Intellectual property issues have been important to Creating the Future from Day 1. Now, it is not only our board and our attorney who are anxious to see policies and guidelines in this area – it is now also an area of concern from the IRS, as they are weighing our application for tax exemption.
Questions arise such as:
When an organization is founded upon the intellectual property of one individual, who will own what?
What will the rules be?
Who will be permitted to do what?
And while these are critical issues, they come from a place of protection and suspicion. They come from concerns over plagiarism and lack of attribution and – well, a whole lot of stuff that Creating the Future is not only NOT about, but is anathema to what we ARE about!
In each of our immersion programs, our grads want to know: Under what circumstances, and in what ways, are we permitted / encouraged to share the vast information we receive in the course?
Now that begins to get to the heart of the matter! It’s not about protecting as the FIRST question. That first question is instead about sharing.
As part of our immersion programs, students receive instructional videos. They receive a +100 page workbook with ongoing updates to that workbook for life (really). They receive handouts and forms, posters and sayings – we share everything we know, to help create the conditions for them to be as effective as possible in their work as social change agents.
And so, when participants are asking about sharing, they aren’t talking in esoteric terms about some vague intellectual construct. They are talking about nuts and bolts:
Can they blog or do speaking gigs about the frameworks and how they are using them? If so, under what conditions?
Can they teach these frameworks in workshops? If so, under what conditions?
Can they share the forms and exercises with their clients? If so, under what conditions?
Given that the mission of Creating the Future is to have effective change methods become the norm for every group seeking to improve our world, sharing information is critical to that success. But under what conditions? And by whom?
For guidance in these matters, we have relied upon the amazing folks at the Creative Commons – a group that has developed an open source alternative to strict copyrighting. Here are the two factors their licenses address:
1) How can people use your work? Can they share only “as is” or can they modify it? Can they use your work for commercial purposes – to make money in their business, or only for non-commercial purposes?
2) How will the work be attributed? Must the party who developed the material be acknowledged every time it is used? Or is it just open for anyone to call their own?
In the coming year, more and more of our grads will be blogging for Creating the Future. We are also hoping to have a series of books emerge from the work of our R&D labs. That’s in addition to my own sharing of some significant new thinking – some of which will be happening very soon!
All of which means that questions around “attribution” and “usage guidelines” and “sharing licenses” will become more and more prevalent in the coming months.
To avoid the traditional legal litany of what if’s and unhappy endings that tend to dominate conversations about “the need to protect our IP,” let’s begin this conversation by instead aiming at the best possible scenario for sharing information. And then let’s figure out together what it will take for that best possible scenario to emerge.
- What does sharing this information make possible, and for whom?
- Under what conditions would that high potential outcome be most likely to emerge?
- Under what conditions are people most likely to share what they are learning and developing?
What do you think? What environment would be the most conducive to sharing information AND to encouraging our community members to share?
Photo credit: Many thanks to the folks who posted those darling monkeys at Wikimedia Commons – a place that is all about sharing “intellectual property.”