Today's mainstream world leans heavily towards extreme protection of copyright and other forms of so called "intellectual property". It has been proven that this has a negative impact on our ability to create new works. Human progress so far has been heavily dependent on our ability to imitate and adapt existing information. Recent legal changes create considerable barriers to such behaviours, resulting in more fragmentation and isolation. Creation of derivative works is greatly inhibited as new legal precedents are established in our courtrooms.
The above mentioned pressure has created a new global movement. This is sometimes referred to as anti-copyright and brings innovative ideas how to preserve our ability to create and share. Creative Commons is often considered part of this movement. Similarly to free software movement, that is dealing with computer software area in much the same way: They both encourage authors to grant public specific rights that enable sharing, large scale cooperation, and creation of derivative works.
If the idea of sharing and cooperation sounds new or challenging, there is a number of good resources explaining the concepts in great detail. Following free documentary movies are an excellent introduction to the main problem areas:
If you prefer reading plain text, explanation by Prof. dr. Joost Smiers is a great introduction read covering the issues around contemporary copyright laws and their shortcomings. Here is English translation of his article Abandoning Copyright: A Blessing for Artists, Art, and Society.
Another great text is the transcript of Richard Stallman's lecture Copyright versus community in the age of computer networks. The latter is also available as a video.