April 29, 2004

CreativeCommons @ Business2.0 [8:45 am]

Giving It Away (for Fun and Profit)

But what’s really interesting is that as more and more artists use Creative Commons to tell the world that it’s OK to copy, distribute, and build on their work, the first glimpses emerge of an economy based on the free exchange of digital content. The “sharing economy” is built on a supply-and-demand equation wholly alien to traditional media companies — the record labels, Hollywood studios, and publishing houses that support strict copyright enforcement. It’s powered instead by the Allan Vilhans of the world, digital artists who promote sharing as a means to obtain everything from 15 minutes of Internet fame to licensing deals, job offers, and mainstream publishing contracts. For these artists, rampant Internet file swapping isn’t a threat, but a blessing: the cheapest way to move from unknown to known.

[...] At a cafe near his San Francisco home, Lessig explains the economic logic that underpins Creative Commons. He draws a timeline on a napkin, labeling one point “1888.” “That’s when the first Kodak (EK) camera was introduced,” he says. “And around this time, a legal question arises: Do I need your permission to capture your image? The courts say no, I can pirate your image in most cases.” Lessig then draws a line that spikes upward, representing the boom in photo equipment and processing sales that resulted from the liberalization of image content. “Imagine if the decision went the other way, so that I had to get permission every time I took someone’s picture,” he says. “The growth of the photography industry would have been very different.” And much less lucrative.

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