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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The 3rd Party Content of

Fred Benenson, March 25th, 2009

Whitehouse.govWhen relaunched itself during Barack Obama’s inauguration it included a clause in its copyright policy mandating that all 3rd party content on the site be released under our Attribution license. Until yesterday, there wasn’t much third party content on the site. However, as of this writing, 13,785 people have submitted 16,561 questions and cast 508,450 votes in the site’s “Open For Questions” section. President Obama will answer some of these questions on Thursday morning in a special online town hall.

While the copyright status of each individual question may not seem significant, all of the questions taken in aggregate are of unquestionable value for current and future generations of journalists, historians and citizens. By placing this corpus under our most permissive license, the Obama Administration has secured that the public will always have access to this unprecedented part of American presidential history.

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Celebrate 100 Million CC Photos on Flickr with Joi Ito’s Free Souls

Fred Benenson, March 23rd, 2009

Free Souls Image

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been keeping a close eye on the number of CC licensed photos of Flickr. Our calculations now show that Flickr has surpassed 100 million CC licensed photos sometime during the day on Saturday, March 21st, 2009. As of Monday, we’re calculating the total number of CC licensed photos at 100,191,085.*

These photos have been used in hundreds of thousands of Wikipedia articles, blog posts, and even mainstream press pieces; all examples of new works that might not otherwise been created without our standardized public licenses. Flickr’s integration of CC licenses was one of the first and best; not only do they allow users to specify licenses per-photo, but they offer an incredible CC discovery page which breaks down searches for CC licensed materials by license. This means that you can look for all the photos of New York City licensed under Attribution and sorted by interestingness, to give an example.

As part of our celebration of Flickr passing this historic milestone, we are offering a dozen copies of Creative Commons CEO Joi Ito’s Free Souls book at our $100 donation level. Naturally, all of Joi’s photos are not only licensed under our most permissive Attribution license, but they’re also available on Flickr for download. By donating to Creative Commons today you can support the work that we do and receive one of the 1,024 copies of Joi’s limited edition book.

*We are linking to CSV files generated per-day based a simple scrape of Flickr’s CC portal. To generate the total number of licensed photos, we SUM()‘d the 2nd column of the CSV file. March 21st yielded approximately 99 million and March 22nd yielded over 100 million, hence our estimate that 100 million was passed sometime during the day on Saturday.

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Fred Benenson, March 20th, 2009 is the site that provides US citizens with the the ability to monitor the progress of the country’s recovery via the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As with, the Obama administration is presciently using our Attribution license 3.0 for all third party content on the site, while all of the original content site created by the federal government remains unrestricted by copyright and therefore in the public domain.

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Feature Length Film “Two Fists One Heart” Releases CC-BY Licensesd Rushes For Fan Edits

Cameron Parkins, March 20th, 2009


Two Fists One Heart is a new family drama film from Australia, centered on the story of a young boxer. The film was released widely yesterday in theaters across Australia and to help promote the film, the producers have created a stand-alone site, Cut Your Own Scene, where fans can download rushes of the film for free under a CC BY license. This means that footage from the film can be put to any use as long as the source is acknowledged and there is a link back to the official movie page.

The idea to use CC for this footage came Bronwen Clune of Norg Media, an Australian media company, who had this to say on the motivation for the plan:

“It’s not often you get the ear of major film players and personally I have always thought creative commons is an underutilized concept in the film industry. I see this as an opportunity to prove in some way that the web and it’s culture of sharing and share-alike is a good thing for creative industries


the producer mentioned that they had a lot of great footage they weren’t able to use in the film – more than usual – and I suggested to him we not let it be wasted and we release it for anyone to mashup and play with. To me, the thought of footage being wasted and unused when someone could make something really creative with it was a real shame. There are so many people out there cutting great videos and posting them on YouTube, but the biggest barrier is often having the footage to play with. This way we could give them something to use – and the footage is what professional editors deal with – and promote the film at the same time – it was a win-win.”

As further incentive to use the footage, the five best scenes will be posted on the Two Fists One Heart promotional site. These scenes will be selected by Bill Russo, head of Editing at the AFTRS and the creative team from Two Fists One Heart. Russo will also personally give the winners editing advice in regards to both their specific clips and their careers in general.

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Uncensored Interview Releases 1000+ Creative Commons Theora Videos

Fred Benenson, March 5th, 2009

Uncensored Interview LogoToday, Uncensored Interview, a video producer and licensor of musician interviews, is releasing thousands of videos from its interview footage archive under our most permissive license, Attribution also known as CC-BY. Previously, Uncensored Interview’s library consisted of premium content available for commercial licensing, but now includes videos available via download in Ogg Theora, a free and open video compression format. Under CC-BY, users of the content are only required to give attribution to Uncensored Interview as the content source. The site is also creatively using our CC+ protocol to help users purchase permissions outside the scope of the Attribution license, such as the right to use the video unaccredited or for endorsement of a commercial product.

Below, find an example* of one of the more than a thousand CC-licensed videos you’ll find on the site where electronic musician Matthew Dear discusses his thoughts on file sharing:

You can find all of the Creative Commons licensed videos (with more to come) in the Creative Commons section of the Uncensored Interview site or subscribe to the feed of videos here.

* You may have noticed that we’re featuring video in this blog post. If you take a look at the source, we’re using the <video> tag in HTML 5 to point to Uncensored Interview’s Ogg Theora file. If you’re running Firefox 3.1 (currently in beta) then you’ll be able to watch the video in the browser’s native media player without using proprietary software. If your browser doesn’t have Ogg Theora support then the embed will default to UI’s Adobe Flash player.

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The Commons Video

Mike Linksvayer, February 26th, 2009


The Commons Video is a 3 minute 46 second animation (licensed under CC BY) from On The Commons and The New Press making the case for an expansive conception of “The Commons” as a means to achieve a society of justice and equality. From the video’s description:

In a just world, the idea of wealth–be it money derived from the work of human hands, the resources and natural splendor of the planet itself–and the knowledge handed down through generations belongs to all of us. But in our decidedly unjust and imperfect world, our collective wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. There is be a better way–the notion of the commons–common land, resources, knowledge–is a common-sense way to share our natural, cultural, intellectual riches.

A good portion of the video from the captured point above (1:53) on concerns intellectual commons, based on the writing of David Bollier and others. Bollier is author of Viral Spiral, a history of CC and related movements (previously blogged).

Some readers will find the expansive and social justice oriented conception of commons described by the video compelling. Others will find the argument that tangible goods thought of as commons confuses the unique case in favor of a commons of intellectual goods, given the latter’s non-rival nature. But such confusion is often willful, certainly not informed by subtle and historical arguments about the nature of commons.

Agree or disagree with the perspective presented in The Commons Video, it’s a useful reminder that lessons concerning the management of real and intangible goods don’t always flow in the direction or say what one might expect.

For more on the expansive commons point of view, watch for an extended featured commoner interview with Bollier soon.

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Foodista: CC-Powered Cooking Encyclopedia

Cameron Parkins, January 23rd, 2009

foodistaFoodista is a new online destination for those interested in all things culinary-related. The site is divided into four sections – recipes, foods, tools and techniques – and is based around the idea that community knowledge and sharing can result in a better resource than one built by a restricted and closed group. As such, the folks behind Foodista have “developed a system to let everyone edit content to make it better rather than have multiple versions of the same recipe.” At its core, this system is based around a site-wide CC BY license.

By using our most permissive license, Foodista has laid the ground work for a site that is purely focused on collaboration and the growth of knowledge. A few months ago we posted about an article that articulates why using a CC BY license for recipes is a sound choice (recipes can’t be copyrighted while the expression of recipes can). It is a mindset Foodista has embraced and while the site is still in a nascent stage it is already showing great promise. Part of the fun about cooking is the inherent experimentation and reiterations recipes can go through. Being able to document that sort of exchange through the use of open tools is a welcomed resource.


Michael Geist on Why’s Copyright Policy Matters

Fred Benenson, January 22nd, 2009

Canadian copyright scholar Michael Geist explains why‘s adoption of our Attribution license for 3rd party content is important in light of Canada’s policy on government works:

Now consider the Prime Minister of Canada’s copyright notice:
The material on this site is covered by the provisions of the Copyright Act, by Canadian laws, policies, regulations and international agreements. Such provisions serve to identify the information source and, in specific instances, to prohibit reproduction of materials without written permission. …

While this is better than some other Canadian government departments (who require permission for all uses), it is still not good enough. First, Canada should drop crown copyright so that there is no copyright in government-produced materials. Second, there is no need for a distinction between commercial and non-commercial – Canadians should be free to use the government-produced materials for either purpose without permission. Third, third-party materials, which are Creative Commons licensed in the U.S., are subject to full restrictions in Canada.

While the decision to use CC on may appear uncontroversial in light of the fact that US federal works are not subject to copyright protection, very few other countries share this policy as evidenced by Geist’s post. This is precisely where Creative Commons can help. Obama’s far sighted choice should serve as an example for other governments around the world: now is the time to start sharing.

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Fred Benenson, January 20th, 2009

Whitehouse.govAs you may of heard, the new launched today at 12:01pm during Barack Obama’s inauguration. What you might not have noticed is that the copyright policy of the site stipulates that all 3rd party content is licensed under our most permissive Attribution license:

Pursuant to federal law, government-produced materials appearing on this site are not copyright protected. The United States Government may receive and hold copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.

Except where otherwise noted, third-party content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Visitors to this website agree to grant a non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free license to the rest of the world for their submissions to under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

(emphasis added)

Congratulations to the 44th President of the US for choosing CC!

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