Centre for Internet & Society

This blog-post discusses the potential for Creative Commons in India, in light of imminent Creative Commons Re-launch, by highlighting the history of works licensed under Creative Commons in the country.

In the era where internet has permeated a vast majority of the globe, vast amounts of content is only a few clicks away from billions of users world-wide. As a response, the cumulative appetite of the users for this content rose exponentially and therefore, the mainstream creators are no longer able to satiate it all by themselves. Due to the combination of this hunger with the access to basic editing software on a computing device like a smartphone, users today can create and re-create the content on a massive scale. Termed as “remix culture”,[1] this phenomenon focuses on the enormous aggregated creativity residing among the masses of amateur creators, who are driven not by motives of profit but of sheer innovation.

However, the biggest obstacles that these amateur users-cum-creators face are the limitations imposed on the use of available content by copyright laws. Despite the fact that not all the creators of original content wish to completely restrict the use of their works through copyright, the law grounds “all rights reserved” with the creator. This ensures that the moment something original is created, there is a high potential of stifling the very creativity it was aimed to protect and propagate. The main chilling effect comes from the fact that every use an individual wishes to make of the copyrighted material, permission needs to be sought from the creator. Creative Commons steps in as a solution to this by basing the license on the principle of “some rights reserved”[2]as opposed to all. The licences[3] allow the creator to choose any combination from four conditions (attribution, share-alike, non-commercial, no derivatives) to provide free and unlimited use of the work to all users on one end, or just the right to freely share the work without any change giving proper credit to the author.

In India, where monopolisation is mostly frowned upon especially with the respect to creative aspects, Creative Commons seems like a fitting option to be adopted. The Indian Chapter of Creative Commons was launched by IIT Bombay in 2007 as a part of its technology fest, ‘Techfest’.[4] However, due to certain problems, it didn’t materialize. Now, Creative Commons India is being re-launched on November 12, 2013 in New Delhi by the Centre for Internet and Society, in collaboration with Wikimedia India and Acharya Narendra Dev College.[5]

This does not mean that India has no works licensed under Creative Commons yet. Recently, a short film titled River Terns of Bhadra documenting the life cycle of River Terns was screened in Bangalore and touted as the first film in India to have Creative Commons license.[6]

However, there have been quite a few films licensed under Creative Commons licenses which can be traced as far back as 2007. These films originating from Kerala were archived by an erstwhile website, Kerala Free Knowledge,[7] dedicated to making the creative works available to public with limited restrictions. The creators of these films, which vary in forms such as documentaries or music videos, not only allow their exhibition to small audiences without their permission but actively prohibit any sort of financial collection at any such exhibitions. Perhaps the most attractive part of the licenses employed by these movies is the clause “Copy left, right and centre!”[8]

Another example is a music video titled Gaon Chhodab Nahin![9] about Adivasi struggles due to developmental projects. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 India[10] license, which allows not only for copying, distributing, displaying and performing the work but also making derivatives of the same, commercially or otherwise. Yet another initiative that needs mention, though not in filming, is one by Pratham Books, a non-profit publishing house which encourages unrestricted access to content in children’s books by advocating and employing Creative Commons licenses similar to the aforementioned music video. They have achieved unmatched success in reaching their objectives of maximum penetration along with exponentially increasing the reading content while propagating a culture of openly accessible derivative works.[11] These examples clearly demonstrate the viability and the desire for a culture of sharing in the Indian context, thereby emphasising the potential for success for the imminent Creative Commons India Re-launch.

[1]. Lawrence Lessig, Remix: Making Art and Culture Thrive in the Hybrid economy, 28 (2008).

[2]. Watch http://creativecommons.org/videos/wanna-work-together

[3]. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/

[4]. See http://creativecommons.org/weblog/2007/01

[5]. For details see http://cis-india.org/openness/events/creative-commons-india-launch

[6]. http://www.timeoutbengaluru.net/bangalore-beat/features/tern-events

[7]. https://web.archive.org/web/20080401064333/http://kerala.free-knowledge.org/

[8]. https://web.archive.org/web/20070307175447/http://kerala.free-knowledge.org/?page_id=3

[9]. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFmsl7KrZn8&feature=youtu.be

[10]. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/in/

[11]. http://spicyip.com/2011/09/creative-commons-licensing-success.html

The author, Priyank Dwivedi is a student at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad and an intern at the Centre for Internet and Society.

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