policy

European Commission endorses CC licenses as best practice for public sector content and data

Timothy Vollmer, July 17th, 2014

Today the European Commission released licensing recommendations to support the reuse of public sector information in Europe. In addition to providing guidance on baseline license principles for public sector content and data, the guidelines suggest that Member States should adopt standardized open licenses – such as Creative Commons licenses:

Several licences that comply with the principles of ‘openness’ described by the Open Knowledge Foundation to promote unrestricted re-use of online content, are available on the web. They have been translated into many languages, centrally updated and already used extensively worldwide. Open standard licences, for example the most recent Creative Commons (CC) licences (version 4.0), could allow the re-use of PSI without the need to develop and update custom-made licences at national or sub-national level. Of these, the CC0 public domain dedication is of particular interest. As a legal tool that allows waiving copyright and database rights on PSI, it ensures full flexibility for re-users and reduces the complications associated with handling numerous licences, with possibly conflicting provisions.

The Commission’s recommendations warn against the the development of customized licenses, which could break interoperability of public sector information across the EU. The guidelines clearly state that license conditions should be standardized and contain minimal requirements (such as attribution-only).

In order to proactively promote the re-use of the licenced material, it is advisable that the licensor grants worldwide (to the extent allowed under national law), perpetual, royalty-free, irrevocable (to the extent allowed under national law) and non-exclusive rights to use the information covered by the licence… it is advisable that [licenses] cover attribution requirements only, as any other obligations may limit licensees’ creativity or economic activity, thereby affecting the re-use potential of the documents in question.

This is a welcome outcome that will hopefully provide a clear path for data providers and re-users. It’s great to see this endorsement after our efforts alongside our affiliate network to advocate for clear best practices in sharing of content and data. The recommendation benefits from CC’s free international 4.0 licenses, saving governments time and money, and maximizing compatibility and reuse.

Kudos to the Commission and the assistance provided by LAPSI, Open Knowledge, and others.

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Apply now to participate in the Institute for Open Leadership

Timothy Vollmer, May 23rd, 2014

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Earlier this week, we kicked off the Open Policy Network. We announced that the first project within the Network is the Institute for Open Leadership. The Institute for Open Leadership is a training program to develop new leaders in education, science, public policy, and other fields on the values and implementation of openness in licensing, policies, and practices. The Institute is looking for passionate public- and private-sector professionals interested in learning more about openness and wish to develop and implement an open policy in their field.

Interested applicants should review the application information and submit an application by June 30, 2014. We plan to invite about 15 fellows to participate in the first round of the Institute for Open Leadership. The in-person portion of the Institute will be held in the San Francisco bay area in January 2015 (TBD: either January 12-16 or January 19-23). Applications are open to individuals anywhere in the world.

A central part of the Institute will require fellows to develop and implement a capstone open policy project. The point of this project is for the fellow to transform the concepts learned at the Institute into a practical, actionable, and sustainable initiative within her/his institution. Open policy projects can take a variety of forms depending on the interests of the fellow and the field where the project will be implemented.

Questions about the Institute for Open Leadership should be directed to opn@creativecommons.org. Our thanks to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Open Society Foundations for funds to kickstart the Institute for Open Leadership.

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The beginning of the Authors Alliance

Timothy Vollmer, May 22nd, 2014

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Yesterday marked the launch of the Authors Alliance, a nonprofit organization that supports authors who want “to harness the potential of digital networks to share their creations more broadly in order to serve the public good.”

In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, Authors Alliance founder Pamela Samuelson explained that the Authors Alliance will have a few different roles. Inwardly, the group will “provide authors with information about copyrights, licensing agreements, alternative contract terms,” and other practical legal information so that they can make their works widely and openly available. And externally, the Alliance will “represent the interests of authors who want to make their works more widely available in public policy debates,” and advocate for these reforms alongside like-minded public interest organizations.

The Authors Alliance was developed by Samuelson and several of her colleagues at the University of California Berkeley including Molly Van Houweling, Carla Hesse, and Thomas Leonard. The Alliance also has an advisory board made up of pre-eminent scholars, writers, and public interest advocates, including several members of the Creative Commons board of directors. The Authors Alliance is now accepting new members.

The Alliance has already developed a set of copyright reform principles, outlining its vision for changes to copyright law to support authors who write to be read.

We have formed an Authors Alliance to represent authors who create to be read, to be seen, and to be heard. We believe that these authors have not been well served by misguided efforts to strengthen copyright. These efforts have failed to provide meaningful financial returns to most authors, while instead unacceptably compromising the preservation of our own intellectual legacies and our ability to tap our collective cultural heritage. We want to harness the potential of global digital networks to share knowledge and products of the imagination as broadly as possible. We aim to amplify the voices of authors and creators in all media who write and create not only for pay, but above all to make their discoveries, ideas, and creations accessible to the broadest possible audience.

The principles include:

  1. Further empower authors to disseminate their works.
  2. Improve information flows about copyright ownership.
  3. Affirm the vitality of limits on copyright that enable us to do our work and reach our audiences.
  4. Ensure that copyright’s remedies and enforcement mechanisms protect our interests.

At the core, the Authors Alliance and Creative Commons share a similar goal: to provide useful resources and tools for creators who aren’t being served well by the existing copyright system. We’re excited to work with the Alliance on issues that support authors who write to be read–and the public interest for whom these authors create.

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FIRST Act moving ahead in US Congress

Timothy Vollmer, May 21st, 2014

Update: The amendment to Section 303 was adopted.

Can it be salvaged to promote public access to federally funded research?

In March we wrote about the introduction of the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act of 2014 (FIRST Act). The aim of the FIRST Act is to promote the dissemination of publicly funded scientific research. But the contentious Section 303 of the bill rolls back some of the most common policies governing existing research investments.

If passed in its current state, the FIRST Act would extend embargoes to federally funded research articles to up to three years after initial publication. This means that commercial publishers would be able to control access to publicly funded research during this time, and the public would not have free public access to this research. Even the longstanding NIH Public Access Policy tolerates embargoes no longer than 12 months. We’ve said before that the public should be granted immediate access to the content of peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research. Immediate access is the ideal method to optimize the scientific and commercial utility of the information contained in the articles.

The FIRST Act would allow grantees to fulfill access requirements by providing a link to a publisher’s site instead of requiring deposit in a federally-approved repository. Currently NIH research grantees must deposit in the PubMed Central repository. The reliance on publishers to make (and keep) the research available jeopardizes the long-term access and preservation of publicly-funded research in the absence of a requirement that those links be permanently preserved.

The FIRST Act would permit affected agencies to spend up to 18 additional months to develop plans to comply with the conditions of the law, thus further delaying the plans that are already being organized by federal agencies under the White House Public Access Directive and Omnibus Appropriations Act.

The bill was previously was discussed in the subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The passage of the FIRST Act with the Section 303 language as-is would harm existing as well as proposed public access policies in the United States. Today during the full committee markup of the bill Representatives James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) will introduce an amendment that would improve Section 303.

The Sensenbrenner/Lofgren amendment would change the embargo to 12 months, with the possibility that under certain circumstances the embargo could be extended for an additional 6 months. The amendment still does not require that federally-funded research articles be deposited in an approved repository. But it would shorten the length of time agencies get to develop and implement their public access plans. Affected agencies would need to develop a public access plan and report to Congress within 90 days. And the plans would need to be implemented within a year. One interesting piece of the amended Section 303 is that after an initial three-month planning period, the agencies would be required to submit an analysis on whether covered works should be made available under an open license.

Such report shall include an examination of whether covered works should include a royalty-free copyright license that is available to the public and that permits the reuse of those research papers, on the condition that attribution is given to the author or authors of the research and any others designated by the copyright owner.

There’s still time for you to call members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and tell them to support the Sensenbrenner/Lofgren Section 303 amendment. The amendment is a step in the right direction to truly supporting public access to publicly funded research in the United States.

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Launch of the Open Policy Network

Timothy Vollmer, May 19th, 2014

Open Policy Network-600

Today we’re excited to announce the launch of the Open Policy Network. The Open Policy Network, or OPN for short, is a coalition of organizations and individuals working to support the creation, adoption, and implementation of policies that require that publicly funded resources are openly licensed resources. The website of the Open Policy Network is http://openpolicynetwork.org.

Increasingly, governments around the world are sharing huge amounts of publicly funded research, data, and educational materials. The key question is, do the policies governing the procurement and distribution of publicly funded materials ensure the maximum benefits to the citizens those policies are meant to serve? When open licenses are required for publicly funded resources, there is the potential to massively increase access to and reuse of a wide range of materials, from educational content like digital textbooks, to the results of scholarly research, to troves of valuable public sector data. The $2 billion U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT grant program is an example of a policy whereby publicly funded education and training materials are being made available broadly under an open intellectual property license.

There is a pressing need for education, advocacy, and action to see a positive shift in supporting open licensing for publicly funded materials. The Open Policy Network will share information amongst its members, recruit new advocates, and engage with policymakers worldwide. The OPN members are diverse in content area expertise and geographic location. Creative Commons is a part of the Open Policy Network because we believe that the public deserves free access and legal reuse to the the resources it funds. With simple policy changes — such as requiring publicly-funded works be openly licensed and properly marked with easy-to-understand licensing information — the public will be better able to take advantage of their rights to access and reuse the digital materials developed with taxpayer funds.

With today’s launch of the Open Policy Network, we’re announcing our first project, the Institute for Open Leadership. Through a weeklong summit with experts, accepted fellows will get hands-on guidance to develop a capstone project for implementation in their organization or institution. The Institute for Open Leadership will help train new leaders in education, science, and public policy fields on the values and implementation of openness in licensing, policies, and practices.

The Open Policy Network is free to join and anyone is welcome! More information on the Open Policy Network is available at the website, Google Group, Twitter, and Facebook.

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White House supports CC0 for federal government datasets

Timothy Vollmer, May 9th, 2014

us open data action plan

Today the White House released the U.S. Open Data Action Plan, reaffirming their belief that “freely available data from the U.S. Government is an important national resource… [and] making information about government operations more readily available and useful is also core to the promise of a more efficient and transparent government.” The report (PDF) outlines the commitments to making government data more accessible and useful, and documents how U.S. federal agencies are sharing government information. From a legal standpoint, some agencies have decided to place their datasets into the worldwide public domain using the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. This means that all copyright and related rights to the data are waived, so it may be used by anyone–for any purpose–anywhere in the world–without having to ask permission in advance–and even without needing to give attribution to the author of the data.

Use of CC0 for U.S. government works has always been a challenging topic for federal agencies. This is due to the hybrid nature of copyright for government works under Section 105 of U.S. copyright law. That statute guarantees that U.S. government works do not receive copyright protection–they are in the public domain. However, while these works are not granted copyright protection inside the U.S., the legislative history of the law notes that the works may receive copyright protection outside of U.S. borders:

The prohibition on copyright protection for United States Government works is not intended to have any effect on protection of these works abroad. Works of the governments of most other countries are copyrighted. There are no valid policy reasons for denying such protection to United States Government works in foreign countries, or for precluding the Government from making licenses for the use of its works abroad.

Historically, the U.S. government has been apprehensive to apply CC0 to federal government works, because the CC0 Public Domain Dedication is a tool to waive copyright and neighboring rights globally. At the same time, it’s clear that many high-value U.S. government datasets, such as the weather data produced by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are being widely (and freely) used by meteorological and research organizations around the world. It seems that in the vast majority of cases, the U.S. federal government doesn’t wish to leverage its copyrights abroad. So perhaps it makes sense to simply clarify that these works will be made available in the worldwide public domain using a standard tool such as CC0. While we had some initial questions about acceptable licenses for federal government information, it seems that agencies are moving in the right direction in utilizing the public domain dedication, as opposed to the other copyright licensing tools that were laid out in Project Open Data.

In addition to showcasing federal agencies that are using CC0 on some of the datasets it’s releasing, the U.S. Open Data Action Plan document itself is also published under CC0.

As a work of the United States Government, this document is in the public domain within the United States. Additionally, the United States Government waives copyright and related rights in this work worldwide through the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Over the last several years, many have called upon the federal government to adopt CC0 for U.S. government works. Most recently, a group of advocates drafted recommendations urging federal agencies to release federal government works, contractor-produced works, and primary legal materials into the into the worldwide public domain under CC0. Today’s announcement is a move in the right direction for data re-users in the United States and beyond.

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Proposed U.S. law would weaken and postpone public access to publicly funded research

Timothy Vollmer, March 12th, 2014

This week the U.S. House Representatives introduced H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act of 2014 (FIRST Act). The stated goal of the proposed law — “to provide for investment in innovation through scientific research and development, [and] to improve the competitiveness of the United States — is worthy and well received. But part of the bill (Section 303) is detrimental to both existing and proposed public access policies in the United States.

According to SPARC:

Section 303 of the bill would undercut the ability of federal agencies to effectively implement the widely supported White House Directive on Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research and undermine the successful public access program pioneered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – recently expanded through the FY14 Omnibus Appropriations Act to include the Departments Labor, Education and Health and Human Services. Adoption of Section 303 would be a step backward from existing federal policy in the directive, and put the U.S. at a severe disadvantage among our global competitors.

The White House Directive, NIH Public Access Policy, Omnibus Appropriations Act, and the proposed Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) all contain similar provisions to ensure public access to publicly funded research after a relatively short embargo (6-12 months). These policies make sure that articles created and published as a result of federal funding are deposited in a repository for access and preservation purposes. In addition, the policies provide for a reasonable process and timeline for agencies to development a plan to comply with the public access requirements.

The FIRST Act would conflict with each of these practices. Instead, if enacted it would permit agencies that must comply with the law to:

  • Extend embargoes to federally funded research articles to up to 3 years after initial publication, thus drastically increasing the time before the public has free public access to this research. We’ve said before that the public should be granted immediate access to the content of peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research. Immediate access is the ideal method to optimize the scientific and commercial utility of the information contained in the articles.
  • Fulfill access requirements by providing a link to a publisher’s site. However, this jeopardizes long-term access and preservation of publicly-funded research in the absence of a requirement that those links be permanently preserved. A better outcome would be to ensure that a copy is deposited in a federally-controlled repository.
  • Spend up to 18 additional months to develop plans to comply with the conditions of the law, thus further delaying the plans that are already being organized by federal agencies under the White House Directive and Omnibus Appropriations Act.

This bill is scheduled to be marked up in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology tomorrow, March 13.

But there are better alternatives, both in existing policy (e.g. White House Directive), and in potential legislation (e.g. FASTR). Here’s what you can do right now:

  • Send a letter to members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee opposing Section 303 of the FIRST Act.
  • Use the SPARC action center to customize and send letters directly to your legislators. Tweet your opposition to Section 303 of the FIRST Act, or post about the bill on Facebook.
  • Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed for your local or campus newspaper. You can write directly to them or by using the SPARC legislative action center.
  • Share this post with your colleagues, labs, friends and family.
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Getty Images allows free embed of 35 million photographs

Timothy Vollmer, March 7th, 2014


Kristina Alexanderson / CC BY-NC-SA

Getty Images recently announced that it will allow free noncommercial embedding of 35 million of the images in its stock photography database. This is a good step toward better supporting a variety of users. Getty is clearly seeing its images appear across the web anyway, so it’s decided to go down the embed road, similar to how other content providers like YouTube handle the media they host. By requiring embedding, Getty will be able to track where its photos are being used online, and reserves the right to display advertisements. The announcement demonstrates a general understanding that Getty needs to meet users halfway in providing content in ways that is affordable, useable, and aligned with how people wish to share online today. At the same time, users may run into roadblocks in using Getty content, and openly-licensed resources could provide a straightforward alternative.

The Getty Images terms of use say that users can “only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest)”. Creative Commons-licensed images can be used for any purpose, by anyone, anywhere around the world, as long as the user follows the terms of the license. But no CC license dictates that a piece of licensed content may only be used for a specific purpose–editorial or otherwise.

The Getty terms also state that images “may not be used … for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship…”. The British Journal of Photography, in an interview with Getty Images representative Craig Peters, clarifies Getty’s interpretation of the boundaries of noncommercial use.

Blogs that draw revenues from Google Ads will still be able to use the Getty Images embed player at no cost. “We would not consider this commercial use,” says Peters.

Creative Commons has maintained a static definition of noncommercial use in its licenses over the years (which has earned its share of criticism). In license version 4.0 “NonCommercial means not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.”

Another difference between the Getty Images embed service and Creative Commons-licensed images is that Getty would reserve the right to revoke its embedded photographs at any time. Its terms of use state that the “availability may change without notice. Getty Images reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove Getty Images Content from the Embedded Viewer. Upon request, you agree to take prompt action to stop using the Embedded Viewer and/or Getty Images Content.” So unlike even the most restrictive Creative Commons license (which permits verbatim noncommercial copying with attribution), Getty Images requires an HTML embed which it solely controls. When images are licensed under Creative Commons licenses, downstream users are granted more permissive rights. As stated in our Frequently Asked Questions:

The CC licenses are irrevocable. This means that once you receive material under a CC license, you will always have the right to use it under those license terms, even if the licensor changes his or her mind and stops distributing under the CC license terms.

Finally, the Getty terms prohibit uses “outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer”, which means that you can’t use the Getty images in remixes, videos, or really anywhere that doesn’t use embeds. On the other hand, CC-licensed images permit reuse in any medium. The licenses grant users authorization to exercise their rights under the license “in all media and formats … and to make technical modifications necessary to do so.”

It’s good that Getty Images is providing free online access to millions of images. But the advantages of CC-licensed photos is clear: users can’t have the content pulled out from underneath them, the images can be used for any reason in any format, and in many cases images are licensed for broad reuse and modification. And remember, there’s a huge trove of Creative Commons-licensed images out there too (not to mention millions of photographs in the public domain for use without any restrictions whatsoever!). Flickr now contains over 300 million CC-licensed photos. Wikimedia Commons hosts over 20 million multimedia files (a large proportion which are openly-licensed photographs being used on Wikipedia). Or even check out Google Images or Bing to easily discover CC-licensed images.

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CC Europe responds to review of EU copyright rules

John Weitzmann, March 6th, 2014

Yesterday the European CC Leads have under their regional identity CC Europe responded (PDF) to the ‘Public consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules’, run by the EU Commission through its Internal Market and Services Directorate. Like several other groups, the CC Leads have stressed the need for more robust and flexible exceptions and limitations throughout the region, especially regarding transformative uses in general and educational uses in particular. They also urge the EU Commission to find ways for copyright law in Europe to better recognize creator’s wishes to contribute to the ‘voluntary Public Domain’ through legal tools like CC0. They also highlighted once more the fact that CC Licenses are a patch for certain aspects of the copyright system but not a fix that substitutes legislative action. According to the Commission, all responses to the 80 question consultation will be published at some point in the future.

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“Really Open Education” Policy Discussion In the European Parliament

Timothy Vollmer, February 4th, 2014

ROE_banner

Creative Commons would like to invite you to a breakfast discussion “Really Open Education. Domestic Policies for Open Educational Resources”. The event will take place on the 18th of February 2014 and be hosted in the European Parliament by Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein, MEP.

The event will highlight open education initiatives currently implemented in European member states, with a particular focus on primary and secondary education. With the event, we would like to draw the attention to the development and use Open Educational Resources as a key aspect of the new “Opening Up Education” initiative.

Invited panelists will present projects that deal with open e-textbooks and supplemental resources, repositories for open resources created by teachers, and policies developed in support of open education initiatives. We aim these examples to support the development of open education in Europe within the scope of current educational initiatives and programs, such as Erasmus+.

Program of the event

Welcoming remarks:
Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein, MEP

Presentations of country-level activities and key issues related to Open Educational Resources:

  • Hans de Four (KlasCement, Belgium): the role of KlasCement, an open educational resources repository, in Belgian education;
  • Teresa Nobre (Creative Commons Portugal): legal aspects of Open Education, in the perspective of EU copyright reform;
  • Robert Schuwer (UNESCO Chair on OER, Open Universiteit, Netherlands): development of Open Education in the Netherlands;
  • Krzysztof Wojewodzic (Centre for Educational Development, Poland): Polish open e-textbooks project and the „Digital School” program.

Presentation of the “Opening Up Education” Initiative:
Ricardo Ferreira (DG Education and Culture, European Commission)

Questions and answers.

The meeting will be moderated by Alek Tarkowski (European Policy Advisor, Creative Commons).

The event will take place on the 18th of February (Tuesday) at 8.15-10.00, in the Members’ Salon, Altiero Spinelli Building, European Parliament.

Please note that badges are needed to enter the European Parliament building. Badges will be handed out to participants at the Place du Luxembourg entrance. Persons with European Parliament badges should enter through the rue Wiertz entrance (closer to the salon).

If you plan attending the event, please RSVP by sending email to: rsvp@oerpolicy.eu

(Information about the event (PDF) and event poster (PNG) – please share!)

This blog post was written by Alek Tarkowski and originally published on the European Open Education Policy Project website. It is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

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