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updated 12/20/2006 7:05:08 PM ET 2006-12-21T00:05:08

A group that encourages musicians, artists and other creators to make their works more widely available for sharing and innovation is trying to make a greater push in the commercial arena.

In doing so, the Creative Commons organization named a new chairman this week, Japanese entrepreneur and venture capitalist Joi Ito. Founder Lawrence Lessig, who hails from academia as a Stanford University law professor, will remain the organization's chief executive.

The Creative Commons grew in response to complaints that current copyright laws inhibit creativity because copyright terms are long and creators wanting to expand on someone else's copyright works have difficulty getting the necessary permissions.

Creative Commons pushes "Copyright Lite," a compromise between retaining the full protections of copyright law and placing a creative work entirely in the public domain.

Under its framework, copyright holders can let others use their works for free while stipulating limits — for instance, requiring attribution while prohibiting sales. They can't veto individual projects — the way copyright holders can now deny rights to filmmakers with whom they disagree.

So documentary filmmakers can freely tap Creative Commons' databases for music they can include under those limited conditions, rather than spend their limited budgets and time tracking down the rights.

The project's adherents have included big names like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Beastie Boys, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and newspaper columnist Dan Gillmor. Creative Commons wants more traditional companies to embrace it as well.

"Creative Commons' next big challenge is to figure out how the sharing economy can better interact with a traditional commercial economy," Lessig said in a statement. "Joi is the perfect person to lead the thinking on this."

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