What is the status on the free culture movement over a decade after the Lawrence Lessig book «free culture»?

When reading the book «free culture» for the second time(now in Norwegian) I started to reflect on how and if the situation on copyright, IP and free culture has changed since Lawrence Lessig publishes his book in 2004. Lessig was one of the early visionaries that pushed for a reform of our copyright laws and the way we practice law as the world around us is changing.  Lawrence Lessig was also one of the co-founders of Creative Commons that sparked a community sharing text, videos, pictures, learning resources and other works.

My thoughts on this is that in terms of the debate on copyright and IP one could argue that somethings haven’t changed at all, while if you look at the digital commons and the amount of digital content that is released the picture is totally different. We still read and hear stories on a weekly basis on how new laws and trade agreements effect our daily lives in terms of how we need to handle copyright. On the other hand over the last years we have seen the commons of resources growing exponentially making it easer to reuse free content.

The landscape around copyright, fair use and IP is still not easy to navigate

To elaborate I am going to start with a story that an Indian lawyer told me this week at a conference in New Delhi. In 2012 at one of the larger universities in Delhi they did as many others, they copied books and parts of books into learningresources that where used in classes.  This was based on a thought of «fair use» but still the publishers(Oxford university and others) decided to hammer on with a lawsuit. BUT……they did not go after the university, they went after the contracted photocopy shop with an 100.000 dollar lawsuit.  This was in 2012 and they got the courts to issue and «induction» ordering the activity to stop. The case is still unsolved.

This is an example that is very similar to some of the stories from Lessigs book from 2004, and the «tactics» of the copyright lobby seems to be the same, attacking the weakest link, in this case they attacked the pohotocopyer instead of the university. This is just one of many stories that shows that the landscape around copyright, fair use and IP is still not easy to navigate.

The commons is growing exponentially

«State of the Commons report» is an effort to measure the immeasurable scope of the commons by looking at the CC licensed content, along with content marked as public domain, that comprise the slice of the commons powered by CC tools. The report for 2015 was published on December 8th, 2015, and it is showing a very promising development for public domain and CC licensed content.

The number of  of CC licensed works have nearly tripled over the last 5 years


Picture from Creative Commons.

The number of public domain works have doubled over the last year


Picture from Creative Commons.

It might seem to me that the «producing part» of free culture community has moved passed that discussion and that we are in the middle of something that looks like a paradigme shift in terms of content released under a free license.

I am writing this post while attending the The Fourth Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest in New Delhi and my conclusion is that we need to secure that the lawyers and activist that work to secure the free culture aspects of the copyright battle need our support, as the discussion on these problems are not at all solved.