Let knowledge grow from more to more
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before”
-Lord Alfred Tennyso

The sharing of knowledge is one of the greatest GIFTS we can pass on to our children and future generations. Each generation builds upon the previous ones and adds to this amazing store of wealth of human experience across many areas of interest.

Societies across time and cultures have created beautiful libraries to store and preserve this valuable resource. We know of great libraries in ancient Babylonia, Assyria, and the Great Library of Alexandria in Egypt. Old communities understood well the importance of preserving and passing on knowledge. In much more modern times, American founding fathers such as Benjamin Franklin founded the first lending library and it became the predecessor of the free public library as we know it today. Thomas Jefferson participated in the founding of the Library of Congress, we well as founding the University of Virginia. These great thinkers clearly understood the value of sharing knowledge accumulated through the ages. The Phi Kappa Phi Journal once wrote: “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”i

This free exchange of knowledge is under serious attack by legislation such as the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998, the patent and copyright extensions of NAFTA, the inclusion of significant copyright expansions with no public input by proposals such the TTP, TTIP, and TISA. (TISA also threatens Net Neutrality).

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations.
-Aaron Swartz

Much of the academic research being done in universities, often paid for with public funds, is under the control of private companies and not available to the general public unless they pay for access. I checked one site during my research and would have had to pay $38 for a single dissertation. What future benefit to humankind will not be realized because of this corralling of our inherited commons?

Even U.S. Register of Copyright Maria Pallante, testified before Congress to say that we needed a new copyright law.iii So what can be done to limit this private encroachment what is our common heritage?

The oldest protections offered includes the right of Fair Use. The concept of Fair Use allows authors, documentary producers, and other creators to use or quote copyrighted material without having to ask permission or paying for it. The basic principle is that a creator can claim Fair Use when the public value exceeds the cost to the copyright owner. Fair Use is applied differently across nations, but the underlying principles are the same.

As financial wealth interests continue to push for the expansion the encroachment of accumulated human knowledge, it was inevitable that there would be push back. A large global movement formed around this critical issue and the Creative Commons community has been growing ever since. The Creative Commons website states: “Creative Commons helps you share your knowledge and creativity with the world. We’re helping to realize the full potential of the Internet—universal access to research and education, full participation in culture—to drive a new era of development growth, and productivity.”iv

Basically Creative Commons fills the space between no copyright and the traditional “all rights reserved” statement used by copyright law. The tools of Creative Commons allow all creators, whether individuals, institutions, or corporations to grant creative rights for others to build upon their work, all within the framework of existing copyright law.

There are 7 different licenses ranging from Public Domain with “all rights granted”, to others that specify different degrees of attribution, ShareAlike which states that any derivative work must have the same license, and whether commercial use is restricted or not. The license used by Wikipedia is the Share-Alike license that allows for others to build upon their work as long as the ShareAlike license is granted for subsequent works. The growth of the Creative Commons has been spectacular with 140 million licenses granted in 2006, and 1.1 billion licenses in 2015v.

Sometimes one can become frustrated with all of the problems we face and develop a feeling of hopelessness that we can never make the changes that are needed. The Creative Commons is one wonderful example of how people are quietly making changes that can transform our society. Maybe, your local newspaper could carry this wonderful story of people working together collaboratively to form vital communities.

By supporting your local public library, remaining vigilant on copyright law and patent right law expansion you are helping to strengthen your community specifically and communities in general. By building self-sufficiency you are making your community more resilient, as well as protecting our environment. By being aware of this wonderful Creative Commons community success story and passing this information on to others, who will then pass it on to even more people, we grow the positive energy in the universe.

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.
Phi Kappa Phi Journalvi

iPhi Kappa Phi (1952). Phi Kappa Phi journal. 32–34. Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. p. 45.

ii Swartz, Aaron. Boy Who Could Change the World, The: The Writings of Aaron Swartz. NY: New, 2016. Print. Pg. 26

iii“Statement of Maria A. Pallante Register of Copyrights United States Copyright Office before the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Committee on the Judiciary.” U.S. Copyright Office: The Register’s Call for Updates to U.S. Copyright Law. 20 Mar. 2013.


vMerkley, Ryan. “State of the Commons.” Web. 29 Feb. 2016. <>.

viPhi Kappa Phi (1952). Phi Kappa Phi journal. 32–34. Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. p. 45.