I am a new author. I’ve just written a book called Unbounded Freedom for the British Council and have chosen to publish it under a Creative Commons licence.

Unbounded Freedom is a guide to current thinking on intellectual property rights and cultural commons and can be downloaded for free from www.counterpoint-online.org. The licence I’ve chosen allows people to access my work for free, to share it, change and build on it for non-commercial purposes, as long as they share it with others on the same basis.

So why did I choose to licence my work in this way? In writing this book I was primarily concerned to give people access to the current arguments around this new way of thinking, so that we can see how our pooled ideas contribute to this important debate. Despite the fact that the uptake of Creative Commons licences increased to 45 million in 2005, there still seems to be a huge lack of knowledge about the copyright debate across a range of sectors including arts, publishing, creative industries, academia, law and science. This needs to be addressed so that everyone involved in each step of the creative process can make an informed decision about the best way to licence their work.

As a Contributing Editor to openDemocracy, I have been impressed by their decision to publish the majority of their articles under Creative Commons licences, thereby giving their authors more control over the role their works will play in the digital world, exploring the potential for a much wider, global conversation and making an important statement about the importance of openness and the dangers of a culture of excessive ownership.

I believe that unchecked distribution of creative work may be very good for artists and culture too. Some authors seem to hold the Creative Commons licences themselves responsible for the much broader challenge coming from an emergent ‘sharing economy’ which is affecting everything from software development to genomics and pharmaceuticals, as well as arts and culture. I don’t think anyone can remain untouched by or neutral to these developments. But there are powerful counter-arguments. We need to hear from all sides: from people who have more experience of working with these licences; people who feel strongly that their moral rights and livelihoods are compromised by such arrangements; from existing ‘gatekeepers’ and guardians of excellence, and future creatives who want to shed those constraints.

In particular, we need to arrive at a more considered decision about the public interest in the intellectual property regimes of the future

If we continue down the road we are taking, we threaten the global chain of creativity and innovation on which we and future generations depend.

What do you think? Click below to post your comment

Rosemary Bechler

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16 Comments on “”

  1. Lessig Blog Says:

    British Council on “Creative Commons Thinking”

    The British Council and Counterpoint has a new publication, “UNBOUNDED FREEDOM: A Guide to Creative Commons Thinking for Cultural Organizations,” written by Rosemary Bechler. The book will be launched Friday. There’s a discussion page on the autho…

  2. Jessica Reed Says:

    This CC debate is obviously fascinating – we at openDemocracy found our move towards licensing articles under CC to be extremelt rewarding: people post pieces on their blogs or website throughout the world and they rarely fail to link back to us and mention us/thank us, which is impressive. In a similar perspective, we use images with CC licenses (mostly from flickR) on our blog (http://www.opendemocracy.net/openblogs/blog/od/) , and I tend to think that people are happy to see their pictures ‘broadcasted’ on our website, especially since we link back to them. It’ a win-win decision; and the remix culture is a positively thrilling, exciting one in my opinmion, I have trouble accepting the idea that CC licenses are currently a threat to creativity: if anything it acknowledge what creativity always has been : a mix of past experiences/ visual stimuli/other artistic movements/ what have you: I don’t know if ‘pure’ creativity truly exists…

    -openDemocracy’s participation assistant

  3. Adam Says:

    Hi – just got into work in Korea and have scan-read the book. Great stuff! I’ll be printing it out for a more leisurely perusal over the weekend.

  4. Becky Hogge Says:

    I’m really excited that you’ve got your head into these ideas, Rosemary. As someone who’s been thinking about Creative Commons for a long time, it’s really exciting for me when (if you’ll allow me) a real intellectual, and accomplished communicator, takes the time to give them some thought. I enjoyed Unbounded Freedom immensely.

    Over at the Register, Andrew Orlowski has done his usual hatchet job on it, which I think is a great shame. He’s wheeled on AIM and BMR – who despite their billing as anti-monopolists are strong IP advocates and have consistently refused to engage in the debate set out by Jessica above – to poke fun at the pamphlet, while completely missing the point. Creative organisations and the creative industries are two quite separate bodies, and my reading of the British Council’s interest, at least, is in applying CC to the artists it funds directly.

    I’m no longer a Creative Commons evangelist (as Orlowski would have it) but I’m still frustrated that the Creative Industries won’t engage in the discussion. Throughout the debate on digital music, they have failed to welcome the views of people who after all only want music to thrive. Maybe that’s because technologists upset by copyright law have weighed in far too heavily on the other side, demonising the music industry and speaking to it in the disarming high-pitched whine of the fringe activist. I’ve seen this at many a debate, althougth it is a tone thankfully absent from Unbounded Freedom.

    Rosemary, I’m sure you’re only too familiar with this type of intractable situation from your previous experience. Let’s hope this evening’s live debate can go beyond it…

  5. Adam Says:

    As usual with Orlowski, it’s not quite as black and white as his rhetoric makes it seem. Read the last paragraph and you’ll see that he is not totally unappreciative of UF or CC.

    In the same way that it’s important to see UF in its context of a discussion-provoking pamphlet produced by a think tank for an audience of decision-making types, Orlowski inhabits a world populated by techno-utopians and thus tends to pitch his contrary prose with them in mind. I think a lot of the issues he raises are worth our consideration.

    Anyway, here’s a rather more positive comment!

  6. Ian Murray Says:

    I am a freelance photographer and see Creative Commons as a threat to my family’s income. Most of those supporting the concept of everything being free appear to have comfortable salaries and pensionable tenures in academic institutions. The world looks very different if you are depending on commercial photo buyers licencing images for money and Creative Commons advocates are offering uneconomic competition for ‘fun’.
    Ian Murray

  7. Ian Murray Says:

    Could you kindly clarify how ‘free’ this publication actually is. I mean did you write it without any financial support and entirely from your own private resources? Or did you get funding from the British Council and other backers? Does the British Council fund itself for ‘free’ or does it rely on British taxpayers? Have I as a British taxpayer helped fund a ‘free’ book which may have the consequence of reducing my income and future tax contributions? Please advise on ISPs offering free web space.
    Ian Murray

  8. Adam Says:


    I believe the British Council gets about a third of its funding from UK government. If you don’t think Counterpoint is a worthwhile think-tank, fair enough, but you seem to imply that there is something strange about the publication of reports without a price tag. Counterpoint is not the world’s first think-tank and Unbounded Freedom is not the first publication to be released for free download, not even with government funding.

    Beyond that, the idea that CC equates to ‘everything being free’ is sufficiently odd as to cast doubt upon the sincerity of your interest in the topic.

  9. Hi, Rosemary. I’m happy to find your new book and this blog for thoughtful discussion of these issues. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart. I’m looking forward to reading “Unbounded Freedom,” and I hope to find some regular discussions here. I’m pretty sure I qualify for the “lunatic fringe,” but I’m looking for rational discussions and answers to how we’ll manage in this new system.

    The concept of free culture is obviously very threatening to those making their living in this area today. There’s always this question: “Where will the money come from?” The word “free” continues to cloud the discussion. Ian focuses on the free as in free beer angle, where what we really care about is “free as in free speech.” I want to make money from my intellectual work, but I don’t want to control what others can do with it once it is published. (Other than the desire to preserve attribution and to not allow further restrictions on derivative works.) I think many of the ways we might imagine for making money on free culture involve privacy concerns, so it will be interesting to see what methods will evolve.

    It seems that the current system isn’t so great for distributing the spoils either. A few people make millions and most make nothing. And then there is the small segment that makes a living, whether barely of comfortably. These are the people I’m concerned about, that they should continue to be able to do so. (And that maybe I’ll be able to do so as well.)

  10. Bob Croxford Says:


    Dear Scott

    I’m with Ian Murray on this one. Having earnt a living from copyright all my working life, which is about 45 years, I just don’t buy into the idea of creators not treating their IP as an asset for themselves to exploit. Additionally I consider it dangerous and irresponsible for the British Council to be sponsoring the ideas of Creative Commons. The advocates of CC are academics without any creative ideas.

    “Derivative Works’ is a euphemism for plagiarism by people with no ideas or a meanness to pay for what others have produced.

    You are wrong to say that a few people make millions out of IP while most make nothing. At the time when the copyright extension debate reached the USA it was estimated that for every ‘corporation’ making money from copyright there were 4,000 single individuals earning money from copyrights.

    Culture is already well served by our present Copyright Acts. Neither you or I could keep up with the number of books published every year, nor the hours of new music, nor the numbers of images and hours of video, film and TV.

    Bob Croxford

  11. drew Roberts Says:

    I cannot GROK why so many choose the NC option. Has anyone thought through the implications to this choice in the long term?

    Do we really want to end up with a vast pool of interlocking works all under BY-NC-SA which no one is able to use to make money and support themselves?

    Why do creative people fear straight BY-SA so much?

    all the best,


  12. drew Roberts Says:

    “Ian Murray Says:
    September 29th, 2006 at 12:13 pm

    I am a freelance photographer and see Creative Commons as a threat to my family’s income.”

    Ian, how so?

    You can easily do many things while trying to place most of your photos under a BY-SA license long term.

    One thought I have had with photos is to set a Freedom price on each. When you have been paid that price by a single person or combination of people, set that photo Free under a BY-SA license. You get paid for your work, you eventually place your works under a BY-SA license. Joy.

    I would be happy to discuss this further with you if you like.

    all the best,


  13. drew Roberts Says:

    “Bob Croxford Says:
    October 1st, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    Additionally I consider it dangerous and irresponsible for the British Council to be sponsoring the ideas of Creative Commons. The advocates of CC are academics without any creative ideas.”


    I for one am an advocate of copyleft ideas which BY-SA comes closest to in the CC world. I am not an advocate of all of the CC licenses, but I am of BY-SA and for those who wish to, BY.

    I am not an academic. Plus, your ad himinim attack on me and my supposed lack of creative ideas is not appreciated.

    Since BY-SA licenses are put on creative works by the makers of those works, exactly what is your objection. You actually object to my being able to license out my copyrights as I wish and yet hold that you should have the right to license out yours as you wish? That seems to me to be what your way will biol down to.

    I am happy to discuss this further.

    all the best,


  14. […] Rosemary Bechler, contributing editor to openDemocracy, recently released her book “Unbounded Freedom” that is an excellent overview of the debate on different sorts of intellectual property. Through telling the history of copyright law she is able to explain and paint a vivid image of why the current trends turn are so challenging for the creative industries. User-led innovation is reshaping cultural production so that it is trans-national, more egalitarian, less deferential, much more diverse and above all, self-authored. […] Bechler argues that Creative Commons thinking enables cultural organisations to embark on mutual relationships of trust with huge new publics. Describing the transformative potential of new attitudes, she offers us a vision of the future in which “unbounded freedom” is not simply a romantic notion. […]

  15. Anais 9000 Says:

    A digitally-voiced audiobook podcast of Unbounded Freedom has been made available at http://www.babblebooks.com/podcasts/UnboundedFreedom/index.htm

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