Joining the Shuttleworth Foundation

As of March 2013, I’ll be taking up a seat as a Fellow of the Shuttleworth Foundation. This is extremely exciting and I’m grateful to everyone that helped make this happen! For those of you who don’t know the Shuttleworth Foundation, it’s an organisation that “provide funding for dynamic leaders who are at the forefront of social change.” You can imagine my feeling when I got the news: me, at the forefront of social change?

What I’ll be doing during the next year is to challenge the way we use creative works that have been previously shared, and to greatly simplify this process. While Creative Commons, and other licenses, have made it very easy to share materials with others (you upload a photo to Flickr, select a license, and you’re done), it’s not so easy using a photo from Flickr. More times than I can imagine have I explained to people how to properly attribute works.

While there are initiatives to make this easier, by reading the metadata of a web page to figure out the licensing and attribution requirements, most of them still depend on us keeping track of the licensing and attribution terms separate from the work itself. If I give you a JPEG file, I must separately pass you the licensing and attribution requirements.

We can make this work much easier! We are all using general-purpose computers that are able to do anything that we tell them to do. And we can tell them to keep track of this information for us. To ensure that when I give you that JPEG file, embedded within the file is the relevant metadata for licensing, attribution and provenance; metadata which the tools we use can understand and make suitable use of, so that if you make changes to my image, and upload it to Flickr again, Flickr would be able to tell that your image is a work that builds upon my original, and attribute us both fairly.

This will be relevant not only for copyright as it exists today, but also in a world with very different copyright legislation. A recommended read is Another Problem with Copyright; How to Fix It by Glyn Moody, as well as Penumbra of Provenance by Mike Linksvayer for more information on provenance.

My Fellowship with the Shuttleworth Foundation also mean that as of March next year I’ll step down as regional coordinator for Creative Commons in Europe, a work I’ve otherwise enjoyed immensely. Expect to hear much more from me on my new adventures come 2013!

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