open licensing

Creative Commons’ Foundation Engagement Project

Iris Brest, March 25th, 2014

Creative Commons received a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to survey the licensing policies of private foundations, and to work toward increasing the free availability of foundation-supported works. We are still pursuing this objective, but here’s where we are at the moment.

Tax-exempt private foundations are non-profit institutions exclusively devoted to benefitting the public, by grant-making or direct activities designed to achieve charitable, scientific, educational or similar purposes. Because there is a limit to the funds available to even the largest private foundations, most try to use their resources in a way that will have the greatest impact on the problems they hope to solve. Thus, they make grants to organizations that have shown themselves to be particularly effective in achieving their social goals.

One avenue to greater impact that has not been followed as often as it could be is requiring, or at least encouraging, grantees to make any grant-funded works freely available for broad uses by others, so that those works can not only be distributed for education and research, but readily improved and built upon to create new works in a potentially unlimited trajectory. Even assuring public access just to read the works is important. To take one example, foundations often fund research that is relevant to the welfare of the world’s poorest people – who often live in countries where their own researchers can’t afford to subscribe to the journals in which the work is published. Making articles on advances in medicine available through the internet can speed the transfer of knowledge to places where it is urgently needed – often by years. Licenses that give people the right to download, print and distribute those articles, and to translate or otherwise adapt them to local needs, multiply the already-great value of simple access.

Increasingly, government agencies and intergovernmental organizations are adopting open policies for copyrightable works and data they create or commission. For example, all grants under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program require that copyrightable materials produced be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license, so that those materials may be freely used by all, eliminating the need for costly replication of effort as community colleges put together courses to train workers for new jobs. Foundations have typically made the same requirement for works produced under grants to develop open educational resources, but only a few have extended the requirement to grants for other purposes.

We believe that in almost all cases, the copyrightable works produced with grant funding, as well as works concerning the problems the foundation seeks to address that are created by expert staff or commissioned by the foundation from external experts, will have more impact on those problems if they are published under an open license. In speaking with foundations, we have learned that most of them agree with this in principle – and it’s on their list; but limited time and unlimited demands mean that the issue usually doesn’t get to the top of the list.

There are, of course, grants a part of whose purpose is to provide the grantee with a source of income; in some (but not all) such cases, the income can only be realized by selling copies of the grant-funded work rather than by providing ancillary services. Obviously, it would not be rational to insist on the work’s being openly published in those few cases. We believe that it is appropriate and desirable for a foundation to adopt principles that cover the large majority of its grants, not to invite requests for exceptions, but to be prepared to relax its policy when it furthers the grant purpose to do so.

We have accordingly drafted a model intellectual property licensing policy for foundations, covering their own works as well as grant-funded works. The draft has been vetted by a dozen or more foundations, and has changed significantly as a result of their input. The current version includes a set of alternative provisions to fit some of the variations some of the foundations have told us they would prefer. It remains a draft in the sense that any foundation should feel free to edit it to suit its own needs, and we have accordingly dedicated the current version to the public domain so that not even attribution is required. Of course, we’d love to hear from any organization that adopts it in any form, and comments will always be welcome.

Check out the wiki page where we have several pieces of information, including:

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CC at 10: Government Resources + Open Licensing = Win

Timothy Vollmer, December 10th, 2012

On this 10th anniversary of CC, there’s much to celebrate: Creative Commons licenses and tools have been embraced by millions of photographers, musicians, videographers, bloggers, and others sharing countless numbers of creative works freely online. One area of growth in use of CC licenses and public domain tools is for government works. Government adoption of Creative Commons may prove to be one of the most significant movements looking into the future. Said well by David Bollier, “Governments are coming to realize that they are one of the primary stewards of intellectual property, and that the wide dissemination of their work—statistics, research, reports, legislation, judicial decisions—can stimulate economic innovation, scientific progress, education, and cultural development.” If governments around the world are going to unleash the power of hundreds of billions of dollars of publicly funded education, research and scientific resources, we need broad adoption of open policies aligned with the belief that the public should have access to the resources they paid for. At a fundamental level, “all publicly funded resources [should be] openly licensed resources.”

CC licenses and tools have been implemented by government entities and public sector bodies around the world. And over the last few years, there’s been an increasing focus in governments aligning to the principle that the public should have access to the materials that it pays for. These funding mandates, which require that grantees release content produced with grant funds under an open license, has been a increasingly commons way for governments to support openness. Legislation involving the open licensing of publicly funded educational materials has been passed in Brazil, Poland, the United States, and Canada. The UK has championed an open access policy for publicly funded research under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. Governments in Australia and New Zealand have opted for comprehensive open licensing policies for all government-produced works, by default releasing public information and data under CC BY. The Dutch government has taken this one step further, opting to release government information directly into the public domain using the CC0 Public Domain Dedication.

In addition to governments, other publicly-minded institutions like philanthropic foundations and intergovermental organizations are supporting open licensing. Several foundations have already implemented or are considering requiring open licensing on the outputs of their grant funds, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation , the Open Society Foundations, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation already require their grantees to release content they build with grant money under open licenses. And CC continues to explore how to evaluate current copyright policies within the foundation world and suggest how foundations (and their grantees) can benefit from open licensing for their grant funded materials. Intergovernmental organizations like the Commonwealth of Learning and the World Bank have adopted open licensing policies to share their publications too.

Open advocates – whether it be in support of open sharing of publicly funded educational materials, open access to scientific research articles, access to a huge trove of cultural heritage resources from libraries and museums, or open licensing for public sector information and government datasets – have been increasingly active over the last few years, particularly in working to educate policymakers about the importance and benefits of open licensing. These efforts include the development of declarations such as the Budapest Open Access Initiative, Cape Town and Paris Declarations on Open Educational Resources, the Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest, the Panton Principles, and many others. Advocates have been key in communicating the need for governments to consider open licensing, whether it be for federal agencies, governing bodies like the European Commission, or through multilateral negotiations such as WIPO. And the grassroots open community has been extremely active in raising awareness of open licensing, whether it be through the tireless work of CC Affiliates, the broad network of open data activists from the Open Knowledge Foundation, legal experts championing Open Government Data Principles, and persons participating in events from Open Access Week to Open Education Week to Public Domain Day. All of these actions have rallied around the common theme that governments and public bodies should release content they create or fund under open licenses, for the benefit of all.

Since the beginning of Creative Commons, governments and public sector bodies have leveraged CC licenses and public domain tools to share their data, publicly funded research, educational and cultural content, and other digital materials. Governments are increasingly leveraging CC licenses as part of their strategy to proactively share resources, promote effective spending, and champion innovation. A massive amount of work is ahead, and with a committed community of advocates, interested governmental departments, and open minded policymakers, we can together work toward a close integration of open licensing inside the public sector. If we do so, governments can better support their populations with the information they need, increase the effectiveness of the public’s investment, and contribute to a true global commons.

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World Bank Live Event Report: Open Access Policy and Development

Timothy Vollmer, May 24th, 2012

On Monday, the World Bank hosted an event called What the World Bank’s Open Access Policy Means for Development (you can view the video recording of the event at the link or embedded below). Participants included Peter Suber from Harvard University, Michael Carroll from American University (Mike is on the Board of Directors at Creative Commons), and Cyril Muller and Adam Wagstaff from the World Bank. The discussion was timely given the Bank’s recently-announced Open Access Policy and Open Knowledge Repository. We blogged about the Bank’s announcement of these two great initiatives. The World Bank’s Open Access Policy requires that all research outputs and knowledge products published by the Bank be licensed Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) as a default.

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The conversation Monday revolved around the impact and potential for World Bank research — and open access in general — for development in countries around the world. For example, how will access and reuse of research under an open access policy create opportunities to solve large global challenges such as climate change and hunger?

The panelists jumped in, and stated that an immediate, baseline benefit of the open access policy is that now, World Bank research is aggregated in one place and made available for free to anyone with an internet connection. This is not the case with subscription journals, where readers have to pay to view the articles. Mike Carroll noted the importance of addressing copyright concerns in open policies. Even when research is made available for free online, if readers are unclear about the rights available to them, the articles and data will not be as valuable or impactful. This is especially important in developing nations, where republication and moving information from the Internet to an offline environment requires copyright permission. With open licenses such as CC BY chosen by the World Bank, permission to republish and translate articles into other languages is automatically granted. Carroll pointed to related success in the Open Education space. He said that many MIT Open CourseWare materials have been translated and put into use in other countries (such as Vietnam) specifically because the original resources were published under an open license that permitted translation and reuse.

Suber and Muller said that one benefit of an open access policy (especially when combined with open access to the underlying data) is that it can help validate research and work toward consensus on a particular issue, such as climate change. This in turn can help policymakers make better, research-driven decisions. Muller said that open access promotes collaboration between colleagues, even those with different skill sets and backgrounds. With this comes the increased possibility of solving complex research problems in novel ways. Muller and Wagstaff noted that the Open Access Policy would help increase the visibility, access, and reuse of World Bank documents and research. This information will help increase the audience for important Bank research and will promote cross-border transfer of information, especially in a south-south direction (as opposed to north-south).

To highlight the dire situation in pricing for traditional journals, the panelists discussed Harvard’s recent announcement about the unsustainable cost of scholarly journal subscriptions. Suber noted that even with a journal budget of $9 million per year, the Harvard University Library realizes it cannot afford the ongoing agreements with commercial journal publishers. And clearly, if even Harvard can’t afford the full range of research, every other university in the world is worse off. However, Suber said that seven of Harvard’s nine colleges have adopted exemplary open access policies, thus retaining access to the research from Harvard faculty even if those faculty publish in traditional and expensive subscription journals.

Carroll pointed to a more fundamental problem with the current scholarly publishing ecosystem. Scholars have always written to maximize impact; the web helps makes it easy to publish to wide audience, at near zero cost. The logical conclusion to these two assumptions is that all scientific and scholarly research should be widely available for free online. However, this is not how things have shaken out. Instead, prices to access scholarly research has gone up dramatically, as half of science literature has been published by commercial houses. These commercial publishers have enjoyed up to 36% profit margins, even amid the worldwide financial crisis. This points to a larger problem, and hints that the current publishing system overall is broken. However, Suber said that there are currently some for-profit open access journals that are indeed profitable. However, he guessed that the profit margins at those companies was probably closer to 2-5%.

A related question from the audience asked why a scholar would want to publish research as open access if given the chance to publish her work in a “shiny” established journal. Panelists pointed out that the World Bank Open Access policy allows authors to do both. The policy requires that authors deposit a copy of their final paper in the Open Knowledge Repository, and doesn’t preclude researchers from publishing in traditional journals. Of course, while this framework is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t solve the underlying problem because big publishers continue to enjoy huge profit margins on their access-controlled subscription journals because university libraries continue to pay for the access that their faculty require.

Suber pointed out that there are other benefits to publishing work as open access. He said that publishing in open access journals allows authors to attach open licenses (such as CC BY) to their work. When they do so, they make the work more useful to readers and users. So, the smallest open access journal has a potentially larger audience than even the most popular paywalled journal because the work can reach anyone in the world with access to the Internet. When you couple this massive potential audience with the permission to republish and reuse via an open license, authors can maximize the impact of their work beyond the reach of any closed journal.

Mike Carroll also brought up the importance of new technologies and methods such as text mining as another tool to help solve complex problems. Challenges such as climate change are huge, and can’t be tackled by researchers individually. At the same time, there is now a huge body of research articles on the subject, and scholars are facing an information overload problem. That’s where text mining comes in, and allows researchers to conduct intensive computational analyses on huge sets of scientific texts in order to identify correlations, patterns, and unforeseen connections that would be impossible to understand by reading the articles by themselves. While the traditional publishing models typically block such text mining efforts, open access gives permission in advance, helping researchers solve problems faster and promote scientific innovation. Questions around the legal implications of text mining in relation to copyright are currently being discussed in the UK.

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Free and unrestricted Public Sector Information: Study finds benefits outweigh costs

Timothy Vollmer, November 28th, 2011

Governments around the world are increasingly relying on open licenses to release public sector information (PSI). A September 2011 report titled Costs and Benefits of Data Provision, prepared by John Houghton for the Australian National Data Service, examines the immediate and wider economic costs and benefits to making PSI available.

The key takeaway from the study: “the direct and measurable benefits of making PSI available free and unrestrictedly typically outweigh the costs. When one adds the longer-term benefits that we cannot fully measure, cannot even foresee, the case for open access appears to be strong.”

The report offers an interesting and instructive analysis about the overarching cost-saving potential of making PSI available online for free and under open licenses (we assume the figures to represent Australian dollars):

[W]e find that the net cost to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of making publications and statistics freely available online and adopting Creative Commons licensing was likely to have been around $3.5 million per annum at 2005-06 prices and levels of activity, but the immediate cost savings for users were likely to have been around $5 million per annum. The wider impacts in terms of additional use and uses bring substantial additional returns, with our estimates suggesting overall costs associated with free online access to ABS publications and data online and unrestrictive standard licensing of around $4.6 million per annum and measurable annualised benefits of perhaps $25 million (i.e. more than five times the costs).

The Houghton study suggests that open licensing is a key component to reducing friction in the downstream use of PSI:

It is not simply about access prices, but also about the transaction costs involved. Standardised and unrestrictive licensing, such as Creative Commons, and data standards are crucial in enabling access that is truly open (i.e. free, immediate and unrestricted) … The efficient economic solution for the dissemination of PSI is likely to be free libre and free gratis (i.e. making it freely available online and using unrestrictive licensing such as Creative Commons).

In a separate internal document noted in the report, the Australian Bureau of Statistics described the impact of adopting CC licensing. It says that CC licensing “meets public expectations with regard to open government, facilitates data sharing (including across government), allows for more timely reuse of statistics, facilitates innovation, [and] makes sense to a growing percentage of people who recognise and understand CC licence symbols and conditions.”

The study urges us to try to understand and foster the unpredictable yet potentially powerful innovation that can be unleashed when PSI is made freely available online and released using unrestrictive licenses:

In the longer term, there may also be unforeseen uses and re-uses that simply cannot be accounted for, and again this may mean that the costs and benefits experienced in the early years of implementation tend to understate the longer-term advantages. Use and re-use can also have wider impacts, in terms of innovation and the development and introduction of new products, services and processes that, in turn, generate new economic economic activity, new business opportunities, better informed and potentially better government and business decisions.

The full report is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia License.

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Gates Foundation announces $20M for Next Generation Learning Challenges; CC BY required for grant materials

Timothy Vollmer, October 11th, 2010

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $20M investment in the Next Generation Learning Challenges, an initiative to improve college readiness and completion through technology. The first request for proposals (RFP) was released today (PDF). The RFP specifically solicits proposals that address the following challenges:

  • Increasing the use of blended learning models, which combine face-to-face instruction with online learning activities.
  • Deepening students’ learning and engagement through use of interactive applications, such as digital games, interactive video, immersive simulations, and social media.
  • Supporting the availability of high-quality open courseware, particularly for high-enrollment introductory classes like math, science, and English, which often have low rates of student success.
  • Helping institutions, instructors, and students benefit from learning analytics which can monitor student progress in real-time and customize proven supports and interventions.

The RFP lays out the grant guidelines with regard to open licensing, and requires the use of CC BY:

So that the knowledge gained during NGLC-funded projects is promptly and broadly disseminated, all documents, written materials, and other content submitted to EDUCAUSE during the period of Grantee’s NGLC grant application and grant (e.g., website postings, pre-proposals, proposals, findings, and information generated by Grantee) will be made available to the community under a Creative Commons Attribution license. In addition, all open educational resources and related work product (manuals, integration formats, hosting environments, faculty development guides, or curricula, etc.) created in connection with the Open Interactive Core Courseware challenge must be made available under this license.

Adopting CC BY is precisely aligned with the overarching goals of foundation funding and initiatives such as the Next Generation Learning Challenges. Last year, the Berkman Center’s study on foundation copyright licensing policies said that open licensing “ensures[s] the broadest and fastest dissemination of the valuable ideas, practices, works, software code and other materials the foundation’s funding helps to create.” That report went on to suggest that the impact of funding is even greater when permissive licenses (such as CC BY) are applied, allowing the resources “to be freely tested, translated, combined, remixed, repurposed or otherwise built upon, potentially by many subsequent researchers, authors, artists or other creators anywhere in the world, as the basis for new innovation, discovery or creation.”

Proposals for the first RFP are due November 17, 2010. The Next Generation Learning Challenges are a collaboration between several organizations, including the Gates Foundation, EDUCAUSE, iNACOL, CCSSO, The Hewlett Foundation, and The League for Innovation in the Community College. Congratulations to the Gates Foundation and partnering organizations on this fantastic effort.

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Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges Adopts CC BY for All Competitive Grants

Timothy Vollmer, July 12th, 2010

The Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges (SBCTC) recently adopted an open licensing policy for the competitive grants they administer:

All digital software, educational resources and knowledge produced through competitive grants, offered through and/or managed by the SBCTC, will carry a Creative Commons Attribution License … [and] applies to all funding sources (state, federal, foundation and/or other fund sources) …

The brief (PDF), prepared by Cable Green (who we interviewed in March about the Open Course Library Project), explains how the policy is aligned with SBCTC’s strategic technology plan. The policy draws inspiration from related initiatives working to support the sharing of research and OER, such as the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), the Southern Regional Education Board’s openness recommendations via “An Expectation of Sharing: Guidelines for Effective Policies to Respect, Protect and Increase the Use of Digital Educational Resources”, and the open licensing requirements for foundation grantees explored in the Berkman Center’s “An Evaluation of Private Foundation Copyright Licensing Policies, Practices and Opportunities.”

Congratulations to SBCTC for this great step forward!

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CC Talks With: The Shuttleworth Foundation on CC BY as default and commercial enterprises in education

Jane Park, December 22nd, 2009

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Photo by Mark Surman CC BY-NC-SA

For those of you who don’t know Karien Bezuidenhout, she is the Chief Operating Officer at the Shuttleworth Foundation, one of the few foundations that fund open education projects and who have an open licensing policy for their grantees. A couple months ago, I had the chance to meet Karien despite a six hour time difference—she was in Capetown, South Africa—I was in Brooklyn, New York. Via Skype, I asked her about Shuttleworth’s evolving default license (CC BY-SA to CC BY), her personal stake in OER, and how she envisions us (CC Learn and Shuttleworth) working together. She also gave me some insights into three innovative open education projects they have a hand in: Siyavula, M4Lit, and Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU).

The conversation below is more or less transcribed and edited for clarity. It makes for great holiday or airplane reading, and if you’re pressed for time, you can skip to the topics or projects that interest you. This is CC Learn’s last Inside OER feature of 2009—so enjoy, and happy whatever-it-is-that-you-are-doing-in-your-part-of-the-world!

Read More…

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Digital Open Winners Announced

Jane Park, October 14th, 2009

CC BY by the Digital Open

CC BY by the Digital Open

I blogged about the Digital Open in April, a new online community and competition that was accepting free and open technology projects from anyone 17 or younger through August. The competition was aimed at fostering an online and open community of youth by encouraging them to see the benefits of open source and open licensing.

Since then the jury has come in to announce eight grand prize winners. The first video profile is the Centralized Student Website from Fremont, California, by Raymond Zhong and Aatash Parikh. They’ve gone ahead and built a student portal for their high school, where virtually any school activity, especially student clubs, are accessed. Other winners include a Casa Ecologica in Spain and a Hybrid Airship. Be sure to check back for more videos.

Except where otherwise noted, all content on the Digital Open is available via CC BY. The Digital Open is the result of a joint partnership between the Institute for the Future, BoingBoing, and Sun Microsystems.

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An Evaluation of Private Foundation Copyright Licensing Policies, Practices and Opportunities

Jane Park, August 28th, 2009

CC is pleased to announce that the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, in collaboration with the Hewlett Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Open Society Institute, has recently published a new study entitled, An Evaluation of Private Foundation Copyright Licensing Policies, Practices and Opportunities, by Philllip Malone. From the announcement,

“This project… undertook to examine the copyright licensing policies and practices of a group of private foundations. In particular, it looked at the extent to which charitable foundations are aware of and have begun to use open licenses such as Creative Commons or the GPL for the works they create and that they support with their funding. We surveyed foundation staff and leaders and examined a number of examples where foundations have begun to take advantage of new licensing models. Based on the survey results, foundation experiences and additional research, we identified a variety of significant benefits that the use of open licenses can bring to foundations and their charitable goals. In particular, open licenses permit knowledge and learning to be widely shared and more readily adapted, improved or built upon, and allow those later improvements to be readily distributed. The result can be dramatically faster and greater access to research, information, technologies and other resources in ways that directly benefit foundations’ core missions and the public good.

The study sought to develop an analytical framework and set of factors that foundations can use to begin considering when and where the use of open licenses would further their mission and day-to-day work and where such licenses might not be useful or appropriate. It provides a great starting point for informed consideration of open licenses and the new opportunities they create for foundations and related organizations.”

This report creates an amazing opportunity for foundations to propel themselves into the future via open licensing and open technologies. Please read and share far and wide, as the entire study is open via CC BY.

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Mozilla and CC to teach online seminar on open education

Jane Park, March 17th, 2009

ccLearn is collaborating with the Peer 2 Peer University and Mozilla to teach practical open education skills to educators and anyone else who is interested. From the announcement on the course wiki:

“This six week course is targeted at educators who will gain basic skills in open licensing, open technology, and open pedagogy; work on prototypes of innovative open education projects; and get input from some of the world leading innovators along the way.

The course will kick-off with a web-seminar on Thursday 2 April 2009 and run for 6 weeks.

Weekly web seminars introduce new topics ranging from content licensing to the latest open technologies and peer assessment practices. Participants will share project ideas with a community of peers, work on individual projects, and get feedback from experienced mentors. We will also take a close look at some of the most innovative examples of open education projects, and speak to the people who designed them, including:

  • The Open Source Software courses at Seneca College;
  • David Wiley’s Introduction to Open Education;
  • The open blog infrastructure at Mary Washington University; etc.
  • The course is targeted at educators who want to help shape the open education future. Participants should have some knowledge of web technologies, or open content licensing, or open pedagogy (or all three), but don’t need to be experts.

    Interested in participating? Head over to the course wiki, and submit your project idea!

    Course outline: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Education/EduCourse

    Sign-up page: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Education/EduCourse/SignUp

    For questions about the course or the sign-up process, contact:

    Philipp Schmidt
    Peer 2 Peer University
    philipp AT peer2peeruniversity.org”

    Spaces will fill up fast, but that doesn’t prevent non-registered learners from having open and complete access to the course as it plays out. And since all Mozilla Education materials are available for reuse, redistribution, and remixing under CC BY, nothing stops users from creating a mirror wiki and developing their own projects!

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