At a wine and conversation-fuelled bash at The October Gallery in London's Holborn last night, the Creative Commons licenses for England and Wales were launched. These are a set of legally-enforceable licenses for digital content that allow the originator to specify their requirements for attribution and to place limits on consequential use of their content. If you believe as I do, that the currency of knowledge is attribution, then this model of encouraging distribution and meme-building without losing that acknowledgement is both flexible and necessary.
Until now though, these have only been available under US law – useful, but scarcely universal, unless you aspire to a global American Hegemony. While the existence of jurisdication-specific licensing might seem oxymoronic in the age of the Internet, they're a necessity, at least until such time as we develop truly universal Intellectual Property agreements and enforcement processes. In the UK, there's also a project running to create a Scottish Law equivalent, as well as initial efforts to tie it to the efforts of WIPO in Geneva.
Of course it isn't perfect: The onus of identification of breaches and trans-jurisdictional enforcement for anyone with shallower pockets than a major corporation is still burdensome (and will likely remain so), there need to be licenses that are legally enforceable in any major jurisdiction; and the system needs to work with the agreements and precepts of organisations like WIPO. But it's a start, and a good one at that.
And, if you're wondering about the relevance of the photograph in this article, it's of an exhibit at the October Gallery – itself an example of commercial and implicitly attributed re-use of intellectual capital (it's made out of the foils from drinks bottles). For more information, get yourself along to the gallery and enjoy the exhibits, the atmosphere and the café.