A Culture of Sharing

BY ALEXANDRA CROSBY & FERDIANSYAH THAJIB
Nov 03, 2011

Creative Commons has a clear future in Indonesia.

Use of Creative Commons

Creative Commons claims that it has become the global standard for sharing. Organisations as diverse as Al Jazeera, Google and the Nine Inch Nails have all embraced Creative Commons licences. In 2009 there were an estimated 350 million CC licensed works. In Indonesia many cultural producers see Creative Commons as a step towards clear licensing in a period of transition from offline to online distribution of content. Furthermore, Creative Commons is viewed by some as a way to address the limited availability of technology resources, which is due mainly to financial constraints. Many cultural producers already improvise by sharing whatever tools are required to achieve their goals. There is also widespread ‘borrowing’ of images, sounds and representations among activists and artists in Indonesia (sometimes breaching copyright), to ensure that the message they want to communicate can reach its target audience. The collective nature of the resulting works complicates the attribution of ownership and calls for a more versatile licensing platform that can facilitate the employment of collaborative approaches in content production and distribution.

Creative Commons is used by a handful of online information producers in Indonesia, including many bloggers and website administrators such as yesnowave.com and kunci.or.id. It has not yet been recognised under Indonesian law, though there are groups working toward this. Recently, a campaign was spearheaded by Wikimedia, the Indonesian chapter of Wikipedia, to advocate for formal recognition of Creative Commons. Wikimedia is committed to Creative Commons because, they say, content producers are hesitant to share their works online without a safe and open system. Some creators feel the need to reserve some of their rights, while others are concerned about whether their uses of content violate the copyright of others. Wikimedia says the only system that will work for everyone is Creative Commons.

Another group committed wholeheartedly to Creative Commons is EngageMedia, an Australian organisation now based in Jakarta. The primary focus of EngageMedia's activities is the EngageMedia.org video-sharing site, where all videos on the site use open-content licences and downloading for off-line redistribution is encouragedUsers must agree to a Creative Commons licence to upload videos to the site.

The Creative Commons system employed by EngageMedia is seen by the organisation as a step towards addressing the barriers to clear licensing faced by social-justice video activists in a period of transition from offline to online distribution of video. The fact that the organisation is a regional network with local bases was a key factor in the decision to use Creative Commons. With a focus on the distribution of activist content worldwide, clear and open licensing has been a priority since the inception of the network. ‘We are working on regional and global scales as well as local. So Creative Commons is important to us, to our funders, and to our users around the world, although it may not yet be important to Indonesian activists. We want to ensure that when Indonesian content leaves Indonesia it carries a signifier that says “share me” (to encourage further distribution) and also carries the protection of CC for that sharing’, says Andrew Lowenthal, General Manager of EngageMedia.

Roadblocks in the Commons

If Creative Commons is to move forward in Indonesia, an important issue to consider is public perceptions. There are content-producers and audiences who view Creative Commons as also being imposed from outside – part of what they view as a project of cultural imperialism. Creative Commons brings the system of copyright with it, relying heavily on an established legal framework. As a result of the traumas of Suharto's time, there is a high level of public disenchantment in Indonesia towards anything that has to do with legal systems.

Language is also a challenge for the implementation of Creative Commons. It requires not only the translation of many English terms, but also the use of familiar, day-to-day language as well as formal Indonesian, so that people understand the legal terms used in Creative Commons as well as the system’s possible applications.

Morever, there is some confusion about the scope of rights covered by Creative Commons. This arises from the fact that there is little clear explanation of how Creative Commons could be integrated into existing cultural practices. Many producers already label their material ‘Copyleft’, interpreting this as meaning ‘in the public domain’ (i.e. not copyright). Like Creative Commons, Copyleft is actually based on the concepts of copyright and, while the intention of Copyleft may be to provide open licensing, the effect of its implementation is unclear.

Clarifying how alternatives could work would be an obvious first step to improving the uptake of Creative Commons. The role of Creative Commons, or any other alternative licensing scheme, must be to re-establish interactivity and communication between creators and users. If implemented merely as a replacement for the current copyright system, or to compensate for the lack of a copyright system, Creative Commons cannot succeed.

A clear future

As licensing greatly affects how content can be distributed, effective distribution in a digital age requires alternatives to traditional copyright. In the future, debates over copyright issues will intensify in Indonesia, perhaps encouraging the development of open-content practices in the digital fields that can coexist with collective cultural production methods.

The barriers to clear and open licensing of digital content in a country like Indonesia, where tourists buy pirated CDs and DVDs of new releases on the side of the road for less than A$1, are immense. To establish a real grounding in the Indonesian legal system, Creative Commons needs mediation by lawyers, a cost that most digital cultural producers cannot afford. This is in addition to the gargantuan task of raising creators’ awareness of their right to adjust and control licensing of their own work. Organic initiatives to raise awareness about Creative Commons are now under way. Facebook, which has more than 22.4 million users in Indonesia, now has Creative Commons options for content.

Creative Commons clearly has a future in helping Indonesian producers create a licensing scheme that is open, democratic and able to respond to continuing cultural challenges. What is required to foster this future is a global system that is sensitive to local dynamics. Cultural activists are now working towards such a future, translating and adapting the framework of Creative Commons to an Indonesian context.