MacArthur has announced five grants totaling more than $2.5 million to help balance the needs of creators and the public in intellectual property laws, regulations and practices in a digital environment. The grants were made through the Foundation’s Initiative on Intellectual Property and the Long-Term Protection of the Public Domain.

“These are exciting times to be a scientist, an artist, or an entrepreneur,” said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation. “The Internet and other new digital technologies have opened new frontiers of creativity, changing the way we all share and use information. But they also pose profound challenges to copyright and patent protections originally put in place to encourage and reward innovation. We must find ways to protect creators without constricting creativity. These grants will help groups that are dedicated to finding a fair balance between commercial protections and public access.”

Creative Commons, a nonprofit based in San Francisco, received a grant of $750,000 over three years for its work to expand options under current copyright law for sharing creative work. Creative Commons has developed a set of licenses that can be used by creators to allow the use of their material by others under conditions that they specify. Creative Commons is also working on a number of new tools and programs to facilitate the use of material with a Creative Commons license. These include working with technology companies to develop new search tools to find Creative Commons’ licensed material and to more easily apply Creative Commons licenses to content; Science Commons, which is a program to help reduce the legal burdens that may inhibit scientific and academic research; and, Creative Commons International which will build communities around the world to support and promote the adoption of Creative Commons licenses.

Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society received a grant of $750,000 over three years for institutional support, which they will devote to support three research projects:

Digital Media Exchange involves exploration and development of a new model for media distribution that respects the intellectual property rights of creators while also granting the public the rights to copy, re-mix and license material (http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/media/scenario5);
Internet Filtering Project documents and analyzes Internet censorship worldwide, through a partnership called the OpenNet Initiative (www.OpenNetInitiative.org); and Global Voices is a citizen journalism project that calls attention to the voices of people in the developing world who use blogs as a means of sharing their everyday experiences with the global community (www.GlobalVoicesOnline.org).

A grant of $630,000 over three years was awarded to the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy for its work on the implications of digital copyright for libraries and their patrons. The ALA will use grant funds to educate librarians about the implications of information policy, law, and regulation for libraries and library users; for research to help librarians better understand how changes in technology and in the information marketplace affect copyright and copyright policy; and  to participate in international negotiations on intellectual property, representing libraries and the broader public interests.

Geneva, Switzerland-based Intellectual Property Watch received a grant of $300,000 over three years for its independent news services, which reports on the processes of intellectual property policymaking at the international level. Although other news services cover intellectual property issues as part of a broader range of coverage, IP Watch will focus exclusively on the subject, monitoring, investigating and reporting on the activities, practices, and relationships that drive international intellectual property policymaking. Grant funds will be used to help publish this material on www.ip-watch.org and through a print newsletter.

A grant of $85,000 over one year was awarded to the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), based in Washington, DC, to help build the capacity of representatives from developing countries to engage in international intellectual property-related trade negotiations. Grant funds will be used to carry out a feasibility study to determine the needs and gaps in knowledge of these representatives and to design a pilot workshop for participants to receive technical and strategic information and training. CIEL is a nonprofit organization working to use international law and institutions to protect the environment, promote human health, and ensure a just and sustainable society.

Education, Technology