Less than one month ago, Creative Commons began a project designed to explore and develop business models built on CC licensing. Starting from the methods in the best-selling Business Model Generation handbook, Creative Commons is developing new tools specifically tailored for ventures that utilize CC-licensed or public domain content as a central component of their strategies. We are also working one-on-one with a handful of companies and organizations to brainstorm new business models and paths to sustainability.
In this short span of time, we have seen there is a real desire for this sort of work, and Creative Commons is uniquely-suited to lead it. And in just these first few weeks of this project, we have learned an incredible amount about all of the fascinating ways nonprofits, universities, and businesses are leveraging CC licensing in what they do. One immediate observation about these ventures is how the public interest plays a role in all of them. Whether for-profit or not, the social good furthered by the product or service is an important part of the value proposition.
Meet Openwords: A great example of that phenomenon is a young startup called Openwords, a company CC has been fortunate to work with in our business models initiative. Openwords is a foreign language learning app with a social mission – to provide free and open language learning technology for languages that currently have little or no options for mobile language learning. The small startup is able to do this at low cost thanks to open data. Openwords mines the vast pools of existing open data on sites like Wiktionary and Apertium and transforms the data into language learning tools for a wide range of languages, large and small. Openwords’ open data strategy has already been successful. Openwords has mined content for over 1000 languages.
While Openwords uses existing open data to fuel its product, it is also giving back new open data and content to the public. Everything Openwords creates — the modified data, software code, and educational content – is either dedicated to the public domain using CC0 or offered under an open license. This virtuous circle makes it possible for this for-profit venture to fulfill its social goals.
In 2014, Openwords released a prototype of its mobile app. Now, it has launched a Kickstarter to fund the development of a beta version of the app, and to involve the community in the Openwords app design.
Crowdfunding is just one avenue Openwords is pursuing to raise money, but it can be an effective way to generate funds and buzz simultaneously. In our business models work, we will be researching crowdfunding as a potential revenue model for ventures built on CC licensing. We even plan on trying it out ourselves by running a Kickstarter campaign this summer to write a book about CC business models.
Building sustainable models around open is important work. We encourage you to check out what Openwords is doing. If you are trying to determine how you can operate in a financially-sound manner while generating social good through the use of CC licenses, we encourage you to contact us and participate in our Creative Commons open business models initiative.3 Comments »
Today we’re extremely pleased to announce that Flickr now allows its users to share images under CC0, Creative Commons’ international public domain dedication. Flickr also announced they will allow users to share work in the public domain using our Public Domain Mark (PDM). Flickr is the largest repository of CC-licensed photos on the web, and CC0 and the Public Domain Mark will give creators even more ways to share their works and those in the public domain to expand the commons.
Why is this big news for Flickr and Creative Commons? CC0 maximizes the potential creative use of works by dedicating them, without restrictions, to the commons. By doing so, creators enable others to freely and without condition build upon those works in ways that advance science, education, scholarship, and literature, sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways.
Many Creative Commons photographers on Flickr have been asking for CC0. With this announcement Flickr users will be able to choose from among our six standard licenses, our public domain dedication, and they will also be able to mark others’ works that are in the public domain. Adding CC0 and PDM to Flickr is an unprecedented win for the commons and for free creativity and knowledge on the internet.
(CRS-5 Falcon 9 rocket / SpaceX / CC0)
The topic of awesome public domain and CC0 imagery was in the news about a week ago when SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk announced that all of SpaceX’s incredible photographs are dedicated to the worldwide public domain. SpaceX will be moving all of their images on Flickr to CC0. Wikimedians have also helped SpaceX to declare a gallery of images as CC0 on Wikimedia Commons.
For years, galleries, museums, and others to whom the the public has entrusted important cultural heritage works have leveraged CC0 as an internationally-recognized way to share digitized copies of works and the metadata that enables search. Europeana now boasts no fewer than 26,000 images under CC0, as well as more than 3.6 million works marked as public domain worldwide using our Public Domain Mark. The availability of CC0 as a means for digitizers of works in the public domain to eliminate any “thin” copyright on public domain works they digitize, or for individuals who wish to eliminate their own copyright, allows the global public to freely create and publish the next great thing. And the availability of the Public Domain Mark to signal a work is globally free of copyright restrictions further empowers creators to stand on the shoulders of those who created before them.
What’s the difference?
Using CC0, a creator enables the public to freely reuse and remix a work without limitation. This is because the author/creator waives all conditions including attribution (although citation is supported) and encourages others to reuse the work in any way, including commercially. We know that Creative Commons supporters, including many photographers in the Flickr community, have been seeking the ability to use CC0 on Flickr since it was was published almost exactly 6 years ago today. This also offers remixers clear and simple terms when seeking out a work to build upon. Many “no known copyright” images are too uncertain to build upon, while CC0 offers a clear dedication to free use and re-use. Once fully implemented, users will be able to move some or all of their works on Flickr to CC0.
The Public Domain Mark is used to denote works out of copyright or in the worldwide public domain. Developed with reference to “no known copyright” statements adopted by many leading cultural heritage institutions, including contributors to Flickr Commons, the PDM is the only mark of its kind, and the only widely-adopted and globally accepted mark that communicates a work’s public domain status worldwide.
We are very happy to recognize Flickr’s longstanding commitment to the Creative Commons licenses, their community of CC photographers/videographers, and to the public good that is our shared commons and heritage.
Incorporating CC0 and PDM into Flickr has been a long term wish of ours, and we’re happy to see it happen today. There were many who helped along the way, but special thanks to CC General Counsel Diane Peters and also to Jane Park, who now leads CC’s platform engagement team.
We anticipate that Flickr’s stewardship of CC-licensed content and public domain materials will continue to grow now that users can take advantage of the full breadth of our legal tools.1 Comment »
We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.
Today’s topic is the “Public Domain.” The public domain is our cultural commons and a public trust. Copyright policy should seek to promote, and not diminish, this crucial resource.
Creative Commons has long upheld that faithful digital reproductions of works in the public domain are also in the public domain, adhering to the U.S. District Court ruling of Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. that “exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be protected by copyright in the United States because the copies lack originality” 1. Though this ruling is not a binding precedent, it remains highly influential as a legal ruling in the U.S. and elsewhere. Its real world applicability is less well-known. This is why, where possible, we recommend that institutions, especially those curating and providing access to public domain works of cultural heritage, use the CC0 public domain dedication for their digital reproductions where there might be any element of originality that might give rise to doubt.
Creative Commons currently offers two public domain tools, CC0 and the Public Domain Mark, which can be confused with each other but are very different tools. CC0, like the CC licenses, is a legally operable tool backed by a legal document that we like to call the legal code layer of our tools. Because it is legally operable, copyright owners may use it to relinquish their copyright and related rights in a work, effectively placing that work into the public domain. Where it is not legally possible to relinquish copyright, the tool defaults to CC BY without attribution or any other conditions (CC BY is the most liberal license on the spectrum of CC licenses). The Public Domain Mark, on the other hand, is not a legally operable tool, but merely a standard label that one may place on a work to indicate that its copyright has expired or is otherwise in the public domain worldwide. You can read more about both of these tools here.
We recommend using CC0 for digital reproductions of public domain works where there is reason for users to be concerned that the reproduction itself is subject to copyright. If nothing else, it clearly signals to users that the institution is proactively relinquishing any copyrights they may have in a digital reproduction, furthering its mission to provide greater public access to works of cultural heritage. From the institution’s standpoint, they are not making any guarantees about the public domain work itself, but removing any doubt for the user around any element of originality they may have in the digital reproduction.
Here are a few great cases of institutions committed to strengthening and growing our public domain.
The Rijskmuseum is the Dutch National Museum in the The Netherlands, founded in 1800, that contains many of the original artworks of European masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer, in addition to high resolution images of these original artworks. For 10 years, from 2003-2013, much of the physical museum — including 1 million physical items — was closed for renovations. During this period, the museum’s marketing department pushed for the release of its high resolution images of public domain works in order to keep the public engaged throughout the renovation period and as a way to extend the reach of the museum beyond its limited physical showcase. They released 150,000 high resolution images (each as large as 200 MB) into the public domain using CC0. They abided by the principle of unrestricted access to the digital public domain; as in the U.S., faithful digital reproductions of public domain works are considered public domain in Europe. After the release, the museum saw many benefits, including international exposure for the museum, especially during a time when much of the physical museum was closed; new audiences with developers, designers, and related creative industries; and an increase in revenue made from public domain image sales. For more details, see Tim’s post which links to the in-depth case study.
Statens Museum for Kunst
The Statens Museum for Kunst, aka the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen, joined the Google Art Project in 2011. At this point, they realized they were giving use rights of images to a private company and could no longer justify charging the public for the same rights. As part of a pilot project, they initially released 100 educational videos and 160 high resolution image files (each as large as 440 MB) of Danish, Nordic and European public domain art under CC BY. Afterwards, they moved to CC0 for their images. Since their release, SMK’s images and videos have been featured on Wikipedia. SMK staff found that their understanding of quality and control changed significantly after releasing the images: “[Our public domain collections] don’t belong to us; they belong to the public. Free access ensures that our collections continue to be relevant to users now and in the future. We’re here to look after them and make them available and useful to the public. Use = value.” Read the case study contributed directly by museum staff.
New York Public Library
The New York Public Library has long been the haven of researchers and bibliophiles alike. Map lovers can join the group with NYPL’s open access maps initiative which has digitized and released more than 20,000 digital reproductions of cartographic works in the public domain. In the Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division’s own words, “To the extent that some jurisdictions grant NYPL an additional copyright in the digital reproductions of these maps, NYPL is distributing these images under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.” In addition to public domain maps, NYPL has also used CC0 to dedicate 1 million of its bibliographic metadata records into the public domain.
We want to end the post on Europeana, the digital library for all of Europe and a model for libraries in rights information mark-up. Europeana has identified more than 16.5 million digital objects as being in the public domain (via CC0 or the Public Domain Mark) or under one of the CC licenses, in addition to dedicating 30 million metadata records to the public domain using CC0. Users can browse and search by re-use rights — including all six CC licenses and both public domain tools.
These four cases exemplify only a few institutions that are working to preserve our public domain. For uses of CC0 specific to data, see and add to our wiki page. For more great uses of CC tools and licenses by cultural heritage institutions, check out these slides and add to our wiki page tracking uses by GLAM institutions (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums).
Have a great use case to share about the public domain? Leave us a note in the comments.
1 Comment »
The Voyager Spacecrafts are carrying with them sounds of the earth, of our civilization, recorded on a 12″ gold plated copper disc, a golden record, along with instructions for how to play them.
Lily Bui, a graduate student in the MIT Comparative Media Studies program built a lovely web site that allows everyone to enjoy the sounds and music from the golden record via an attractive, easy to use web interface. In a serial burst of inspiration, Lily has also dedicated her web site to the public domain via a CC0 Public Domain Dedication.
In her words, “To be perfectly frank — I mostly designed this mostly for myself so that I wouldn’t have to access the archival audio through the Library of Congress portal.” Well, turns out a lot of people share Lily’s point-of-view. Ever the academic, she was taking a course at MIT that “examined the ‘migration of cultural materials’ into the digital space, combining traditional humanities with computational methods.” She is convinced her work is grounded in theory. Perhaps, for we love the sounds and music so much that we have yet to read Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display by Johanna Drucker.
Join Lily and all of us at Creative Commons and give the Voyager Golden Record a listen.Comments Off on The Voyager Golden Record
Mangrove forests have been described by the World Wildlife Fund as one of the world’s most threatened tropical ecosystems. In an effort to protect and raise awareness around this problem, MapWorks Learning launched the first of what they plan to make an annual Mapathon for ecological preservation and learning. The inaugural event engaged schools, universities, and environmental groups around the world to document the health and well being of mangrove populations using the Mapping the Mangroves tool.
The Mapping the Mangroves (MTM) toolkit is a project originally funded by Qatar Foundation International, and is now a keystone project of MapWorks Learning. MTM uses a mapping application built on the open source Ushahidi software platform, relying on crowdsourcing to collect geographic and descriptive data about mangrove forests. The project’s reporting system allows anyone to submit a report about mangrove forests, describing the area’s biodiversity and pairing it with geographic coordinates and other sensor data. The data are then displayed on an interactive map on the project’s homepage, with all reports searchable and explorable by geographic region and other habitat or report traits. The data are freely available for download and licensed under a CC0 Public Domain Dedication, too.
The MTM project is supporting the development of OER curriculum introducing learners to mangrove forest ecosystems, basic species identification, and explaining how they can take part in the monitoring and protection of forests around the world. The toolkit’s learning material is available under a CC BY-NC-ND license on OER Commons.1 Comment »
Rijksmuseum case study: Sharing free, high quality images without restrictions makes good things happen
Girl in white kimono, George Hendrik Breitner, 1894; CC0
Yesterday Europeana published a great case study documenting the experiences of the Dutch Rijksmuseum in opening up access to their collection of digital public domain images. The case study was written by Joris Pekel, community coordinator for cultural heritage at the Europeana Foundation. Over the last few years, Europeana has worked with the Rijksmuseum in order to make available at the highest quality possible images of public domain artworks held by the museum.
The report discusses the Rijksmuseum’s initial apprehension to sharing these high quality images of public domain works. The museum originally planned to share the digital reproductions of public domain works under an open license, such as the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY). But after some convincing by organizations that advocate for unrestricted access to the public domain, the Rijksmuseum began to open its collections more by choosing to use the CC0 Public Domain Dedication for the digital reproductions.
The Rijksmuseum began to experiment with how it would offer high quality reproductions of the public domain artworks. The museum adopted a mission-driven approach, and staff understood the opportunity to showcase the best of the museum’s collection as a promotional tool. The marketing department argued that “…The core goal of the museum is to get the collection out and known to the public as much as possible…[and] the digital reproduction of an item would pique public interest in it, leading them to buy tickets to the museum to see the real deal.” The Rijksmuseum also realized that by releasing high quality digital reproductions of works out of copyright, it could help educate the public by providing true-color images and accurate metadata about the works.
Instead of worrying that making available high quality digital reproductions of public domain artwork for free would destroy a piece of the museum’s revenue stream, the Rijksmuseum initially adopted a hybrid approach. They made images available in two sizes: .jpg images at approximately 4500×4500 pixels were free, while the huge 200MB master .tiff files were made available for €40. The museum saw a steady increase in revenue from image sales, but eventually decided to discontinue the tiered offerings. Since October 2013 the Rijksmuseum has been releasing their highest quality images for free.
The Rijksmuseum has found a way to support broad access to its rich collection of cultural heritage resources. And it’s done so in such as way that promotes interest by new audiences, recuperates costs, and upholds the principles of supporting unrestricted access to the digital public domain.
Take a look at the full case study.Comments Off on Rijksmuseum case study: Sharing free, high quality images without restrictions makes good things happen
CC0 now has an official translation into French. This is the second translation of CC0, and also only the second official translation of any CC legal tool (following CC0 in Dutch, published earlier this year).
There are many people who deserve congratulations on this accomplishment. This is often the case for translation projects, but it is especially true with French! According to the translation policy for our legal tools, we will be publishing only one official translation per language—for all of its speakers worldwide. This isn’t so difficult for some languages, which are primarily spoken in only one country. But with French-speaking countries around the world, many teams had to take part in this project so that the final text works for everyone, even across regional variations in language.
CC France did the tremendous task of leading the effort, coordinating their own team as well as others from Algeria, Belgium, Cameroon, Canada, Luxembourg, Morocco, Senegal, Switzerland, Tunisia, and collaborators from Framasoft.org and VeniVidiLibre.org.
The CC0 translations, as well as the upcoming translations of 4.0, are as close as possible to the original English, keeping the same legal meaning. Under our new translation policy, these will all be considered equivalent: anyone linking to the legal code may use any language. We think everyone should be able to understand the legal tools they’re using, and toward that end, we put a lot of thought into simplifying the language in 4.0. But it should be true in a language everyone can read–and thanks to the translation efforts of our affiliates, we are coming closer to this goal.
There are many more translation projects of CC0 and of 4.0 in progress; expect to see more announcements in the coming months! (You can take a look at the list of projects in progress.) To get involved with an existing translation project or begin a new one, please see the translation policy for information on getting started.Comments Off on CC0 official translation into French published
One year ago, CC announced the Affiliate Project Grants to support and expand CC’s global network of dedicated experts. With a little help from Google, we were able to increase the capacity of CC’s Affiliates to undertake projects around the world benefiting a more free, open, and innovative internet.
We received over 70 applicants, and we were able to fund 18 to tackle important work in their country – work like using music to break down physical barriers and give Palestinians a voice, gathering leaders in Tanzania to discuss how sharing information can help prevent diabetes, and helping Romanian librarians provide quality educational materials to all.
Watching these projects unfold over the last several months has been reaffirming for everyone at CC. The Affiliates are central to CC’s work, without whom we would simply not be closer to our goal of a more open internet.
Click here to find out the full details of the different grants, and read on to see what our 18 teams had to say on the results they achieved, motivations for their projects, the work still to be done, and lessons learned.
“We are pleased that we were able to impact the way the people who shared their stories with us think about the concept of sharing stories. Some people when they were asked before to share their suffering and their personal stories on video were not totally sure they wanted to do it, but after seeing the output of their stories reflected on by poets and artists from all over the world, we think we were able to provide them a platform to express themselves and feel part of a greater community that is sharing the same hopes and fears.
[We want to expand] the project concept to other marginalized communities around the world.”
-Bashar Lubbad, Palestine, “Hope Spoken/Broken: Change in the Eyes of Palestinian Refugees”
“The result was publication of a guide on free culture movements in Arabic and a website where it can be downloaded freely in e-book format: www.freecultureguide.net. We target artists, journalists, bloggers and other content creators and the general public who is unfamiliar to the free culture movement and concepts, as this is the first book of its kind in Arabic about this topic.”
-Ahmed Mansour, CC Morocco, “Creative BookSprint“
“Lack of consumer level tools is still seen as a major obstacle in CC adoption. WpLicense is now a tool that can be applied to millions of blogs.”
-Tarmo Toikkanen, CC Finland, “WordPress License Revived”
“More concretely, participants learnt how to: adapt traditional services to a non-traditional model; locate learning objects that can be reused under CC licence; investigate and use alternative publishing platforms; and apply project management processes to a hack project.”
-Matt McGregor, CC New Zealand, “Media Text Hack“
“Museums and other memory institutions in Taiwan often have their collections digitized.
A major part of the digitized works shall be in the public domain. However, many of these institutions often keep these works in the equivalents of digital safes, and there are no easy ways to access and reuse them. Together with Netivism Ltd. (a social enterprise based in Taipei) CC Taiwan engaged with memory institutions and independent collectors in Taiwan about the tools and practices for public domain repositories.
Exemplary public domain repositories are being setup using MediaGoblin (a free software package for hosting media collections) with new extensions developed for and supported by this project grant.”
-Tyng-Ruey Chuang, CC Taiwan, “Practices and Depositories for the Public Domain”
“As a result of the interaction, the students were able to experience the Open culture which has caused a boom in the Kenyan tech scene. They identified industries that were etched on the sole foundation of Open tools in Kenya and were able to understand more experientially than before, the importance of such ideals.”
-Simeon Oriko, CC Kenya, “School of Open Kenya Initiative“
“Obami, a platform for resource exchange for elementary school students, has seen a number of copyright violations. Instead of policing kids’ actions, the Creative Commons for Kids program will teach kids how to open and share their creative and educational works legally through the use of CC licenses […] introducing Creative Commons to the next generation of Africa.”
-Kelsey Wiens, CC South Africa, “Creative Commons For Kids”
“Despite all the work we have done, CC is still an unknown concept to most people in the Arab region. We live in a copy/paste region where it will take a lot of hard work for people to understand the concepts of attribution. After a series of CC presentations in local schools (ages 12 to 18), we found that CC awareness is almost non-existent. On the other hand, our videos at wezank.com have been very popular online and we believe that using this asset to spread CC’s mission & vision would be highly effective across the region. [… This project] is about creating content in Arabic for the CC community, and at any stage, anyone wishing to present CC in Arabic will be able to use those videos.”
–Maya Zankoul, CC Lebanon, “CC Simply Explained in Arabic“
“[Information is power]… In Africa, this rich geography of information doesn’t yet exist. And not because there isn’t the richness of knowledge, history or place, but, for a number of reasons, because there is little culture of contribution to the Internet.”
-Kelsey Wiens, Cross Regional Africa, “Activate Africa”
“If the government [in Japan] adopts CC BY or CC zero, data released under these terms will bring scalable impact on the public in a sense that it will help reuse of government data with minimum restrictions. The workshop materials are open to the public, and some of the attendees will learn to teach others, which give the project some ripple effects beyond its immediate outcomes.”
-Tomoaki Watanabe, CC Japan, “Workshops and Symposium for Open Data in Japan”
“In the Arab world there were several personalities who have a positive influence in the history of their country, in different areas. That’s why I wish to publish with the help of the Arab community, an Arabic book under CC license, which tells us their lives, stories, and their influence on their own countries.”
-Faiza Souici, CC Algeria, “Arabic Icons”
“In Colombia, libraries and librarians have become one of the important civil society groups that are collectively seeking information, understanding and participating in public spaces trying to redefine copyright as a tool for access to knowledge and not just as a source of income for some people. […] The material in this course will be open as a self-guided course that can be tapped on demand — individually, at a user-preferred time and date. Moreover, the course can be harnessed as a group, from a collective or specific institution, to be facilitated according to the possibilities and conditions of a given community.”
–Maritza Sanchez, CC Colombia / El Salvador / Uruguay, “An Online Course on Basic Copyright for Latinamerican Librarians”
Work on the Horizon
“Latin Americans are creating and freely making available high quality and innovative music independently from big companies. But it is necessary to work better on both musicians understanding their rights and the power of sharing.”
-Renata Avila, CC Guatemala, “Promoting Free Music in Central and South America”
“While Chile has encouraged the creation of open access journals nationwide, researchers with high rates of publication and citation do not see them as a real possibility when publishing. Any policy to promote the creation of journals in Chile should consider factors that give them an edge in the scientific circuit and thus becoming a real possibility by leading Chilean scientists.”
-Francisco Vera, CC Chile, “Promotion of Open Knowledge in the Chilean Academia: Ways to Facilitate Adoption of Creative Commons in the Academic World“
“The conclusion of this project is that there are only building blocks for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Romania since at the moment there is not a clear OER practice – only grassroots initiatives or projects with huge potential of becoming OER. Most of the projects we discovered in essence share the same philosophy behind OER, but they nevertheless omit to attribute a license for the created resources. In conclusion, more awareness and training activities are needed in order to reach a level of maturity regarding OER and their use.”
-Bogdan Manolea, CC Romania, “OER Awareness Activities for Librarians and Academics in Romania“
CC Romania / CC BY
“Because many pupils and students cannot access hard copy textbooks which are discouragingly expensive, the importance of Creative Commons licenses in closing the literacy gaps which have been brought about by income inequality cannot be overstated.”
-Moses Mulumba, CC Uganda, “Promoting Creative Commons Initiatives in Uganda“
“The lessons that I learnt and which I can share is that grants from CC headquarters however, small [has great] potential impact to CC Affiliates as it acts as catalysts to the Affiliates to keep things going and mobilizing other funds locally.”
-Paul Kihwelo, CC Tanzania, “Tanzania Creative Commons Salon“
“We learnt that there is a high level of interest in Creative Commons in Ireland, and a need to continuously engage with people who are interested in Creative Commons.”
-Darius Whelan, CC Ireland, “Awareness-raising Event in Dublin, January 2014”
If you’re a videogame designer and you have nothing to do over the next week (or if making cool games is more fun than your day job), why not spend the week developing a public domain game?
The idea of The Public Domain Jam is to encourage developers to create games based on public domain assets and stories, and optionally give the games themselves back to the public domain via the CC0 waiver. The game trailer encourages designers to think about the amazing wealth of public domain source material: maybe in the next week, Ovid’s Metamorphoses will dethrone zombies as the most important source of game design inspiration in the public domain.Comments Off on Attention game designers: Public Domain Jam!
Today the White House released the U.S. Open Data Action Plan, reaffirming their belief that “freely available data from the U.S. Government is an important national resource… [and] making information about government operations more readily available and useful is also core to the promise of a more efficient and transparent government.” The report (PDF) outlines the commitments to making government data more accessible and useful, and documents how U.S. federal agencies are sharing government information. From a legal standpoint, some agencies have decided to place their datasets into the worldwide public domain using the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. This means that all copyright and related rights to the data are waived, so it may be used by anyone–for any purpose–anywhere in the world–without having to ask permission in advance–and even without needing to give attribution to the author of the data.
Use of CC0 for U.S. government works has always been a challenging topic for federal agencies. This is due to the hybrid nature of copyright for government works under Section 105 of U.S. copyright law. That statute guarantees that U.S. government works do not receive copyright protection–they are in the public domain. However, while these works are not granted copyright protection inside the U.S., the legislative history of the law notes that the works may receive copyright protection outside of U.S. borders:
The prohibition on copyright protection for United States Government works is not intended to have any effect on protection of these works abroad. Works of the governments of most other countries are copyrighted. There are no valid policy reasons for denying such protection to United States Government works in foreign countries, or for precluding the Government from making licenses for the use of its works abroad.
Historically, the U.S. government has been apprehensive to apply CC0 to federal government works, because the CC0 Public Domain Dedication is a tool to waive copyright and neighboring rights globally. At the same time, it’s clear that many high-value U.S. government datasets, such as the weather data produced by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are being widely (and freely) used by meteorological and research organizations around the world. It seems that in the vast majority of cases, the U.S. federal government doesn’t wish to leverage its copyrights abroad. So perhaps it makes sense to simply clarify that these works will be made available in the worldwide public domain using a standard tool such as CC0. While we had some initial questions about acceptable licenses for federal government information, it seems that agencies are moving in the right direction in utilizing the public domain dedication, as opposed to the other copyright licensing tools that were laid out in Project Open Data.
In addition to showcasing federal agencies that are using CC0 on some of the datasets it’s releasing, the U.S. Open Data Action Plan document itself is also published under CC0.
As a work of the United States Government, this document is in the public domain within the United States. Additionally, the United States Government waives copyright and related rights in this work worldwide through the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
Over the last several years, many have called upon the federal government to adopt CC0 for U.S. government works. Most recently, a group of advocates drafted recommendations urging federal agencies to release federal government works, contractor-produced works, and primary legal materials into the into the worldwide public domain under CC0. Today’s announcement is a move in the right direction for data re-users in the United States and beyond.1 Comment »