Kiwi novel published under Creative Commons

Author Thomasin Sleigh has published her debut novel, Ad Lib, under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence, with the publishing collective Lawrence and Gibson.

Thomasin’s work at Digital NZ to open up Aotearoa’s cultural treasures for sharing and reuse has informed her decision to license her own work under CC. “Publishing Ad Lib under a Creative Commons licence was very much an ideological decision. I am an advocate for unlocking cultural resources and, even though my book is published in paper format at the moment, and so is relatively difficult to copy compared to an ebook, I wanted to contribute to the creative commons.”

Thomasin has chosen a licence that gives people advance permission to use her work in their own creations, as long as they attribute her and don’t make money from it. “Because I don’t write fiction for a living, I have the freedom to release my work in a way that might be more difficult for professional novelists.” She is also concerned with future-proofing. “The media landscape is only going to change, and keep changing ever more rapidly. I don’t want there to be any confusion in the future about how my work is to be treated.” Fundamentally, Thomasin sees potential reuse as a compliment, not a threat: “if anyone wanted to use or copy from Ad Lib, I would be genuinely flattered.”

Publishing a paper book under a CC licence is relatively unusual, and Thomasin was lucky to be published by Lawrence and Gibson, a Wellington-based publishing collective that is open to new and experimental ways of doing things. The cover for Ad Lib was designed by Berlin-based illustrator Judith Carnaby, who licenses her work under CC BY-SA.


Ad Lib book cover

Book cover of Ad Lib by Thomasin Sleigh; designed by Judith Carnaby; licensed CC BY-SA


The printing for Ad Lib was done by hand at Rebel Press, an anarchist publishing collective that also offers printing services. Thomasin says that the print irregularities resulting from this handmade process are “love letters from me to the reader”.


Ad Lib during the printing process; licensed CC BY-SA

Ad Lib during the printing process; licensed CC BY-SA


If Ad Lib were to be published as an ebook in the future, Thomasin says she would definitely license it BY-NC-SA as well. As well as opening up her own work, Thomasin’s licensing decision has exposed publishers at Lawrence and Gibson to the possibilities of book publishing with Creative Commons, so watch this space.

Thomasin is the Community Manager at Digital NZ, a search and data service, which seeks to make Aotearoa’s digital treasures easy to find, share, and use. On the international stage, Thomasin is a member of the OpenGLAM Working Group, a global network of people who work to open up cultural data and content in the GLAM sector (galleries, libraries, archives and museums). Thomasin has an MA in art history and a background in writing contemporary art criticism.

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