Skip to content

Creative Commons Releases Hundreds of Titles Under its Founders Copyright

About CC

Stanford-based nonprofit also opens doors of Founders’ Copyright submission process

Santa Clara, California, USA – April 23, 2003 — Creative Commons announced today the release of several hundred titles under its Founders’ Copyright. The Silicon Valley nonprofit also opened the Founders’ Copyright submission process to the public via its website.

With the Founders’ Copyright, Creative Commons has created a legal mechanism that copyright holders can use to release their works under generous terms — terms that reflect the wisdom and sense of balance of the country’s early lawmakers.

In 1790, the first U.S. copyright law granted authors a monopoly right over their creations for 14 years, with the option of renewing that monopoly for another 14 years. Today, in the U.S. and many other countries, that right lasts 70 years after the creator’s death.

“Like other Creative Commons projects, the Founders’ Copyright is appealing for both pragmatic and symbolic reasons,” said Tim O’Reilly, Chairman and CEO of technical publishers O’Reilly and Associates. “It lets publishers like us free up great books after they’ve lost profitability. And it lets us cast a virtual vote for a more reasonable, moderate form of copyright.”

The first wave of Founders’ Copyright releases includes the following adopters:

—O’Reilly, the first Founders’ Copyright adopter, will release 157 out-of-print volumes under a Creative Commons attribution license and 394 in-print titles under a Founders’ Copyright arrangement, pending author approval. The Creative Commons website will list the books in question and announce their availability as their Founders’ Copyright terms lapse. See for the full list.

—Lawrence Lessig will release Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, The Future of Ideas, and his next book (due Spring 2004) under the Founders’ Copyright.

—Dan Gillmor, widely read technology pundit and columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, will release his forthcoming book under the Founders’ Copyright.

— Andy Kessler, Wall Street veteran and frequent Wall Street Journal
contributor, will release his celebrated book Wall Street Meat: Jack
Grubman, Franke Quattrone, Mary Meeker, Henry Blodget and Me

under the Founders’ Copyright.

“We are excited to help realize an idea that Tim O’Reilly began,” said
Lawrence Lessig, chairman of Creative Commons and professor of law at Stanford. “By releasing hundreds of titles under a short copyright term, O’Reilly has demonstrated that even commercial publishers recognize the drawbacks of unlimited copyright.”

Creative Commons also announced today the opening of its Founders’ Copyright submission process to the public. Rather than registering with the U.S. Copyright office for a copyright term that will exceed their lifetimes by 70 years, creators can opt for a 14- or 28-year term with Creative Commons. Using a simple web form, authors can submit their works for consideration for release under the Founders’ Copyright.

More About the Founders’ Copyright: How It Works

Creative Commons and a contributor will enter into a contract to guarantee that a particular work will enter the public domain after 14 years, with an option to extend for another 14. To re-create the functionality of a 14- (or 28-) year copyright, the contributor will sell the copyright to Creative Commons for $1.00, at which point Creative Commons will give the contributor an exclusive license to the work for 14 (or 28) years. During this period, Creative Commons will list all works under the Founders’ Copyright in an online registry, along with the projected public domain liberation date.

More about Creative Commons

A non-profit corporation, Creative Commons promotes the creative re-use of intellectual works — whether owned or public domain. It is sustained by the generous support of The Center for the Public Domain and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Creative Commons is based at Stanford Law School, where it shares staff, space, and inspiration with the school’s Center for Internet and Society.

For more information:


Neeru Paharia
Assistant Director
1.650.724.3717 (tel)
1.510.823.1073 (cell)

Glenn Otis Brown
Executive Director
1.650.723.7572 (tel)
1.415.336.1433 (cell)

O’Reilly & Associates
Sara Winge
1.800.998.9938 x 7109 (tel)

Dan Gillmor
San Jose Mercury News

Andy Kessler
Author, Wall Street Meat: Jack Grubman, Franke Quattrone,
Mary Meeker, Henry Blodget and Me
1.650.207.1801 (tel)

Posted 23 April 2003