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Creative Commons Picks Former Mozilla COO Ryan Merkley as CEO

"The world of content on the Web today has exploded, and CC needs to tackle apace the issue," Merkley said.

Rannie Turingan/CC-0 license

Creative Commons, the nonprofit organization that helps enable online content usage, has named a new CEO: Ryan Merkley, who was formerly COO of the Mozilla Foundation and managing director of market research firm Vision Critical.

Creative Commons’ main product is its copyright licenses, which allow people to specify how others can use their photos, videos, books and other content in a way that’s generally less restrictive than traditional copyright.

But the 13-year-old organization has a long way to go in getting more people to use its licenses, and making it easier to find CC-licensed content, Merkley said in an interview on Tuesday.

“The number of estimated licensed Creative Commons works is half a billion,” he said. “But also 350 million photos will be uploaded today to Facebook and 100 minutes of video are uploaded every hour to YouTube. The world of content on the Web today has exploded, and CC needs to tackle apace the issue.”

Creative Commons is based in Mountain View, Calif., and Merkley plans to split his time between there and his home in Toronto starting June 1. The organization has a full-time staff of 17 and a 2014 budget of $4.8 million with revenue of $4.3 million. Cathy Casserly stepped down as Creative Commons’ first full-time CEO earlier this year after a three-year tenure in which she focused on open education policies.

Some of Merkley’s ideas include persuading camera manufacturers to include the option to set a Creative Commons license within a given photo’s Exif data. “Imagine if every user had the option to set up [their] camera to preset the Exif data, and it would travel all over the Web and be machine readable and embedded in the photo. That would be much more robust than metadata stuck in the webpage,” he said.

In addition to technical solutions, Merkley said he sees his role as one of advocacy. “The other piece is about building a movement around the idea of the public commons,” he said. “It’s been taken as given that the commons is something that people value, and I’m not sure that’s the case.”

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