New book from Creative Commons celebrates the power of open

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Publishing the open source way

By the end of 2010, more than 400 million works had been licensed with Creative Commons licenses. That's 400 million musical compositions, news items, academic manuscripts, artworks, blueprints, presentations, photographs, books, blog posts, and videos whose owners believed traditional copyright restrictions didn't allow their creations to properly circulate, grow, and flourish.

The Power of Open, an inspiring and beautifully designed new book from the Creative Commons, collects those makers' stories, showcasing them to reveal the personal, cultural, and economic benefits of sharing. Musicians like DJ Vadim, Yunyu, and Tears for Fears' Curt Smith explain how Creative Commons licenses allow their work to be not only heard by more fans but also remixed in ways they never imagined–even while the licenses decrease overhead associated with tracking all these new iterations ("Trying to control how your work's to be interpreted and enjoyed on a noncommercial level is like trying to kill a hydra," says Yunyu. "You are going to fail spectacularly.") Authors James Patrick Kelly (whose serial sci-fi podcast Burn became the first CC-licensed work to win a Nebula Award) and Robin Sloan (who funded his first novella with a Kickstarter campaign) discuss how Creative Commons licenses help them overcome the biggest barrier to success: obscurity. And João Batista Ciaco, director of publicity and relationship marketing at Fiat, describes how opening the plans for the Mio, a concept car, allowed the company to crowdsource its design.

These interviews form the centerpiece of The Power of Open. They're as diverse as they are captivating, all critical reminders that sharing produces benefits even creators cannot anticipate. But the book also contains one of the clearest, most concise explanations of the Creative Commons' many licenses you're likely to find anywhere (so it's a great reference manual, too).

And it's open in every possible way. From text to photos, nearly all its content is licensed with a Creative Commons license (most is regulated by the Creative Commons' most permissive license, the Attribution 3.0 license). Headlines and body text are typeset with public domain fonts from The League of Moveable Type. While printed copies of The Power of Open are available for purchase at Lulu, digital copies are available as free downloads in PDF format (an open standard).

The Creative Commons is marking the book's official launch with a series of events held throughout the world. Check the calendar for an opportunity to celebrate the power of open.

Bryan Behrenshausen
Bryan formerly managed the Open Organization section of, which features stories about the ways open values and principles are changing how we think about organizational culture and design. He's worked on since 2011. Find him online as semioticrobotic.


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