The State of Creative Commons in Latin America

Coauthored by Jose Murilo Junior and David Sasaki

Global Voices has become a supporter of Creative Commons licensing not due to ideology, but because our website depends on it. The translations we post, bridging bloggers from different languages and cultures, are modifications of original works, requiring either the author's permission or a Creative Commons license that allows for derivatives. All of the various CC licenses also allow our editors and contributors to freely share the photographs, images, and podcasts from everyday citizens across the globe without acquiring the written permission of each individual. Enabling bloggers, podcasters, musicians, academics, and artists to more easily disseminate their works to a global online audience is one of the primary objectives that brought an international group of cyberactivists to Rio de Janeiro for iSummit 2006.

Nearly a year ago Global Voices published an article on the state of “free culture” and Creative Commons in Latin America. At the time, Chile had just become the second Latin American country, after Brazil, to launch Creative Commons licenses and Argentina would soon follow. Much has changed in those brief eleven months and it is time once again to survey the progress of Creative Commons in Latin America through the blogs of the movement's main proponents and with the help of an informative booklet from the conference.


Launched in April 2004 , Creative Commons BR was the first fully functional regional CC affiliate. Inaugurated with the help of FGV law school's Center for Technology & Society (CTS), it has Ronaldo Lemos as its most vibrant executive. Free Culture, Open Business, and Overmundo are some of the new initiatives CC-BR is now participating and the hosting of iSummit06 is a display of the Brazilian movement's importance in global terms.

The influential role of Brazilian Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil, a great supporter of the new licensing model in Brazil, cannot be denied. As a well-known
musician, who at the same time is in charge of Brazilian cultural policy guidelines, he's managed to translate the concepts into actions: he collaborated in the development of the sampling licenses in 2004, participated musically in the Wired CD (rip, sample, mash, share) and now his iSummit06 keynote speech about globalism was the first document created with the CC-Office plug-in tool, recently launched at the event. There is also a great video about Creative Commons in Brazil.

However, in the days leading up to the conference, many local bloggers criticized the limit on the number of Brazilians who could attend the event. Hernani Dimantas, for example, thought the conference was exclusive and elitist.

Esse Icommons no Brasil significa a copyrightização do copyleft pelo grupinho do minc e os satélites do cc. Acho uma afronta que deixam de fora dos debates aqueles que pensam diferente (no meu caso). Sinceramente, populismos a parte, não sei onde esse oportunismo quer chegar.

This iCommons in Brazil means the copyrightization of copyleft by the small MinC group and the Creative Commons satelites. It seems confrontational that they leave out of the debate those who disagree or think differently (which is my case). Apart from the festive and populist approach to the issue, I just don't know where the strategy aims to reach.

Jorge Machado and Pablo Ortellado who were scheduled to speak at the event, cancelled their engagement when hearing that Brazilian participation would be restricted:

“Much to our regret, we recently have been informed that the ICommons Summit has adopted a policy of restricted participation.

Only two weeks before the event some of the interested Brazilian participants were informed individually about the impracticality of their participation. The argument stated by the organizational board was that the event was designed for 200 participants. We understand that this event, as any other, has physical limitations, but we do not agree that the solution to this is the selection of the participants. The organizational board invited people who they considered “important”, excluding creators, students, artists, researchers and members of the civil society. Even considering that Rio de Janeiro is a city that has hundreds of options to host big events, the organizational board has not started a dialog about the “problem” – which is a peculiar practice for an event that aims to overcome the obstacles to free access to culture –and has decided to exclude an important part of the Brazilian community.

This surprising attitude substantially opposes the spirit of opening and integration, particularly excluding the Brazilian community that supports the adoption of free licenses. Therefore, we have come out publicly to protest the elitist character assumed by the event and hope that someday in the future the organization will put into practice what they stand for in theory.”


Creative Commons Chile was first launched July of 2005 under the leadership of Claudio Ruiz who blogs at Quemar Las Naves [Burning One's Bridges], where he summarized the second day of the summit (ES):

En estos momentos tengo un problema. En paralelo se realizan dos conferencias. En la que estoy estamos viendo temas relativos al dominio público y como se puede construir dominios públicos nacionales desde el gobierno. La presentación más interesante ha sido la de el chico de Free Culture UK y de su repositorio de obras que están en el domiinio público, algo similar a lo que conversamos alguna vez en la lista de Creative Commons Chile. Haré el contacto con él para ver la forma en la que se podría llevar a cabo. En la otra sala se habla de los Educational Commons, y de cómo a nivel educacional la generación de lugares comunes creativos aparece como fundamental para alentar la mejora de los contenidos recibidos y entregados en ambiente educativo.

Right now I have a problem. They are putting on two parallel conferences at once. In the [workshop] where I'm at, we're looking at topics related to the public domain and how national public domains can be constructed by the government. The most interesting presentation has been the one given by the guy from Free Culture UK about its repository of works that are in the public domain; something similar to what we discussed once on the Creative Commons Chile mailing list. I'll get in touch with him to see how we can make it happen. In the other hall they are speaking about Educational Commons and how, at an educational level, the creation of creative common spaces appears fundamental to encourage the improvement of content received and delivered in a scholastic environment.

In Ruiz's own presentation he emphasized the need for alliances between Creative Commons and public institutions such as libraries and universities. He also noted that Creative Commons Chile has highlighted the lack of civil society in Chile that is only now starting to coalesce.


Following a well-attended July seminar, Creative Commons took shape officially under the leadership of Ariel Vercelli. On Friday he wrote his first impressions from the summit (ES).

Creative Commons ya no es lo que era, crece de forma increíble, tal vez irreversible: luces, cámaras, mucha gente, intereses, política de traje, ministros, gente de todos lados. Aquí estamos, en Rio de Janeiro, en el segundo International Commons Summit. Lessig dio los nuevos anuncios, nuevas etiquetas que muestran las condiciones de licenciamiento, nuevos sitios, iniciativas, la vinculación de Creative Commons con otras organizaciones. El proyecto de CC en Office de Microsoft, y los más de 140.000.000 millones de enlaces que da google sobre las licencias de Creative Commons. Ito, unos mintutos después, comentó algo más de iCommons como organización y algo de la situación actual a nivel mundial con temas open source y open content.

Creative Commons is no longer what it once was; it has grown incredibly, perhaps irreversibly: lights, cameras, lots of people, interest, pin-striped politics, ministers, people from all over. Here we are in Rio de Janeiro, in the second International Commons Summit. Lessig made the new announcements about new ways of showing the licensing conditions, new websites, initiatives, and the alliance of Creative Commons with other organizations. The project of Creative Commons in Microsoft Office and also the more than 140,000,000 millions of of links listed on Google about Creative Commons licenses. [Joi] Ito, a few minutes later, commented further on iCommons as an organization and a little about the current worldwide situation related to open source and open content.

Vercelli also writes at Aprender La Libertad (ES) [Learn Freedom], the weblog continuation of his recently published book by the same name.


Mexico was the first Latin American country to launch their licenses with a legal workshop called iLaw in which intellectual property scholars spoke to an audience of lawyers, students, and bloggers about the need for Creative Commons licenses and how they fit into Mexico's specific legal framework. Since that inauguration (ES), project leaders León Felipe Sánchez and Jorge Ringenbach have been busy spreading the mission to content creators and government institutions. Among the most notable of achievements, Mexico's Presidency now distributes all of their online content with a no derivatives CC license. Cultural initiatives have also found success such as the Mexicommons Creativity Contest, which awarded musicians, podcasters, photographers, and graphic designers with Creative Commons-licensed works. A showing of the short film Elephants Dream (ES) in Mexico City attracted around 30 attendees who discussed how artists can take advantage of the licenses. León Felipe Sánchez observed that most of the inquiries focused on how artists can still make money while also encouraging their works to be widely distributed. Sánchez also remarked that the Creative Commons Mexico team is now trying to convince the Ministry of Education to apply non-derivative, non-commercial licenses to public text books so that teachers can legally make copies of texts and lessons for their students.


Peru's launch of Creative Commons will follow the iLaw inauguration model used by Mexico. And it starts tomorrow! Project leaders Oscar Montezuma and Pedro Mendizábal Simonetti both attended iSummit 2006, where they described the relationship established with Peru's blogging community. The CC Peru logo, for example, was designed by blogger and illustrator Javier Prado. An essay contest was also put on which gave free iLaw admission to three winning bloggers who answered the question “Why Creative Commons?” Carlos Wertheman, a popular writer and member of the Peruvian blogger community, will moderate two of the iLaw panels.

In his presentation, Oscar Montezuma emphasized that CC Peru needs to convince the national community of lawyers that Creative Commons is not an anti-copyright movement, but rather, tries to give more sense to copyright law. He also hopes that Peru, which will most likely soon enter into a free trade agreement with the United States, can serve as a model for other countries whose copyright law would change because of free trade negotiating. Finally, like many of the project leaders, Montezuma said that connections between Creative Commons Peru and civil society will be crucial.


Following Peru's inauguration, Carolina Botero, Jaime Daniel Rojas, Andres Umaña, and Alfredo Vargas plan to officially establish six Creative Commons Colombia licenses on August 21st. Botero described her impressions on the first (ES) and second days (ES) of the summit.

Las primeras presentaciones de la mañana fueron muy buenas pues se centraron en reflexionar sobre el camino de Creative Commons. James Boyle recordó la necesidad de sostener que aunque existan diversas libertades detrás de CC hay una meta común, la necesidad de recordar que la creatividad se soporta en las creaciones anteriores y en la necesidad de tener acceso a ellas, que en la construcción de esta idea se debe cuidar tres aspectos: no hay comunidad detrás de simplemente liberar, no solo se trata de quitar intermediarios en la cadena y no se puede olvidar la balanza creador/receptor. Jhon Willbanks presentó Science Commons, la idea y el desarrollo que ha venido teniendo el proyecto en el último año, un panel que continuó más tarde con experiencias locales muy interesantes. Jenny Toomey fue la siguiente en hablar, desde Future of Music Coalition, quien mostró la visión del artista que busca una remuneración y vivir de su música, una posición entre el acorralamiento de la industria discográfica y una inseguridad frente al esquema CC, una idea que les atrae y les asusta.

The first morning presentations were very good. They centered on reflecting about the future road of Creative Commons. James Boyle reminded the audience of the need to remember that although there are diverse freedoms behind [and applications of] CC, there is one common objective. He also mentioned the need to remember that creativity is supported by previous creations and the necessity of having access to them. The construction of this idea must pay attention to three aspects: there is not community behind simply liberating content, it is not just about cutting intermediaries of the distribution chain, and the balance between creator and receiver cannot be forgotten. John Willbanks presented Science Commons, the idea and development of which took form in the last year. A panel continued afterwards with very interesting local experiences. Jenny Tommey, from the Future of Music Coalition, was the next to speak and showed the vision of the artist that seeks remuneration and livelihood through music; a position between the noose of the record industry and the insecurity facing the CC scheme, an idea which attracts artists and scares them.

Colombia's page in the iSummit booklet reveals what could make for an exciting inauguration:

Our idea for a launch event is to combine an academic presentation (lead by professor Lessig's lecture and involving Colombian initiatives related to open access for information), with an artistic oriented session (artists and art that share the possibility of reusing content and freeing it).

Representatives from Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Guatemala were also present at iSummit 2006, but remain in the early planning stages of releasing Creative Commons licenses in their respective countries. That doesn't mean, however, that they aren't already planning ambitious projects. Carlos González Yanes, for example, spoke of his desire to host a central online library of Creative Commons-licensed works which would show Puerto Rican writers, artists, and musicians how their creations can be distributed widely by embracing CC.

Much of the legal discussion at the conference focused on how Creative Commons’ generic licenses are specifically applied to each country's legal code depending on how they define moral rights. There was also an apparent dichotomy between those who believed that a multitude of licenses were needed to offer the greatest flexibility in what aspects of a work are protected and those who think that numerous licenses make the whole project too confusing for newcomers. But despite that small divide, iSummit 2006 was much more noteworthy for the common currents of thought and the collaborations between like-minded projects that were formed. iSummit 2007 will take place in Croatia in June and it appears that at least a few more Latin American participants will be involved as official CC representatives.


  • Pingback: ARIEL VERCELLI

    […] El iCommons Summit 2006 dej

  • Hi Jose Murilo and David. Thank you so much for your article about the commons in LA. I still cannot believe how extraordinary and how “tropicalist” the iSummit was. There are so many opportunities for cooperation and for new projects coming out of the iSummit. And above all, I hope to see you guys in Croatia next year.

    All the best,

    Ronaldo Lemos

  • I know that Mr. Lemos — an eminent Harvard Law alum — translated the license into Portuguese. May I ask: Why the choice to leave the term “commons” untranslated?

    Is there any equivalent term in Brazilian law, which has few elements of the English common law?

    ANd does that difference in legal tradition have anything to do with the fact that the Public Domain Dedication is inapplicable in Brazil, for example?

    I ask this from sincere puzzlement, mind you: My father-in-law is a USP-educated corporate lawyer, and even he has not been able to explain to me what current problem in Brazilian intellectual property law something like this might address. How might this untranslatability affect the acceptance and interpretation of CC licenses by Brazilian courts.

    Certainly, I can understand how it might be beneficial to Brazilian cultural exports into markets where the CC means something different.

    And personally, I’m all for that, having recently read Ruy Castro’s biography of Carmen Miranda, which has some eye-popping stories about safadezas committed by Tin Pan Alley down South American Way in the 1930s …

    Also, respectfully, I can’t help being struck by how atypical of Brazilian public spaces was your choice of venue for the iCommons conference — Copacabana in the Zona Sul.

    I can understand why you might not want to hold it in Rocinha, but why not hold it at a SESC, for example — or Rio’s RITS, or a Casa de Cultura in Recife — in a more representative Brazilian neighborhood? I think you may have misread the local publicity environment.

    Not a few of the reactions I’ve registered from my and my wife’s combined Tupi blogging circles — petistas and peemedebistas alike, I might add — make ironic mention of the conference’s proximity to Copacabana’s infamous HELP, for example.

    As one friend commented, who’s the CC-Br designed to benefit? Daslu? Or Daspu? :-)

  • Hi Colin, thanks for your comments. Regarding the translation of “commons”, that is a hard one. There is an article I wrote some months ago that discusses this issue. You can find it here: But the word commons would be translated as “rossio”, which archaic and not really a legal term. In short, there is no perfect equivalent for commons under the Brazilian law.

    Regarding the public domain licenses, this is indeed because of the different legal traditions. Under the “droit d’auteur” tradition, the so-called “moral” rights cannot be waived or assigned. Therefore, the functional equivalent to what “public domain” means in the US cannot be achieved in Brazil by means of a license.

    Finally, as to the location of the iSummit, the choice of the place was due exclusively to logistics. Believe me, we checked a couple dozen places and most were unavailable or were unfeasible in terms of logistics.

  • […] The State of Creative Commons in Latin America (Global Voices Online): I’m following this with interest, of course, both because of the Brazil angle and because of the tie-in with the debate of the fragmentation — or “value-added ecological diversification,” depending on your point of view –of the “open source” license ecosystem. […]

  • t

    a term translated here within brazilian activists is “Criei, Tive Como” that means something like I have created because I had means to do so..

  • […] Those questions are not what took me to Rio de Janeiro for iSummit 2006, but as it turns out, the conference gave me insight into all three. iSummit is the annual conference of iCommons, which is the international umbrella body of Creative Commons. (My Global Voices report on iSummit is here). Creative Commons is two things: 1.) a legal framework which gives content creators (writers, musicians, directors, etc.) more flexibility in how they want to license their work and 2.) a movement of “commoners” that believe both culture and knowledge is, by nature, Hegelian. That is, the knowledge and the art we create is always influenced by, and based on, the artists and thinkers that came before us2. […]

  • I notice that the CC licensing also permits the U.S. Broadcast Board of Governors to reuse your content on the Web sites of some of its “public diplomacy” broadcasts.

    Are you guys really comfortable with that? The appearance of carrying water for government policy positions would tend to undermine the “journalism” side of your reputation for “journalistic innovation,” wouldn’t it? Especially as the Berkman Center has a number of fellows who have worked for the government in the past. Perhaps if you could tell us that you don’t accept government funds for such uses, you could avoid that appearance.

  • In our FAQ we write: “We have no relationship with the U.S. government, other than trying not to violate its laws. We receive no money from the U.S. government or any other government and have no plans to do so. We receive no instructions from U.S. government officials and do not welcome instructions from any government.” Our FAQ is due for another update and we should probably move that section closer to the top. However I think that’s pretty clear.

    We think its great when any organization’s website: governmental, non-governmental, corporate, or whatever, links to our content. The point of the CC license is that we want as many people to showcase our content as possible (as long as they credit and link back to the original GV posts) so that the bloggers we are aggregating get as much exposure and attention as possible. If some part of the U.S. government – or any government – wants to help us bring attention to the views of citizen bloggers around the world, that’s great. We should encourage U.S. government agencies to pay a lot more attention to what people around the world think – they don’t do it enough and should do it much more. Why would we want to prevent them from doing that? They are listing some of our country pages on a “blog watch” site. We aggregate blogs from countries the RFA covers. All they are doing is linking to our country pages. It’s not like we are doing one iota of original work for them. Furthermore there is no common practice on the web – at least that I’m aware of – of bloggers requiring compensation by people who want to link to them in their blogrolls or lists of recommended resources. Thus we don’t feel that anybody who would accuse us of some underhanded U.S. government affiliation would have much of a leg to stand on if their primary “evidence” is the fact that a U.S. government-funded website links to us.

    Conspiracy theories attempting to connect dots between GV and the U.S. government affiliations of certain Berkman fellows, and other suspicions created by the fact that we are housed in the U.S., are exactly why we are planning to spin GV out of the Berkman Center as an independent non-profit organization, which will not be U.S. based. Location still under discussion and investigation. Ethan discussed this on the community e-mail list recently, to which I believe you subscribe.

    Thanks for your concern about the way in which we are perceived.

  • Alice

    Thanx a lot for the article. I am a great fan of different Latino music and I look for some cultural and artistic links, this information helped a lot. Often visit * for some records, most popular ones, and wanted to know smth about the cultural situation behind the scene

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