Rami Olwan

All About CyberLaw, Copyright and Developing Countries

Creative Commons takes hold in the Middle East

Non-profit corporation Creative Commons (CC) is making inroads in the Middle East by launching their first Arabic copyright licences in Jordan next month.

In the online content space, Creative Commons helps users retain copyright of their creative work, stating exceptions to allow for a ‘some rights reserved’ copyright. Through its free licences, it instructs others on whether content marked can be either shared, remixed, used commercially, or combined as necessary.

In an interview with Creative Commons CEO Joichi Ito at the recent TEDxDubai event, he revealed that the first Arabic licences will be launched in Jordan on November 15th – a significant milestone for the internet and online content in the Middle East.

A public review for the Jordanian licences took about a year with “dozens of people” such as lawyers and active members of the CC community offering their input. There was also a lot of debate on what to call ‘Creative Commons’ in Arabic and whether they should have it translated in the first place. Eventually, a decision was enforced on going forward with an Arabic equivalent.

Egypt is expected to be the next country with a CC licencing project and then possibly the United Arab Emirates if the corporation manages to get hold of the right partners.

“Each country has different laws and so we have to get a local lawyer who takes our licence and translates it into the local law. There’s a very rigorous process where we then we make it open for public comment, we get lots of people to comment, we translate it back into English, and we have this global discussion about whether this UAE licence reflects, under UAE law, the spirit of the original agreement. It’s very technical and takes a lot of work,” Ito explained.

While most look upon Creative Commons as a movement, Ito is keen to get it recognised as pear of the internet’s infrastructure and is pushing copyrights in all fields, including science.

“The two new things are science and education, which I think in the Middle East are key. I think the content side is important but unlike the US, I don’t think you have as big a problem here yet because you don’t have Hollywood…it will happen, but with science and technology it’s something you really do want to plug in to the rest of the world and having an open standard is important. I see universities (here) connecting networks together but I don’t think they’ve really thought about the legal issues,” added Ito.

The concept however is still new in the Middle East, except for some exposure through the Wikipedia community and the broadcaster Al Jazeera – a key supporter of the Creative Commons in the Arab world. Ito admits that there’s a fundamental lack of understanding for CC here but believes that that will change given time.

“I think a lot of it is the service providers such as Maktoob and Google, and how much they expose it. Google has it but they don’t expose it that much yet. It’s a chicken and egg because they don’t want to expose it till the users know what it is and the users won’t know about it until they are exposed to it,” Ito commented.

“In the US, bloggers played a big part in getting the message of Creative Commons out and Flickr was huge; but it’s banned here. I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens (here). One of the key things will be the relationship between different constituents because, at the end of the day, you want it to be completely apolitical,” he concluded.



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