Creative Commons (CC) saw its India chapter relaunched in Delhi on November 12th by Wikimedia India, Centre for Internet & Society, and Acharya Narendra Dev College (of DU). Creative commons, as many of our readers may know, turns traditional notions of copyright on its head. Instead of the usual focus on ‘all rights reserved’, a CC license focuses on which rights the creator is relinquishing and places the focus on “some rights reserved” allowing a more contributory and participatory creative environment. CC licenses make the most sense for copyright holders who want their work to be as accessible as possible without actually giving away all their rights to the work.
CC’s India chapter initially launched in India in 2007 with Shishir Jha and Lawrence Liang as the project lead and legal head respectively. Around that time, we also had an excellent guest post by Sudhir Syal discussing the CC movement as well as the different types of licenses that are available under it. However, the general traction that the CC movement had started to gain in many parts of the world, did not catch on in India for some reason. My own guess for this would be that traditional copyright was simply not being enforced strongly enough for its negatives to be a big enough problem to require creative alternatives. This time around, 6 years later, there is a lot more discussion and debate happening around the copyright regime as well as its implications. The new CC India chapter is looking to build on, and contribute to these discussions by focusing on community development to help it gain traction. With the increasing use of information and communication technologies, the distinction between creators and consumers is getting blurred, with anyone with access to internet easily able to become both a consumer as well as a creator of information.
I’d imagine that those following the DU Photocopy case will certainly be interested in seeing how/if CC licenses could change terms of access to academic and scholarly works. As per the figures given by Lawrence Liang in his talk at the launch day before yesterday, taking the example of a single course in Delhi University, (sociology, I think it was?) – students require material from 20 textbooks. 2 of these are not available in India. The cumulative price of the other 18 add up to Rs 80,000(!). It’s certainly easy to see that there is a need for more accessible educational material. Keeping in mind that (i) most authors are not really relying on their publications as a main source of income, and (ii) academics generally prefer their works being read – creative commons licenses just might make more sense for many academic authors as well as students who require those texts. Of course it is unlikely that all publishers would allow such CC licenses, so hopefully this becomes a bigger part of the debate as this issue is taken forward.
I said not ‘all’ publishers may agree to allow such CC licenses since there are at least some non-traditional publishing houses which are definitely interested in CC licenses. A couple of years ago, we highlighted Pratham books, a non-profit children’s publishing house which is successfully using creative commons licenses to achieve the twin objective of creating more reading content for children, and at the same time, ensure that it reaches the desired demographic with maximum penetration. In the comments section of that post, Gautam John from Pratham Books specified why they were advocating CC licenses:
“I think the CC licenses have been crucial for two reasons:
1. To maintain the chain of attribution and to maintain interoperability with open licenses. Also, because it is instantly recognised.
2. CC licenses save us time and effort which we would have otherwise had to invest in negotiating agreements for use of content with each of the individuals and organisations who have used or want to use our content. That is bandwidth we do not have.”