A registry could solve a variety of problems that we have. For instance, the orphan works problem where it is not clear who to contact in order to commercialize could be solved. A registry facilitates attribution which is a core part of Creative Commons. A registry could also help sites that allow users to post content to clear and clarify rights.
The exact architecture of what a registry system would look like is still not clear and requires a lot of discussion and work. One model is to build on existing registries -- such as that maintained by the copyright office -- rather than trying to develop a completely separate one. Another idea is to create a federation of registries maintained by an network of providers that somehow peer with each other. Because of our experience with machine readable licenses, metadata and creating a global network of compatible license, we believe that we can add value to design and possibly the operation of such a registry system.
I'm sure that the astute readers will notice that in the press release we mention that we will also be exploring revenue generating services that CC might provide. I can imagine that this might raise some red flags for some people so I thought it might be prudent for me to try to explain this aspect a bit more since it involves a number of issues that we've been working on.
When I had a long chat with Pierre Omidyar last year about Creative Commons, one of his suggestions was that he thought that in order for non-profits to be responsive to the public, it was often better for them to be providing some sort of fee-based service instead of just being funded by an endowment or foundations. He explained that when eBay started charging, the community became much more vocal about what they wanted in their feedback and he became much more responsible and responsive to their requests. Offering a service for free is great, but having a paid services creates a more rigorous expectation on both sides of a quality of service and responsiveness. I've been thinking a great deal about this "market sensitivity though fee based value added services" and this is something I think we should continue to explore.
We are currently supported by foundations, corporations and individuals who have generously contributed to the mission of Creative Commons. We have secured an important set of commitments for the next five years which gives us a strong base on which we can build. However, I think that we need to consider augmenting that support with revenues generated by providing value added services.
However, Creative Commons benefits from the broad support of a community of users and contributors who help Creative Commons because it's not a greedy money-making organization. I am acutely aware of the necessity to stay focused on the core mission of providing free and open licensing tools while exploring CC's capacity to provide additional services that will generate revenues to help sustain the free and open sharing infrastructure CC provides. In exploring this possibility, I take it as fundamental that we avoid any action that we might make or be perceived to be making that undermines our position as a balanced, transparent and neutral party.
So, to reiterate what we say in the press release. CC will always continue to provide licenses for free. Also, as we explore the idea of a copyright registry or a network of registries, we will try very hard to participate in a process to design a system that is first and foremost technically and operationally robust. CC will not try to build itself into the system just for the sake of trying to make money. The idea is that IF we find some sort of role for CC such as running a piece of this system or providing a service to the system that users or businesses might pay for, we will explore whether a fee based model makes sense.