US President-Elect Barack Obama is a man with a message, and according to the speeches made during his campaign, that message is ‘Change’. One of those changes has been somewhat of a snub to the creative industries and their lobby groups – the embracing of Creative Commons licensing.
In some ways, Obama is an enigma. His meteoric rise to win the presidency from almost complete obscurity several years ago is, of course, the very basis of the ‘American Dream’. Young for a president (or even a senator), while promising ‘Change’, he has a lot to prove to the younger voters that propelled him into Executive office.
However, with the decision to choose Joe Biden as VP, many worried that with his ties to copyright lobby groups, he would influence things to further increase the reach of already-draconian laws. Despite this, he was endorsed by both Lawrence Lessig, and the US Pirate Party, with the former’s wife even campaigning for him.
After his election he wasted little time in establishing a ‘transition’ website at change.gov. However, to the dismay of some, the copyright notices were as draconian as ever. That has all changed now, though, as the site embraces Creative Commons, opting for CC-BY. While Obama is not exactly a stranger to Creative Commons licensing – his flickr photos are under a CC BY-NC-SA license – it is no small step to go from photo album to entire website.
What does this mean for copyright? Well, as Creative Commons themselves point out in their blog, the group behind change.gov is not a part of the government – yet. It’s a non-profit organization, so could (and did) fill the site with copyright notices. Yet, that a Creative Commons license has been embraced by the President-Elect means good things. Most importantly, that the President has knowledge of less-restrictive copyright methods, and first-hand experience that not only do they work, but that the sky doesn’t fall down when they are used, cannot hurt. That the license chosen was, in Lessig’s words, the ‘freest license’ is more encouraging still.
One can only hope that when the likes of the RIAA and MPAA come to talk about further strengthening copyright, he turns around and says, “I’ve been using these great CC licenses, have you heard of them?” Regardless, it’s a great boost to Creative Commons, as they prepare to celebrate their sixth birthday.