New leadership at Creative Commons South Africa

Creative Commons South Africa (CC Za) is now hosted at Intellectual Property Law Research, at the Department of Private Law at the University of Cape Town Law School. Tobias Schonwetter, a post doctoral fellow at Intellectual Property Law Research, has taken over as legal lead from me. Tobias will join public lead Dave Duarte, in steering the project.

Expect exciting developments soon, a new website (already in beta) and a new version (CC Za 3.0) of the licences. Its a great experience for me to watch something which I have helped create grow as new people take it on. I am going to indulge in a little retrospective on the history of CC Za up to this point.

At the iLaw conference held at Stanford in 2003 Lawrence Lessig suggested to me that we talk about Creative Commons.

It was foggy the day when we met for lunch in West Portal so I guess that it must have still been summer in San Francisco. In a little neighbourhood place that served great corned beef sandwiches, Larry asked me to head up the legal side of things and suggested that I meet Heather Ford, who was on a Reuters Digital Fellowship at Stanford University at the time. It was another grey day when Heather and I met for coffee in the canteen at Stanford Law School, little knowing where that conversation would take us.

Those two conversations resulted in great opportunities for me, leading the porting process for the South African licences, the launch of the first Creative Commons licences in Africa (CC Za 2.0), involvement in the Commons Sense Project, a drafting a second iteration of the licences (CC Za 2.5) and helping organise the translation of the Commons Deed into Afrikaans, SeSotho and isiZulu. I've had a chance to share with many people the fantastic opportunities for education, business and development provided by open licensing infrastructure. I have been able to advise musicians, publishers, and educators about using Creative Commons licences. I've seen the incredible creativity and innovation unleashed by sharing using CC licences.

With Heather as public lead, and myself as legal lead, CC Za was based at the LINK Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. The support of Alison Gilwald (then at LINK, now at the EDGE Institute) and Luci Abrahams, Director of LINK was invaluable and I'll be forever grateful to them for believing in us.

I've watched Heather start a dynamic social movement, had the privilege of partnering with Heather and Kerryn McKay to create a non-profit organisation, African Commons Project, and have been impressed by the diversity of ways that South Africans have led in the Creative Commons world.

Creative Commons is a great way to meet interesting people. Working with CC ZA was how I've met many people who I work closely with today. Adam Haupt of UCT Film and Media, who got it right away, Eve Gray who still amazes me by grasping the social implications of new media much faster than people thirty years younger than her and Bob Joliffe who argued with me at the licence launch that the 'universal' CC licences weren't legitimate because they were based on US law. (Bob we tried to avoid undue reliance on US law with the South African licences, the movement has finally caught up with the 3.0 licences being based on international copyright treaties). There are so many others including Phillip Schmidt who still argues with me, about everything and Kerryn McKay and Daniela White who have taken on the leadership of the African Commons Project.

That there are so many people in South Africa doing cool commons stuff is very much due to the vision and energy of Heather Ford. Thanks to Heather there are not one but two organisations based in South Africa working for the digital commons. The African Commons Project is tackling a wide range of issues which affect the digital commons in Africa; broadband policy, heritage and digitisation and fighting for publicly financed research to be available to the public. CC Za is focused on the licences, and igniting the commons creativity of South Africans. The African Commons Project and CC Za are already making plans about working together.

Heather I'll be following your blog with interest as you return to the Bay Area for UC Berkeley’s iSchool MiMS program.

I am looking forward to the next stage of growth for CC Za under Dave and Tobby's leadership. I am also looking forward to finally having the time to write down the tacit knowledge I have accumulated over the years about using Creative Commons licences strategically.

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