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.
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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.Comments Off on European Commission endorses CC licenses as best practice for public sector content and data
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Our thanks to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Open Society Foundations for funds to kickstart the Institute for Open Leadership.3 Comments »
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:
- Further empower authors to disseminate their works.
- Improve information flows about copyright ownership.
- Affirm the vitality of limits on copyright that enable us to do our work and reach our audiences.
- 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.Comments Off on The beginning of the Authors Alliance
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.Comments Off on FIRST Act moving ahead in US Congress
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.Comments Off on Launch of the Open Policy Network
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.1 Comment »
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.4 Comments »
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.Comments Off on CC Europe responds to review of EU copyright rules