Geoff Manne just sent me a very interesting press release from Microsoft, excerpts of which can be found below. Essentially, Microsoft and Creative Commons have worked together to create and release “a copyright licensing tool that enables the easy addition of Creative Commons licensing information for works in popular MicrosoftÂ® Office applications.” This should make it even easier for many authors, artists, and other creators to manage their works with the flexible licensing options that Creative Commons has developed. I haven’t checked out the tool yet, but I plan to do so today. Very neat!
Microsoft and Creative Commons Release Tool for Copyright Licensing
REDMOND, Wash., and SAN FRANCISCO â€” June 20, 2006 â€”
Microsoft Corp. and Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that offers flexible copyright licenses for creative works, have teamed up to release a copyright licensing tool that enables the easy addition of Creative Commons licensing information for works in popular MicrosoftÂ® Office applications. The copyright licensing tool will be available free of charge at Microsoft Office Online, http://office.microsoft.com, and CreativeCommons.org. The tool will enable the 400 million users of Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office ExcelÂ® and Microsoft Office PowerPointÂ® to select one of several Creative Commons licenses from within the specific application.
â€œThe goal of Creative Commons is to provide authors and artists with simple tools to mark their creative work with the freedom they intend it to carry,â€ said Lawrence Lessig, professor of law at Stanford Law School and founder of Creative Commons. â€œWeâ€™re incredibly excited to work with Microsoft to make that ability easily available to the hundreds of millions of users of Microsoft Office.â€
The goal of the Creative Commons licenses is to give an author a clearer ability to express his or her intentions regarding the use of the work. The Microsoft Office tool allows users to choose from a variety of Creative Commons licenses that enable an author to retain copyright ownership, yet permit the work to be copied and distributed with certain possible restrictions, such as whether or not the work can be used commercially and whether or not modifications can be made to the work. The full list of licenses available from Creative Commons is available online at http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/meet-the-licenses. The tool also provides a way for users to dedicate a work to the public domain.
â€œMicrosoftâ€™s openness in working with the Creative Commons is a very exciting because an author can now easily embed licenses to creative works during the process of innovation,â€ said Ian Angell, professor of Information Systems at the London School of Economics (LSE). â€œThis is an important step in ensuring that each individual becomes aware of his or her own intellectual property rights â€” and those of others. We at the LSE are keen to work with Microsoft toward empowering the â€˜creators of intellectual wealthâ€™ to become more involved in its commercial use.â€ The LSE partners with Creative Commons to drive Creative Commons license adoption and awareness in England and Wales.
â€œThe collaboration of Microsoft and Creative Commons to bring Creative Commons licenses to Microsoft Office applications underscores how for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations can work together to bring innovative ideas and tools to the public,â€ said Alan Yates, general manager of the Information Worker Division at Microsoft.
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This is a very promising development. I hope to look through the policy and see if there is any way one can “dedicate a work to the public domain” via it (ala the Cyberprofs conversation of a few weeks ago started by Tim Wu). As Niva Elkins-Koren has suggested, there are ways in which the creative commons license tends to exacerbate the very trends toward commodification and control it sought to address. See
One other possibly provocative point–would this enable a certain “phoning home” style of DRM (to use Randy Picker’s language) that could, say, report on violations of the CC license? This article leads me to such concerns:
Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but that latter possibility does suggest the tensions between frictionless information management and privacy.
But that’s not to say I’m totally against the market power of a Microsoft in a situation like this. Much of it may be due to innovation. It may be that only a dominant firm can impose the type of order that a creative-commons like regime needs to thrive. And finally, given Bill Gates’s extraordinary humanitarian efforts, there is the weight of arguments like this, by Geoff Rapp:
Perhaps innovations like this are one more example of the welfare-enhancing effects that Rapp describes.