Twelve years ago, Creative Commons made a big bet. We saw that the internet had transformed the ways in which people create, distribute, and consume content. And we believed that what it meant to be a creator was going to shift in a big way.
We built a set of licenses that creators could use to unlock their works, giving everyone permission to reuse, republish, and adapt them. The public responded, sharing millions of creative works under CC licenses — everything from photography to music to scholarly research and data.
Today, we’re releasing a report on the state of open content. The numbers show a rapidly growing culture of open sharing and permissive re-use.
Our data revealed nearly 900 million openly licensed works — including 300 million photos on Flickr, 34 million articles on Wikipedia, 10 million videos on YouTube, and many more — all under licenses that give the public permission to use and share them. Together, these numbers tell a story about what the new generation of creators on the internet looks like.
Distributing creative work used to be all about scarcity: the value of an album, book, or movie came from the fact that paying was the only way to get a copy. Creators used to ask themselves, “How do I protect my work?” Today, they’re asking, “How do I keep my work from getting lost in the noise?”
For many creators, open licenses are becoming a successful part of that strategy. Giving others permission to use your work can ultimately be far more beneficial than trying to lock it down.
All of this underscores the shift in the economics that power content creation, and the opportunity created by the growth of the web. We’re moving from a few exclusive creators and authors to a culture of creativity and knowledge sharing. That change is shifting business models, and fueling a debate about how and if it should all be monetized. The coming years will be very exciting, uncertain (and a bit painful) as old models bend or break under the weight of the culture of sharing, and new models emerge. But we should embrace that change, and keep our focus on the things that empower everyday creators, without getting too hung up on how megastars protect the existing business models.