copyright

School of Open: Copyright & Creative Commons for Educators Courses Now Open for Sign-up

Jane Park, February 18th, 2014

fuzzy copyright
Is copyright a little fuzzy? / Elias Bizannes / CC BY-SA

Following on the heels of “Writing Wikipedia Articles: The Basics and Beyond,” three more School of Open courses are now open for sign-up. They are:

1. Copyright 4 Educators (AUS)

This course will equip Australian educators with the copyright knowledge to confidently use copyright material in the classroom. It will also introduce Open Educational Resources (OER) and teach you how to find and adapt free, useful resources for your classes. The course is open to all educators around the world, but it is specifically targeted to Australian teachers, teacher-librarians from K-12, TAFE teachers, University lecturers/tutors, and University students studying to become teachers. The course material is learnt around practical case studies faced by teachers when using copyright material in their day-to-day teaching and educational instruction.

Facilitators: Jessica Smith and Delia Browne

To sign up, click the “Start course” button on the bottom left of the course page.

2. Copyright 4 Educators (US)

This is a course for educators who want to learn about US copyright law in the education context. Educators who are not in the US are welcome to sign up, too, if they want to learn about copyright law in the US. The course is taught around practical case studies faced by teachers when using copyright material in their day-to-day teaching. By answering the case scenarios and drafting and discussing the answers in groups, you and other participants will learn:

  • What is the public domain?
  • What does copyright law protect?
  • What is fair use?
  • What other exceptions are there in copyright law?
  • What are open access educational resources?

Facilitators: Laura Quilter and Lila Bailey

To sign up, apply using the Google form — also linked at the top of the course page.

3. Creative Commons for K-12 Educators

K-12 educators would like to find and adapt free, useful resources for their classes. Some would even like to incorporate activities that teach their students digital world skills — such as finding, remixing, and sharing digital media and materials on the web. In this lightly facilitated course, we will learn how to do these things with each other in a peer learning environment.

Facilitator: Jane Park

To sign up, click the “Start course” button on the bottom left of the course page.

About the School of Open

school of open logo

The School of Open is a global community of volunteers focused on providing free education opportunities on the meaning, application, and impact of “openness” in the digital age and its benefit to creative endeavors, education, research, and more. Volunteers develop and run online courses, offline workshops, and real world training programs on topics such as Creative Commons licenses, open educational resources, and sharing creative works. The School of Open is coordinated by Creative Commons and P2PU, a peer learning community and platform for developing and running free online courses.

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Guest post: What’s behind the success of Copyright 4 Educators Australia?

Jane Park, December 10th, 2013

The following is a guest post by Jessica Smith, National Copyright Officer for the National Copyright Unit of Australia. She ran the Copyright 4 Educators (AUS) course with Delia Browne as part of the School of Open’s second round of facilitated courses in 2013.

The School of Open is a community of volunteers focused on providing free education opportunities on the meaning, application, and impact of “openness” in the digital age and its benefit to creative endeavors, education, research, and more. Volunteers develop and run online courses, offline workshops, and real world training programs on topics such as Creative Commons licenses, open educational resources, and sharing creative works.


jessica smith
Self portrait by Jessica Smith / CC BY

Delia Browne
Self portrait by Delia Browne / CC BY

The National Copyright Unit (NCU) of Australia ran its second cycle of the School of Open’s Copyright 4 Educators (AUS) course in August. The course ran for seven weeks, with a two-week introduction period and five weeks of substantive group work. We took on 60 learners, with enrollments filling up in less than two days, plus a wait list of around 15 people. At the end of the course, we only had 3 drop-outs, a 95% retention rate!

On top of those stellar results, we also had very happy learners as well as great results in terms of the uptake and understanding of the information. We have an ongoing wait list for the course as well as teachers and librarians continuously enquiring about the course. We’re also in the process of obtaining accreditation for the course through larger teacher organizations so that it can be used to fulfill specific professional learning requirements of Australian educators.

We believe our course has succeeded for three reasons:

  1. We made it easy for the students to participate.
  2. The course was associated with the NCU, an official government division.
  3. We assigned small groups based on commonalities, such as profession and field.

1. Make it easy for the students to participate

Making it easy for students is of utmost importance in an online environment, especially if the course is targeted to people who may not be familiar with online learning. We know this may sound obvious, but it’s so important that it’s definitely worth mentioning and expounding on. If you don’t nail this, you’re not going to retain your students.

So how do you make it easy for the students? Have everything (eg, communication tools and assignment submission entrypoints) set up for them and support them to the nth degree. What this means: you have to put the time in before the course starts and you, as the course facilitator/organizer, must be very comfortable with the course layout and tools in order to be able to give ample support as well as troubleshoot when issues arise.

Tutorials for Tools

For our course, we had heaps of information on our P2PU course site (outlining essentially everything they’d need to get through the course), but we also created tutorials and sent out additional information through email on all the essential parts of the course (ie. using the discussion tool Disqus, submitting group assignments, leaving peer review, etc). We really wanted the students to feel supported and to answer questions and issues BEFORE they arose. It’s too easy to drop out of an online course, so we wanted to preemptively take care of as many issues as possible. We had one student state they were “very nervous and uncomfortable” to take an online course who later reported how great the course was set up and how easy it was in terms of knowing what to do and how to do it. It’s key students feel like this from the start of the course, or they won’t stick with it.

Tools we used

We used Google docs for our course. We had every group’s Google doc set up for every single week, and we linked to the docs from both the course on P2PU as well as in emails that we sent out every week. The weekly emails make it very clear what was expected of our learners as well as where to go to complete their tasks. See an example below:

Hi all,

It’s the last week already! You’ve all done a great job getting here. We’ve been very impressed with the calibre of all the groups’ work in this cycle. In Week 7, you’ll be using everything you’ve learnt throughout the course to help a peer.

This week you should:

*read the Week 7 Readings;
*collaborate with your group to complete Week 7’s assignment;
*post (ie by copying and pasting) your final group answer to your group’s google doc HERE by COB this Sunday, September 22nd;
*leave peer review for Week 7 by COB Tuesday following the assignment due date, September 24th;
*and remember you should also have your peer review for Week 3 finished by COB tomorrow Tuesday, September 17th.

Please note this assignment is only asking you to point to helpful resources – ie, you don’t actually have to answer the question – you simply need to demonstrate that you’re able to find, compile and share helpful copyright resources.

Peer Review

You will peer review the exact same groups every week. Just as a reminder see below:

* Group 1 will review Groups 2 and 3.
* Group 2 will review Groups 1 and 3.
* Group 3 will review Groups 1 and 2.
* [...]

Badges

Since you’ve all now completed Week 6’s assignment, you can apply for the Copyright Exceptions badge HERE.

For more information on P2PU badges, see HERE.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, just let us know!

Following up

We also sent out individual group chase-ups the Monday following a Sunday due date as well as a chase-up Wednesday following the peer review due date. See below for an example of this:

Hi Group 7,

It doesn’t look like you’ve done your peer review for Week 6. Remember this is a requirement of the course. Your group is responsible for leaving peer review for Groups 8 and 9. I can see your group has left feedback for 8 already, so only Group 9 to go!
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns. If you want to see some examples of peer review, you can take a look at some of the other groups’ docs. It doesn’t have to be anything long – just something to show you’ve had a look at the other groups’ work. If it works best for your group, you can also nominate one person per week to represent your group and do the peer review.
Please review Group 9 ASAP. We will leave our facilitator feedback on the docs this afternoon, and it would be most beneficial for you as well as the group you leave feedback for if your reviews were left before we post our comments.

The link to Week 6’s google folder is HERE.

Let me know if I can help in any way!

Its also very important to understand that the first two to three weeks are a bit rough for learners – they’re confused and they have lots of questions and issues. We received anywhere from 15 to 30 emails a week and at least five calls, asking general questions about the course, the platform, google docs, etc. We nearly always responded to these on the same day and offered as much support as needed. A quick response to a simple question can be the deciding factor between a learner getting frustrated and dropping out or being satisfied and feeling supported and staying in the course.

Onboarding

This initial confusion is also why we went with a two-week introduction period, and we think this really helps with the retention rate. It gave the learners a chance to ask questions, sort out their issues and concerns and get comfortable with the course, the platform, the collaboration tools, and their groups.

2. Associate a course with a known, respected entity

Our course was associated with the NCU of Australia, which is very well known and respected. We deal with teachers on a daily basis, and most of our NCU affiliated teachers/librarians were the first to sign up for the course and have been our biggest supporters and promoters.

In addition to past participants spreading the word, we promoted the course through our school connections in Australia – through teachers whom we’ve given advice, the Copyright Advisory Group (each State/Territory in Australia as well as each sector has a representative), teacher organizations, and our website (http://www.smartcopying.edu.au/) which is the official guide to copyright issues for Australian Schools and Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutions. Once we did our initial promotional blitz, the promotion largely took off on its own, making its way onto numerous listservs and teacher associations that we didn’t previously know existed.

So the association helped with the initial promotion of the course, but we also believe the reputation of the NCU encouraged teachers to sign up for the course: it made teachers feel more comfortable asking questions/contacting us, it decreased the numbers of dropouts, and we also found that many employers, such as school deans, required their teaching staff to take the course.

Incorporating the course into NCU’s daily workload also allowed us to quickly and effectively respond to questions/issues with the course.

3. Arrange groups to encourage conversation and cohesiveness

Questionnaire

In the first week of the course, we only asked our learners to fill out a questionnaire and have a look around the course. With the information from the questionnaire, we created 15 groups of four. We also took group requests, which frequently came from teachers at the same school. If groups were not requested, we arranged groups based on school location, level and sector to encourage conversation and commonality between group members. In the second week of the course, we only asked our students to meet their group and to decide on how their group would collaborate. Group members got to know each other and supported each other over the course of the seven weeks, and we think this group cohesiveness really encouraged group members to stay committed to the group and the course (as well as have more fun!).

Peer support

As an example, we had one student who was going to drop out because she needed to have surgery in the third week of the course, and she would be unable to type for a week or two. She consulted us, and we told her to first discuss the problem with her group to see if they could work something out. She did this, and they became somewhat of a support group for her and they worked out that she would lead discussion in the weeks leading up to her surgery (which they mainly did via email) and then the weeks she couldn’t type she participated via a weekly Skype session with her group.
We’ve also been told by a number of groups that they all plan to keep in touch with each other to discuss any copyright questions and what’s going on in their classrooms/schools.

Conclusion

Overall, we believe the course was very successful. Not only because of the retention rate but also because people enjoyed it! They’re telling others about the course, they learnt the information, and if they ever have any questions or issues they now know where to find the information.

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Supporting Copyright Reform

Timothy Vollmer, October 16th, 2013

reform graphic

Today Creative Commons released a policy statement expressing its support for copyright reform efforts around the world.

Creative Commons (CC) has enabled a new approach to copyright licensing over the last ten years. CC licenses facilitate novel social, educational, technological, and business practices, and support productive relationships around networked knowledge and culture.

We are dedicated stewards of our licenses and tools, and we educate users, institutions, and policymakers about the positive benefits of adopting CC licenses. Our licenses will always provide voluntary options for creators who wish to share their material on more open terms than current copyright systems allow. But the CC vision—universal access to research and education and full participation in culture—will not be realized through licensing alone.

Around the world, numerous national governments are reviewing or revising their copyright law. Some proposed revisions would broaden the scope of uses of copyrighted works permitted without the rightsholder’s permission. In response, it has been suggested that the very success of CC licenses means that copyright reform is unnecessary—that the licenses solve any problems for users that might otherwise exist. This is certainly not the case. CC licenses are a patch, not a fix, for the problems of the copyright system. They apply only to works whose creators make a conscious decision to affirmatively license the right for the public to exercise exclusive rights that the law automatically grants to them. The success of open licensing demonstrates the benefits that sharing and remixing can bring to individuals and society as a whole. However, CC operates within the frame of copyright law, and as a practical matter, only a small fraction of copyrighted works will ever be covered by our licenses.

Our experience has reinforced our belief that to ensure the maximum benefits to both culture and the economy in this digital age, the scope and shape of copyright law need to be reviewed. However well-crafted a public licensing model may be, it can never fully achieve what a change in the law would do, which means that law reform remains a pressing topic. The public would benefit from more extensive rights to use the full body of human culture and knowledge for the public benefit. CC licenses are not a substitute for users’ rights, and CC supports ongoing efforts to reform copyright law to strengthen users’ rights and expand the public domain.

At its core, Creative Commons is rooted in the broader work to reform copyright. The founders of Creative Commons believed that copyright law was out of sync with how people share content on the Internet, and they developed the CC licenses as one way to address that problem. But we’d like to see copyright law itself better aligned to its original purpose–to enable and reward creative participation in culture and society.

From time to time, people in our community bring up the question of whether Creative Commons should be only a steward of the CC licenses, or also a steward of the broader participatory culture that the licenses are meant to promote.

Creative Commons affiliates, board, and staff have worked together over the past year to develop the policy statement above. The need for a statement like this became apparent at the 2012 Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest in Rio de Janeiro. Several CC affiliates attended, many who work on copyright reform initiatives alongside their CC outreach. In Rio, affiliates described the dual nature of their work, which they feel sometimes requires removing their “CC Affiliate hat” when involved with reform efforts. They argued that developing tools for sharing creative content and arguing that outdated copyright laws be changed to better support legal sharing were two different sides of the same coin. Affiliates asked for clarification of the organization’s policies on affiliates engaging directly in copyright law reform proposals.

Over the next several months, Creative Commons drafted a statement that re-emphasizes the many benefits that CC licenses bring to society. But it also acknowledges the limitations of CC and expresses the need for reform of the current copyright system. CC affiliates came together in Buenos Aires in August 2013 to discuss the position of Creative Commons in relation to copyright reform. Over 100 affiliates and supporters participated in a day-long pre-conference event. The policy position was drafted and reviewed by the board of directors, affiliates, and staff.

There are several reasons that we feel such a position is useful–and necessary. First, there have been several proposed laws (like SOPA/PIPA) and trade agreements (ACTA/TPP) that if enacted would be detrimental to user rights to access and use information. And, we’ve heard that in some policy discussions the success of CC as a voluntary licensing scheme is being used by incumbent interests as evidence that fundamental copyright reform is unnecessary. This is incorrect. As we wrote in March,

[The] existence of open copyright licenses shouldn’t be interpreted as a substitute for robust copyright reform. Quite the contrary. The decrease in transaction costs, increase in collaboration, and massive growth of the commons of legally reusable content spurred on by existence of public licenses should drastically reinforce the need for fundamental change, and not serve as a bandage for a broken copyright system.

The passage of increasingly harsh copyright regulations has the potential to render CC licenses and tools ineffective. The aim of these laws are counter to CC’s mission and vision. Second, it’s clear there are some areas of copyright where open licensing won’t solve the problem. One example is increasing access to copyrighted works for the visually impaired. Paul Keller explains this well:

Take the WIPO treaty for the visually impaired: There had to be a treaty because a voluntary or market driven solution to end the book famine for visually impaired people in the developing world did not emerge even though the problem had been known for a long time. Quite clearly the problem cannot not be solved by encouraging publishers to license their works openly and, instead, it required a tailored legislative approach that builds on new limitation and exemptions that address this specific issue.

Third, many CC affiliates are already deeply embedded in copyright reform activities as a part of their broader legal, policy, and digital rights advocacy work. It makes sense for those affiliates engaged in reform efforts to be able to speak and engage wearing their “CC Affiliate hat,” instead of trying to maintain the ambiguous and sometimes arbitrary separation between their “CC work” and the work they do supporting user rights and the public interest.

While we think this policy statement is noncontroversial, we must proceed with care. Historically, our organization has not been heavily involved in copyright reform efforts. Instead, we’ve been focused on the development and stewardship of the licenses and public domain tools. And this will certainly continue to be the case. Direct advocacy supporting more fundamental copyright reform has taken a backseat, for several reasons. First, we recognize and appreciate the value of neutrality, and acting as a responsible and impartial steward of our licenses, no matter who wishes to use them. Making our tools the best they can be and educating about how to use them are our core tasks. Second, as a U.S. based 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, we are constrained in our ability to engage in lobbying activities. Any lobbying conducted by CC headquarters staff will continue to be carefully tracked and reported. And lobbying by CC Affiliates will continue to be on behalf of the jurisdiction team in accordance with our MOU and established guidelines. Finally, there are groups that are well-positioned for advocacy activities, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Open Rights Group, Open Knowledge Foundation, and La Quadrature du Net. We support and promote the crucial, timely work of these and other groups.

We reaffirm that the mission of Creative Commons will sometimes call for our involvement in reform efforts. At the Creative Commons Global Summit in Buenos Aires, Lawrence Lessig gave a talk entitled, “Laws that Choke Creativity”. Lessig said he supports the fundamental freedom to remix. “We need to share more, and share more legally,” he said. “But in order to do so, the law must change.” He said that Creative Commons is not the complete solution. “We need real change in real law if these freedoms are to be secured.”

File Repair icon by iconoci, from The Noun Project. CC BY.

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Open curriculum alternatives to MPAA’s new anti-piracy campaign for kids

Jane Park, September 25th, 2013


Adventures in copyright / opensourceway / CC BY-SA

It has come to our attention that the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and top internet service providers are drafting curriculum to teach kids in California elementary schools that copying is wrong, or as Wired.com puts it, “Downloading is Mean!”

This message is way too simple. In this digital age, the most important thing we should be teaching kids is to be creative and take full advantage of all the web has to offer. Copyright, asking permission, open licensing, and all the other legal nuances, should be seen as secondary (and even complementary) to this purpose. We should be starting with the things kids can do versus what they can’t do.

In addition to the campaign’s overly simple and negative approach, other issues include the complete absence of fair use from the curriculum — exceptions and limitations to copyright that allow various uses of copyrighted materials for educational, journalistic and other purposes. Wired.com reports, “Its president, Marsali Hancock, says fair use is not a part of the teaching material because K-6 graders don’t have the ability to grasp it.”

Assuming the net generation and their younger counterparts are as dumb as assumed in the above statement, the curriculum still leaves out a crucial and growing part of the Internet landscape — the commons of free and open materials in the public domain and/or released under open licenses that actually encourage copying, redistribution, revision, and remix! In short, everything this simplified anti-piracy campaign is conveniently leaving out in its copyright curriculum for kids.

There is a more balanced approach to educating kids about copyright that includes the alternatives, and here are some organizations and experienced educators who have developed copyright curricula. The following list of resources are open educational resources (OER), licensed under a CC license that enables free and legal reuse, redistribution and remix. In short, stuff that is free and just fine and even great to copy!

Copyright curriculum for kids

Common Sense Media’s K-12 Digital Literacy & Citizenship Curriculum

Common Sense Media has developed a comprehensive K-12 Digital Literacy & Citizenship Curriculum for educators to use in their classrooms. Part of the curriculum focuses on Creative Credit & Copyright, which you can navigate easily via their Scope & Sequence tool. The resources are aligned to Common Core standards and licensed under CC BY-NC-SA.

New Media Rights Copyright FAQ Videos

New Media Rights has developed a series of short Copyright FAQ YouTube videos (because what better way to interact with youth but through YouTube?) answering common questions about copyright and the public domain. These videos are drafted by lawyers and read by students and are licensed under CC BY.

Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Teaching Copyright Curriculum

EFF developed this copyright curriculum for teachers to use in the classroom several years ago to counter campaigns like the one above, proving that topics like fair use can be taught! Teachingcopyright.org is available under CC BY.

Australia’s Smartcopying Guide for Schools and Interactive Resource for Kids

Australia has an official website for its schools regarding copyright for educators and students. However, this website, called Smartcopying, doesn’t just cover Australian copyright law — it also covers open educational resources and Creative Commons licenses. It’s quite the comprehensive resource with lesson plans, info sheets, videos, and more, and is licensed under CC BY-SA. This includes All Right to Copy, an interactive web activity “designed to teach students about copyright, and how it impacts them as both users and creators.” These resources are useful even if you’re not Australian, so check it out at http://www.smartcopying.edu.au/ and navigate using the horizontal menu to the topic of your choice.

National Library of New Zealand’s Free to Mix Guide for Educators

The National Library of New Zealand takes a different approach to copyright education; instead of focusing on what students can’t do, it focuses on what teachers and students can do with its Free to Mix guide. The guide was popular enough to spin off its own remix by CC New Zealand (pdf) with beautifully done graphics. Both versions are licensed under CC BY.

Shared Creations: Making Use of Creative Commons

Emily Puckett Rogers and Kristin Fontichiaro with the University of Michigan created this short and colorful lesson plan book for elementary school teachers that covers copyright, the public domain (even trademarks and patents!), and Creative Commons. This book is short and sweet with age-appropriate activities (that are even fun for adults). You can browse the book for free online or purchase a hard copy at the publisher’s website. The book is licensed CC BY-NC-SA.

School of Open’s Copyright 4 Educators

The School of Open, a community of volunteers around the world providing free education opportunities on the meaning and impact of openness in the digital age, offers an online course called Copyright 4 Educators. While this course (offered as adapted to both US and AUS law, but open to anyone) is primarily designed for educators and not kids, teachers can take what they’ve learned and then relay it to their students. The School of Open also offers more kid-friendly resources such as Get CC Savvy, Teach someone something with open content, and numerous lesson plans and activities integrated in CC for K-12 Educators. All School of Open courses on the P2PU platform are licensed under CC BY-SA; others hosted elsewhere may be licensed under CC BY.

This list is not exhaustive; if you know of other copyright education resources, please share them below! And if you would like to contribute to providing free copyright, OER, or CC education opportunities for kids (or adults), please join the School of Open community in its efforts! Visit http://schoolofopen.org/ to get started.

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Urgent: more action needed to stop SOPA

Mike Linksvayer, December 14th, 2011

Update 12/16

The hearings are still going on; please keep calling, emailing, and otherwise spreading the word!


Tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will debate and potentially vote on SOPA, the Internet Blacklist bill that would break the Internet.

Our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have compiled a list of 12 actions you can take now to stop SOPA.

Do them.


Soon you’ll find a huge banner at the top of every page on the CC site protesting SOPA. The Wikimedia community is considering a blackout to bring massive attention to the danger posed by SOPA. Many others are taking action. What are you doing?

For background on the bill, why it would be especially bad for the commons, and links for news, check out our previous post calling for action against SOPA and a detailed post from Wikimedia’s General Counsel.

Finally, remember that CC is crucial to keeping the Internet non-broken in the long term. The more free culture is, the less culture has an allergy to and deathwish for the Internet. We need your help too. Thanks!

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Urgent: Stop [U.S.] American censorship of the Internet

Mike Linksvayer, November 11th, 2011

November 16 the U.S. Congress will hold hearings on a bill that would unfairly, recklessly and capriciously enable and encourage broad censorship of the Internet in the name of suppressing distribution of works not authorized by copyright holders. As Public Knowledge aptly summarizes, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” would seriously “threaten the functioning, freedom, and economic potential of the Internet” by:

  • short-circuiting the legal system, giving rightsholders a fast-track to shutting down whole websites;
  • creating conflicts between Domain Name System (DNS) servers, making you more vulnerable to hackers, identity theft, and cyberattacks;
  • sanctioning government interference with the Internet, making it more censored globally.

SOPA threatens every site on Internet, but would especially harm the commons, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains, focusing on free software. The same applies to free and open projects beyond software, which often use CC licenses. While standard public licenses have lowered the costs and risks of legal sharing and collaboration, SOPA would drastically increase both the costs and risks of providing platforms for sharing and collaboration (think sites ranging from individual blogs to massive community projects such as Wikipedia, from open education repositories to Flickr and YouTube), and vaporize accessibility to huge swathes of free culture, whether because running a platform becomes too costly, or a single possibly infringing item causes an entire domain to be taken down.

The trend that one can plot from the DMCA (1998) to SOPA, and continued extensions and expansions of copyright and related restrictions around the world, also demonstrate the incredible importance of the commons for healthy information policy and a healthy Internet — almost all other “IP” policy developments have been negative for society at large. The DMCA was decried by advocates of free speech and the Internet, and has over past 13 years had many harmful effects. Now, in 2011, some think that the U.S. Congress ‘struck the right balance’ in 1998, while big content is dissatisfied, and with SOPA wants to ratchet the ‘balance’ (watch out, 2024!) much further to their short-term advantage.

Techdirt has excellent coverage of the gritty details of SOPA, its ill effects, and the many constituencies alarmed (such as librarians and sports fans).

Sign up at American Censorship Day to be alerted of actions you can take against SOPA. Demand Progress, EFF, and PK have forms you can use to write the U.S. Congress right now.

Please take action! If you aren’t already sharing works under a CC license and supporting our work, now is a good time. Bad legislation needs to be stopped now, but over the long term, we won’t stop getting new bad legislation until policymakers see broad support and amazing results from culture and other forms of knowledge that work with the Internet, rather than against it. Each work or project released under a CC license signals such support, and is an input for such results.

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Dossier on EU sound recording copyright extension

Mike Linksvayer, September 6th, 2011

Creative Commons was launched in the aftermath of a retroactive copyright term extension in the U.S. and during a challenge to that extension, a challenge that economist Milton Friedman called a no brainer — a retroactive term extension cannot possibly incent the creation of new works, while at the same time it must rob the public domain.
Since its launch in 2002, Creative Commons has made tremendous strides in fostering the commons. In the last few years, policymakers have increasingly seen the value of making commons a default, e.g., where public information or public interest funding is involved. However, new retroactive copyright term extensions show that public policy continues to be far removed from the public interest — as is the case now with sound recording in the European Union.

The following text is by John Hendrik Weitzmann, Legal Project Lead of Creative Commons Germany and co-author of a new dossier on the EU sound recording copyright extension.


This week and next week will bring defining moments in European copyright policy. The efforts to retrospectively extend the term for related rights in sound recordings to 70 years, halted since 2009 by not finding the necessary majority in the Council of the EU, will probably be approved by the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) in Brussels tomorrow.

COREPER prepares the Council’s meeting on Sept 12th, which will without much doubt follow COREPERs preparation and pass the term extension. It will then become EU law even though both, the EU Commission that made the proposal and the EU Parliament that amended and passed it, are no longer in office.

The recent developments have largely been behind closed doors, until Denmark, Portugal and Finland indicated earlier this year that they would no longer oppose the extension. Now the proposal is being pushed to the Council again in an up-speed process.

As the most renowned copyright scholars from Cambridge to Amsterdam and Munich have pointed out again and again, such an extension will severely hurt Europe’s cultural diversity, its innovative potential and the preservation of its cultural heritage. All this in order to help four international corporations to squeeze marginal extra revenue from a fraction of the recordings of the 20th century (the 60s). The session musicians, being the group that the extension move purportedly is meant to support, are going to at best receive between 1 and 2 percent of the cake, extremely biased towards already highly successful artists like Sir Cliff Richard, a tireless campaigner for term extension. This prospect has been proven through economical and legal analysis. Academia has told the EU Commission about this in independent studies, has told the public in the Bournemouth Declaration and the Joint Academic Statement on Term Extension.

To no avail, the only ever reaction was discernible when the EU Parliament in 2009 lowered the Commission proposal’s 95 year term to 70 years and added some side provisions to counter the rights holders dominance in favour of artists. These provisions are well-meant but will not solve the distribution problem, as again was proven by academic experts. Above that, these provisions being added is ‘sold’ to the European public as being possible only if the term extension is passed. This is false. For example, as the Joint Academic Statement points out, the so called use-it-or-lose-it provision is a regular part of the German copyright code since decades ago and was introduced without any connection to a retrospective term extension.

With support by the Wikimedia Foundation, iRights.info has now compiled (blog post in German) a “Dossier on Term Extension for Related Rights in Sound Recordings”. It explains background, timeline and arguments made around the extension plans and is available in German and English.

A broad coverage of what is happening is needed all across Europe. The dossier can be sent around and built upon, it is licensed under CC BY 3.0 Germany and any re-use is highly appreciated.

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Creative Commons at the Society for Economic Research on Copyright Issues Congress

Tal Niv, August 2nd, 2011

Last month, CC participated in the yearly SERCI congress, which took place in Bilbao, Spain. SERCI is the Society for Economic Research on Copyright Issues. The SERCI congress is therefore intended to allow researchers to discuss their ongoing work with their peers and to further academic alliances between them for the benefit of future research enterprises. We were only able to participate following a rigorous process in which our research outputs were refereed.

Just to give you an idea of the people we were fortunate to meet at SERCI and how interesting and critically important their research is, attending was Nancy Gallini (University of British Colombia), who was discussing antitrust implications of copyright bundles, such as the ones arguably created by collecting societies. Participating was also Michael Yuan (Roger Williams University) who was discussing a paper he wrote along with Koji Domon (Waseda University) presenting their research comparing between copyright systems of “Indefinitely Renewable Copyright” and the current system. Christian Handke (Erasmus University of Rotterdam) spoke about Copyright and its “Effects on Different Types of Innovation”, and Jin-Hyuk Kim (the University of Cambridge) was discussing his work on copyright levies. These participants were just part of a very long list of prominent researchers from all over the world, and the person orchestrating it all was Richard Watt from the University of Canterbury.

As you can probably tell from the titles of the papers, we were delighted to find at the congress academics highly involved in research directly intended to impact global, international and national copyright policy! That, as well as the quality of their input, is why they have the ear of policy makers and this is why they are right up our alley!

So to serve as an example for how high the level of involvement of these academics in policy-making circles reaches, at SERCI we met economists who work for governmental authorities such as Benjamin Mitra-Kahn (UK Intellectual Property Office), Dimiter Gantchev (WIPO) and Raphael Solomon (Copyright Board of Canada). Benjamin was speaking about the Hargreaves report, which is a review of Intellectual Property and Growth, initiated in November 2010 by England’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, conducted by Prof. Ian Hargreaves. And Dimiter Gantchev was discussing the recent discussions ongoing in WIPO about global copyright registries.

I believe I can objectively report that the level of interest from participants in Creative Commons was very high. And our own topic for discussion can be essentially described as ourselves: Our presentation was about our ongoing project about CC’s economic contribution (see especially first, fourth and fifth posts about the project, and of course, the paper itself). Several good results came from our participation:

First, we were able to arouse a lot of interest among this global community of researchers, and boy, did we cherish the attention! For instance, people were asking how CC is impacting the copyright environment that applies to its different communities, how exactly the process of applying the license works, how CC analyzes its users’ incentives, etc.

Everybody who was there now knows what we do and how important we are in the space of spurring the operation of our different communities (through enhanced sharing and transactional benefits). Obviously, this newly acquired knowledge about CC is bound to be shared with researchers in the respective institutions of the participants, thus percolating through the community of scholars and increasing our renown, as an organization and as a platform.

The critically important implication of all this is that when these scholars are voicing their opinions in policy-making circles, it is highly probable that they will now be offering CC as potential solution for different problems that hinder the activity within our target communities, of creators, scientists, educators, governments, NGOs, individual data contributors, etc.

Second, we were able to receive substantial advice on the project we came in to present. For instance, we discussed with the other participants the decisions we have made to look at our contribution in different CC communities separately and only then at cross-influences, our understanding of our user incentives and our ability to substantially reduce transaction costs, as well as our suggested formulation of how the sharing and collaboration we promote benefits welfare and individuals.

Third, we struck bonds with some new studious friends – and CC now has more colleagues within the research community. This means that we can count on collaborations for CC-oriented research, which we are conducting, and also that we can expect others to initiate and conduct independent research on CC themes.

To make a long story short, SERCI has been what was expected and more, and we are already looking forward to implementing what we’ve learned, to start our cooperation with the scholars we met and to make plans for our next such event!

Note: The SERCI Congress program which is linked to is not updated. We are told by SERCI that it will be, to include the names of all the participants in the coming days.

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Creative Commons files comments in U.S. Department of Commerce’s Inquiry on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Internet Economy

Timothy Vollmer, December 15th, 2010

Creative Commons has filed comments in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Inquiry on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Internet Economy. The Department received nearly 900 submissions over the comment period, which ended December 10. A summary of the Department’s interest in this topic is described below:

The Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force is conducting a comprehensive review of the relationship between the availability and protection of online copyrighted works and innovation in the Internet economy. The Department, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) seek public comment from all interested stakeholders, including rights holders, Internet service providers, and consumers on the challenges of protecting copyrighted works online and the relationship between copyright law and innovation in the Internet economy. After analyzing the comments submitted in response to this Notice, the Internet Policy Task Force intends to issue a report that will contribute to the Administration’s domestic policy and international engagement in the area of online copyright protection and innovation.

All of the comments are posted to the NTIA’s Internet Policy Task Force website. The comments of Creative Commons and a few other organizations are highlighted below:

Creative Commons
Creative Commons urged the Department to ensure that the Internet remains open for innovation by adopting and promoting policies that enable and preserve the ability for users to lawfully share their creativity:

Creativity and innovation on the Internet is enabled by open technologies, open networks, and open content. Support for open licensing and public domain legal tools can help the maintain robust information flows that facilitate innovation and growth of the Internet economy.

Open content licensing is playing an increasing role in digital cultural heritage and the growth of the digital economy. Websites like Flickr, Picasa, Vimeo, Blip.tv, SoundCloud, Jamendo, Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons share millions of CC licensed free cultural works.

Educational institutions, organizations, and teachers and learners use CC tools to overcome the legal and technical restrictions that prevent educational resources from being accessible, adaptable, interoperable, and discoverable.

Scientists and research institutions seeking to overcome the legal and technical barriers to sharing and building on data and knowledge are using CC tools, maximizing potential on investments and accelerating scientific discovery and innovation.

Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation, New America Foundation

In considering the relationship between copyright and innovation, it is critical to remember that copyright is fundamentally a balance between the rights of the creator and the rights of the public at large. It is unavoidable that copyright creates restrictions on free expression and the free flow of ideas. However, it can also provide a powerful incentive to create. Effective copyright policy finds an equilibrium between the creator’s incentive to create and the public’s right to access, share and build on existing works. To that end, the Department should focus on finding ways to encourage more people to create and contribute. In addition to benefits, the costs of enforcement – both financial and in increased barriers to innovate – must be considered.

Mozilla

Whether
 for
 pleasure,
 education,
 or
 commerce,
 the
 web’s
 ability
 to
 help
 fuel
 innovation
 has
 derived
 from
 its
 tapestry
 of
 contributions,
 which
 are
 the
 product
 of
 people,
 communities,
 and
 organizations
 around
 the
 world
 creating,
 modifying,
 sharing,
 and
 hosting
 content.
 
In
 our
 view,
 it
 is
 imperative
 that
 these
 quintessential
 qualities
 of
 the
 Internet
 be
 preserved
 without
 compromising
 the
 rights
 of
 content
 producers,
 whether 
big 
or 
small, 
and
 those 
that 
host 
and 
distribute 
such 
content.

Library Copyright Alliance

[...] the federal government can most effectively promote creativity and innovation in the Internet Economy by encouraging the use of open licensing models and by requiring access to the results of federally funded research.

One of the primary sources of innovation in the U.S. economy is scholarly communications: articles, monographs, and databases written by professors, graduate students, and other researchers in all fields of human endeavor. The ideas expressed in these writings stimulate new research, advance the scientific and technology enterprise, and encourage commercial development of marketable products and services.

[...] the Department of Commerce, and the federal government as a whole, should concentrate their efforts on encouraging the creation and maintenance of robust, open platforms that support commercial and noncommercial ventures. The federal government should not expend limited resources on protecting particular business models in the face of technological change.

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New copyright-like rights considered harmful

Mike Linksvayer, December 13th, 2010

Today a new German site launched, IGEL (“Initiative gegen ein Leistungsschutzrecht”; in English, “initiative against a related right”). The site, spearheaded by German lawyer Till Kreutzer, provides information on a possible proposal for a new “related right” for press publishers. Original content on the site is released under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

Additionally, Creative Commons has agreed to be listed as a supporter of IGEL. We almost never stake out a position beyond our core role of providing voluntary infrastructure to facilitate sharing. This sometimes leads to criticism of CC from both those who oppose copyright and see us as apologists, and from those who fear sharing, and see anything less than complete control, no matter how voluntary, as undermining copyright.

We take this criticism from both extremes as indication that we’re doing our job well — a job that isn’t even about copyright, let alone apologizing for or undermining copyright. CC’s job is to provide tools to help people who want to, and society overall, to get the most possible out of the sharing and collaboration made possible through communications technologies and human creativity. Copyright happens to be the legal framework that shapes how sharing and collaboration occur, so our tools operate in that framework to grant permissions in advance for sharing and collaboration.

This brings us to new related rights. Examples include sui generis database rights only applicable in Europe, proposals for special broadcast rights, which would give broadcasters a new set of exclusive rights merely for having broadcasted material, and a potential proposal for a new press publisher right to control use of non-copyrighted snippets of press material as well as specific headline wordings, for example. This potential press publisher right is what IGEL concerns.

Such new related rights, when they go into effect, make sharing and collaboration harder, for at least two reasons.

One, all communication requires some common expression. Things that fall outside of the scope of copyright (e.g., facts, abstract ideas) and copyright exceptions and limitations that facilitate quoting and critique give scope for communication, without every single sentence one utters being subject to potential lawsuit. New related and nearby rights can effectively limit the scope of what may be communicated freely, e.g., collections of facts in the case of database rights, and very brief descriptions of news items, in the case of press publisher rights — or even the facts of a news story, in the case of “hot news” restrictions recently mooted by publishers in the U.S.

New York City Gridlock
New York City Gridlock by Roy Googin / CC BY-SA
Two, with a proliferation of rights, it is harder to know who has exclusive control over what, or whether multiple parties have exclusive control over different rights over a work. This phenomena of too many property claims forms what is sometimes called an anticommons — overlapping exclusive claims can prevent anyone from using a work — the opposite (thus “anti”) of a commons, in which anyone may use a work under a clear, easily discernible set of rules.

The press publishers right as it was proposed now for Germany is expressly intended to make linking to (and viewing of) openly accessible press content on the web cost a mandatory fee, whenever it happens in any kind of commercial context. Together with the vagueness of the term “press product” in this sense and the unclear boundaries of commercial contexts, the new right is apt to spread uncertainty as to when a link can freely be set, thus harming a core principle of sharing and of the internet. At the same time, creators using Creative Commons licenses might suddenly find themselves falling into the scope of being a press publisher in the meaning of the new right. This could lead to the paradox situation of original Creative Commons content unintentionally becoming paid-content — that is if the publishers right is drafted to be non-waivable.

This brings us to why Creative Commons considers new copyright-like rights harmful. Such rights are clear barriers to getting the most out of sharing and collaboration and threatens to the open web, with no evidence of any countervailing benefits. New copyright-like rights make it a bit harder to share and collaborate with openly licensed materials, by constraining and confusing what can be openly licensed when multiple rights are involved. More significantly they make it harder to share and collaborate even when copyright is not pertinent, but the natural flow of using digital communication technologies is, e.g., sharing a link with a title.

In some ways increasing default restrictiveness makes the tools Creative Commons provides more valuable. Less default facilitation of sharing and collaboration means those who want to share must take careful steps to enable it — and Creative Commons has encapsulated the hard work in its tools. Furthermore, the more the default condition is lockdown, the more valuable works that aren’t fully locked down become. However, at Creative Commons we are are not simply working to maximize use of our tools, which after all are just a means to facilitate sharing and collaboration.

Finally, one should note, however one feels about the reality of current copyright law, that new copyright-like rights do harm — either adding insult to injury, or making copyright less efficient and credible as it becomes increasingly easy to obtain protection for non creative works, a threshold copyright requires for good reason. If you read German, we encourage you to visit the IGEL site and learn about the related rights proposals it addresses. We’ll also have more to say here, perhaps not about why new copyright-like rights are harmful, but how Creative Commons tools operate in a world in which such rights exist — some readers will be aware that European sui generis database rights are particularly troublesome — for our tools do have to do their best to enable sharing in collaboration in the world we find ourselves in, and as that world changes. (This is a difficult job. Please make a donation to support our work!)

Thanks to John Hendrik Weitzmann, Legal Project Lead of Creative Commons Germany, for introducing IGEL and assistance with this post.

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