policy

Supporting Copyright Reform

Timothy Vollmer, October 16th, 2013

reform graphic

Today Creative Commons released a policy statement expressing its support for copyright reform efforts around the world.

Creative Commons (CC) has enabled a new approach to copyright licensing over the last ten years. CC licenses facilitate novel social, educational, technological, and business practices, and support productive relationships around networked knowledge and culture.

We are dedicated stewards of our licenses and tools, and we educate users, institutions, and policymakers about the positive benefits of adopting CC licenses. Our licenses will always provide voluntary options for creators who wish to share their material on more open terms than current copyright systems allow. But the CC vision—universal access to research and education and full participation in culture—will not be realized through licensing alone.

Around the world, numerous national governments are reviewing or revising their copyright law. Some proposed revisions would broaden the scope of uses of copyrighted works permitted without the rightsholder’s permission. In response, it has been suggested that the very success of CC licenses means that copyright reform is unnecessary—that the licenses solve any problems for users that might otherwise exist. This is certainly not the case. CC licenses are a patch, not a fix, for the problems of the copyright system. They apply only to works whose creators make a conscious decision to affirmatively license the right for the public to exercise exclusive rights that the law automatically grants to them. The success of open licensing demonstrates the benefits that sharing and remixing can bring to individuals and society as a whole. However, CC operates within the frame of copyright law, and as a practical matter, only a small fraction of copyrighted works will ever be covered by our licenses.

Our experience has reinforced our belief that to ensure the maximum benefits to both culture and the economy in this digital age, the scope and shape of copyright law need to be reviewed. However well-crafted a public licensing model may be, it can never fully achieve what a change in the law would do, which means that law reform remains a pressing topic. The public would benefit from more extensive rights to use the full body of human culture and knowledge for the public benefit. CC licenses are not a substitute for users’ rights, and CC supports ongoing efforts to reform copyright law to strengthen users’ rights and expand the public domain.

At its core, Creative Commons is rooted in the broader work to reform copyright. The founders of Creative Commons believed that copyright law was out of sync with how people share content on the Internet, and they developed the CC licenses as one way to address that problem. But we’d like to see copyright law itself better aligned to its original purpose–to enable and reward creative participation in culture and society.

From time to time, people in our community bring up the question of whether Creative Commons should be only a steward of the CC licenses, or also a steward of the broader participatory culture that the licenses are meant to promote.

Creative Commons affiliates, board, and staff have worked together over the past year to develop the policy statement above. The need for a statement like this became apparent at the 2012 Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest in Rio de Janeiro. Several CC affiliates attended, many who work on copyright reform initiatives alongside their CC outreach. In Rio, affiliates described the dual nature of their work, which they feel sometimes requires removing their “CC Affiliate hat” when involved with reform efforts. They argued that developing tools for sharing creative content and arguing that outdated copyright laws be changed to better support legal sharing were two different sides of the same coin. Affiliates asked for clarification of the organization’s policies on affiliates engaging directly in copyright law reform proposals.

Over the next several months, Creative Commons drafted a statement that re-emphasizes the many benefits that CC licenses bring to society. But it also acknowledges the limitations of CC and expresses the need for reform of the current copyright system. CC affiliates came together in Buenos Aires in August 2013 to discuss the position of Creative Commons in relation to copyright reform. Over 100 affiliates and supporters participated in a day-long pre-conference event. The policy position was drafted and reviewed by the board of directors, affiliates, and staff.

There are several reasons that we feel such a position is useful–and necessary. First, there have been several proposed laws (like SOPA/PIPA) and trade agreements (ACTA/TPP) that if enacted would be detrimental to user rights to access and use information. And, we’ve heard that in some policy discussions the success of CC as a voluntary licensing scheme is being used by incumbent interests as evidence that fundamental copyright reform is unnecessary. This is incorrect. As we wrote in March,

[The] existence of open copyright licenses shouldn’t be interpreted as a substitute for robust copyright reform. Quite the contrary. The decrease in transaction costs, increase in collaboration, and massive growth of the commons of legally reusable content spurred on by existence of public licenses should drastically reinforce the need for fundamental change, and not serve as a bandage for a broken copyright system.

The passage of increasingly harsh copyright regulations has the potential to render CC licenses and tools ineffective. The aim of these laws are counter to CC’s mission and vision. Second, it’s clear there are some areas of copyright where open licensing won’t solve the problem. One example is increasing access to copyrighted works for the visually impaired. Paul Keller explains this well:

Take the WIPO treaty for the visually impaired: There had to be a treaty because a voluntary or market driven solution to end the book famine for visually impaired people in the developing world did not emerge even though the problem had been known for a long time. Quite clearly the problem cannot not be solved by encouraging publishers to license their works openly and, instead, it required a tailored legislative approach that builds on new limitation and exemptions that address this specific issue.

Third, many CC affiliates are already deeply embedded in copyright reform activities as a part of their broader legal, policy, and digital rights advocacy work. It makes sense for those affiliates engaged in reform efforts to be able to speak and engage wearing their “CC Affiliate hat,” instead of trying to maintain the ambiguous and sometimes arbitrary separation between their “CC work” and the work they do supporting user rights and the public interest.

While we think this policy statement is noncontroversial, we must proceed with care. Historically, our organization has not been heavily involved in copyright reform efforts. Instead, we’ve been focused on the development and stewardship of the licenses and public domain tools. And this will certainly continue to be the case. Direct advocacy supporting more fundamental copyright reform has taken a backseat, for several reasons. First, we recognize and appreciate the value of neutrality, and acting as a responsible and impartial steward of our licenses, no matter who wishes to use them. Making our tools the best they can be and educating about how to use them are our core tasks. Second, as a U.S. based 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, we are constrained in our ability to engage in lobbying activities. Any lobbying conducted by CC headquarters staff will continue to be carefully tracked and reported. And lobbying by CC Affiliates will continue to be on behalf of the jurisdiction team in accordance with our MOU and established guidelines. Finally, there are groups that are well-positioned for advocacy activities, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Open Rights Group, Open Knowledge Foundation, and La Quadrature du Net. We support and promote the crucial, timely work of these and other groups.

We reaffirm that the mission of Creative Commons will sometimes call for our involvement in reform efforts. At the Creative Commons Global Summit in Buenos Aires, Lawrence Lessig gave a talk entitled, “Laws that Choke Creativity”. Lessig said he supports the fundamental freedom to remix. “We need to share more, and share more legally,” he said. “But in order to do so, the law must change.” He said that Creative Commons is not the complete solution. “We need real change in real law if these freedoms are to be secured.”

File Repair icon by iconoci, from The Noun Project. CC BY.

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Reflections on our OER policy workshop in Berlin

Timothy Vollmer, October 8th, 2013

This post was written by Alek Tarkowski and originally posted on the European OER Policy Project site.

A week ago, the European Commission launched the “Opening Up Education” initiative, a proposal for modernizing the European educational system. The proposal contains a strong “open” component. We’re using this opportunity to strengthen open educational policies in Europe, and we started our project with a workshop in mid-September. Below you can learn about the outcomes of our workshop, including an overview of the OER landscape in Europe, concept for a policy brief, and ideas for policy-related activities.

The workshop took place 14-15 October as part of the German “OERde13” conference. The workshop marked the public launch of CC’s collaborative „Open Educational Resources Policy in Europe” project. Eleven OER experts from all over Europe met for two days to discuss the state of OER policies in Europe and ways in which CC can increase their reach. Participants included Lisette Kalshoven (Kennisland, Netherlands), Eneli Sutt (HITSA, Estonia), Teresa Nobre (Creative Commons Portugal), Valentina Pavel (APTI, Romania), Hans de Four (KlasCement, Belgium), Bardhyl Jashari (Metamorphosis, Macedonia), Ignasi Labastida y Juan (Universitat de Barcelona, Catalonia / Spain), Ivan Matejic (Creative Commons Serbia), Kamil Śliwowski (Centrum Cyfrowe, Poland) and John Weitzmann (Creative Commons Germany). The workshop was led by Alek Tarkowski from Creative Commons Poland, open policy advisor to CC and lead of this project.

OER-Konferenz_Berlin_2013-6390
OER workshop participants. Photo: Raimond Spekking / WikiMedia Commons, CC BY-SA (Source)

State of open education in Europe

We started with a session presenting the state of OER developments in EU countries, focusing particularly on public policies for open education. The session gave a good overview of the range of approaches to increasing adoption of OER: public e-textbook programs running in Poland and Macedonia; OER repositories such as Belgian Klascement, Dutch Wikiwijs, and Norwegian NDLA; “1 on 1” computer in school schemes used as entry channels for open content in Portugal or Macedonia; bottom-up hubs for open education communities such as German ZUM Wiki and the OER Champions project initiated in Macedonia.

We discussed the broader context for such initiatives, including national educational strategies and the specific shape of legal regulations–in particular copyright exceptions and limitations for educational use. In general, while there are very few functioning national-level policies supporting open education, there are multiple OER projects being implemented with public funding. Some are directly branded as “open education” projects, while others apply this philosophy without naming it that way.

Similarly, there are multiple initiatives at the European level, often funded by the European Union, that fit within the scope of the new initiative. The Open Education Europa portal has been developed on the basis of a previous e-learning portal. At the same time, projects that deal with ICTs in schools, e-learning, or quality of education are not necessarily aligned with OER issues. This means there might still be low awareness among key potential stakeholders. At the same time, there remains a great potential for gaining ICT allies in support of open education policy.

What kind of open education policy?

We spent part of the workshop discussing the concept of CC’s policy brief for open education in Europe. The basic policy position, achieved through a quick consensus among participants, can be summed up very easily: A free license like CC BY or CC BY-SA + (open formats, WCAG accessibility standards and metadata) should be adopted for all publicly funded educational content. (In other words, of all the varied definitions, the Hewlett Foundation OER definition is our definition of choice – and we’re happy that the new Open Education Europa portal sets a high standard by adopting CC BY as a default).

So while the basic policy rule is simple, the challenge lies in providing the best arguments for its widespread adoption. The workshop participants discussed essential elements of a successful policy brief. These should include:

  • A grounding both in rights issues, in particular the right to education and right to knowledge, but also in broader pedagogical theories, such as connectivism;
  • Proof that open education works, especially in economic terms; everyone knows this is not easy, often due to lack of data, but basic arguments can be made, especially about cost savings for parents and schools;
  • Evidence of existing OER projects and their scale and usage, including those that are not directly framed as “open education”, but follow the general model.

Finally, a challenge that any European educational policy faces is the limited scope in which the EU deals with educational issues, which are largely left in the hands of national governments and schooling systems. Other than a new Directive (which would be binding for EU member states, but also difficult to introduce), the EU could introduce an open education policy model to apply to its own funding of educational content. It could also work with national governments by promoting good examples and following best practices and standards. A policy brief needs to address the interdependence of EU- and national-level governmental bodies.

How to promote open education policy?

Policy matters are often difficult to understand beyond a narrow circle of policymakers, experts and stakeholders. During the workshops we discussed ways of making them easier to understand. We focused on three projects, two of which we’d like to work on in the coming months.

Teresa Nobre presented the concept of a study of European exceptions and limitations for education. These are rules defined in national copyright laws that allow for legal use of copyrighted content without permission under certain conditions for educational purposes. These vary greatly between countries and between K-12 and higher education. This “balkanization” of law is one of the reasons that open education, based of course on open licensing, is such an important policy alternative. We were initially considering conducting the necessary legal comparison, but we found out during the workshop that this has already been done by Prof. Raquel Xalabarder of Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (see the WIPO-commissioned analysis). Therefore, our work will build on this analysis and in particular “translate” it into an explanation that will apply to practical issues faced by educators in order to demonstrate the real-life application of policy decisions.

Kamil Śliwowski talked about a mythbusting approach, focusing on finding counter arguments for current criticisms of open education. Kamil described experiences we’ve had in Poland debating commercial educational publishers, who have been vocal critics of open education policy. These publishers often recite arguments against OER that are not based on evidence–hence, “myths”. The mythbusting approach began last year with a presentation at the UNESCO OER Congress in Paris, and continued with a workshop at the CC Summit in Buenos Aires. As part of this project, Kamil will organize in early 2014 a sprint-type workshop during which we’ll produce an OER mythbusting publication.

Bardhyl Jashari presented the idea of open education champions, which his organization, Foundation Metamorphosis, has been implementing in Macedonia. According to Bardhyl, leaders are crucial in promoting open education policy, since these issues are often difficult to understand for many on-the-ground educators. Empowering education champions to explain these topics makes the policies easier to understand. We agreed that it is a great idea, and in line with the recently appointed European “Digital Champions.” But these education champions will be difficult to implement without the Commission’s support.

Next steps

We are now starting work on our policy brief and related analyses and documents, and we’ll focus on developing these over the next few months. For early 2014, we are planning several events, culminating during Open Education Week in March.

We’re all the time looking for partners, collaborators and allies. if you care about open educational policy and want to help, please get in touch.

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European Commission launches “Opening Up Education” initiative

Timothy Vollmer, September 25th, 2013

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes and Commission Member Androulla Vassiliou today announced Opening Up Education, an initiative that looks to increase the use of digital technologies for learning and spur the development of Open Educational Resources and policies across the European Union.

The Opening Up Education communication (PDF) indicates a strong support for Open Educational Resources. On the subject of OER, the Commission will:

  • Ensure that all educational materials supported by Erasmus+ are available to the public under open licenses and promote similar practices under EU programmes;
  • Use the new programmes Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 to encourage partnerships between creators of educational content (e.g. teachers, publishers, ICT companies), to increase the supply of quality OER and other digital educational materials in different languages, to develop new business models and to develop technical solutions which provide
    transparent information on copyrights and open licenses to users of digital educational resources;
  • Launch with this Communication the Open Education Europa portal linking it to existing OER repositories in different languages and bringing learners, teachers and researchers together, so to improve the attractiveness and visibility of quality OERs produced in the EU.

The communication also urged Member States and education institutions to:

  • Stimulate open access policies for publicly-funded educational materials;
  • Encourage formal education and training institutions to include digital content, including OERs, among the recommended educational materials for learners at all educational levels and encourage the production, including through public procurement, of high-quality educational materials whose copyrights would belong to public authorities.

portal small

Kroes and Vassiliou also introduced Open Education Europa, a portal for high quality OER available in a variety of languages. The default licensing for the resources in the portal is CC BY.

The communication document defined OER as “learning resources that are usable, adaptable to specific learning needs, and shareable freely.” We think that it would be better for the Commission to adopt the longstanding and well-understood OER definition promoted by the Hewlett Foundation, which defines OER as “teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.”

Creative Commons provided feedback last year when the Commission was gathering information from stakeholders on how to proceed around the issues of ICT and OER. Congratulations to the EC on what looks like a promising initiative that will increase access to and reuse of open educational resources and technologies for a wide range of learners in Europe.

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Public Access to Publicly Funded Materials: What Could Be

Billy Meinke, September 25th, 2013

This blog post was written by Teresa Sempere García, CC’s Community Support Intern June-August, 2013. The cycle graphics below were designed by Timothy Vollmer and Teresa Sempere García.

The current system for public access to research articles and educational materials is broken: ownership is often unclear, and the reuse of knowledge is limited by policies that do not maximize the impact of public funding. The following graphics will try to simplify and compare two alternative funding cycles for research publications and educational resources that emphasize the positive impacts of open policies on publicly-funded grants. More information and links to a current directory of current and proposed OER open policies can be found in the OER Policy Registry on the Creative Commons Wiki.

Cycles for Research Articles

The existing system for producing and distributing publicly funded research articles is expensive and doesn’t take advantage of the possibilities of innovations like open licensing. Without a free-flowing system, access to the results of scientific research is limited to institutions that are able to commit to hefty journal subscriptions — paid for year after year — which don’t allow for broad redistribution, or repurposing for activities such as text and data mining without additional permissions from the rightsholder. This closed system limits the impact on the scientific and scholarly community and progress is slowed significantly.

A Closed Research Model

closed funding cycle for research

When funding cycles for research include open license requirements for publications, increased access and opportunities for reuse extends the value of research funding. As an example, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy requires the published results of all NIH-funded research to be deposited in PubMed Central’s repository, the peer-reviewed manuscript immediately, and the final journal article within twelve months of publication. Similarly, the recent directive issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy mandates that federal agencies with more than $100 million in research expenditures must make the results of their research publicly available within one year of publication, and better manage the resultant data supporting their results. These policies utilize aspects of the optimized cycle below, and are a step in the right direction for making better use of public funding for research articles.

An Open Research Model

optimised funding cycle for research

Cycles for Educational Resources

The incumbent system for developing and sharing publicly funded educational resources doesn’t guarantee materials are accessible and reusable by the public that paid for their creation.

A Closed Education Model

closed funding cycle for educational resources

If policies are put in place that mandate open licenses on publicly funded educational resources, knowledge can flow more freely because the public is clear about how they may reuse educational content, and the funders can realize a more impactful return on their investments. An example of better use of public funding for the production of educational resources, the US DOL TAACCCT Program mandates that all content created or modified using grant funds are openly-licensed (CC BY) and deposited in a public repository upon completion of the project. Being conducted in four waves, the TAACCCT program is making better use of a large (US$2 billion) investment of US taxpayer money by ensuring the public will have access the educational resources created during the four-year term, and is able to reuse and adapt them beyond what automatic copyright allows. The following graphic demonstrates an open funding model, with licensing and access recommendations to remove barriers to sharing and help speed access and reuse of publicly funded educational content.

An Open Education Model

optimised funding cycle for educational resources

Summary

Open policy — specifically, the idea that publicly funded materials should be openly licensed materials — is a sensible solution that ensures the public’s right to reuse the materials it paid for, and improves the efficiency of government grant funding. Open licensing is a sensible requirement for publicly funded grant programs.

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University of California adopts system-wide open access policy

Timothy Vollmer, August 2nd, 2013

Today the University of California (UC) Academic Senate announced the adoption of a system-wide open access policy for future research articles generated by UC faculty. The articles will be made publicly available for free via UC’s eScholarship repository.

According to the press release, the University of California open access policy will cover 8,000 faculty who author approximately 40,000 articles each year. From the UC statement:

By granting a license to the University of California prior to any contractual arrangement with publishers, faculty members can now make their research widely and publicly available, re-use it for various purposes, or modify it for future research publications. Previously, publishers had sole control of the distribution of these articles.

It appears that authors will have the option of depositing their articles under open licenses, such as Creative Commons licenses. The FAQ says,

Uses of the article are governed by the copyright license under which it is distributed, and faculty authors choose which license to use at the point of deposit. Faculty members may choose to restrict commercial re-use by choosing a Creative Commons license with a “Non Commercial” (NC) restriction when they deposit their article; or they may choose to allow it by choosing a license like the “Attribution only” license (CC BY). If no license is specified, a non-commercial license will be used by default.

Faculty are also able to opt-out of the policy on a per-article basis, which may limit the effectiveness of the policy overall if opt-outs become commonplace.

The UC policy builds on existing open access policies in California, such as the one at UCSF. Here’s a link the full text of the policy. Congratulations to UC for passing this policy, and we hope that faculty will embrace sharing research articles under open licenses.

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University proposal supports U.S. public access directive

Timothy Vollmer, June 12th, 2013

Last week the Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) released a draft plan on how they’d support public access to federally funded research aligned with the February 22 White House public access directive. The SHared Access Research Ecosystem, or SHARE, is a plan that would draw upon existing university infrastructure in order to ensure public access to publicly funded research. SHARE works through a federated system of university repositories. Participating universities would adopt a common set of metadata fields for publicly funded research articles. The metadata will communicate specific information so the article may be easily discovered through common search engines. Minimum metadata will include author name, title, journal, abstract, and award number. The university-focused SHARE plan was announced in the same week as CHORUS, an effort championed by a coalition of commercial publishers.

In order to promote broad access and reuse of publicly funded research outputs, the SHARE proposal says that federal agencies need to be granted permissions that enable them to make the deposit system work. Therefore, universities and principal investigators need to retain sufficient rights to in turn grant those permissions (access, reuse, archiving) to the federal agencies. From the plan:

Copyright licenses to allow public access uses of publications resulting from federal awards need to be awarded on a non-exclusive basis to the funding agency responsible for deposit in order for that system of public deposit to work [...] Federal funding agencies need to receive sufficient copyright licenses to peer-reviewed scholarly publications (either final accepted manuscripts or preferably final published articles) resulting from their grants to enable them to carry out their roles in the national public access scheme. Such licenses would enable the placement of peer-reviewed content in publicly accessible repositories capable of preservation, discovery, sharing, and machine-based services such as text mining, once an embargo has expired.

The need for universities and researchers to maintain rights to make their research available under open licenses is aligned with the recommendations that Creative Commons made to the federal government in our testimony during the public hearings at the National Academies. In our comments, we urged agencies to allow authors to deposit articles immediately in a repository under a worldwide, royalty-free copyright license that allows the research to be used for any purpose as long as attribution is given to the authors. By making it possible for authors to make their research articles available immediately as open access, federal agencies will be clarifying reuse rights so the downstream users know the legal rights and responsibilities in using that research. This would include important reuse permissions noted in the SHARE proposal.

We also suggested that federal agencies require that authors deposit their manuscripts into a public repository immediately upon publication in a peer reviewed journal. This is also in line with the SHARE plan. If an embargo is present, the SHARE repository will link to the commercial publisher’s website. And once the embargo period expires, the repository would be able to “flip on” access to the article which would then made available under the open license.

The SHARE proposal also notes, “licensing arrangements should ensure that no single entity or group secures exclusive rights to publications resulting from federally funded research.” It is important that universities and scholarly authors properly manage copyrights from the get-go in order to make sure that the final manuscript is made publicly available under the requirements set out by the White House public access directive. This important consideration has been widely discussed at the federal level when the NIH Public Access Policy went into effect. In addition, universities have passed open access policies that reserve the legal rights to archive research conducted by their faculty. And author-level copyright tools have proved to be useful for faculty to preserve some rights to the articles to which they submit to commercial publishers.

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California public access bill moves to Assembly floor vote

Timothy Vollmer, May 28th, 2013

ab609_468x60~s600x600

After passing through the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week (with bipartisan support), California’s Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act (AB 609) will now reach the Assembly floor for a vote this week. If the proposed bill passes the Assembly, it will move to the California State Senate.

To recap, AB 609 would require that the final peer-reviewed manuscript of research funded through California tax dollars be made publicly available within 12 months of publication. If passed, AB 609 would be the first state-level bill requiring free public access to publicly funded research.

The Association of American Publishes attempted to scuttle the bill by sending a letter filled with inaccurate, misleading information. However, public access advocates made their voices heard to appropriations committee members, again correcting the FUD spread by entrenched publishing interests.

If you’re a California resident, you can contact your Assembly member now to ask that they support AB 609.

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Deciphering licensing in Project Open Data

Timothy Vollmer, May 20th, 2013

Two weeks ago we wrote about the U.S. Executive Order and announcement of Project Open Data, an open source project (managed on Github) that lays out the implementation details behind behind the President’s Executive Order and memo. The project offers more information on open licenses, and gives examples of acceptable licenses for U.S. federal data. Some of this information is clear, while other pieces require more clarification. Below we’ve provided some commentary and notes on the licensing parts of Project Open Data.

Open Licenses

The Open Licenses page on Project Open Data says that a license will be considered “open” if the following conditions are met:

Reuse. The license must allow for reproductions, modifications and derivative works and permit their distribution under the terms of the original work.

Users can copy and make adaptations of the data. The government may use a copyleft license, thus requiring that adapted works be shared under the same license as the original. In our view, the reference to the government using a license is confusing. Works created by federal government employees in the in the public domain, and a license is not appropriate–at least as a matter of U.S. copyright law. More on this below.

The rights attached to the work must not depend on the work being part of a particular package. If the work is extracted from that package and used or distributed within the terms of the work’s license, all parties to whom the work is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original package.

Everyone is offered the work under the same public license.

Redistribution. The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the work either on its own or as part of a package made from works from many different sources.

Third parties can sell the data verbatim or produce adaptations of the data and sell those.

The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale or distribution.

Users don’t have to pay to use the licensed data.

The license may require as a condition for the work being distributed in modified form that the resulting work carry a different name or version number from the original work.

When the data gets remixed the licensor can require that the remixer note that their remixed version is different from the original.

The rights attached to the work must apply to all to whom it is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.

Public licenses must be used, which means that everyone gets offered the data under the same terms, without the need to negotiation individual licenses.

The license must not place restrictions on other works that are distributed along with the licensed work. For example, the license must not insist that all other works distributed on the same medium are open.

The license doesn’t infect other data or content that is distributed alongside the openly licensed data. It’s important that the open data is marked as such; the same goes for marking of the the non-open data.

If adaptations of the work are made publicly available, these must be under the same license terms as the original work.

This is a confusing statement, because it seems to require that all data be licensed under a copyleft license. This does not align with the licensing options listed in the Open License Examples page.

No Discrimination against Persons, Groups, or Fields of Endeavor. The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons. The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the work in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the work from being used in a business, or from being used for research.

Anyone may use the licensed data for any reason.

Open License Examples

The Open License Examples page offers a helpful guide as to which open licenses will be accepted for government data released by federal agencies. As we noted in our earlier post, there is some confusion in that the Open Data Policy Memo says, “open data are made available under an open license that places no restrictions on their use.” Saying that data should be placed under a license with no restrictions doesn’t make sense, since even a very “open” license (such as CC BY) requires attribution to the author a condition on using the license. If the United States truly wishes to make federal government data available without restriction, it could consider mandating only those tools that accomplish this, for example the CC0 Public Domain Dedication or the Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and License.

Data and content created by government employees within the scope of their employment are not subject to domestic copyright protection under 17 U.S.C. § 105.

The fact that data and content created by federal government employees is not subject to copyright protection in the United States is a longstanding positive feature of the US code. But as noted here, this copyright-free zone only applies when talking about domestic protection, e.g. inside the United States. Outside its borders, the United States government could assert that, for example, one of its works is protected under French copyright law, and then enforce its copyright in France. It’s unclear how much this legal nuance is leveraged outside of the United States. But it does seem to create a challenge for the U.S. federal agencies in utilizing public domain dedication tools like CC0. This is because CC0 puts content into the worldwide public domain, whereas under Section 105 works created by federal government employees are only in the public domain in the United States. So, while it’s useful that works created by U.S. federal government employees is in the public domain in the United States, it’s a shame that this seems to preclude federal agencies from utilizing public domain tools like CC0, which would help communicate broad reuse rights easily and in machine-readable form. This begs the larger question, if information created by federal government employees is in the public domain in the United States, then is it inappropriate to license this data and content under one of the licenses noted below? And, if that is true, then what content will be licensed under the conformant licenses? Third party content?

When purchasing data or content from third-party vendors, however care must be taken to ensure the information is not hindered by a restrictive, non-open license. In general, such licenses should comply with the open knowledge definition of an open license. Several examples of common open licenses are listed below:

Content Licenses:

  • Creative Commons BY, BY-SA, or CC0
  • GNU Free Documentation License

Data Licenses

  • Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and Licence (PDDL)
  • Open Data Commons Attribution License
  • Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODbL)
  • Creative Commons CC0

Notwithstanding the questions above about licensing options for the work produced by federal government employees, the Administration is taking a great step in recommending that licenses should align with the Open Definition. In addition, the Administration might include information about appropriate software licenses, should those come into play when they release data.

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Obama issues Executive Order in support of open data

Timothy Vollmer, May 10th, 2013

Yesterday President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order requiring federal government information to be open and machine-readable by default. This Order is the latest in a series of actions going back to 2009 in support of increasing access to and transparency of government information.

In addition to the Executive Order, the White House released a Memorandum (PDF) explaining how federal government agencies will comply with the new open data policy.

This Memorandum requires agencies to collect or create information in a way that supports downstream information processing and dissemination activities. This includes using machine­ readable and open formats, data standards, and common core and extensible metadata for all new information creation and collection efforts. It also includes agencies ensuring information stewardship through the use of open licenses and review of information for privacy, confidentiality, security, or other restrictions to release.

It provides a forward-thinking set of guidelines for open data to be released by U.S. federal agencies:

Open data: For the purposes of this Memorandum, the term “open data” refers to publicly available data structured in a way that enables the data to be fully discoverable and usable by end users. In general, open data will be consistent with the following principles:

  • Public. Consistent with OMB’s Open Government Directive, agencies must adopt a presumption in favor of openness to the extent permitted by law and subject to privacy, confidentiality, security, or other valid restrictions.
  • Accessible. Open data are made available in convenient, modifiable, and open formats that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched. Formats should be machine-readable (i.e., data are reasonably structured to allow automated processing). Open data structures do not discriminate against any person or group of persons and should be made available to the widest range of users for the widest range of purposes, often by providing the data in multiple formats for consumption. To the extent permitted by law, these formats should be non-proprietary, publicly available, and no restrictions should be placed upon their use.
  • Described. Open data are described fully so that consumers of the data have sufficient information to understand their strengths, weaknesses, analytical limitations, security requirements, as well as how to process them. This involves the use of robust, granular metadata (i.e., fields or elements that describe data), thorough documentation of data elements, data dictionaries, and, if applicable, additional descriptions of the purpose of the collection, the population of interest, the characteristics of the sample, and the method of data collection.
  • Reusable. Open data are made available under an open license that places no restrictions on their use.
  • Complete. Open data are published in primary forms (i.e., as collected at the source), with the finest possible level of granularity that is practicable and permitted by law and other requirements. Derived or aggregate open data should also be published but must reference the primary data.
  • Timely. Open data are made available as quickly as necessary to preserve the value of the data. Frequency of release should account for key audiences and downstream needs.
  • Managed Post-Release. A point of contact must be designated to assist with data use and to respond to complaints about adherence to these open data requirements.

The Memorandum provides some more information about how U.S. government information will be made reusable:

Ensure information stewardship through the use of open licenses – Agencies must apply open licenses, in consultation with the best practices found in Project Open Data, to information as it is collected or created so that if data are made public there are no restrictions on copying, publishing, distributing, transmitting, adapting, or otherwise using the information for non-commercial or for commercial purposes.

Depending on the exact implementation details, this could be a fantastic move that would remove any legal confusion about using federal government data. By leveraging open licenses, the U.S. federal government would be doing a great service to reusers by communicating those rights available in advance. And, if the U.S. truly wishes to make federal government information available without restriction, it could consider using a tool such as the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. CC0 is used by many data providers to place open data directly in the public domain. We’ve already suggested this (PDF) as an option for sharing federally funded research data.

The White House should be commended for taking another positive step forward to ensure that U.S. government data is made legally and technically accessible and useable.

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PLOS launches open access science award program

Timothy Vollmer, May 1st, 2013

asap banner

Today the Public Library of Science announced the Accelerating Science Award Program (ASAP). The award program seeks nominations of individuals who have used, applied, or remixed scientific research — published through open access — in order to realize innovations in science, medicine, and technology. The goal of ASAP is to build awareness of and encourage the use of scientific research published through open access. Major sponsors include the Wellcome Trust and Google.

Three winners will each receive $30,000. The nomination period opens today and runs through June 15, 2013. Potential nominees may include individuals, teams, or groups of collaborators -– such as scientists, researchers, educators, social services, technology leaders, entrepreneurs, policy makers, patient advocates, public health workers, and students -– who have used scientific research in transformative ways. The winners will be announced in Washington, DC, in October 2013 at an Open Access Week event hosted by SPARC and the World Bank.

Creative Commons is a supporter of ASAP, along with several other library organizations, publishers, and research organizations.

For more information, including the full details of the ASAP program, nomination process, and the award specifics, go to http://asap.plos.org/. For program rules visit http://asap.plos.org/nominate/rules/.

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