a collective work, even though the individual contributors may retain the rights to their work. Publishers rarely allow an author or artist to post a copyright notice and they remove signatures from artwork as a matter of policy. Furthermore, copyrighted works are often posted on the Internet without permission and with no attribution to the creator. Illustrations, in particular, are often scanned and separated from the context in which they were originally published. Thus, through no fault of his own, an artist’s work may be published with no way of tracing it back to its rightful owner.

Even the Copyright Clearance Center insists that it is not possible to track the use of illustrations which appear in published work. Thus, they refuse to pay compensation to artists, even though those artists often retain all rights - including reprographic rights - to their work. If the CCC is correct that it’s impossible to track ownership of illustrations, then virtually all published artwork may be designated as orphaned.

I happen to disagree with the CCC on this point. I believe it is possible to track usage of illustrations and other artistic work, as has been done by several European licensing societies for many years. In fact, this suggests a much more equitable solution to the problem of orphan works. Rather than designating works as orphaned and putting them “up for grabs,” we should strive to create a better system for tracing copyrighted works to their rightful owners. For example, we should support the efforts of the Illustrators Partnership of America (IPA) which seeks to establish a clearinghouse for published artwork, similar to the CCC. They have already proposed a model of unique identifiers which would make published artwork traceable to its source.

(Incidentally, this would have a dual benefit. The IPA could also collect reprographic royalties on illustrations and return them to their rightful owners. As I mentioned above, many illustrators retain all rights - including reprographic rights - to their artwork. Currently, these royalties are collected by the CCC and returned to publishers, rather than to the artists to whom they belong.) This brings me to my second point. As an educator and researcher, I often use the work of others in my teaching and writing. If I wish to reproduce another person’s work, I must first obtain their permission and sometimes pay a re-use fee. I have rarely had trouble locating the rightful owner of a work to obtain this permission. However, I recently had an experience that I believe bears on this issue. Specifically, this addresses one of the issues raised on your website regarding the Identification and Designation of orphan works.

I recently wrote an article on the history of molecular illustration. Among other things, the article discusses the work of Roger Hayward, who illustrated several books by famed chemist Linus Pauling. I wished to reproduce some of Hayward’s artwork in my article. I contacted the publisher of Pauling’s books, W. H. Freeman, and discovered that Hayward had wisely retained the rights to all of his artwork. However, the publisher had no information on his whereabouts. By searching the Internet, I discovered that he had died in 1979. I also discovered that several other individuals were trying to locate the Hayward estate in order to obtain permission to reprint some of his artwork. For example, the Rights and Permissions Editor at Sky and Telescope magazine wanted to reprint some of his illustrations from Scientific American. The Oregon State University Library posted many of Hayward’s drawings on the Internet as part of an online exhibit about Linus Pauling. Neither organization had been able to track down Hayward’s heirs to obtain permission.

At this point I had a choice. I could accept that these other institutions had made a reasonable attempt to locate the Hayward estate and I could declare the works as orphaned. I could chose to reprint the work and take my chances that I wouldn’t be sued for infringement. If an orphan works law was in place, I could probably do so legally. However, as an artist myself, I strongly value the principles of copyright protection and I felt an obligation to pursue a different course. I chose to continue my search.

A quick Internet search indicated that Mr. Hayward died in Merced County, California. I visited the website of the Merced County Recorder’s Office and quickly located documents showing that Hayward left his entire estate to his wife, Elizabeth. Further searching revealed that she died in 1983 and I found other documents in which she bequeathed her estate to the couple’s nieces and nephews. After a few more hours of searching the Internet, I located two of these relatives and even had an email address. I emailed Hayward’s niece and within a few days had received written permission to use his work. I passed this information along to the magazine editor and the OSU librarian, so now everyone can obtain the proper permissions. Hopefully OSU will make this information available to anyone who inquires about Hayward’s work in the future. What was once an orphan work is now re-united with its rightful owners.

This story reveals an important fact. We all have different ideas about what constitutes a “reasonable” effort when it comes to locating the rightful owners of intellectual property. Even a Rights and Permissions editor at a national magazine and a librarian at an academic institution had failed to locate the Hayward estate. Yet I was able to do so in a matter of hours. This is not a reflection of my searching skill - the tools I used are available to anyone with an Internet connection. It is more indicative of the value I place on intellectual property and how much effort I was willing to invest to uphold the principles of copyright law. Unfortunately, as I stated above, the average person cares little about protecting intellectual property rights. Therefore, they will be quick to declare works as orphaned. It will be extremely difficult - if not impossible - to define what constitutes a reasonable effort in locating the rightful owners of intellectual property.

I should also point out that the Hayward family was well aware that they owned the rights to their uncle’s work. They had no intention of abandoning his work or letting it slip into the public domain. Yet they were victims of a system that made it very difficult for potential users to locate them. This further underscores the need for a system to match a published work with its rightful owner.

It is critical that we retain strong copyright laws in this country. Copyright protection ensures that creators control the distribution of their work and, therefore, have an incentive to create. This is far more important than any inconvenience that may result because it is difficult to track down copyright owners. Rather than letting orphan works lapse into the public domain, we should instead focus our efforts on assuring that no work ever becomes an orphan. Developing a system of numerical identifiers for all written and visual works, similar to the ISBN or ISSN number, as well as licensing societies such as the IPA, to complement the existing CCC, will guarantee that potential users will always be able to track down the rightful owners of a creative work.

Respectfully submitted,

James A. Perkins, MS, MFA, CMI
Associate Professor and Assistant Director, Medical Illustration Program
College of Imaging Arts and Sciences
Rochester Institute of Technology

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Invitation: Sign IPA Submission to Copyright Office Orphan Work Study

Dear Artist,

The Illustrators' Partnership is submitting the following letter to the U.S. Copyright Office. We invite you to read it, consider it, and if you choose, join us in signing it.

The Copyright Office is seeking to examine the issues raised by orphaned works, that is, copyrighted works whose owners are "difficult" or impossible to locate. The "Orphan Work" study was announced January 27th, requesting written comments by March 25 from all parties who would be affected by a change in the law.

This study has been prompted in part by lawsuits filed by Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, a vocal leader of the international "Free Culture" movement. It's the contention of this well-funded movement that copyright protection for creative work restrains creativity and free speech. They've embarked on a many-faceted effort to limit or roll back copyrights throughout the world.

The Complaints ask the Court for declaratory judgments that copyright restrictions on orphaned works violate the Constitution. A victory for the plaintiff would force works of art into the public domain even though their copyright has not expired if third parties wishing to exploit the work find it "difficult" to locate the copyright holder.

The following letter is long because we've tried to address the specific issues raised by these Federal challenges, but we hope you'll take the time to read it. If you wish to join us in signing, please reply by e-mail with your full name and country. You may also add your expertise: commercial or editorial illustrator, cartoonist, architectural illustrator, dimensional illustrator, medical illustrator, painter, artist's representative, etc. You may also add any professional affiliation(s).

With Kind Regards,

Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner for the Illustrators Partnership of America

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Demanding Free Culture

Two weeks ago we notified you that the U.S. Copyright Office is conducting a study of “orphaned works” to determine if copyright protection should be removed from creative work because others wishing to exploit it find the authors “difficult” to locate.

In Kahle v. Ashcroft, two commercial archives have asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to declare unconstitutional statutes that guarantee the term of copyright protection. The plaintiffs argue that four copyright laws, including the 1976 Copyright Act, are collectively keeping people from gaining access to these orphaned works. The case was dismissed on November 19, 2004, but attorney Lawrence Lessig says the decision will be appealed. He says they had always planned to fight the decisive battle in the appellate courts.

Lawrence Lessig is the Founder of Creative Commons and a leading spokesman for the “Free Culture” movement. The stated mission of Creative Commons is to roll back copyright law to allow “open access to the information commons.” It's allied to another group called PK (for Public Knowledge), which appears to be the financial support behind Kahle v Ashcroft. PK receives funding from the MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and Andy Warhol Foundation, among others.

Kahle v. Ashcroft is one of a series of lawsuits designed to force protected creative work into the public domain. The suits are being planned and executed as “phases” by the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society. Lawrence Lessig is Founder and Director of that organization as well.

An example of the direction the Free Culture movement is taking can be found in an Associated Press story, excerpted from the DOW JONES NEWSWIRES January 29, 2005:

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (A) “In a packed warehouse on the sprawling grounds where tens of thousands were attending the World Social Forum in Brazil, [Free Culture advocates from the United States] urged developing nations to vault themselves into the information age [by undermining copyright]. [They] said proprietary software and copyright laws used by corporations to protect intellectual property prevent people in poor countries from access to the power of information and the creation of wealth and creativity. “

“'Free software! Free culture! Demand it now!' [Lawrence] Lessig said to cheers from the crowd of mostly young activists from around the world.”

Lessig and others of this “social movement” have targeted Big Media for attack because media giants are easy targets for populist rhetoric. Who's going to defend the right of corporate giants to keep copyrights from “the people”? But when it comes to the specific issue of protecting artists’ rights, these activists dismiss individual authorship as a “romantic myth.”

Lessig, like other “copy leftists” believes that “most commercial culture depends on the unpaid appropriation of older material.” Therefore they argue that any individual's work is, in effect, a creation of the culture itself. And since the individual is only a conduit through which the culture creates the work, no individual should have the right to withhold from the culture the work it created.

Whether or not one wants to subscribe to this Deconstructionist theory of creativity is a personal matter. But it's another thing to make it a case for enacting laws regarding the ownership of private property, which is what your art is.

The computer, internet, Photoshop, and access to stock and royalty-free archives have all opened up careers as content providers for people who see the appropriation of others' work as an unstoppable trend. “The mission of the Free Culture movement is to build a bottom-up, participatory structure to society and culture,” says the Free Culture Manifesto. “We will make, share, adapt, and promote open content. We will listen to free music, look at free art, watch free film and read free books.”

But if potential users can have legal free access to creative work simply because they want to use it, and if the law is changed to permit it because certain authors are “hard to find,” then the principle that you own your own work will have been subverted. And the beneficiaries of all this will not be limited to teenagers wanting to make interactive art using “free” material from the internet.

There are fortunes to be made by entrepreneurs who want to sell access to creative work. But as we've seen with the case of Napster, current copyright laws interfere with their plans. If the Free Culture movement is successful in eroding copyright protections, it's unlikely the business interests who profit from it will be any different from the media giants the copy left is demonizing today. But that success would cost us copyright protections that have been built up over centuries.

This wouldn't be the first time in history that some people have demanded the right to give away the property of others. And for those who see power for themselves in orchestrating the giveaway, “entitlements” for “the people” will always serve as a righteous mask.

But the era of immediate access to corporate libraries of images, sounds and words is still new. Most individual creators have not yet found the means to create alternative ways to distribute their work directly to the public. If legal scholars really wanted to insure future creativity, they'd work with artists to help build a system for tracking and clearing protected rights as they already exist. That would insure that you retained control of your work, while giving others the means to license those rights from you. This, not the progressive emasculation of copyright law, would be a worthwhile agenda for activists to pursue.

— Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner for the Illustrators' Partnership

This may be republished, posted or forwarded in its entirety to any interested party.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Copyright Office Announces Orphan Work Study

Federal Register announcement 70 FR 3739

U.S. Copyright Office
January 27, 2005
Issue 246

The Copyright Office seeks to examine the issues raised by "orphan works," that is, copyrighted works whose owners are difficult or even impossible to locate. Uncertainty surrounding ownership of such works might needlessly discourage subsequent creators and users from incorporating them in new creative efforts or making such works available to the public.

The Copyright Office requests written comments from all interested parties on whether there are compelling concerns raised by orphan works that merit a legislative, regulatory, or other solution, and if so, what type of solution could effectively address these concerns without conflicting with the legitimate interests of authors and right holders.

Comments are due by 5:00 p.m. EST on March 25, 2005. For detailed information on submission requirements and further information, go to the Copyright Office website

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Orphaned Art and a Copyright Virus

To understand how a copyright virus would work, we first need to understand the concept of “orphaned” art.

Two years ago, copyright abolitionist Lawrence Lessig tried to undermine copyright protection of creative works. In the case of Eldred v. Ashcroft, the Supreme Court ruled against him. But undaunted, he is now trying again.

In Kahle v. Ashcroft, two commercial archives have recently asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to declare unconstitutional statutes that guarantee the term of copyright protection. At stake are works first published after January 1, 1964 and before January 1, 1978. The Complaint asks the Court for a declaratory judgment ruling that copyright restrictions on “orphaned works”, that is, works whose copyright has not expired but which are no longer “available” to potential users, violate the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

Lessig defines “availability” as the ease with which any “user” can locate or identify the creator of any work of art. In Lessig’s logic, the “need” of a “user” to exploit the work of others trumps the right of the work's author to determine when, where or if the work is exploited or what compensation is due for its use. According to Lessig, a user is entitled to expropriate the works of others because the act of expropriation is itself an act of “creativity.” And Lessig argues that where a would-be user of a work cannot lawfully exploit it because he cannot find its author, then the user's right of free speech has been damaged.

Lawrence Lessig is the founder of Creative Commons and is conducting a campaign to institutionalize “alternative” copyright licenses in as many as 60 different countries. This “alternative” license claims to define “the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright, i.e. all rights reserved - and the public domain, i.e. no rights reserved.”

A proponent of the Creative Commons License explains the strategy of the “alternative copyright”:

“Widespread voluntary adoption of this [alternative] license will render measures like the extension of copyright irrelevant... the “Share Alike” license requires derivative users to adopt a similarly open license. The greater the volume of material with this kind of license that is out there, the greater the incentive to make use of it, even at the cost of forgoing commercial copyrights. Since most commercial culture depends ultimately on unpaid appropriation of older material, the effects will be cumulative, even VIRAL [emphasis added].”

Creative Commons does not recognize works of art as the unique expression of individuals. In their logic, all “creators” build upon existing works through derivative or “transformative” uses of the work of others. Creative Commons routinely celebrates music remixers, collage makers, and film and print publishers who seek to profit by republishing with impunity the copyrighted works of others.

Consider the vast number of artistic works that appear without credit lines in print or on the internet and you can easily see how insidious this assault on copyright protection can be:

Step 1.
Declare any work of art whose author cannot be located or identified as an “orphaned” work freely available for use by others.

Step 2.
Allow the user of any “orphaned” work to embed his “new derivative creation” with the Creative Commons viral license. Now standard copyright law could become as vulnerable to the copyright virus as computers to an internet worm.

If users can have free legal access to art simply because certain authors are “difficult” to identify or locate, we will see endless opportunities for abuse. Commercial stockhouses, for example, databases and print and web publishing industries could freely gather “orphaned” images for exploitation. And the Copyright Clearance Center, which currently claims they cannot pay artists for the photocopying of their work (because they say they cannot track usage or identify authorship) would see their continued failure to pay artists legitimized.

This case could affect the life’s work of many artists now in the prime of their careers, and provide case law for the further erosion of copyright protections for all artists.

— Copyright © 2005, Cynthia Turner for the Illustrators' Partnership

This may be republished, posted or forwarded in its entirety to any interested party.

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Alternative Copyright Gains Ground in Europe

“An alternative copyright that allows authors and artists to give away their work while retaining some commercial rights is being adapted for use across Europe and beyond.” This according to Jennifer L. Schenker, writing in the International Herald Tribune: New Copyright Grants Artists Greater License, June 14, 2004.

“Lawyers, musicians and filmmakers gathered in Berlin on Friday [June 11, 2004] for the German introduction of the [alternative] licenses, which were first drafted for use in the United States in 2001 by Creative Commons, a Silicon Valley nonprofit organization. The German debut followed the introduction of Creative Commons licenses in Japan in March, in Finland in May and in Brazil on June 4.

“Some 60 countries are expected to adapt Creative Commons licenses to their jurisdiction, ‘and Germany is a critical part of that process,’ said Lawrence Lessig, the Stanford University law professor who is the chairman and co-founder of Creative Commons.

“Creative Commons licenses will be introduced in the Netherlands next Friday and in France by the end of the summer, with a goal of creating licenses for all EU countries by year-end, Lessig said in an interview by phone last week.”

According to Lessig, these alternative copyrights will give artists greater “freedom” to give away their work. According to the article, “Artists choose how they want to share the work, specifying whether they want credit for reuse, whether they want to be paid for commercial use or whether it is acceptable to change [the work].”

Since nothing in current copyright law prevents artists from giving up their copyrights or declining payment and credit for their work, artists may wonder why they need new laws giving them “greater license” to do so. In fact, the “alternative” copyright is intended to act as a copyright “virus,” infecting traditional copyright protections throughout society. This would give commercial access to protected works by anyone wishing to profit from their use.

Lawrence Lessig is a driving force behind “The Copy Left,” a loose coalition of legal scholars and internet providers, whose goal is to rollback or abolish traditional copyright protections. They blame “the romantic notionof authorship” for impeding the distribution of culture and inhibiting creativity in the arts.

“Lessig is the author of “Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity.” He has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court against extending the length of time that copyrights cover original works [Eldred v Ashcroft] and is an advocate of open-source software, which is distributed freely on the Internet.”

This may be republished, posted or forwarded in its entirety to any interested party.