Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

August 2008 Archives

Lulan is a very cool and effective project is helping promote weaving as a development effort. The combination of open architecture with this is innovative and something that could create a neat case for other efforts.

American Express is currently offering $2.5 million dollars in funding to support exciting and innovative ideas that make a difference in the world. They will be selecting 5 'Members Projects' for funding.

In many parts of Southeast Asia young women are left with little option in gaining employment. Unfortunately thousands, some as young as 12, are trafficked and lost into the sex trade every year. Last month Cameron Sinclair Visited Bangkok with Eve Blossom of Lulan Artisans to find a way to help scale her successful model of local empowerment through social enterprise. By expanding her fair-trade weaving cooperatives throughout South Asia collectively we can affect the lives of thousands of families.

Architecture for Humanity is partnering with Lulan Artisans, for a Members Project entitled,


Now Lulan Artisans is ready to expand, hire thousands of weavers and
build innovative off-the-grid weaving centers whose profits will
support these artisans but also provide health care and schooling for
their children.

Architecture for Humanity and its' designers will provide innovative
off-the-grid weaving centers that respects tradition but represents a
new way forward. Each building will not only be an anchor for these
artisans but will signal change has arrived. Building designs will
shared openly with anyone wanting to replicate them through a Creative
Commons licensing mechanism on the Open Architecture Network. This way
innovation is shared and more communities can benefit.

Please nominate Lulan if you can. Nominations open until September 1.


Newtonica is a cool new iPhone/iPod Touch game by Kenichi Nishi... currently available only in Japan I think. Music and sound effects by my friend Kenji Eno.

It's #1 on iTunes Store Japan right now...

UPDATE: It's available in 70 countries including the US.

Caterina Fake

Creative Commons Press Release

Flickr Cofounder Caterina Fake Joins Creative Commons Board

San Francisco, CA, USA - August 25, 2008

Creative Commons announced today that Flickr cofounder Caterina Fake has joined its board of directors.

Fake cofounded the massively popular photo sharing site and community in early 2004. Flickr was one of the first media-sharing sites to embrace Creative Commons licensing as a way to encourage users to make their work available to the public for free and legal use. Since the site's inception, Flickr's community of photographers have licensed over 75 million photos to the public under Creative Commons copyright licenses, making it one of the biggest sources of permissively-licensed material on the Internet. CC-licensed Flickr photos are now used in a variety of projects and publications, ranging from Wikipedia to The New York Times.

In addition to just being a super-cool person, I'm really excited about getting Caterina's help figuring out how to better integrate Creative Commons into the tools that we all use as well as making all of the tools that Creative Commons makes better to use. Flickr is really a model by which many modern services and interfaces are measured. I think that Caterina's experience with Flickr as well as her practical "get stuff done" entrepreneurial attitude will be a great addition to our board.

Welcome aboard Caterina!

You know when you lose your connection and both sides frantically try to call each other back and cross paths? Richard Wolpert has a new rule:

  1. if you initiated the call and it drops you call the other person back.
  2. if you received the call and it drops you just wait for the call back.

Pass it on.


huge and important news: free licenses upheld

So for non-lawgeeks, this won't seem important. But trust me, this is huge.

I am very proud to report today that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (THE "IP" court in the US) has upheld a free (ok, they call them "open source") copyright license, explicitly pointing to the work of Creative Commons and others. (The specific license at issue was the Artistic License.) This is a very important victory, and I am very very happy that the Stanford Center for Internet and Society played a key role in securing it. Congratulations especially to Chris Ridder and Anthony Falzone at the Center.

In non-technical terms, the Court has held that free licenses such as the CC licenses set conditions (rather than covenants) on the use of copyrighted work. When you violate the condition, the license disappears, meaning you're simply a copyright infringer. This is the theory of the GPL and all CC licenses. Put precisely, whether or not they are also contracts, they are copyright licenses which expire if you fail to abide by the terms of the license.

Important clarity and certainty by a critically important US Court.

The brief that was filed is here.

When we talk to organizations that want to use Creative Commons licenses, we inevitably end up in the legal department. In many cases, these legal departments are, understandably, conservative and they throw a lot of reasons why "it can't work" into the discussion. They often create an impenetrable wall of legal mumbo jumbo that often causes the management or the teams inside of these organizations to give up trying to use Creative Commons licenses.

This notion of whether CC licenses are just contracts which require things like click-wrapped acknowledgment from the user or not hinge on this distinction that has been made clear with this ruling. Clarity on this point should make it significantly easier to clear conservative legal departments and will hopefully make adoption that much easier.

Big thanks to the Stanford team and everyone involved. This is a happy day.

Joshua Ramo with Tariq Krim in background
Joshua Ramo with Tariq Krim in background (Photographed in Helsinki)

If you've been watching NBC, you have probably seen my friend Joshua Ramo. He's one of the smartest guys I know. When I first met him, he was working at Time Magazine as their International Editor. At some point, he decided to head over to China and learn Chinese.

He quickly became fluent and a favorite liaison by both the Chinese and the Americans. As a China expert, he provided advice for both sides and his understanding of both sides allows him to provide the nuanced perspective to cover the Olympics.

Recently, he's just finishing up an amazing book on the future of International Affairs. His background in physics (and complexity) combined with his work in foreign policy gives him a really interesting perspective that I'm looking forward to reading about.

Finally, he's one of my best friends and a Japanophile and is one of the few non-Japanese people who continues to surprise me with new restaurants in Japan.

Joshua's got a new website (designed by Boris) where you can download some of his CC licensed books. ;-)

Oliver Ding has made an amazing Freesouls slide show and has shared it on SlideShare. Wow!

Oliver also started a freesouls group on SlideShare.

I'm just finishing the grading for the KMD Digital Journalism class that I taught at Keio. It really was a great experience and I'm looking forward to keeping in touch with the class. We've decided to keep the class together as an extracurricular project and the students will continue to work on their projects even though the class is officially over.

The class was divided into four teams. Each team had to organize a theme, at least one interview and their own method of output. Since we had less than one week, these projects are still a work in progress, but I think they made substantial progress considering the time constraints. (It was also the end of the school term and they were heavily loaded with other classwork.)

The four projects are:

1Ds - Digital Media Policy throughout the World ( site / blog )

Kyah! - Search Engines and the Future of Search ( site / blog )

OCTOPAS - How non-Japanese view the Japanese ( site / Interviews )

Sandwich - What is Photo Journalism? ( site / blog / video )

Your feedback and comments on their projects would be greatly appreciated.

Sorry about the delay. We've posted some notes from the June 2008 Creative Commons Board Meeting. Let me know if you have any questions.

Climate Matters: Inspire Your Next President

Brighter Planet and 1Sky are inviting Americans everywhere to participate in a contest to inspire our next president and political leadership on climate change. Between July 31std and September 22nd, Climate Matters contestants will upload a 30 or 60 second video representing their best attempt at delivering a compelling message to the next president and their political leaders to encourage bold action on climate change. A select panel of prominent judges will choose the winner amongst those ten videos which have accrued the most views in a single day. The contest will take place during both the summer Congressional recess and during the height of the presidential campaign season. To elevate the issue of climate change in the Congressional and the presidential campaigns, 1Sky will organize a strategic D.C.-based event for media and policymakers in early October to highlight the top 10 videos. We are also investigating multiple additional pathways for raising the profile and impact of the video submissions and winners.

Gillian Caldwell, the former ED of WITNESS and one of my heroes is the campaigned director of 1Sky. 1Sky is her "new thing" which I think is a super-important and exciting initiative. Please get involved and help out.


For over a year now, I've been taking photographs of people and posting them on Flickr with the "freesouls" tag. I thought it was my duty to free the souls of my friends for projects like Wikipedia and other free content projects. I blogged about this earlier. The word "freesouls" was actually a Lawrence Lessig idea.

At Wikimania in 2007 in Taiwan, I met Sophie Chiang who was the founder and editor of a super-cool art magazine and Christopher Adams, who was a writer. It was really beautiful. Having been struggling with printing myself at the time and considering the business models of CC books, I suggested to Christopher the idea of doing a CC photography book.

He liked the idea and as we noodled on it a bit, we decided it would be the most simple if we used my photographs to make a sort of proof-of-concept book and then invite other photographers to do something similar later.

As we worked on this project, we became more and more ambitious. Luckily, Christopher is also quite a hacker and we were able to use Socialtext, Flickr and Google Docs to efficiently manage the book editing process. Christopher even wrote a python script using the Flickr API to manage the images and categories for the book.

Christopher's designers are nearly done and we are getting ready to organize the final proof reading and plan printing.

The book includes essays from Lawrence Lessig, Howard Rheingold, Yochai Benkler, Isaac Mao, Cory Doctorow, Lawrence Liang and Marko Ahtisaari.

Here is an excerpt from Lessig's forward to the book:

Joi Ito has been at the center of critical movements to make technology, and creative freedom, available widely. He loves his profession, and he does it well. Mornings for him do not begin with the regret of who he couldn't be.

But his success in these fields has also given him an understanding of the people in these fields. In the twenty-some years of his work, he has come to know the people of these industries (both commercial and non-profit) well. They are his friends (Ito has no enemies). He engages them as a friend, always concerned and giving, never short or impatient. He understands them by learning to see them in a certain way. He engages them with the love of friendship by learning to see them in the most beautiful, or distinctive way, possible.

Digital technologies have now given us a way to see just how Joi sees the world. By lowering the cost of access and practice, the technologies have allowed Ito to become an accomplished amateur photographer. But 'accomplished' in this context means that he has learned how to capture the person he sees. And unlike the professional photographer, who ordinarily has 10 minutes to come to 'know' the person he photographs, Ito has had his whole professional career. He knows the people in this book. He has come to see them in their most beautiful, or extraordinary light, and he has perfected an ability to capture what he sees, and share it with all of us.


We are going to release the book in 3 editions: a boxed set, a limited and numbered edition and a general release. One or all of these will be available on Amazon starting in the fall. We're also going to be releasing pieces of the book online over a period of time in various formats and forms. We are also working on trying to make the whole process as carbon-neutral as possible.

We're planning on only making 50 boxed sets so if you're interested in getting one, please email chris at as soon as possible.

Finally, we would love to have a few volunteers to proofread the book. Also email Christopher if you're interested in helping.

If you're interested in being notified when the book comes out, please sign up on the page.

Although we're not done yet... Thanks to Christopher and his team, my assistants lead by Mika who had to deal with all of the model releases, Pat for help with the SF photo shoot, the people who contributed essays and all of the subjects who helped make this book much more free by signing model release forms.

Apologies to all of my important friend who don't appear in the book. We chose a limited number of images based on their quality and a lot of people who should appear in the book don't. I think we're going to have to do another addition. Apologies to people who didn't get their favorite version or image in the book. I let the Christopher and the designers make the final call on the choice of images in order to allow them to have more control of the tone of the design.

Of course, the book as well as the images will be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license with model release from the subjects.

I hope you enjoy the book when it comes out. I'll keep you all posted on the final stages on my blog.

I've been thinking about, and recently have started to get asked about, whether my investments in companies that use Creative Commons licenses represents a conflict of interest from the perspective of my role as the CEO of Creative Commons.

This is a valid question and a complex one. My life work involves working on big issues that I believe are important. Fundamentally, I believe in open networks which will enable reform in business, government, academia and society. I think the open Internet will be an important pillar for open society for the 21st Century.

I believe that for these changes to happen, we need to create and protect open standards such as TCP/IP, HTML/HTTP and Creative Commons to allow interoperability and open standards and an explosion of innovation that produces the software, services and infrastructure that supports the communities. Some of these software, services and infrastructure can be created as non-profit projects, but many will be created as start-up companies.

My current work involves spending approximately equal amounts of time working with companies that use Creative Commons as well as helping to manage the Creative Commons process and organization. Recently, just about every new investment that I make is a commercial Internet company that uses Creative Commons and those companies that don't use Creative Commons yet, I am continuously urging to incorporate Creative Commons in their business. In my business life, I'm building a ecology of great companies that work together using Creative Commons as the way they communicate, share and work together.

There are various aspects to the conflict-of-interest issue. One thing that I have to be careful about is using the resources of Creative Commons to unfairly advantage myself or my companies. Another issue would be access to proprietary information because of my role as CEO of Creative Commons which unfairly advantages companies that I'm involved in.

With respect to using resources of the Creative Commons organization unfairly for the benefit of my companies, I think that what I need to do is make a very strong policy to make sure that it is clear to CC staff and the community that they should not provide any unfairly beneficial treatment to my companies. While I might encourage an initial meeting, whether CC spends more or less time supporting and talking to these companies should be determined independently of the relationship with me.

With the respect to proprietary information, I think that at some level, the burden of ethical behavior rests on me. I vow to take confidentiality of information seriously and will try to limit to the greatest extent possible, the creation of propriety information or conversations.

Finally, I believe it is the role of the board and the community make sure that I am behaving in an ethical fashion.

Historically, commercial involvement in standards processes is not a new thing. All companies that are interested in using or supporting open standards typically are involved in funding and participating in the operation of standards bodies and associations. The key to success to to make sure that these organizations are not at risk of capture by these corporate interests.

I believe, but hope that I can make others feel comfortable that, it would be impossible for me to "capture" the CC process. The process is becoming and increasingly diverse and consensus-oriented process. Right now we're at a key moment in the evolution of the organization where we are small enough to move quickly but are becoming more and more complex. Complexity leads to process and one thing that I'd like to avoid is becoming a complicated ICANN-like process.

I believe that all of the companies that I'm involved in are net contributors to Creative Commons. The more companies that use CC the more valuable CC becomes. The more companies that become successful using CC, the more human and financial resources that can be used to support CC. So frankly, I don't feel guilty really.

However, I'm interested interested in hearing any criticism and suggestions on how I might increase people's comfort with this issue. I believe that disclosure is an important part of the solution. All of my business and other interests are on my wiki. I think that just about every company that I'm involved in uses Creative Commons.

Sorry about the long post, but I take this issue seriously and am really interested in what people think.

Digital Garage Press Release

Digital Garage, Technorati, Inc. Strengthen Relationship

July 30, 2008

Digital Garage, Inc. (JASDAQ 4819; main offices in Shibuya ward, Tokyo; President and Group CEO: Mr. Kaoru Hayashi; referred to hereafter as "DG") and Technorati, Inc. (main offices in San Francisco, California, USA; President & CEO: Mr. Richard Jalichandra) are joining together to offer blog search and related services as Technorati Japan, Inc. (main offices in Shibuya ward, Tokyo; President & CEO: Mr. Kaoru Hayashi). Formed in January 2005, Technorati Japan has until now been a fully-owned subsidiary of DG, but with the new agreement will be a joint venture between DG and Technorati, Inc.

Along with the reorganization as a joint venture, Technorati Japan has also entered into a licensing agreement with Technorati, acquiring perpetual rights to the use of Technorati's blog search technologies. Based on this license, Technorati Japan will develop its own technologies targeting the specific needs of the Japanese market, further expanding the largest domestic blog search service targeting more than 10 million blogs.

Per my last blog post, this is a very important development for Digital Garage and Technorati. In the past, Technorati Japan has been operated as a marketing alliance, more like a typical distribution deal. While this worked better than a typical Japan entry structure, this new structure that gives the Japanese partner and the US partner equity stakes in single entity is typically much more successful at hiring people, making smart local decisions and moving quickly while continue to provide incentive to the US side to support the local efforts.

I'm really happy about this restructuring and am excited to see what we'll be able to do with the new configuration in Japan. Thanks to everyone who helped get this somewhat complicated transaction to happen.

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