licensing

Dozens of organizations tell STM publishers: No new licenses

Timothy Vollmer, August 7th, 2014

The keys to an elegant set of open licenses are simplicity and interoperability. CC licenses are widely recognized as the standard in the open access publishing community, but a major trade association recently published a new set of licenses and is urging its members to adopt it. We believe that the new licenses could introduce unnecessary complexity and friction, ultimately hurting the open access community far more than they’d help.

Today, Creative Commons and 57 organizations from around the world released a joint letter asking the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers to withdraw its model “open access” licenses. The association ostensibly created the licenses to promote the sharing of research in the scientific, technical, and medical communities. But these licenses are confusing, redundant, and incompatible with open access content published under other public licenses. Instead of developing another set of licenses, the signatories urge the STM Association to recommend to its authors existing solutions that will truly promote STM’s stated mission to “ensure that the benefits of scholarly research are reliably and broadly available.” From the letter:

We share a positive vision of enabling the flow of knowledge for the good of all. A vision that encompasses a world in which downstream communicators and curators can use research content in new ways, including creating translations, visualizations, and adaptations for diverse audiences. There is much work to do but the Creative Commons licenses already provide legal tools that are easy to understand, fit for the digital age, machine readable and consistently applied across content platforms.

So, what’s really wrong with the STM licenses? First, and most fundamentally, it is difficult to determine what each license and supplementary license is intended to do and how STM expects them each to be used. The Twelve Points to Make Open Access Licensing Work document attempts to explain its goals, but it is not at all clear how the various legal tools work to meet those objectives.

Second, none of the STM licenses comply with the Open Definition, as they all restrict commercial uses and derivatives to a significant extent. And they ignore the long-running benchmark for Open Access publishing: CC BY. CC BY is used by a majority of Open Access publishers, and is recommended as the optimal license for the publication, distribution, and reuse of scholarly work by the Budapest Open Access Initiative.

Third, the license terms and conditions introduce confusion and uncertainty into the world of open access publishing, a community in which the terminology and concepts utilized in CC’s standardized licenses are fairly well accepted and understood.

Fourth, the STM licenses claim to grant permission to do many things that re-users do not need permission to do, such as describing or linking to the licensed work. In addition, it’s questionable for STM to assume that text and data mining can be regulated by their licenses. Under the Creative Commons 4.0 licenses, a licensor grants the public permission to exercise rights under copyright, neighboring rights, and similar rights closely related to copyright (such as sui generis database rights). And the CC license only applies when at least one of these rights held by the licensor applies to the use made by the licensee. This is important because in some countries, text and data mining are activities covered by an exception or limitation to copyright (such as fair use in the United States), so no permission is needed. Most recently the United Kingdom enacted legislation specifically excepting noncommercial text and data mining from the reach of copyright.

Finally, STM’s “supplementary” licenses, which are intended for use with existing licenses, would only work with CC’s most restrictive license, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (BY-NC-ND). Even then they would have very limited legal effect, since much of what they claim to cover is already permitted by all CC licenses. As a practical matter, these license terms are likely to be very confusing to re-users when used in conjunction with a CC license.

The Creative Commons licenses are the demonstrated global standard for open access publishing. They’re used reliably by open access publishers around the world for sharing hundreds of thousands of research articles. Scholarly publishing presents a massive potential to increase our understanding of science. And creativity always builds on the past, whether it be a musician incorporating samples into a new composition or a cancer researcher re-using data from past experiments in their current work.

But to fully realize innovations in science, technology, and medicine, we need clear, universal legal terms so that a researcher can incorporate information from a variety of sources easily and effectively. The research community can enable these flows of information and promote discoveries by sharing writings, data, and analyses in the public commons. We’ve already built the legal tools to support content sharing. Let’s use them and not reinvent the wheel.

Questions should be directed to press@creativecommons.org.

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Followup: NonCommercial and NoDerivatives discussion

Timothy Vollmer, October 24th, 2013

ncnd

It’s been a long time since we last wrote about the ongoing discussion of the NonCommercial and NoDerivatives licenses. Recall that last year CC heard suggestions that it should stop offering NC and ND licenses in future versions of our license suite because these licenses do not create a true commons of open content that everyone is free to use, redistribute, remix, and repurpose.

The CC community agreed to not make such a radical change as to stop offering the NC or ND licenses in the soon-to-be-released 4.0 licenses, or to spin off those licenses to another host organization. However, as promised, we have been working on several projects to help explain and clarify these issues to license users.

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National Broadband Plan outlines recommendations to enable online learning; should continue to address content interoperability concerns

Timothy Vollmer, March 16th, 2010

Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its long-awaited National Broadband Plan. The plan aims to “stimulate economic growth, spur job creation, and boost capabilities in education, healthcare, homeland security and more.” The FCC has taken particular interest in the power of broadband to support and promote online learning. We applaud the FCC for working to make this a priority, especially in exploring how broadband can enable access to and participation in the open educational resources movement, empowering teachers, students, and self-learners.  In the plan, the FCC offers several recommendations in expanding digital educational content. A few of the recommendations are listed below:

Recommendation 11.1: The U.S Department of Education … should establish standards to be adopted by the federal government for locating, sharing and licensing digital educational content by March 2011.

While digital content is available currently, there are significant challenges to finding, buying and integrating it into lessons. Content is not catalogued and indexed in a way that makes it easy for users to search. It is also hard for teachers to find content that is most relevant and suitable for their students. Even if one finds the right content, accessing it in a format that can be used with other digital resources is often difficult or impossible. And if the desired content is for sale, the problem is even harder because online payment and licensing systems often do not permit content to be combined. These three problems—finding, sharing and license compatibility—are the major barriers to a more efficient and effective digital educational content marketplace. These barriers apply to organizations that want to assemble diverse digital content into materials for teachers to use, as well as to teachers who want to assemble digital content on their own. Digital content standards will make it possible for teachers, students and other users to locate the content they need, access it under the appropriate licensing terms and conditions, combine it with other content and publish it.

Recommendation 11.2: The federal government should increase the supply of digital educational content available online that is compatible with standards established by the U.S. Department of Education.

[ … ] Whenever possible, federal investments in digital education content should be made available under licenses that permit free access and derivative commercial use and should be compatible with the standards defined in recommendation 11.1.

Recommendation 11.4: Congress should consider taking legislative action to encourage copyright holders to grant educational digital rights of use, without prejudicing their other rights.

In part due to a lack of clarity regarding what uses of copyrighted works are permissible, current doctrine may have the effect of limiting beneficial uses of copyrighted material for educational purposes, particularly with respect to digital content and online learning. In addition, it is often difficult to identify rights holders and obtain necessary permissions. As a result, new works and great works alike may be inaccessible to teachers and students … Increasing voluntary digital content contributions to education from all sectors can help advance online learning and provide new, more relevant information to students at virtually no cost to content providers … Congress should consider directing the Register of Copyrights to create additional copyright notices to allow copyright owners to authorize certain educational uses while reserving their other rights.

Many of these recommendations can help to enable the sharing and downstream reuse of Open Educational Resources (OER) via public licenses that grant broad permissions. And as we wrote last week, the Department of Education–through the National Education Technology Plan (PDF)–has already offered suggestions for how open licensing can aid teaching and learning by making content created by the federal government available for use or adaptation.

One recommendation, however, misses the mark – the suggestion that Congress direct the Copyright Office to create a new copyright notice to allow rightsholders to authorize specific education uses of their content while reserving all other rights. While the suggestion for this (e) mark is a good first step in recognizing the need for educational content to be shared widely, its utility will be limited and its implementation confusing. To begin with, it’s difficult to determine what will qualify as “educational” content and use. Creative Commons considered this 7 years ago and has revisited the question since, as an “education license” sounds very appealing. The reality is that allowing educational uses, or worse allowing only certain educational uses, adds to the growing problem of non-interoperable content silos whose contents cannot be intermingled without running afoul of copyright. These qualifiers are counter-productive in that they inhibit rather than incentivize use by teachers, learners, and others of the resources stored and isolated in the silos.  “Education only” uses would dampen innovation by publishers and other content creators that otherwise would be enabled under an open license granting broad permissions.

Additionally, narrow permissions break the promise of a widely interoperable commons. Public licenses that grant broad permissions for the use and reuse of content provide the most clear path forward in solving the interoperability problem. Creative Commons supplies a standardized framework for such public lienses, and has been adopted by many in the education community. It is important that any future initiative intended to increase sharing of eudcational content–legislated or otherwise–consider interoperability with existing OER as a design requirement.

The FCC has recognized that robust broadband infrastructure is crucial for citizens to participate effectively in the 21st century digital environment. Open licensing is a piece of this critical infrastructure. Creative Commons hopes to continue to work closely with the FCC, the Department of Education, and the OER community in order to implement the infrastructure necessary to support and promote online learning.

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“What Status for Open?” A ccLearn Publication

Jane Park, December 18th, 2008

ccLearn is pleased to announce the publication of a research report entitled, “What Status for Open? An Examination of the Licensing Policies of Open Educational Organizations and Projects.” We encourage you to read the whole report, which you can find in several formats, along with an FAQ, on the ccLearn website.

The report asks, “What makes an educational resource “open”? Is it enough that resources are available on the World Wide Web free of charge, or does openness require something more?” These questions have become more urgent as the open education movement has gained momentum and as potential users of open educational resources (OERs) increasingly face uncertainty about whether permission is required when they translate, reuse, adapt, or simply republish the resources they find.

With the support of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, ccLearn surveyed the copyright licensing policies of several hundred educational projects or organizations on the Internet to assess whether these legal conditions limit the usefulness of self-designated open resources from the user’s perspective.

The study reveals three principal findings:

  • The copyright licenses or terms of use associated with some OERs are difficult to find or to understand;
  • The majority of OER projects or organizations have adopted a standardized license created by an independent license provider, and of these, the large majority have adopted one or more of the six Creative Commons copyright licenses (“CC licenses”) to define the terms of openness. But, a sizable minority of OER providers have chosen to craft their own license – often borrowing terms from one of the standardized licenses. Thus, as a group, OER providers have adopted a diverse, and often customized, set of license conditions that in some cases require significant work by users to understand;

and

  • The usefulness of OERs as a group is limited by incompatible license conditions that functionally prohibit combination or adaptation of OERs provided by different sources.

This report concludes with a recommendation that creators of open educational resources consider using CC licenses to provide users with readily found, standardized terms of use. It recommends further that OER creators consider adopting the most open of CC licenses, the Attribution-only License (CC BY), to nourish the creativity of educators and learners alike by allowing the adaptation, combination, and republication of OERs from multiple sources.

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Seesmic Adds Creative Commons License Support

Jon Phillips, July 16th, 2008

Super cool video conversation site Seesmic just rolled out its most requested feature today, Creative Commons licensing of course! Seesmic added all 6 primary licenses as option and CC Attribution 3.0 as default license for videos uploaded. “This means you determine how other people can use your content. Your choices are now between six combinations of Creative Commons licenses, and “All Rights Reserved,” says Jeremy Vaught from Seesmic.

Joi already beat me to the punch in blogging about this and posted up a video. If you head over to my site or Joi’s and you can see also the video that Loic shot with me at the CC office in San Francisco yesterday.

And, if you head over to Seesmic’s main page right now, they have a community video discussion with a fair use and copyright expert (~3:30 PM PST).

Tim “ROFLcon” Hwang and I have been working with Seesmic to add this over the last few weeks and they rocked it out pretty quick! Joanne and Loic followed up with me noting where they added CC support, which is cool for others in similar position to note as well because Seesmic relies heavily at present on Flash video (like Youtube and others) and Flash-based interface elements:

  • Either logged in or out you see a link where it says’s Some Rights Reserved at www.seesmic.com
  • When a community member goes to post a video there is a small icon that defaults to the Attribution license, but one may click, scroll down to see the other license options and learn more.
  • Community members also access CC on their profile page and in the embeddable player, where the license option links out to the selected CC license deed page.
  • You can read more about our announcement at http://blog.seesmic.com/.
  • Also added to CC our Terms of Service (ToS) with links to CC’s site where appropriate: http://www.seesmic.com/docs/TOS.html

As such, IANAL, and CC doesn’t provide legal support. These are just notes on how Seesmic has integrated CC licensing.

CC integration should be rewarded with traffic, right! Head on over there and start posting videos. Oh, and if you want to know the verb form of Seesmic, its to Seesmic.

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