Uncommon Mojo

Cheers to Yahoo for creating a special search utility to find content published under the flexible licenses of the Creative Commons. I hope this is a precursor to subsequent initiatives to marry this find-engine to a market that can for return payments to creators who seek recompense. A little background. Led by Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig, the Creative Commons has sought to cut intellectual property red tape by evolving licenses that allow graduated protections for creative works. For instance, an author, musician or videographer can allow free use by others, providing they acknowledge the creator. A different license allows similar freedoms, but only for non-profit uses, etcetera. These flex licenses respond to the frustration of creators who find their own works rendered non-commercial because of copyright restrictions, such as occurred with the documentary Eyes on the Prize. The Commons approach also speaks to users fed up with efforts by old media publishers to keep content on a tight leash. But as a creator who believes my works deserve payment, I want the community building around the Creative Commons to become the nucleus for a new market for new media. The licenses are a good start by allowing collaboration and building upon works. The creation of media is increasingly a collaborative act. Even the lone author needs an editor (whether the writer admits it or not). And when we think of new and emerging media such as video blogs, podcasts, etcetera. I think it highly unlikely that one person will have every skill from the turn of phrase or the eye for camera shots, to the technical skills to edit or code content for Web distribution. New media people need to work together. And I said work to distinguish that act from labors of love, such as represented by this and most other blogs. Work implies payment and payment implies mechanisms. There much more needs to be done.

To cut a long rant short, the Yahoo search beta simplifies and mainstreams the collaborative engine arising around the Commons. But I’m sure everyone realizes this is a step and not a destination.

In a blog entry thanking Yahoo for “giv(ing) the nettools to make its community come alive,” Lessig described the Creative Commons as “just a piece — a component — designed to remove the uncertainty around what creators mean … . Our component helps people be clear about the freedoms they intend to give, and the freedoms they can rely upon.” I read into that a recognition that other components are still needed. Yahoo’s endorsement and embrace of new publishing models has won it kudos from Business 2.0 writer Om Malik. He recently said Yahoo has regained its mojo after living in the shadow of that other Stanford-spawned search site with the quirky name. Malik credited Yahooligans Russell Beattie and Jeremy Zawodny with “spreading the open media religion at Yahoo.” Let’s hope they continue to spread that religion in the way most important to the starving artists of cyberspace — by creating new and more efficient means to pass the collection plate.

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media