A Creative Way to Share

A Creative Way to Share

Prof. Ying Chan at the KE Conference

The creation of a new work inevitably gives rise to the issue of ownership. And in today's digital world, where sharing expands the impact of a work, ''ownership'' can be a complicated matter.

While a creator can use copyright to retain full ownership, or put their work in the public domain so anyone can use it, what happens if they want something in the middle? What if they want to share their work but still get recognised for it?

This dilemma led to the founding of the Creative Commons in the US in 2001 to license such works, and HKU has played a central role in bringing the initiative to Hong Kong.

The licenses keep creative works accessible by providing creators with protection through one or more specified conditions: attribution, non-commercial use, no derivative works, or ShareAlike, in which those with a similar license exchange material.

The Journalism and Media Studies Centre (JMSC) worked with Associate Professors Yahong Li and Alice Lee at the Law Faculty to develop Hong Kong versions of these licenses in accordance with local laws. Since 2008 more than half a million Hong Kong works have been licensed, everything from photos and videos to music and words.

The JMSC Director, Professor Chan Yuen-Ying, says they are keen to sustain the initiative in the community, particularly in schools.

''We decided early on we wanted to focus our work on Creative Commons and the media [because] at a time when Liberal Studies education is being restored in schools, where are the teaching materials?'' she says.

A Creative Archives was set up to encourage organizations to donate open educational resources for teachers and students.  Major partners include Radio Television Hong Kong, which has made its own archives available, and the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which has uploaded materials to the website hk.creativecommons.org, where a Creative Commons license can also be got.

''As a teacher,'' Professor Chan says, ''I can feel confident putting this material into a USB drive and reproducing it to share with students. I don't have to worry about infringing on copyright, which can be complicated and take a lot of time, and also leads to a tendency not to use the material.''

She hopes more government departments and universities will follow suit. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology puts its teaching materials online, and at HKU the Department of Philosophy has a Critical Thinking Web that offers online tutorials and resources used by people around the world.

''The sharing of creative work is good for everybody. We see the Creative Commons as a very powerful tool for knowledge exchange,'' Professor Chan adds.