by Ryan Merkley, CEO, Creative Commons

Today we’re pushing the latest beta release of our mobile app, The List powered by Creative Commons. It’s a mobile photography app that invites users to create a list of images they want, or submit photos to help a person or group who created a list. Every image is uploaded to the archive with a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence, allowing anyone to use the images so long as they give proper credit to the author.

Our initial build was supported with a prototype grant from the Knight Foundation, which gave us the resources we needed to build a proof of concept. We built a team – from Creative Commons, our technical lead Matt Lee and senior counsel, Sarah Pearson – and Alexandra Bain and the team at Toronto agency Playground. We learned a lot in that process, and have shipped regular releases since then. It’s really starting to look great. We are now working to scope a consumer MVP (minimum viable product - the simplest version of the app that still meets all the core user needs) and to raise funds to bring the app to everyday users as well.

As Clive Thompson wrote in Wired, “only you can overthrow the tyranny of stock photos”. The commons is a collective creation, and we see the opportunity to create a dynamic and vibrant pool of available images from people who want to share – and to directly connect photographers and those who want images they can build upon. In the article, Thompson encouraged us to share our images with CC licenses. That will get us part of the way – but we need to be able to ask for what we want, and help users submit what’s needed. And the process needs to be engaging, fun, and rewarding.

When I read Thompson’s article, I was inspired to create The List powered by Creative Commons. We see opportunities to use the app to enhance the content on platforms like Wikipedia, to share images for open journalism, to collaborate to build open textbooks, or to document observations in citizen science. And we know that users will come up with many more ideas of their own.

Why should CC build a mobile app? There are a few answers to that question:

  1. Most importantly, we believe there’s a need for the app, and that it will give value to those who use it, and those who use the images.

  2. Making it easier to contribute to the commons is one of our strategic goals, not only because it creates a better archive of resources to use and re-use, but also because each contribution deepens the investment and value of the commons. It grows the movement.

  3. We see an opportunity to pilot new approaches to CC, including one-click attribution, embedded licensing, content analytics, and more.

  4. The web is going mobile, and CC has to understand how that will impact what we do. Building on the platform is one great way to work through the issues and challenges, while supporting our partner platforms who are asking us for advice on issues they’re facing, like attribution on mobile.

We’re very grateful for the early support we received from Knight, and we’re optimistic that we can raise the funds necessary to develop the app and bring it to a mainstream audience. For now, I encourage you to try the latest build, give us your feedback ideas and suggestions, or even contribute some code.