Cloud Commons

Mike Linksvayer, March 26th, 2009

Creative Commons licensing has been highlighted in a couple prominent discussions of “” documents recently.

Last week Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz wrote about Sun’s cloud computing strategy:

Second, we announced the API’s and file formats for Sun’s Cloud will all be open, delivered under a Creative Commons License. That means developers can freely stitch our and their cloud services into mass market products, without fear of lock-in or litigation from the emerging proprietary cloud vendors.

The API specification Schwartz writes about is released under a CC Attribution license.

Today Microsoft’s Steven Martin wrote critically of a cloud computing “manifesto” that has apparently been developed behind closed doors:

To ensure that the work on such a project is open, transparent and complete, we feel strongly that any “manifesto” should be created, from its inception, through an open mechanism like a Wiki, for public debate and comment, all available through a Creative Commons license. After all, what we are really seeking are ideas that have been broadly developed, meet a test of open, logical review and reflect principles on which the broad community agrees. This would help avoid biases toward one technology over another, and expand the opportunities for innovation.

Of course a document can be at first developed in private, then released in public under a CC license, but Martin is certainly correct that a document that is open in its development and in what can be done with it upon release ought to be published under a CC license, as should the debate and comment surrounding document creation.

The manifesto Martin discusses apparently is still private, though a commenter on his post notes that the Cloud Computing Community Wiki has taken up the challenge to develop its own cloud computing manifesto in public under a CC Attribution-ShareAlike license. Of this, Sam Johnson commented on Martin’s blog:

Here’s hoping that when this consortium reveals itself their work will also be available under a CC-BY-SA license so we can cherry pick the better parts, but in the mean time if you have anything to add then please feel free to do so.

It’s really great that the necessity of releasing specifications, manifestos, and other documents under liberal CC licenses has such broad buy in. Among other things, the practice probably saves lots of money and frustration — big companies don’t have to spend on lawyers to negotiate copyright terms on the documents they collaborate on nor to develop onerous terms that individuals and others must agree to in order to contribute to such documents — to say nothing of the opportunity cost of not pre-clearing documents for translation and inclusion in educational materials.

However, it’s also important to note that applying a liberal CC license to a specification or other computing-related document is only one of a number of steps required to ensure that a computing technology is and remains really open. For example, is the technology patent encumbered? Is there an open source reference implementation? We sketched this out in a bit more detail almost a year ago in a post titled What good is a CC licensed specification?

Consider the above an opportunistic public service announcement rather than a criticism of Sun or Microsoft in these particular instances. Martin’s post is about a manifesto about interoperability — so a CC license may be all that is needed for that document to be open, at least after publication — though perhaps the document should recommend more than that of cloud computing initiatives that develop specifications intended to be interoperable. The rest of Schwartz’s post (actually it is 4th in a series of 4 posts) talks a lot about the free software community and building on open source software, so it is possible Sun is doing everything possible to make the cloud API it proposes open — I just haven’t evaluated whether that is the case.

It’s also worth noting here that not only big companies are thinking about keeping cloud computing open (if you’re annoyed by use of the fuzzy “cloud” term and have managed to read this far, congratulations) — many in the free and open source software community have related concerns and have begun to develop their own manifestos and guidelines (unsurprisingly, available under CC Attribution-ShareAlike), which interestingly address all of the above and other issues of software freedom and free culture.

Now go forth and make the cloud interoperable, open, and free (as in speech), understanding that CC licensing specifications and manifestos is a necessary step, but only one of many steps toward fulfilling your mission.

Update 2009-03-30: The Open Cloud Manifesto is now available, and it is indeed published under CC BY-SA.

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Creative Commons wins the 2008 Free Software Foundation Award for Project of Social Benefit!

Mike Linksvayer, March 24th, 2009

Saturday at Libre Planet, the Free Software Foundation’s annual conference, Creative Commons was honored to receive the FSF’s Award for Projects of Social Benefit:

The FSF Award for Projects of Social Benefit is presented annually to a project that intentionally and significantly benefits society by applying free software, or the ideas of the free software movement, in a project that intentionally and significantly benefits society in other aspects of life.

Since its launch in 2001, Creative Commons has worked to foster a growing body of creative, educational and scientific works that can be shared and built upon by others. Creative Commons has also worked to raise awareness of the harm inflicted by increasingly restrictive copyright regimes.

Creative Commons vice president Mike Linksvayer accepted the award saying, “It’s an incredible honor. Creative Commons should be giving an award to the Free Software Foundation and Richard Stallman, because what Creative Commons is doing would not be possible without them.”

Congratulations also to Wietse Venema, honored with the Award for the Advancement of Free Software for his “significant and wide-ranging technical contributions to network security, and his creation of the Postfix email server.”

FSF president Stallman presented a plaque by artist Lincoln Read commemorating the award to Creative Commons.

It is worth noting that the FSF Social Benefit Award’s 2005 and 2007 winners are Wikipedia and Groklaw both because it is tremendous to be in their company and as the former is in the process of migrating to a CC BY-SA license (thanks in large part to the FSF) and the latter publishes under a CC BY-NC-ND license.

Only last December CC was honored to receive an award from another of computing’s most significant pioneers, Doug Engelbart.

Thanks again to the Free Software Foundation and Richard Stallman. Please join us in continuing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his founding of the free software movement. As Stallman would say, “Happy Hacking!”

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Nina Paley’s “Sita Sings the Blues” Out Under Attribution-ShareAlike

Fred Benenson, March 10th, 2009

Sita Sings the Blues
Talented animator, writer and producer Nina Paley has freely released her animated film, Sita Sings the Blues under our copyleft license, Attribution-ShareAlike. Copies of Paley’s feature length film are available on, LegalTorrents, and various other sites in many different formats. Nina explains her decision to her audience on the film’s site:

Dear Audience,

I hereby give Sita Sings the Blues to you. Like all culture, it belongs to you already, but I am making it explicit with a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. Please distribute, copy, share, archive, and show Sita Sings the Blues. From the shared culture it came, and back into the shared culture it goes.

You don’t need my permission to copy, share, publish, archive, show, sell, broadcast, or remix Sita Sings the Blues. Conventional wisdom urges me to demand payment for every use of the film, but then how would people without money get to see it? How widely would the film be disseminated if it were limited by permission and fees? Control offers a false sense of security. The only real security I have is trusting you, trusting culture, and trusting freedom. …

Nina’s film retells the classic Indian myth Ramayana and has already received critical acclaim from the NYTimes, Rogert Ebert who gave it two thumbs up, and many others. On March 7th, it was broadcast on PBS/WNET and is now available streaming on

Check out for more information, download links, and of course, a wiki.

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Wikipedia and attribution

Mike Linksvayer, March 9th, 2009

The potential migration of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects to using CC BY-SA as their primary content license has spurred some interesting discussions about attribution — how to give credit for a massively collaborative work in a variety of mediums? This question is relevant regardless of migration, but clearly migration has prompted the discussion and provides an opportunity to progress best practices.

Erik Möller has posted results of a survey run on the English and German Wikipedias regarding how contributors feel about what constitutes appropriate credit for using Wikipedia content. Raw survey data is available for independent analysis.

Unsurprisingly (at least in hindsight), attribution via linking to the article used was most popular, while not giving credit at all was least popular. Here’s the Condorcet ranking, provided by Robert Rohde:

1) Link to the article must be given.
2) Collective credit (e.g. Wikipedia community).
3) Link to the version history must be given.
4) For online use: link. For other uses: full list of authors.
5) Full list of authors must always be copied.
6) No credit is needed.

Creative Commons had wikis in mind when we added attribution via link in version 2.5 of our licenses in 2005. If there are further changes we can make to address attribution and massively collaborative works, it is surely something we’ll want to look at in a future version of the CC licenses, regardless of Wikipedia migration, as wiki and wiki-like mechanisms will only grow in importance for the creation of free cultural works — though it will be very helpful to have the brainpower and experience of the Wikipedia community guiding such developments.

Correction 2009-03-11: We added attribution by link in version 2.0. The change in 2.5 did have wikis in mind, but was more subtle — allowing the licensor to designate that attribution should go to an entity such as a journal or wiki. Thanks to Anthony for prompting this correction on the Wikimedia Foundation discussion list.



Cameron Parkins, January 28th, 2009

logo-1Clivir, a learning community site that allows users to post lessons of any and all types, just added support for CC licensing. The site already has amassed a large amount of teachable knowledge and by adding CC licensing options Clivir are giving users the ability to keep this knowledge open, shareable, and reusable (depending on which license is indicated).

Clivir have a released all of their own lessons under a CC BY-SA license, setting a strong example for the rest of their community to follow suit. While the ability to filter lessons by license choice is unfortunately not available yet, it is still great to see CC licenses integrated into communities like Clivir that pride group collaboration and collective knowledge.

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The Legal Education Commons

Jane Park, January 27th, 2009

The Legal Education Commons launched yesterday with open access to over 700,000 federal court decisions. The LEC is an “open, searchable collection of resources designed specifically for use in legal education.” It is made possible by a collaboration between the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. From the press release:

“All teachers of law have materials and notes they use in teaching,” says John Mayer, CALI Executive Director. “Many freely share their materials with colleagues, but there has never been a singular searchable, taggable space to serve that function for the entire legal academy,” he explains, “until now.”

While the LEC opens with an extensive collection of court cases and images, it can expand its collection of resources only through contributions and donations from the legal education community.

CALI implores faculty and staff at CALI member schools to share any files from personal collections that may facilitate learning amongst the legal education community. “Especially as we increasingly garner more participation and sharing from legal educators,” says Mr. Mayer, “the Legal Education Commons will be a great, non-commercial tool for those who are both teaching and learning the law.”

All material in the Legal Education Commons is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license (CC BY-SA), making it interoperable with a great deal of other open educational resources.

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MixedInk: CC-Licensed Large Scale Document Collaboration

Cameron Parkins, January 16th, 2009

bMixedInk is a recently launched service that allows large groups of people to collaboratively work on a single document together online. While many sites of this nature exist, MixedInk seems to be the first to focus on large group collaboration and does so in a unique manner. MixedInk’s submission system is based on a Digg-like voting procedure in which users vote for their favorite draft – the final draft is therefore dynamic and can shift over time if a better draft is decided upon by the community.

MixedInk keeps this type of collaboration open and legally sound by requiring any documents created on the site to be released under a CC BY-SA license. This serves a practical purpose – the articles written offer no restrictions in regards to quoting or editing as long as the original author is credited – and also serves the auxiliary purpose of keeping the MixedInk community open and free, ensuring there are no legal barriers for creating the best content possible. There are already some interesting examples of how this system can be put to use, most notably Slate’s community written Inaugural Address where individuals can contribute and vote for the Inaguration Speech they would most like to hear President-Elect Barack Obama give this coming Tuesday. The top-rated address will be published at on inauguration day.

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Files seeded for Valkaama, “open source movie”

Michelle Thorne, January 16th, 2009


The source files have been seeded for Valkaama, a fresh collaborative “open source movie”, filmed in Krakow, Poland.  Director Tim Baumann intends to complete the post-production of the full feature movie publicly, with the help of volunteers both amateur and professional:

Here all available media sources are published in order to give you the chance to build upon them. If you want to participate in this project, by helping finishing the movie, creating remixes, making a new trailer or if you want to publish anything else here which is related to Valkaama, please get in touch with us.

Valkaama (trailer) is a drama set in Sweden and Finland and produced by drama school students and amateurs in and around Krakow. It tells the story of two disparate young men, each seeking his fortune, thrown together by fate to travel to “Valkaama”. As their paths cross, they do not realize how much of their journey has already been determined by their pasts.

Open Source and Open Content movies are still a rarity. Valkaama is one of the first movies not only to be distributed freely, but also to guarantee free access to all source data used and created during the production process. The project uses CC BY-SA 3.0 licenses to guarantee very flexible use and reuse of the produced material. Almost every text, picture and video, as well as all downloadable media, is tagged with a respective license. In some cases the licenses are included in the media files themselves.

Happy remixing!


Happy birthday Wikipedia!

Mike Linksvayer, January 15th, 2009

Wikipedia began 8 years ago today and now exists in 265(!) languages with over 10 million articles among them. In those 8 years Wikipedia has grown from an outlandish dream and into a reality far more outlandish than the original dream — it now seems silly to compare Wikipedia to past encyclopedias, for while Wikipedia and sibling sites run by the Wikimedia Foundation are encylopedic in nature, they are 1,000 times more useful than anything previously conceived as an encyclopedia. Happy birthday and congratulations!

Almost exactly 1 year and 11 months after the birth of Wikipedia, Creative Commons launched. As many know, a process is underway that may result in Wikipedia migrating to CC BY-SA as its main license, which would be a great thing for the growth of free culture. However, see Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’ letter in support of CC’s recently ended annual fundraising campaign for other connections. And day to day, media under appropriate CC licenses is being utilized by Wikipedians — who for example immediately began using video and stills from the Al Jazeera CC repository launched just two days ago.

Here’s to many more years of free culture!

For context, we celebrated Mozilla’s 10th birthday last April and the GNU project’s 25th last September. It’s very difficult to draw comparisons, but the longevity of the free software movement and the relatively recent massive success of Wikipedia should inspire and humble the rest of the free culture and related movements.

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Earn £3500 Creating Copyleft Art for Lancashire County

Fred Benenson, January 12th, 2009

The digital arts organization folly has joined forces Lancashire County Council to commission art for the cities, towns, and villages of the Northwest England county. From the call for proposals:

This “Digital Engagement Commission” will question the role of digital arts and its meaning and benefits for audiences in Lancashire – people who live or work in the county, visitors and those who have an interest in engaging with it virtually.

… The artist will make the consultation process publicly visible in an engaging and creative online platform. The participatory consultation activities should take the form of both unique and engaging physical sessions and virtual engagement via the publicly accessible online platform. This platform could be developed especially by the artist or could make use of existing social networks. Any software developed for the project would be licensed under the latest general public license and any other works developed as part of the project would be licensed under creative commons attributions share alike. (emphasis added)

There are plenty of more details to the commission, so be sure to read the whole call for proposals. (via

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