public domain

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 It was decided by the attendants that the discussion will remain informal and unpublished.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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Pallante’s Push for U.S. Copyright Reform

Timothy Vollmer, March 20th, 2013

Today, U.S. Register of Copyright Maria Pallante stood before Congress to say: we need a new copyright law. Pallante’s prepared remarks (127 KB PDF) to the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet called for “bold adjustments” to U.S. copyright law.

This is a most welcome aspiration. A strong push for copyright reform is currently occurring around the world through domestic reviews and in international fora like WIPO — coming both from those wanting increased recognition of user rights and those calling for tighter author controls. With the United States one of the leading nations advocating for stronger copyright protection through treaties such as ACTA and the TPP, the international community will be closely observing any movement in U.S. domestic law.

In addition to several meaningful reform ideas — including shortening the copyright term itself, alterations to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and making revisions to exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives — we’re happy to see that the Register is highlighting the crucial need to expand and protect the public domain. Some of the most compelling work undertaken by Creative Commons and others in the open community has to do with increasing the accessibility and value of the public domain. We hope a more positive public domain agenda can become ingrained into the foundations of U.S. copyright policy. The central question: Can the United States devise a better system for both authors and the public interest in an environment where technology and social norms are increasingly disconnected from an aging copyright law?

Pallante said, “[A]uthors do not have effective protections, good faith businesses do not have clear roadmaps, courts do not have sufficient direction, and consumers and other private citizens are increasingly frustrated.” However, there is no doubt that public copyright licenses are offering a substantial and effective counter to some of these pains — even noted by Ms. Pallante in her longer lecture at Columbia University titled The Next Great Copyright Act (337 KB PDF), “[S]ome [authors] embrace the philosophy and methodology of Creative Commons, where authors may provide advance permission to users or even divest themselves of rights.” CC licenses and public domain instruments are right now helping alleviate frustration with copyright for all — individuals, businesses, institutions, governments — who opt in to using public licenses and licensed works.

Indeed, public licenses are easy-to-use tools for communities that wish to share their creativity on more flexible terms. And when millions of motivated creators share under public copyright licenses like CC, they create great and lasting things (hello Wikipedia). Public copyright licenses shine brightly in the light of Pallante’s telling reflection: “If one needs an army of lawyers to understand the precepts of the law, then it is time for a new law.”

At the same time, 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. If anything, the increase in adoption of public licenses is a bellwether for legislative reform — a signal pointing toward a larger problem in need of a durable solution.

We and the rest of the international community are looking forward to seeing what Pallante and Congress have in mind when they continue the discussion after today. In her oral testimony, Ms. Pallante said, “Copyright is about the public interest.” We hope that the public interest has a seat at the table, with room both for open content licensing and positive legislative reform. The existence of CC licenses does not limit the need for reform. Open licenses help forward-thinking people and institutions to live and thrive in the digital age now, and illuminate the roadmap for beneficial reform to come. Let us begin.

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Happy Public Domain Day

Timothy Vollmer, January 1st, 2013

Each year on January 1st, copyright protection expires for millions of creative works, allowing those works to be used by anyone without restriction or need for permission. On this Public Domain Day, we celebrate the rich creative works that have risen into the public domain, and mourn the massive number of works that could have been in the public domain but which aren’t due to unreasonable copyright extension or the chilling effects created by Byzantine copyright term schemes. The excellent Public Domain Review–which catalogs and offers some interesting insight, explanation, and analysis into unique and unusual treasures in the public domain–has profiled some great works from the Class of 2013. But in other countries, nothing will enter the public domain again this year.

While copyright terms continue to be extended and policymakers support a detrimental enforcement agenda, there has been no shortage of encouraging work in support of a robust and expanded public domain.

  • The Internet Archive announced this year a massive trove of over 1,000,000 mostly public domain content available for download over Bittorrent. In similar fashion, video archivist Rick Prelinger pointed us toward a big collection of public domain video footage.
  • Musopen continues to be a promising project initially dedicated to providing copyright free music content: music recordings, sheet music and a music textbook.
  • There’s ongoing efforts to educate the public about the public domain. The Public Domain Review published the Guide to Finding Interesting Public Domain Works Online, and P2PU is working on developing the Public Domain Detective course.
  • At the international policy arena, the public domain continues to be a topic on the agenda at venues like WIPO, where there have been discussions about how to support access to the public domain. The Communia Association has been at the forefront in championing support for broad access to public domain materials, and has been urging policymakers around the world to adopt liberal policies promoting wide access to public domain content. Communia–of which CC has been a longtime member–has been a key participant to these conversations at WIPO. CC has also been involved.
  • Communia published “The Digital Public Domain: Foundations for an Open Culture” as well as a comprehensive report detailing the efforts of the group during the three years it operated as the European Thematic Network on the Digital Public Domain.
  • Creative Commons continues to offer tools in support of the public domain. These include the CC0 Public Domain Dedication, which is a tool for authors to waive all copyright and related rights, thus putting their work in the public domain prior to the expiration of copyright. This is a crucial tool in use around the world for high profile projects. In September of this year, Europeana released 20 million records into the public domain using CC0. This release is the largest one-time dedication of cultural data to the public domain using CC0, and the dataset consists of descriptive information from a huge trove of digitized cultural and artistic works. In addition, the Public Domain Mark is used to mark works already in the worldwide public domain, such as for very old works where it is clear that the copyright has already expired.
  • In fact, more libraries are releasing metadata under CC0, and public domain may become the norm for libraries in sharing their data.

As you can see, there’s a ton of positive work being done to help increase our access to creative content in the public domain. But the work is not done: the longer we do not have access to these works the less rich our culture will be moving ahead. Let’s keep working on it and demanding access to content that could (and should) be available to all.

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#cc10 Featured Platform: Europeana

Elliot Harmon, December 10th, 2012

Throughout the #cc10 celebrations, we’re highlighting different CC-enabled media platforms, to show the breadth and diversity of the CC world. Today, as we’re talking about governmental and institutional adoption of CC tools, it seemed appropriate to discuss Europeana, the massive digital library of European history and culture.

For people who get excited about open cultural data, one of the most exciting moments of 2012 came in September, when Europeana announced that it was releasing its metadata to the public domain under the CC0 waiver. This release of 20 million records represents one of the largest one-time dedications of cultural data to the public domain.

While the data was previously available through the Europeana website, dedicating it to the public domain multiplies its usability. From the press release:

This release, which is by far the largest one-time dedication of cultural data to the public domain using CC0 offers a new boost to the digital economy, providing electronic entrepreneurs with opportunities to create innovative apps and games for tablets and smartphones and to create new web services and portals.

Europeana’s move to CC0 is a step change in open data access. Releasing data from across the memory organisations of every EU country sets an important new international precedent, a decisive move away from the world of closed and controlled data.

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Europeana releases 20 million records into the public domain using CC0

Timothy Vollmer, September 12th, 2012

This week marks a momentous occasion, as Europeana — Europe’s digital library — has released 20 million records into the public domain using the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. This release is the largest one-time dedication of cultural data to the public domain using CC0. The Europeana dataset consists of descriptive information from a huge trove of digitized cultural and artistic works. Now, per the Europeana Terms of Use, “all metadata (textual information on digitised cultural heritage) on the site are published without any restrictions on re-use.” The public domain data can be useful for cultural institutions, researchers, and application developers. By removing all copyright restrictions from the data, Europeana helps to promote innovation and economic activity. From the press release:

Importantly, the change represents a valuable contribution to the European Commission’s agenda to drive growth through digital innovation. Online open data is a core resource which can fuel enterprise and create opportunities for millions of Europeans working in Europe’s cultural and creative industries. The sector represents 3.3% of EU GDP and is worth over €150 billion in exports.

Europeana’s announcement was praised by Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, who said:

Open data is such a powerful idea, and Europeana is such a cultural asset, that only good things can result from the marriage of the two. People often speak about closing the digital divide and opening up culture to new audiences but very few can claim such a big contribution to those efforts as Europeana’s shift to creative commons.

The Creative Commons Affiliate teams in the Netherlands and Luxembourg, through partner organizations Institute for Information Law (IViR), Kennisland, and the Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg provided expert support to Europeana during this process. Europeana has been at the forefront of exploring ways to share the European cultural record. They are one of the first adopters of CC’s Public Domain Mark and continue to support a vibrant, healthy public domain.

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