public domain

An Open Letter to TPP Negotiators: Copyright Term Extension Makes No Sense

Ryan Merkley, July 9th, 2014

Today, Creative Commons and over 35 other organizations published an open letter urging negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to rescind a proposal to extend copyright terms by another 20 years beyond its current, mandatory term.

This week, 12 Pacific rim countries are meeting in Ottawa, Canada, to continue secret negotiations of the widely criticized TPP trade agreement. Under the current TRIPS agreement, signatories are required to enact legislation granting copyright protection to individuals for the life of the author plus another 50 years. TPP negotiators, under the influence of large rights-holding companies, want to add another 20 years to the minimum copyright term.

If adopted, this extension would work to keep creative works out of the public domain for decades beyond the current term. It’s essentially a double-life sentence for all new works. This would be an incredible loss for the commons.

All creativity and knowledge owes something to what came before it – every creator builds on the ideas of their predecessors. Copyright is a limited right that is given to creators, but it also has a term limit to ensure we all benefit from culture and knowledge. Both the rights granted to creators and rights afforded to the public are necessary for a vibrant culture and the proliferation of knowledge. And the “Commons” in Creative Commons starts with the public domain. It’s the original corpus for remix. It’s why we’ve developed tools to better mark and dedicate content to the public domain. Together with hundreds of millions of works whose creators have chosen to share under generous terms of reuse with CC licenses, the commons is growing richer everyday.

Extending the term of copyright will undermine the potential of the public commons and needlessly limit the potential for new creativity. There is no logical reason to increase the term of copyright – an extension would create a tiny private benefit at a great cost to all of us. Most people agree that the existing term already lasts far past the amount of time required to incentivize creation (the original purpose of copyright) by granting creators a limited monopoly over a creative work. Copyright should strike a balance, giving an incentive to create while also giving the public permission to use and build on that creativity. In 2002, CC co-founder Lawrence Lessig argued against an additional 20 years of copyright protection in Eldred v. Ashcroft. Even Milton Friedman opposed the copyright term extension, calling it a “no-brainer.” Nearly all contemporary economists agree.

Increasing the term of copyright protection harms the commons. Any public policy that will further delay their entry into the public domain is contrary to the values we support – realizing the full potential of the Internet through universal access to the creativity that promotes active participation in culture and society.

Participating countries should should reject any measure in the Trans-Pacific Partnership introduced to increase the term of copyright protection. And TPP negotiations should be held in public and with the input of a broad set of stakeholders that include civil society and public interest representatives.

Although the letter has been presented to TPP negotiators today, they will remain open for further signatories to express their support. Interested organizations can endorse the letter here. Everyone can speak out by signing the petition at ourfairdeal.org.

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Affiliate Project Grants Wrap Up

Meryl Mohan, June 23rd, 2014

Affiliate Project Grants Wrap Up
opensource.com / CC BY-SA

One year ago, CC announced the Affiliate Project Grants to support and expand CC’s global network of dedicated experts. With a little help from Google, we were able to increase the capacity of CC’s Affiliates to undertake projects around the world benefiting a more free, open, and innovative internet.

We received over 70 applicants, and we were able to fund 18 to tackle important work in their country – work like using music to break down physical barriers and give Palestinians a voice, gathering leaders in Tanzania to discuss how sharing information can help prevent diabetes, and helping Romanian librarians provide quality educational materials to all.

Watching these projects unfold over the last several months has been reaffirming for everyone at CC. The Affiliates are central to CC’s work, without whom we would simply not be closer to our goal of a more open internet.

Click here to find out the full details of the different grants, and read on to see what our 18 teams had to say on the results they achieved, motivations for their projects, the work still to be done, and lessons learned.

Congrats to the Affiliate teams for all the great work accomplished!

 


Results Achieved

 

 

“We are pleased that we were able to impact the way the people who shared their stories with us think about the concept of sharing stories. Some people when they were asked before to share their suffering and their personal stories on video were not totally sure they wanted to do it, but after seeing the output of their stories reflected on by poets and artists from all over the world, we think we were able to provide them a platform to express themselves and feel part of a greater community that is sharing the same hopes and fears.
[We want to expand] the project concept to other marginalized communities around the world.”
-Bashar Lubbad, Palestine, “Hope Spoken/Broken: Change in the Eyes of Palestinian Refugees

 

“The result was publication of a guide on free culture movements in Arabic and a website where it can be downloaded freely in e-book format: www.freecultureguide.net. We target artists, journalists, bloggers and other content creators and the general public who is unfamiliar to the free culture movement and concepts, as this is the first book of its kind in Arabic about this topic.”
-Ahmed Mansour, CC Morocco, “Creative BookSprint

 

“Lack of consumer level tools is still seen as a major obstacle in CC adoption. WpLicense is now a tool that can be applied to millions of blogs.”
-Tarmo Toikkanen, CC Finland, “WordPress License Revived

 

“More concretely, participants learnt how to: adapt traditional services to a non-traditional model; locate learning objects that can be reused under CC licence; investigate and use alternative publishing platforms; and apply project management processes to a hack project.”
-Matt McGregor, CC New Zealand, “Media Text Hack


The Cookbook / CC BY

 

“Museums and other memory institutions in Taiwan often have their collections digitized.
A major part of the digitized works shall be in the public domain. However, many of these institutions often keep these works in the equivalents of digital safes, and there are no easy ways to access and reuse them. Together with Netivism Ltd. (a social enterprise based in Taipei) CC Taiwan engaged with memory institutions and independent collectors in Taiwan about the tools and practices for public domain repositories.
Exemplary public domain repositories are being setup using MediaGoblin (a free software package for hosting media collections) with new extensions developed for and supported by this project grant.”
-Tyng-Ruey Chuang, CC Taiwan, “Practices and Depositories for the Public Domain”

 

 

“As a result of the interaction, the students were able to experience the Open culture which has caused a boom in the Kenyan tech scene. They identified industries that were etched on the sole foundation of Open tools in Kenya and were able to understand more experientially than before, the importance of such ideals.”
-Simeon Oriko, CC Kenya, “School of Open Kenya Initiative


 

“Obami, a platform for resource exchange for elementary school students, has seen a number of copyright violations. Instead of policing kids’ actions, the Creative Commons for Kids program will teach kids how to open and share their creative and educational works legally through the use of CC licenses [...] introducing Creative Commons to the next generation of Africa.”
-Kelsey Wiens, CC South Africa, “Creative Commons For Kids”

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Motivations

 

“Despite all the work we have done, CC is still an unknown concept to most people in the Arab region. We live in a copy/paste region where it will take a lot of hard work for people to understand the concepts of attribution. After a series of CC presentations in local schools (ages 12 to 18), we found that CC awareness is almost non-existent. On the other hand, our videos at wezank.com have been very popular online and we believe that using this asset to spread CC’s mission & vision would be highly effective across the region. [... This project] is about creating content in Arabic for the CC community, and at any stage, anyone wishing to present CC in Arabic will be able to use those videos.”
-Maya Zankoul, CC Lebanon, “CC Simply Explained in Arabic

Wezank
wezank.com / CC BY

 

“[Information is power]… In Africa, this rich geography of information doesn’t yet exist. And not because there isn’t the richness of knowledge, history or place, but, for a number of reasons, because there is little culture of contribution to the Internet.”
-Kelsey Wiens, Cross Regional Africa, “Activate Africa”

 

“If the government [in Japan] adopts CC BY or CC zero, data released under these terms will bring scalable impact on the public in a sense that it will help reuse of government data with minimum restrictions. The workshop materials are open to the public, and some of the attendees will learn to teach others, which give the project some ripple effects beyond its immediate outcomes.”
-Tomoaki Watanabe, CC Japan, “Workshops and Symposium for Open Data in Japan”

 

 

“In the Arab world there were several personalities who have a positive influence in the history of their country, in  different areas. That’s why I wish to publish with the help of the Arab community, an Arabic book under CC license, which tells us their lives, stories, and their influence on their own countries.”

-Faiza Souici, CC Algeria, “Arabic Icons”

 


“In Colombia, libraries and librarians have become one of the important civil society groups that are collectively seeking information, understanding and participating in public spaces trying to redefine copyright as a tool for access to knowledge and not just as a source of income for some people. [...] The material in this course will be open as a self-guided course that can be tapped on demand — individually, at a user-preferred time and date. Moreover, the course can be harnessed as a group, from a collective or specific institution, to be facilitated according to the possibilities and conditions of a given community.”
-Maritza Sanchez, CC Colombia / El Salvador / Uruguay, “An Online Course on Basic Copyright for Latinamerican Librarians”

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Work on the Horizon

 

 

“Latin Americans are creating and freely making available high quality and innovative music independently from big companies. But it is necessary to work better on both musicians understanding their rights and the power of sharing.”
-Renata Avila, CC Guatemala, “Promoting Free Music in Central and South America”

 
 

“While Chile has encouraged the creation of open access journals nationwide, researchers with high rates of publication and citation do not see them as a real possibility when publishing. Any policy to promote the creation of journals in Chile should consider factors that give them an edge in the scientific circuit and thus becoming a real possibility by leading Chilean scientists.”
-Francisco Vera, CC Chile, “Promotion of Open Knowledge in the Chilean Academia: Ways to Facilitate Adoption of Creative Commons in the Academic World

 

“The conclusion of this project is that there are only building blocks for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Romania since at the moment there is not a clear OER practice – only grassroots initiatives or projects with huge potential of becoming OER. Most of the projects we discovered in essence share the same philosophy behind OER, but they nevertheless omit to attribute a license for the created resources. In conclusion, more awareness and training activities are needed in order to reach a level of maturity regarding OER and their use.”
-Bogdan Manolea, CC Romania, “OER Awareness Activities for Librarians and Academics in Romania


CC Romania / CC BY

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Lessons Learned

 

 

“Because many pupils and students cannot access hard copy textbooks which are discouragingly expensive, the importance of Creative Commons licenses in closing the literacy gaps which have been brought about by income inequality cannot be overstated.”
-Moses Mulumba, CC Uganda, “Promoting Creative Commons Initiatives in Uganda


 

 
 

“The lessons that I learnt and which I can share is that grants from CC headquarters however, small [has great] potential impact to CC Affiliates as it acts as catalysts to the Affiliates to keep things going and mobilizing other funds locally.”
-Paul Kihwelo, CC Tanzania, “Tanzania Creative Commons Salon

 
 


 
 

“We learnt that there is a high level of interest in Creative Commons in Ireland, and a need to continuously engage with people who are interested in Creative Commons.”
-Darius Whelan, CC Ireland, “Awareness-raising Event in Dublin, January 2014

 
 
 

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Attention game designers: Public Domain Jam!

Elliot Harmon, May 16th, 2014

If you’re a videogame designer and you have nothing to do over the next week (or if making cool games is more fun than your day job), why not spend the week developing a public domain game?

The idea of The Public Domain Jam is to encourage developers to create games based on public domain assets and stories, and optionally give the games themselves back to the public domain via the CC0 waiver. The game trailer encourages designers to think about the amazing wealth of public domain source material: maybe in the next week, Ovid’s Metamorphoses will dethrone zombies as the most important source of game design inspiration in the public domain.

The contest is being organized by game developer Gritfish, and fellow game developer Nick Liow is sponsoring a $1000 prize for the best CC0 game.

If you recognize Nick’s name, it might be because I interviewed him last year about his Open Game Art Bundle. Since then, he’s released his own crowdfunded CC0 game, Nothing to Hide.

Hurry! The Public Domain Jam ends May 24.

Update (June 9): The judges have selected the best CC0 game, Paper Jekyll. It’s a really interesting take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Check it out! Congratulations to everyone who built a game.

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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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Affiliate Project Grant Update: Asia-Pacific

Meryl Mohan, March 4th, 2014

This is part three of a five week series on the Affiliate Team project grants. So far, you’ve heard from our affiliates in Africa and the Arab World. Today, we’re showcasing projects in our Asia-Pacific region, including open data workshops from Japan, a media studies textbook from New Zealand, and software tools and guidelines for public domain materials from Taiwan.



Japan: Workshops and Symposium for Open Data in Japan
by Puneet Kishor (project lead: Tomoaki Watanabe)

Last year in June, the CommonSphere, won a grant to hold three workshops and a public symposium on the use of CC tools (licenses and the CC0 Public Domain Dedication) in the context of open data. The aim of the workshops was to respond to informal inputs from government and other stakeholders on their implementation of CC tools in the context of open data, a new frontier of openness in the last few years in Japan. The team was planning to invite involvement from Japanese national and municipal government agencies and Open Knowledge Foundation Japan.

The first event was a workshop at Information Processing Agency, IPA, an independent administrative agency discussing open data licensing. The panel involved a member of Open Knowledge Foundation Japan as well. The whole session was video-recorded by the IPA staff, and it is now available online, along with presentation materials. The attendance was mostly government officials and the agency staff, around 50 people, and an attendant survey indicated a reasonable success.

The second meeting was held among key figures related to open data and other relevant initiatives, as invitation-only discussions on licensing and other legal issues. CCJP provided logistics support and expertise. It was decided by the attendants that the discussion will remain informal and unpublished.

The third was a symposium to discuss implementation issues of open data, including licensing issues organized by the third party, Innovation Nippon, a joint project between Google Japan and GLOCOM. Both CCJP and OKF Japan helped with pre-event publicity and provided expertise. It featured and was attended by local government officials and municipal law makers, along with business people and academics. The event was videocast and the archive is available already, along with the slides.

The team also responded to an important emerging development – Japanese national government is revising terms of use for government web sites. Creative Commons Japan’s interest has been to present benefits of interoperability with Creative Commons licenses, and ways to achieve that.

The discussion is still ongoing, and some are concerned about potential “undesirable” use of government information, which may lead to a non-interoperable terms of use. The Japanese government may lean towards more liberal and interoperable approach if a few of the following happen:

  1. Political will, however, key politicians are not necessarily expected to support liberal licensing allowing use that goes against public order.
  2. Evidence, anecdotal or scientific, showing that more liberal licensing results in better outcomes. However, such evidence is not abundant, and some government agencies have very specific uses in mind that may make them hesitate.
  3. Evidence showing other governments of developed countries are doing things differently from what Japan is doing or planning to do. UK, FR, US, AU, NZ all are CC-BY compatible or use a CC-BY license. Their licensing all seem to be open in the Open Definition sense. Japan may result a bit differently.
  4. Prospective users actively asking for a change.

The challenges faced by the team so far have been 1) the above-mentioned development away from CC tools and 2) the lack of availability of licensing and editing talent on a more stable basis.

The team is in talks with a local government to hold at least one more workshop to discuss licensing issues as they relate to local governments. The symposium was originally planned to be at the end, but given the emerging development above, it may be timed differently.


New Zealand: Media Text Hack
by project lead Matt McGregor

In the middle of 2013, a few New Zealand academics and librarians began to toss around an exciting-but-preposterous-sounding idea: what if they could hack a media studies textbook in a weekend, and then release the results to the world under an open Creative Commons license?

The social benefit – the why – was clear. With textbook prices continuing to rise (and rise) well above inflation, and student debt levels ballooning, the Pacific region desperately needs a new model for producing and distributing educational resources. As Dr Erika Pearson, who led the Media Text Hack project, put it, “Textbooks currently available for New Zealand first year students are often produced overseas, usually the US, and can have a cripplingly high price tag.”

The how was a bit more difficult. Academics and librarians are already rather busy people, and the process of building and managing a team of contributors is labor intensive, with plenty of emailing, documenting, cat-herding, and problem-solving. Thankfully, with the help of a $4000 affiliate grant from Creative Commons, the team could hire a project manager — Bernard Madill — to help build the network of contributors, document progress, and make sure the hack weekend progressed smoothly.

Cut to 16-17 November, 2013: the team, largely made up of early career researchers from across New Zealand and Australia, got together and successfully produced the ‘beta’ version of the textbook. For the last few months, they have been progressively editing and re-editing content, to ensure that the textbook is classroom ready in time for the first down-under semester, which starts in late February.

As the book is shared, edited, and reused by students and teachers across the world, the team will incorporate new ideas, explanations, and examples, producing a text that can be hacked and re-hacked over the years ahead.

This is new territory: while there have been a few textbooks hacks in other disciplines – including this inspirational group of Finnish mathematicians – this is of the first (to our knowledge) of this kind of text-hack in the humanities.

For this reason, the team is putting together a parallel ‘cookbook’, to enable other projects to understand what worked – as well as what did not work – about the project. This will be released in the first half of 2014, and will hopefully inspire other projects around the world to attempt open textbook projects of their own.

The team is hopeful that open textbooks will become more prevalent in public higher education. As University of Otago Copyright Officer Richard White, a core member of the text-hack team, puts it, the open textbook marks a return to the “core principles of academia: sharing knowledge, learning from, and building on the work of others.”


Taiwan: Practices and Depositories for The Public Domain
by project lead Tyng-Ruey Chuang

The project “Practices and Depositories for The Public Domain” (PD4PD) aims to develop software tools and practical guidelines to put public domain materials online more easily. This is a joint uptake of the GNU MediaGoblin project [1], NETivism Ltd. [2], and Creative Commons Taiwan [3], with the latter coordinating the team effort. The overall project goal is to firm up access to and reuse of the many digital manifestations of public domain cultural works by means of replicable tools, practices, and communities.

Tools: The plan is to extend the functionality of the GNU MediaGoblin software package so as to make it more suitable for hosting large collections of public domain materials. For this purpose, new features have been suggested to add to GNU MediaGoblin to help users self-hosting their media archives. These features include batch upload of media (with proper metadata annotations), customizable themes and pages, and an “easy install” script (to install GNU Media Goblin itself).

Practices: The plan is to develop guidelines and how-to on self-hosting public domain materials. Two versions are planned: One in English and the other one in the Chinese language used in Taiwan. An educational website on the public domain, and self-hosting, is also planned.

Community: The plan is to outreach to content holders in Taiwan, and to work with them in releasing some of their holdings to the public domain. It will be demonstrated by a website using the tools mentioned above.

This six-month project started in December 2013 and plans to finish in June 2014. The GNU MediaGoblin project has been focusing on tool development while NETivism Ltd. is concentrating on community outreach. Creative Commons Taiwan is working on practical guidelines. Several interns have been recruited to help with this project.

[1] http://mediagoblin.org/
[2] http://netivism.com.tw/
[3] http://creativecommons.tw/

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Copyright Week: Tools and policies for building and defending a robust public domain

Timothy Vollmer, January 14th, 2014

copyrightweek1

The public domain is the DNA of creativity. Whereby current copyright law requires permission in order to use a work, the public domain is a copyright-free zone whereby anyone can use the work for any purpose without restriction under copyright law. One way works rise into the public domain is when the copyright protection term expires. Over the years, copyright terms have been extended again and again, making it really difficult for creative works to enter the public domain. While most early copyright terms lasted only a few years, a majority of copyright terms today last for the duration of the life of the author + 50-100 years. Increasing copyright terms have stymied creativity, drastically raised the prices of books, and exacerbated the orphan works problem (where authors of works can no longer be located to ask permission to use a work).

But the extremely long term of copyright is not the only problem for the public domain. The contours of copyright law grant certain rights to the author automatically, and without any necessary action from the creator. This seems like a reasonable thing to do for some creators, but it doesn’t support those who simply wish to make their content freely available, or who wish to opt out of copyright in the first place.

Tools

Authors should be able to say what they want to do with their creativity. The Creative Commons license suite provides a flexible way for creators to indicate the rights they wish to grant and those they wish to retain. Creators can use the CC licenses, which are a nonexclusive license that relies on existing copyright law for enforceability. And the CC license lasts for as long as the copyright term, after which the work will then be in the public domain. The CC licenses help to lower transaction costs by communicating certain rights in advance. That way, users don’t have to hunt down authors to get their permission to use a work. The permission is granted in advance by the author, so long as the user follows the terms of the license.

Another way for works to enter the public domain is when creators proactively waive their copyrights–they can place works in the public domain before the copyright term is over. Creative Commons has developed the CC0 (read “CC Zero”) Public Domain Dedication tool to allow authors to do this. The CC0 tool is used by authors who want to release all copyrights to their work and fully break down all barriers to downstream reuse.

cc-zero
CC0 Public Domain Dedication

CC0 enables scientists, educators, artists and other creators and owners of copyright- or database-protected content to waive those interests in their works and thereby place them as completely as possible in the public domain, so that others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright or database law.

The CC0 Public Domain Dedication is used widely by creators to waive all copyright and put their content in the worldwide public domain. It is used by open access publisher BioMed Central, who has adopted a policy whereby it now requires that data supporting its published articles be released into the public domain using CC0. Europeana uses CC0 to describe 30 million cultural objects in its massive collection. And even video game creative assets are being released into the public domain under CC0. And there are many more cases where creators and institutions in all fields are releasing their cultural, scientific, and educational works into the public domain.

CC0 allows authors to place their work into the public domain prior to the expiration of the copyright term. But what about works that are already in the public domain, such as really old works where it’s clear that the copyright has expired? To help label those works as already part of the public domain, CC has developed the Public Domain Mark.

publicdomain
Public Domain Mark

[The] Public Domain Mark enables works that are no longer restricted by copyright to be marked as such in a standard and simple way, making them easily discoverable and available to others.

One particularly interesting use of the Public Domain Mark is from Europeana. Whereas Europeana uses the CC0 tool to dedicate to the public domain the metadata that describes cultural works (so anyone can use it to create interesting representations or applications), they use the Public Domain Mark to signal which of the works in their digital collection (e.g. the very old paintings, sculpture, etc.) are in the public domain already because the copyright term has clearly expired. In this way, it’s easy for users to filter the catalog to view works that are already in the public domain and which may be used for any purpose because their copyrights have expired.

europeana pdm

Advocacy & policy change

Even with tools making it easier for authors to communicate the rights they want attached (or not) to the works they create, we need to support public policy efforts to increase access to the public domain. One such effort is led by the International Communia Association, whose mission is “to foster, strengthen and enrich the public domain.” Communia originally developed the Public Domain Manifesto (which you can sign here), and also has generated 14 policy recommendations that lay out ways that the public domain should be supported through public policy changes and community action. Recommendations include reducing the term of copyright protection overall, making the process of identifying public domain works simpler by harmonizing rules of copyright duration and territoriality, and mandating that digital reproductions of works in the public domain should also belong to the public domain.

communia card small

Another way to support the public domain is to highlight and champion community-generated norms. For instance, Creative Commons has been a longtime supporter of the Panton Principles, which advocates that scientific data should be made available in the public domain.

By open data in science we mean that it is freely available on the public internet permitting any user to download, copy, analyse, re-process, pass them to software or use them for any other purpose without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. To this end data related to published science should be explicitly placed in the public domain.

We can also support the development of public domain policies where they make the most sense. Creative Commons and other groups have provided feedback to policy consultations on a variety of areas whereby the public could benefit from the adoption of public domain policies. For example, in the recent consultation in the European Union on public sector information (PSI), we argued that there should be no conditions attached to the re-use of PSI.

The best case scenario would be for public sector information to be in the public domain, exempt from copyright protection altogether by amending national copyright laws. If it’s not possible to pass laws granting positive re-use rights to PSI without copyright attached, public sector bodies should use the CC0 Public Domain Dedication (CC0) to place public data into the worldwide public domain to ensure unrestricted re-use.

In the United States, federal agencies are determining how they will support the President’s Directive requiring public access to federally funded research and data. In addition, the White House itself is trying to figure out how to guide implementation of another Executive Order on open data. We said that any data generated using federal monies should be marked clearly as being in the public domain (possibly using a tool like CC0) and immediately deposited in a scientific data repository. And the US Federal Government has heard from other public domain advocates for government information, who’ve drawn up the Best Practices Language for Making Data “License-Free.”

Building and defending a robust public domain requires work on multiple fronts–from the ongoing development and support of tools that can grow the pool of creative works in the public domain–to the active participation in policy change and copyright reform. While content in the public domain is owned by no one, the responsibility for strengthening this absolutely crucial resource should be shared by all who care about the future of creativity.

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CC to European Commission: No restrictions on PSI re-use

Timothy Vollmer, November 25th, 2013

Creative Commons has responded to the European Commission’s consultation on recommended standard licenses, datasets and charging for the re-use of public sector information (PSI). See our response here. The Commission asked for comments on these issues in light of the adoption of the new Directive on re-use of public sector information. The Directive 1) brings libraries, museums, and archives under the scope of the Directive, 2) provides a positive re-use right to public documents, 3) limits acceptable charging to only marginal costs of reproduction, provision, and dissemination, and 4) reiterates the position that documents can be made available for re-use under open standards and using machine readable formats. CC recognizes the high value of PSI not only for innovation and transparency, but also for scientific, educational and cultural benefit for the entire society.

eu1

The Commission has not yet clarified what should be considered a “standard license” for re-use (Article 8). The dangers of license proliferation–which potentially leads to incompatible PSI–is still present. But it’s positive that the Commission is using this consultation to ask specific questions regarding legal aspects of re-use.

Part 3 of the questionnaire deals with licensing issues. One question asks what should be the default option for communicating re-use rights. We believe that there should be no conditions attached to the re-use of public sector information. The best case scenario would be for public sector information to be in the public domain, exempt from copyright protection altogether by amending national copyright laws. If it’s not possible to pass laws granting positive re-use rights to PSI without copyright attached, public sector bodies should use the CC0 Public Domain Dedication (CC0) to place public data into the worldwide public domain to ensure unrestricted re-use.

Another question first states that the Commission prefers the least restrictive re-use regime possible, and asks respondents to choose which condition(s) would be aligned with this goal. Again, we think that every condition would be deemed restrictive, since ideally PSI would be removed from the purview of copyright protection through law or complete dedication of the PSI to the public domain using CC0. If the Commission were to permit public sector bodies to incorporate limited conditions through licensing, then they should be expected to use standard public licenses aligned with the Open Definition (with a preference for “attribution only” licenses). A simple obligation to acknowledge the source of the data could be accomplished by adopting a liberal open license, like CC BY. Such a license would also cover other issues, such as acknowledging that an adaptation has been made or incorporating a waiver of liability. Some of the conditions listed would be detrimental to interoperability of PSI. An obligation not to distort the original meaning or message of public sector data should be deemed unacceptable. Such an obligation destroys compatibility with standard public licenses that uniformly do not contain such a condition. The UK’s Open Government License has already removed this problematic provision when it upgraded from OGL 1.0 to OGL 2.0.

In addition to mentioning CC licensing as a common solution, the questionnaire notes, “several Member States have developed national licenses for re-use of public sector data. In parallel, public sector bodies at all levels sometimes resort to homegrown licensing conditions.” In order to achieve the goals of the Directive and “to promote interoperable conditions for crossborder re-use,” the Commission should consider options that minimize incompatibilities between pools of PSI, which in turn maximize re-use. As far as we are concerned that means that governments should be actively discouraged from developing their own licenses. Instead, they should be encouraged to adopt standard public licenses aligned with the Open Definition. But even better would be to consider removing copyright protection for PSI by amending copyright law or waiving copyright and related rights using CC0.

Europe graphic designed by Monika Ciapala; Public Domain.

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Identifying drug targets one protein at a time

Puneet Kishor, November 19th, 2013

Protein structure

The structure of human proteins defines, in part, what it is to be human. It is very expensive, as much as a couple of million USD, to determine the structure of human membrane proteins. Improvements in methods, computers and access to the complete sequence of our DNA, however, has made it possible to adopt more systematic approaches, and thus reduce the time and cost to determine the shapes of proteins. Structural genomics helps determine the 3D structures of proteins at a rapid rate and in a cost-effective manner. Structural information provides one of the most powerful means to discover how proteins work and to define ligands that modulate their function. Such ligands are starting points for drug discovery.

The Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) at the Universities of Oxford and Toronto, solves the structures of human proteins of medical relevance and places all its findings, reagents and know-how into the public domain without restriction. Using these structures and the reagents generated as part of the structure determination process as well as the chemical probes identified, the SGC works with organizations across the world to further the understanding of the biological roles of these proteins. The SGC is particularly interested in human protein kinases, metabolism-associated proteins, integral membrane proteins, and proteins associated with epigenetics and rare diseases.

Academics work under the lamp post Drug discovery tends to be a crapshoot. As we are not good at target validation that essentially occurs in patients, more than 90% of the pioneer targets fail in Phase 2. Nevertheless, many academics and pharmas work on the same, small group of targets in competition with each other, wasting resources and careers, needlessly exposing patients to molecules destined for failure. The SGC chooses not to work under the lamp post, focusing on those targets for which there is little or no literature. This is because it is such pioneer targets, which will deliver pioneer, breakthrough medicines.

The SGC is a not-for-profit, public-private partnership, funded by public and charitable funders in Canada and UK, and eight large pharmaceutical companies – GSK, Pfizer, Novartis, Lilly, Boehringer Ingelheim, Janssen, Takeda and Abbvie, whose mandate is to promote the development of new medicines by determining 3D structures on a large scale and cost-effectively, targeting human proteins of biomedical importance and proteins from human parasites that represent potential drug targets.

SGC building leadership The SGC is now responsible for between a quarter and half of all structures deposited into the Protein Data Bank (PDB) each year. The SGC has released the structures of nearly 1500 proteins with implications to the development of new therapies for cancer, diabetes, obesity, and psychiatric disorders. As evident from the chart, SGC has published as many protein kinases as the rest of academia combined.

The SGC’s structural biology insights have allowed us to make significant progress toward the understanding of signal transduction, epigenetics and chromatin biology, and metabolic disease. The SGC has adopted the following Open Access policy—the SGC and its scientists are committed to making their research outputs (materials and knowledge) available without restriction on use. This means that the SGC promptly places its results in the public domain and agrees to not file for patent protection on any of its research outputs. This not only provides the public with this fundamental knowledge, but also allows commercial efforts and other academics to utilize the data freely and without any delay. The SGC seeks the same commitment from any research collaborator. The structural information is made available to everyone either when the structure is released by the PDB, or pre-released on www.thesgc.org.

Prof. Chas Bountra at the University of Oxford says:

“Society desperately needs new treatments for many chronic (AD, bipolar disorder, pain…) or rare diseases. This need is growing because of aging societies and diseases of modern living. As a biomedical community, we have yet to deliver truly novel treatments for many such conditions. This is not for lack of effort or resources. It is simply that these disorders are complex and there are too many variables or unknowns. It is clear that no one group or organisation can do this on their own. What we are trying to do is to bring together the best scientists from across the world, irrespective of affiliation, pooling resources and infrastructures, reducing wasteful duplicative activity to catalyse the creation of new medicines for patients. Secrecy and competition in early phases of target identification/discovery are slowing down drug discovery, making the process more difficult and more expensive.”

We at CC applaud the SGC’s commitment to open access and look to them for leadership in this arena. We believe the SGC’s findings would be a great candidate for the CC0 Public Domain Dedication because of the CC0 mark’s global recognition and a common legal status.

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Open curriculum alternatives to MPAA’s new anti-piracy campaign for kids

Jane Park, September 25th, 2013


Adventures in copyright / opensourceway / CC BY-SA

It has come to our attention that the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and top internet service providers are drafting curriculum to teach kids in California elementary schools that copying is wrong, or as Wired.com puts it, “Downloading is Mean!”

This message is way too simple. In this digital age, the most important thing we should be teaching kids is to be creative and take full advantage of all the web has to offer. Copyright, asking permission, open licensing, and all the other legal nuances, should be seen as secondary (and even complementary) to this purpose. We should be starting with the things kids can do versus what they can’t do.

In addition to the campaign’s overly simple and negative approach, other issues include the complete absence of fair use from the curriculum — exceptions and limitations to copyright that allow various uses of copyrighted materials for educational, journalistic and other purposes. Wired.com reports, “Its president, Marsali Hancock, says fair use is not a part of the teaching material because K-6 graders don’t have the ability to grasp it.”

Assuming the net generation and their younger counterparts are as dumb as assumed in the above statement, the curriculum still leaves out a crucial and growing part of the Internet landscape — the commons of free and open materials in the public domain and/or released under open licenses that actually encourage copying, redistribution, revision, and remix! In short, everything this simplified anti-piracy campaign is conveniently leaving out in its copyright curriculum for kids.

There is a more balanced approach to educating kids about copyright that includes the alternatives, and here are some organizations and experienced educators who have developed copyright curricula. The following list of resources are open educational resources (OER), licensed under a CC license that enables free and legal reuse, redistribution and remix. In short, stuff that is free and just fine and even great to copy!

Copyright curriculum for kids

Common Sense Media’s K-12 Digital Literacy & Citizenship Curriculum

Common Sense Media has developed a comprehensive K-12 Digital Literacy & Citizenship Curriculum for educators to use in their classrooms. Part of the curriculum focuses on Creative Credit & Copyright, which you can navigate easily via their Scope & Sequence tool. The resources are aligned to Common Core standards and licensed under CC BY-NC-SA.

New Media Rights Copyright FAQ Videos

New Media Rights has developed a series of short Copyright FAQ YouTube videos (because what better way to interact with youth but through YouTube?) answering common questions about copyright and the public domain. These videos are drafted by lawyers and read by students and are licensed under CC BY.

Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Teaching Copyright Curriculum

EFF developed this copyright curriculum for teachers to use in the classroom several years ago to counter campaigns like the one above, proving that topics like fair use can be taught! Teachingcopyright.org is available under CC BY.

Australia’s Smartcopying Guide for Schools and Interactive Resource for Kids

Australia has an official website for its schools regarding copyright for educators and students. However, this website, called Smartcopying, doesn’t just cover Australian copyright law — it also covers open educational resources and Creative Commons licenses. It’s quite the comprehensive resource with lesson plans, info sheets, videos, and more, and is licensed under CC BY-SA. This includes All Right to Copy, an interactive web activity “designed to teach students about copyright, and how it impacts them as both users and creators.” These resources are useful even if you’re not Australian, so check it out at http://www.smartcopying.edu.au/ and navigate using the horizontal menu to the topic of your choice.

National Library of New Zealand’s Free to Mix Guide for Educators

The National Library of New Zealand takes a different approach to copyright education; instead of focusing on what students can’t do, it focuses on what teachers and students can do with its Free to Mix guide. The guide was popular enough to spin off its own remix by CC New Zealand (pdf) with beautifully done graphics. Both versions are licensed under CC BY.

Shared Creations: Making Use of Creative Commons

Emily Puckett Rogers and Kristin Fontichiaro with the University of Michigan created this short and colorful lesson plan book for elementary school teachers that covers copyright, the public domain (even trademarks and patents!), and Creative Commons. This book is short and sweet with age-appropriate activities (that are even fun for adults). You can browse the book for free online or purchase a hard copy at the publisher’s website. The book is licensed CC BY-NC-SA.

School of Open’s Copyright 4 Educators

The School of Open, a community of volunteers around the world providing free education opportunities on the meaning and impact of openness in the digital age, offers an online course called Copyright 4 Educators. While this course (offered as adapted to both US and AUS law, but open to anyone) is primarily designed for educators and not kids, teachers can take what they’ve learned and then relay it to their students. The School of Open also offers more kid-friendly resources such as Get CC Savvy, Teach someone something with open content, and numerous lesson plans and activities integrated in CC for K-12 Educators. All School of Open courses on the P2PU platform are licensed under CC BY-SA; others hosted elsewhere may be licensed under CC BY.

This list is not exhaustive; if you know of other copyright education resources, please share them below! And if you would like to contribute to providing free copyright, OER, or CC education opportunities for kids (or adults), please join the School of Open community in its efforts! Visit http://schoolofopen.org/ to get started.

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Commonly: Refreshing the Public Domain

Elliot Harmon, July 1st, 2013

Last week, indie videogame designer Nick Liow launched the Open Game Art Bundle. It’s a simple idea: independent videogame designers contribute game assets – animations, soundtracks, character designs – and customers can pay any price they want to access them. Nick describes it as a sort of cross between Kickstarter and Humble Bundle, and like Humble Indie Bundle, the income is split between the developers themselves and charities (including Creative Commons). But there’s one big twist: if the bundle reaches its goal of $10,000 by July 15, all assets will become public domain under the CC0 public domain declaration.

This is actually the third bundle Nick has put out under the brand Commonly. It’s the most ambitious bundle to date, but it’s really just the beginning. What Nick’s really interested in isn’t just about videogames; it’s about changing how people think about the public domain. I met up with him a few days ago to chat about videogames, public domain, and the open source movement.

We also talked about the increasing rift in the videogame world between the indie developers like himself and the high-budget, “Triple A” games of the big-name studios. There’s been a lot of talk recently about the videogame industry’s occasional tone-deafness to issues like race and sexuality. Nick told me that he sees a parallel conflict over issues like intellectual property and digital rights management (DRM). While many young developers like Nick share his opinions, some big-name developers are sticking to what he sees as a more old-fashioned view.

“The triple-A industry has to reach out to as massive an audience as possible,” Nick said. “They close things off because they can’t afford the risk. You notice that indie games tend to be for a more a more open ecosystem. With the Humble Indie Bundle, “DRM-Free” is a part of their tag line. Indie games go with the more open ecosystems… while triple-A’s create their own walled gardens with game consoles.” And, he was quick to add, “The iPhone counts as a [closed] console.”

Nick recently moved to the San Francisco Bay Area – he’ll be here for the next two years as a part of the Thiel Fellowship. “You have to have a big vision [for the fellowship],” he told me, “and my big vision was a thriving public domain.”

He originally applied for the fellowship with his project Craftyy, an open source game-development platform and social network. Although the Thiel judges liked Nick’s ideas, “It wasn’t clear to them how Craftyy would lead to a thriving public domain.” That was when Nick started to shift to the idea of crowdfunding for public domain creative works. He told me that his plan for the next two years is to expand the Commonly concept beyond the world of videogame developers into the broader creative community. I can’t wait to see where Commonly goes next and what awesome stuff it brings into the public domain with it.

Related: Guest Blog Post: Crowdfunding the Commons

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