metrics

The Power of Open: over 400 million CC-licensed works, with increasing freedom

Mike Linksvayer, June 27th, 2011

The Power of Open, released last week, demonstrates the impact of Creative Commons through stories of successful use of our tools by artists, educators, scientists, and institutions of all types.

The book also features two pages sketching the socio-economic value (separately, we’re looking at this in-depth; follow these posts) and numerical adoption of CC tools. The latter especially is asked about frequently by CC staff, affiliates, and community, and by people writing about CC: “How many things are released under CC licenses?” What The Power of Open says on this follows (slightly edited for format).

How Has Adoption of Creative Commons Grown?

A difficult question given the decentralized nature of the web, but not as difficult as measuring economic value. Since Creative Commons’ first year, we have tracked the number of web links to Creative Commons licenses reported by search engine queries and the number of works licensed at major repositories.

Derived from these a very conservative estimate of the approximate minimum number of licensed works at the end of each year is plotted below – from under 1 million works after the first year, to over 400 million at the end of 2010.

While the chart above shows incredible growth, the absolute number of licensed works is probably far larger. Due to the conservative way we estimate, only numbers from Yahoo! Site Explorer and Flickr are actually reflected. The most significant adoption event in Creative Commons’ history, the migration of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites to CC BY-SA starting in June 2009, is not directly reflected in the chart. Furthermore, due to changes at Yahoo!, even relative growth is probably understated starting around May 2010.

As use of Creative Commons licenses has grown, the mix of licenses used has changed. After its first year, only about 20% of works were licensed to permit in advance both remix and commercial use – that is, considered fully free or open. After 8 years, that proportion had approximately doubled.

This change seems to indicate that once creators have experienced the power of open, they want more of it!


After “How many things are released under CC licenses?”, “Which CC license is most popular?” often follows. The answer won’t be found above, but given the trend towards more freedom, should not be a great suprise. Early in CC’s history, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (BY-NC-SA) was the overwhelming favorite. Other licenses, especially Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA), slowly gained ground over the years. In July 2009, BY-SA became the most popular, and has since pulled further ahead. These changes, and more, will be charted in future posts.

For now, if you’d like to examine the raw data yourself, please see this post’s technical companion on CC Labs.

If you’re involved in a CC-enabled site, please consider adding a CC site portal with metrics like Flickr’s — invaluable as a feature for your users and as source of CC metrics.

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Creative Commons licenses on Flickr: many more images, slightly more freedom

Mike Linksvayer, March 10th, 2010

Slightly less than a year ago the count of CC-licensed images at Flickr surpassed 100 million. Over 35 million have been added since then. Now is a good time to look at changes over the last four years (for which we have data), in particular changes in the distribution of licenses used. We’ve heard many anecdotes about photographers switching to more liberal licensing after getting comfortable with and experiencing the benefits of limited sharing, and wanting more. Are these anecdotes borne out in aggregate?

First, the overwhelming trend is simply more CC-licensed images — an increase from 10 million to 135 million over four years — and we amusingly said 5 years ago that Flickr’s CC area had “gone way beyond our expectations” with 1.5 million licensed images.

The following table summarizes changes in CC licensed images over the past four years. With over 10-fold growth, use of all licenses have increased greatly. However, the distribution has also changed, though slowly. Four years ago 78% of CC-licensed images on Flickr were not pre-cleared for commercial use. This has declined by close to 5 percentage points.

license 2006-03-17 2010-02-25 2006-03-17 2010-02-25 % point change
by
photos
1,085,582 17,961,963 10.77% 13.24% +2.48
by-nc
photos
1,468,755 18,660,010 14.57% 13.76% -0.81
by-nc-nd
photos
3,241,697 41,621,048 32.15% 30.68% -1.46
by-nc-sa
photos
3,169,502 39,507,645 31.43% 29.12% -2.31
by-nd
photos
317,345 6,137,718 3.15% 4.52% +1.38
by-sa
photos
801,211 11,761,829 7.95% 8.67% +0.73
Total 10,084,092 135,650,213


Another way to look at change in license distribution is the share of licenses that permit both commercial use and derivative works — licenses that meet the requirements of the definition of free cultural works, a test used, for example, by Wikimedia Commons, the image and other media repository for Wikipedia. The graph below shows this share over the past four years.

A slightly different approach which reveals the same overall trend is to rank licenses according to the permissions they grant and assign an overall “freedom score” based on the mix of licenses used (a higher score means more permissions are granted on average). This approach was developed by Giorgos Cheliotis in a paper looking at the adoption CC ported jurisdiction licenses (pdf). The following graph shows the “freedom score” of the mix of licenses used at Flickr over the past four years.

What are the underlying causes of these trends? The CC licensing interface on Flickr has not changed significantly, presumably borne out by steady growth of CC licensed images over the years. What is causing the slow increase in permissiveness of those posting images on Flickr under CC licenses? Even more curiously, what caused their temporary decrease in permissiveness from the fall of 2006 through the spring of 2007?

Perhaps the steady increase in permissiveness since then has something to do with Wikimedia Commons’ success and its coming to the attention of photographers as an important publicity mechanism — recalling that Wikimedia Commons requires liberal licensing. However, this is mere conjecture. Can you think of other possible causes and more importantly means to analyze the impact of possible causes?

The data behind the above graphs is available as a regularly updated MySQL database dump as well as a spreadsheet snapshot (for Open Office) for 2006-present.

While the data for CC adoption on the web at large is much less certain than that for a single site such as Flickr, some indicate that both total use and permissiveness have increased much more on the web at large than on Flickr alone. Look for a post on this in the next month.

Even more interesting questions about CC adoption and impact have barely been tapped — for example, differential adoption across fields and cultures, and levels and forms of and trends in reuse. Tentative answers would be incredibly interesting and in some cases would be incredibly valuable in demonstrating economic impact, e.g., reuse of Open Educational Resources.

If these questions interest you, have at the data, discuss with others — and note that Creative Commons has an opening for a metrics engineer.

This research was assisted by a grant from the Necessary Knowledge for a Democratic Public Sphere Program of the Social Science Research Council with funds provided by the Ford Foundation.

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Contribute to our open database of educational projects

Alex Kozak, March 2nd, 2010

At Creative Commons, we are always looking for new and interesting ways to find out just how much CC licensed content is out there on the web. Our latest project, the Open Database of Educational Projects and Organizations (or ODEPO), needs your help!

In 2008, ccLearn (now fully integrated into Creative Commons core) conducted a survey of educational projects online for its report to The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation entitled “What Status for Open? An Examination of the Licensing Policies of Open Educational Organizations and Projects” (pdf). Several months later it was followed up with a data supplement (pdf) that visualized some of the findings.

The report was developed in conjunction with ODEPO, which is a Semantic MediaWiki-based database of organizations involved in providing educational content online. Currently, ODEPO includes 1147 sites affiliated with various organizations, the majority of which were provided to us back in 2008 by educational repositories involved in the creation and expansion of Open Educational Resources (OER).

We’d like to continue supporting this database to help researchers, advocates, and learners find educational projects, analyze trends in online education, and become more effective advocates for open education. We hope that increased awareness of the digital education landscape will increase communication between consumers, producers, and curators of educational content which can lead to more open practices.

How to help: Browse ODEPO. If your favorite educational project or organization is missing, incomplete, or incorrect, please log in to or create a CC wiki account and follow these instructions. Alternatively, you can simply browse to your educational project and click the “Edit this data” button on the page.

Addendum: There is now an Open Tasks tracker for ODEPO where you can find lists of pages that need more data.

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Job: Metrics Engineer

Jennifer Yip, February 12th, 2010


Photo: Metric mania by batega / CC BY

Like code and numbers? Creative Commons is working to make its websites more metrics-driven and data and reporting on CC adoption globally and within fields such as Open Educational Resources and Open Access publishing more available and regular.

We’re seeking to fill a contract metrics engineer position immediately. Engineers with knowledge in Python, PHP, SQL, JavaScript and strong analytical skills are strongly encouraged to apply. Time commitment is flexible. Local (San Francisco) candidate is preferred, but a remote contractor with excellent references and communication skills may be considered. We are accepting applications on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

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Jamendo reaches 20,000 albums

Mike Linksvayer, May 25th, 2009

Congratulations to Jamendo:

20,000 albums? We can hardly believe it!

Well, it seems like just a few months ago we were celebrating 10,000 albums published on jamendo and this weekend we passed the 20,000 album mark!

Actually, it was 11 months ago to be precise. Look at it this way and you’ll understand why we’re the first to be impressed with the figures: it will have taken jamendo 3 years to gather 10,000 albums, and then just under one year later, that number has doubled!

It’s pretty safe to say we’re going strong. And even safer to say it’s all thanks to you: artists, members and everyone contributing to spread the word of free music!

You can see those 20,000 albums broken down by license at jamendo.com/creativecommons.

Speaking of “we can hardly believe it” and collections of CC licensed media, I recently noticed a post on this blog from 2005:

We’re also happy to see growth at Flickr has gone way beyond our expectations to nearly 1.5 million photos licensed for reuse.

Two months ago Flickr reached 100 million CC licensed photos.

Congratulations to Jamendo and may today’s surprise only hint at an astounding future.

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

Fred Benenson, March 23rd, 2009

Free Souls Image

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

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

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

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

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Assessing the Commons: Social Metrics for the New Media Landscape

Melissa Reeder, September 3rd, 2008

Hopefully, everyone that supports CC also knows that we’re a non-profit organization. As such, we rely on individual, corporate, and foundation support to sustain our operations. This past spring, CC submitted a proposal called Assessing the Commons: Social Metrics for the New Media Landscape to the Social Science Research Center (SSRC). This grant would fund CC and Giorgos Cheliotis of CC Singapore and the National University of Singapore to conduct research on the “global patterns of CC license use, as well as develop metrics showing penetration and impact of open licensing, per jurisdiction and globally.” Sadly, it was denied, but they saw great promise in it, along with a number of other projects.

Because they saw so much promise in projects they were unable to fund, they decided to start their Honorable Mentions page. They are using this hub as a way to pitch these projects to other interested foundations. Check out our project, and feel free to pass it along to anyone you think might be interested. To indirectly support this project by supporting CC’s operations, please visit our donate page.

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In Sapporo at Jon Phillips 4.0 Launch

Jon Phillips, July 31st, 2008

Photo a href=http://creativecommons.org/license/by-sa/3.0by-sa/a Freddy B. Used with permission from Photographer.
Photo by-sa Freddy B. Used with permission from Photographer.

I’m in Sapporo for the CC Legal Day, Commons Research Mini-conference which the Metrics Project is but part, and to further promote the CC Case Studies project. As Greg outlined so clearly last week and I presented at the launch of CC Singapore a few days ago, this project is doing quite well with 112 submissions from around the world assisted by a great system for supporting this community project, and even better brilliant people adding case studies daily!

Also, you kind readers might have noticed that we have launched and/or refreshed several projects over the last few weeks to prepare for a coming change. As of August, my role with Creative Commons will change from managing community and business development to being liaison in ongoing similar affairs. This also means that I will be spending most of my time on projects outside of Creative Commons — most still involve using Creative Commons licensing and technology.

I’m not leaving the culture of free and open, nor Creative Commons, both of which I have been involved with for some time. Rather, I will be, as of August 2nd, devoting most of my energy to projects I’ve been delaying or couldn’t do as effectively since I have been living and breathing Creative Commons. My job and peers at Creative Commons are amazing and working for CC, in my capacity at least which I can speak to, is a dream job. If anything, I will be pushing Creative Commons even more by action, projects, and facilitation in another capacity.

Thus, if you want to find out more about what I will be doing, you know where to find me. And, if I’ve been working with you, your business, your community, and/or organization, jon@creativecommons.org still works (and will so). I am continuing work on a couple of projects that have not launched in relationship to Open Library/PDWiki project. I also am on-demand still for speaking at events and conferences globally – particularly in Asia since I will be spending most time in China from August – December 2008. I’m still on the books and will facilitate any discussions to the appropriate people. I’m more excited that ever to keep growing the commons!

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The Metrics Project Now Live!

Tim Hwang, July 9th, 2008

Tim Hwang, Business Development Intern here. Along with Jon Phillips and many others, we’ve been hard at work behind the scenes and excited to announce today that we’ve officially launched the Creative Commons Metrics Project!

Recently, there’s been a growing academic interest in understanding how CC adoption is changing the creative landscape worldwide. Metrics is a wiki-project designed to bring together existing efforts and encourage collaboration on this emerging field of research.

You can read more details about the project on our Press Releases page, and can visit the project directly to browse what we’ve gathered so far (and contribute!).

(image: Giorgos Cheliotis’ chart of global CC adoption and permissiveness — learn more about his amazing work at the Participatory Media Lab)

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“creative commons” percentage by top level domain

Mike Linksvayer, October 15th, 2007

At the CC Greece launch Diomidis Spinellis presented a very interesting (but crude, with many caveats) look at CC adoption worldwide:

To compile the metrics I used the Internet Systems Consortium July 2007 list of top-level domain names by host count distribution. From that I selected the 71 domains with more than 100,000 hosts. I then run a Google search for all pages in each domain (for instance .edu) and a search for the pages in that domain containing the string “creative commons”. The results, ordered by the percentage of pages containing the consecutive words “creative commons”, (most of which are presumably licensed by a corresponding license) are striking.

Go check out the entire list, but a few tidbits:

  • Yugoslavia (.yu) has the highest percentage of pages containing the string “creative commons”, an amazing 16.56%. There is no CC Yugloslavia, though CC Serbia is an upcoming jurisdiction.
  • Greece (which only got jurisdiction licenses on Saturday) is at #11.
  • Luxembourg, which gets jurisdiction licenses today, follows at #12.
  • Of course “unported” licenses are available for use anywhere, and apparently are being used heavily in places without jurisdiction licenses. The next ranking top level domain without corresponding launched CC jurisdiction ported licenses is Morocco, at #15. CC Morocco, anyone?
  • Spain (at #5) and Latin American domains rank high, corresponding nicely with Giorgos Cheliotis’ research, which found (using completely different methods, and looking only at jurisdiction ported licenses) that Spainish licenses stand out in terms of CC adoption.
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