public domain

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

Comments Off

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.

1 Comment »

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.

2 Comments »

#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.

Comments Off

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.

5 Comments »

Creative Commons at WIPO for the 9th meeting of the Committee on Development and IP

Timothy Vollmer, May 22nd, 2012

Recently, Andrés Guadamuz from CC Costa Rica was in Geneva at the 9th session of the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) at WIPO. Andrés has represented Creative Commons over the past few years at WIPO. CDIP was established in 2008 and deals with intellectual property issues relevant to developing nations. CC gained permanent observer status at CDIP in 2011.

At the meeting, Creative Commons delivered an intervention (this means offered a formal spoken comment) on Agenda Item CDIP/9/INF/2: Scenarios and Possible Options Concerning Recommendations 1c, 1f and 2a of the Scoping Study on Copyright and Related Rights and the Public Domain (PDF). The original study by Professor Séverine Dussolier can be located here for reference. Here are the recommendations under discussion:

1(c) The voluntary relinquishment of copyright in works and dedication to the public domain should be recognised as a legitimate exercise of authorship and copyright exclusivity, to the extent permitted by national laws (possibly excluding any abandonment of moral rights) and upon the condition of a formally expressed, informed and free consent of the author. Further research could certainly be carried out on that point. […]

1(f) International endeavours should be devoted to developing technical or informational tools to identify the contents of the public domain, particularly as far as the duration of copyright is concerned. Such tools can be data collections on works, databases of public domain works, or public domain calculators. International cross-operation and cross-referencing of such tools is of particular importance. […]

2(a) The availability of the public domain should be enhanced, notably through cooperation with cultural heritage institutions and UNESCO (through its work on the preservation of intangible cultural heritage).

Creative Commons made a statement focusing primarily on Sections 1(c) and 1(f). CC communicated that in support of 1(c) it has developed the CC0 public domain waiver as a tool for those who wish to relinquish copyright, database, and related rights to the extent allowed by law. In support of 1(f), CC welcomed the mention of its tools as a mechanism that can help identify works already in the public domain (such as the Public Domain Mark) and communicate license metadata so that search engines can filter and display to users what content is available for reuse, and under which conditions.

Below is the text of the intervention (PDF) made by Andrés. This crux of this entry is cross-posted at TechnoLlama. The COMMUNIA association, of which Creative Commons is a founding member, also offered an intervention on this agenda item. You can find previous CC interventions and associated WIPO documents on the wiki.

Creative Commons statement to the CDIP on the Public Domain

Thank you Mr Chairman, we would like to congratulate you on your election to preside this Committee.

In his keynote presentation to the Global INET Conference here in Geneva just a couple of weeks ago, Dr Francis Gurry described intellectual property as a balancing mechanism for all of the often competing rights and equities that occur in and around the creation of innovation. Creative Commons strongly believes in this balance of rights, and strives to offer technical and legal tools to make that balance possible. We also believe that an integral part of that balance has to be the protection and promotion of the Public Domain. The public domain enriches the global cultural and intellectual environment; it allows the reproduction and reuse of countless classics that are often modernized and reintroduced to new audiences and new generations. One could almost say that they are remixed.

It is with that in mind that we welcome the Secretariat’s inclusion on this session of the Scenarios and Possible Options Concerning Recommendations 1c, 1f and 2a of The Scoping Study on Copyright and Related Rights and The Public Domain, and commend the author of The Scoping Study, Prof. Severine Dusollier. We encourage the adoption of all three recommendations, but we would like to complement the information contained in the document with regards to recommendations 1c and 1f.

With regards to Recommendation 1c, and as the document CDIP/9/INF/2 accurately describes, Creative Commons offers CC0, a universal tool that allows users to voluntarily relinquish all copyright, database and related rights to the fullest extent allowed by law. CC0 is a tool that was conceived and created out of both necessity and demand. Dedicating works to the public domain is difficult if not impossible for those wanting to contribute, voluntarily and of their own free will, their works for public use before applicable copyright or database protection terms expire. Few if any jurisdictions have a process for doing so easily and reliably. Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction as to what rights are automatically granted and how and when they expire or may be voluntarily relinquished. We understand the inherent difficulties with dealing with this issue in a comprehensive manner given the different approaches to copyright seen from Common and Civil legal traditions. Moreover, our conversations with copyright holders over CC’s 10 years in existence revealed that for some rights holders, there is a desire to signal clearly and unequivocally that their work may be used without reference to restrictions that the holder no longer wishes to retain for any number of reasons. This demand, coupled with the complex and lack of harmonized copyright frameworks, resulted in the creation of CC0. CC0 has been leveraged by numerous important rights holders, including the Dutch Government, the British Library, and the Personal Genome Project, and is part of the legal framework for important projects such as Europeana. For these reasons, we second the Secretariat’s recommendation to conduct a study on copyright relinquishment, and we also encourage this Committee to continue this important avenue.

With regards to Recommendation 1f, we once again welcome the Secretariat’s specific mention of the practices and tools available through Creative Commons. The possibility of marking copyright works with license metadata can tell search engines what is available for reuse, and under which conditions. We applaud all of the national and regional practices cited in the Secretariat’s document, and agree that these efforts must continue. Specifically, we encourage member states and regional bodies to continue to attempt to make public registry data more widely available. We would like to see a more proactive role by WIPO in the international arena. Among other promising avenues, WIPO could host some tools to facilitate the sharing of public registry information on their website, such as an aggregated database of existing registries.

Concluding, Creative Commons thoroughly supports efforts that will enhance the ability of rightsholders to voluntarily relinquish copyright thereby enriching the public domain, and of the public to access and use the public domain as copyright law full intends.

Thank you.

1 Comment »

COMMUNIA explores role of digital public domain in final report

Jane Park, May 16th, 2012

From 2007 to 2011, COMMUNIA was a project funded by the European Commission to explore the role of the public domain in the digital age. Over four years, COMMUNIA, or The European Thematic Network on the Digital Public Domain, gathered over 50 members from academia and the CC community to research, promote, and preserve the digital public domain. In 2011, COMMUNIA’s members decided to continue the network as an international nonprofit association.

We would like to highlight two recent publications by COMMUNIA that shed light on COMMUNIA’s progress:

In April, COMMUNIA released, “The Digital Public Domain: Foundations for an Open Culture” under CC BY:

“This book brings together essays by academics, librarians, entrepreneurs, activists and policy makers, who were all part of the EU-funded Communia project [from 2007-2011]. Together the authors argue that the Public Domain — that is, the informational works owned by all of us, be that literature, music, the output of scientific research, educational material or public sector information — is fundamental to a healthy society.”

More recently, COMMUNIA published its Final Report, also under CC BY:

“This Public Report is the outcome of the work of the COMMUNIA Network on the Digital Public Domain (hereinafter “COMMUNIA”). This Report was undertaken to (i) review the activities of COMMUNIA; (ii) investigate the state of the digital public domain in Europe; and (iii) recommend policy strategies for enhancing a healthy public domain and making digital content in Europe more accessible and usable. Each of the subjects indicated above will be further developed and detailed in Annex I, Annex II, and Annex III of this Report, respectively.”

The Final Report, along with the collection of essays above, highlights much of the good work completed by COMMUNIA over the years, including The Public Domain Manifesto, of which many CC affiliates, staff, and community members were a part of drafting.

Comments Off

National Libraries and a Museum open up their data using CC0

Jane Park, March 12th, 2012

CC0 has been getting lots of love in the last couple months in the realm of data, specifically GLAM data (GLAM as in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums). The national libraries of Spain and Germany have released their bibliographic data using the CC0 public domain dedication tool. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it means that the libraries have waived all copyrights to the extent possible in their jurisdictions, placing the data effectively into the public domain. What’s more, the data is available as linked open data, which means that the data sets are available as RDF (Resource Description Framework) on the web, enabling the data to be linked with other data from different sources.


“Open Data Stickers” / Copyright and related rights waived via CC0 by jwyg

The National Library of Spain teamed up with the Ontology Engineering Group (OEG) to create the data portal: datos.bne.es. The datasets can be accessed directly at http://www.bne.es/es/Catalogos/DatosEnlazados/DescargaFicheros.

The National Library of Germany, aka Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (DNB), has documentation on its linked open data under CC0 here. CC Germany reported the move, and a post in English can be found over at Open GLAM.

Relatedly, the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Museum, a major design museum in New York, has released the collection data for 60% of its documented collection into the public domain, also using CC0. The data set is available on a repository in Github; you can read more about the move at http://www.cooperhewitt.org/collections/data.

To learn more about Creative Commons and data, including a recently updated FAQ, check out http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Data.

2 Comments »

Guide to Finding Interesting Public Domain Works Online by the Open Knowledge Foundation

Jane Park, January 25th, 2012

The Open Knowledge Foundation has published a nifty guide on the basics of Finding Interesting Public Domain Works Online. You can skim the guide in well under ten minutes, and it includes useful links and accompanying descriptions to online collections where PD works can be found, including Europeana, the Internet Archive, and Project Gutenberg. It also contains quite a few references to Creative Commons and succinct explanations of the relevant CC tools, such as the Public Domain Mark and the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. The guide, like all articles at The Public Domain Review, is available for reuse under CC BY.


Bibliotheca Buloviana (Ausschnitt) / Georg Daniel Heumann / Public Domain

1 Comment »

Safecast: Global sensor network collects and shares radiation data via CC0

Jane Park, December 5th, 2011


INTERPOLATION MAP / Lionel Bergeret, Safecast / CC BY-NC

One week after the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Diachi plant in March, the Safecast project was born to respond to the information needs of Japanese citizens regarding radiation levels in their environment. Safecast, then known as RDTN.org, started a campaign on Kickstarter “to provide an aggregate feed of nuclear radiation data from governmental, non-governmental and citizen-scientist sources.” All radiation data collected via the project would be dedicated to the public domain using CC0, “available to everyone, including scientists and nuclear experts who can provide context for lay people.” Since then, more than 1.25 million data points have been collected and shared; Safecast has been featured on PBS Newshour; and the project aims to expand its scope to mapping the rest of the world.

“Safecast supports the idea that more data – freely available data – is better. Our goal is not to single out any individual source of data as untrustworthy, but rather to contribute to the existing measurement data and make it more robust. Multiple sources of data are always better and more accurate when aggregated.

While Japan and radiation is the primary focus of the moment, this work has made us aware of a need for more environmental data on a global level and the longterm work that Safecast engages in will address these needs. Safecast is based in the US but is currently focused on outreach efforts in Japan. Our team includes contributors from around the world.”

To learn more, visit http://safecast.org. All raw data from the project is available for re-use via the CC0 public domain dedication, while other website content (such as photos and text) are available under CC BY-NC.

Comments Off


Page 2 of 7123456...Last »