Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thoughts about Creative Commons (CC) and CC adoption in Singapore

An NUS student, Jackson Tan (referred to me by Giorgos), is collecting information about Creative Commons (CC) adoption in Singapore. Specifically, he's writing an article on the different factors affecting Creative Commons adoption in Singapore.

Jackson is interested in how cultural differences between Singapore and other jurisdictions affect adoption rates, and the types of licenses that are preferred.

The article that he'll be writing is part of CC-Monitor, a project to document the differences in CC adoption in different jurisdictions around the world. The CC-Monitor site is still under development. It aims to provide key statistics on CC adoption and will study the cultural factors that affect CC's adoption.

I checked with Jackson if I could blog my responses. He said OK, so here it is:

[DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed are my own; they do not necessarily represent the views of the CC-SG team]

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What is your role in/ involvement with Creative Commons
I've been appointed as Community Manager for Creative Commons SG (background of how this came about, here; listed here). By "community manager", it's really about supporting the efforts for promoting CC, helping to manage the discussion list, acting as an additional contact point for anyone interested in CC and/ or CC-SG.

Who are the prominent team members of Creative Commons team in Singapore? If they hold specific roles in the team please specify.
I take "prominent" to mean those whom I can readily identify. Info can be found at:

These people in this photo could also be counted as team members, I suppose.

What were the team’s primary motivations and goals for adoption and promotion of creative commons in Singapore?
I can't answer for the team, as I wasn't involved at the start and I'm new to the team. My sense is that the CC SG team wants to promote a culture of sharing and ultimately help the creative movement in Singapore.

What are the key initiatives the team has taken so far (e.g., events organized) to promote the awareness and adoption of the creative commons licenses in your country?
I'd consider these as key initiatives (so far):

There's on-going promotion and advocacy of CC at other events, like
the following:

Please provide a list of advocates, institutions and firms who are the most prominent adopters or evangelists of CC licenses in your country so far.
The only government agency that's (somewhat) adopted CC is the National Heritage Board,
via it's website (see this post). I don't know any other institutions (govt or private) that have adopted CC.

There are more individuals who've adopted CC, and we've compiled a list, here.

I can count Giorgos as a prominent evangelist, since he gives public talks and is probably the only regular person doing it.

Are you aware of any local report or study on the use of CC licenses in your country?
No, although I think Giorgos' research area is on the CC movement in general.

Are you aware of information on pattern and volume of adoption of CC licenses across types of media in your country (text, photo, video, sound etc)?
Not in any accurate sense, no.

Do you have information on where the majority of CC licenses/ users in your country reside (where possible name specific digital archives, online communities, individual blogs, print/offline media)?
No. Apart from serendipitously discovering such adopters, I don't know
of any way to say, Google for CC-SG adopters.

What are the key factors driving the adoption of CC licenses in Singapore?
Adoption of CC in Singapore is relatively low. Awareness of CC isn't very high either. From the few CC Adopters whom I know in person, I'd say they do it because they personally believe that there's more to benefit by sharing it under CC than any potential losses or infringement of their copyright. So it's more of an intrinsic motivation.

What are the key challenges faced by local team in promoting awareness and adoption of CC licenses?
Again, I can't speak for the team. But personally, I feel the main challenge is that people are entrenched in the typical copyright model (i.e. seek permission first). Or they presume they understand copyright and that there is only one way to license content.

Second challenge is that even if they are made aware of CC, and even if they see relevance for what they do, they may hesitate because they don't see CC as "the law", unlike how they view Copyright. In a way, Copyright is perceived to be more legitimate because there are government sites like You can find the Copyright Act in the Govt Statutes online. CC, on the other hand, isn't associated with "government" so I think that gives people the perception CC has a legitimate status.

A third challenge is that CC makes it easy for potential users to understand the terms of use but it may not be that clear-cut for adopters. There are aspects to CC that non-IP lawyers may find it hard to take a definitive position.

E.g. I know of a IT-professional who's knowledgeable in the general CC movement. He's also into photography but he has been cautious in adopting CC for the photos he shares online. He explained to me that his understanding is that once a particular CC license is adopted, there is no turning back. If he adopts a BY-NC license and then decide to go back to "All Rights Reserved", he feels that isn't logical. So he'd rather not adopt a CC for the time being unless he is absolutely sure that he does not ever intend to go back to a stricter license.

Fourth,it's hard to convince people how the benefits of sharing under CC exceeds the risk (of being exploited). People tend to understand risks better than they understand potential benefits.

Which license types do the majority of license adopters across the country so far seem to prefer?
My sense is that it's BY-NC (i.e. the "non-commercial" option). Very few adopt the BY only. In fact, I only know of only one example -- me! (ok, with my band mate, that makes two).

In your view, what are the key factors influencing license preferences among users in Singapore? ( source background/ public discourse on copyright/ pro-piracy background/ historical and cultural factors / politico- economic factors, etc).
I think it's "fear of being exploited" or "fear of losing the opportunity to make money". i.e. they might want to share, but prefer a "NC" license so that their work isn't used by a commercial company without paying them as creators.

In your view, to what extent and in what ways does the local CC team influence the license preferences of users?
Little to no influence at present.

In your view, what are the key challenges in promoting more liberal licensing (convincing users to share more openly) in the country?
Similar to what I answered in "What are the key challenges faced by local team in promoting awareness and adoption of CC licenses?"

How would you predict the future of CC license adoption in your country and its significance for the region?
I'm an optimist.

I predict that CC will have a place in Singapore. Adoption will be slow, but it will take form and shape steadily. It's relevance will only increase.

There are 3 main reasons for why I say this:

I feel the foundation for CC is an understanding of copyright and Intellectual Property. That seems to exist in Singapore.

The general awareness of the "Don'ts" of copyright is there, thanks to awareness talks by the efforts of IPOS, BSA, teachers in schools. I qualify that the level of understanding may not necessarily be correct ones (e.g. you have people saying "my idea is copyrighted", which is false as you cannot copyright an idea until you express it in tangible form). However, the general awareness is a foundation to understanding and contrasting CC.

Second, IT and internet is very much part of the Singapore lifestyle, i.e. work, school, leisure. There can only be an increase in those who are seeking usable content online. And also among those who wish to share their content online. Both trends for can only grow. CC will be highly relevant and useful to both groups.

Third, I think "creative output" will grow. There's government-initiated efforts to promote the Creative Industries. And there's also recognition of the value in being creative, e.g. schools and parents recognising the need to let the child be creative, and growing acceptance of creative and non-mainstream careers.

So when creative outputs increase (e.g. amateur art, photography, music) it's natural that much of the output will be shared online. If they see the relevance of CC, then adoption will increase as well.

How would you predict the future trend in pattern of license mix in your country?
I can't make any meaningful predictions other than saying Copyright definitely has it's place. As for Cc, there are those who will realise the relevance of adopting CC. There will be those who don't, or won't.

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[UPDATE: The above info has been used at]

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