public domain

Expanding the Public Domain: Part Zero

Diane Peters, March 11th, 2009

Creative Commons has spent a lot of time over the past year or so strategizing, and worrying, about the current state of the public domain and its future. In particular, we’ve been thinking about ways to help cultivate a vibrant and rich pool of freely available resources accessible to anyone to use for any purpose, unconditionally.

Our copyright licenses empower creators to manage their copyright on terms they choose. But what about creators who aren’t concerned about those protections, or who later want to waive those rights altogether? Unfortunately, the law makes it virtually impossible to waive the copyright automatically bestowed on creators. The problem is compounded by the fact that copyright terms vary dramatically and are frequently extended. Additionally, new protections, like the creation of sui generis database rights in the EU, are layered atop traditional rights, making an already complex system of copyright all the more complicated. In combination, these challenges stand in the way of the vibrant public domain that CC and many others envision.

Today at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference, our CEO Joi Ito will formally introduce the first of two tools designed to address these challenges. CC0 (read “CC Zero”) is a universal waiver that may be used by anyone wishing to permanently surrender the copyright and database rights they may have in a work, thereby placing it as nearly as possible into the public domain. CC0 is not a license, but a legal tool that improves on the “dedication” function of our existing, U.S.-centric public domain dedication and certification. CC0 is universal in form and may be used throughout the world for any kind of content without adaptation to account for laws in different jurisdictions. And like our licenses, CC0 has the benefit of being expressed in three ways – legal code, a human readable deed, and machine-readable code that allows works distributed under CC0 to be easily found. Read our FAQs to learn more.

CC0 is an outgrowth of six years of experience with our existing public domain tool, the maturation of ccREL (our recommendations for machine-readable work information), and the requirements of educators and scientists for the public domain. Science Commons’ work on the Open Access Data Protocol, to ensure interoperability of data and databases in particular, informed our development of CC0. It should come as no surprise that several of CC0’s early adopters are leading some of the most important projects within the scientific community.

The ProteomeCommons.org Tranche network is one such early adopter. “Our goal is to remove as many barriers to scientific data sharing as possible in order to promote new discoveries. The Creative Commons CC0 waiver was incorporated into our uploading options as the default in order to help achieve this goal. By giving a simple option to release data into the public domain, CC0 removes the complex barriers of licensing and restrictions. This lets researchers focus on what’s most important, their research and new discoveries,” said Philip Andrews, Professor at the University of Michigan.

Another early adopter of CC0 is the Personal Genome Project, a pioneer in the emerging field of personal genomics technology. The Personal Genome Project is announcing today the release of a large data set containing genomic sequences for ten individuals using CC0, with future planned releases also under CC0. “PersonalGenomes.org is committed to making our research data freely available to the public because we think that is the best way to promote discovery and advance science, and CC0 helps us to state that commitment in a clear and legally accurate way,” said Jason Bobe, Director of Community.

John Wilbanks, CC’s vice president for science, follows Joi Ito at Etech with a presentation addressing the role of CC0 in promoting open innovation.

Building CC0 into a universally robust tool has required the efforts and dedication of many over the course of more than a year. CC jurisdiction project leads in particular provided us with meaningful forums in which to openly discuss CC0′s development. They also provided jurisdiction-specific research critical to our understanding of public domain around the world. This support was invaluable to the crafting of a legally sound public domain tool for use everywhere. An overview of CC’s development and public comment process can be found on the CC wiki, together with links to our blog postings summarizing key policy and drafting decisions.

About the second tool that we refer to above, stay tuned. Funding permitting, we plan to roll out a beta public domain assertion tool this coming summer that will make it easy for people to tag and find content already in the public domain — increasing its effective size, even if due to copyright extensions works are not naturally added to the public domain.

Note, one small improvement we’re introducing with CC0 is that its deed and legalcode are located at http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/. The forthcoming public domain assertion tool will also be rooted under this directory. Thanks to everyone who reminded us that the public domain is not a license, and public domain tools should not be under a “licenses” directory!

A word of thanks to our pro bono legal counsel at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Latham & Watkins. Their legal review and analysis provided the heightened level of rigor that users of our licenses and legal tools have come to expect from Creative Commons.

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UK Events: Jamie Boyle speaking on the Public Domain

Cameron Parkins, March 4th, 2009

Jamie Boyle, Chair of the CC Board, will be speaking at a couple great events next week in both London and Cambridge, giving British CC-ers a great opportunity to learn more about the public domain, both as a legal status and as Jamie’s new book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. Details below (via BoingBoing):

LONDON: The Public Domain: enclosing the commons of the mind
Where: RSA Lecture Hall (Google Map)
When: March 10, 2009; 18:00

CAMBRIDGE: Cultural Agoraphobia and The Future of The Library (Google Map)
Where: Lee Hall, Wolfson College (Google Map)
When: March 12, 2009; 18:00

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TweetCC Lets You CC License Your Twitter Feed

Fred Benenson, February 24th, 2009

tweetCCUntil now, the only way to mix your microblog and Creative Commons licenses was to sign up for the free-as-in-speech service identi.ca (or run your own instance of Laconica), which requires all posts to be under our Attribution license. But as of February 18th, thanks to the work of UK author Andy Clarke, you can CC license your twitter feed via TweetCC.

The idea is to post a tweet to Twitter letting @tweetCC know that what license (or waiver, in the case of CC Zero) you want your feed to be under, and then the service keeps track of your choice for the rest of the web’s reference. Users can also look up whether and how a given Twitter user has chosen to license their feed. Right now, our Public Domain Dedication is the default and thereby most popular choice, but take a look at the rest of our licenses offered on the site, and CC license your twitter feed today!

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Interviews with Creative Commons: Jamie, Eric & Fred

Fred Benenson, January 13th, 2009

A couple interviews with CC board and staff have surfaced in the last week or two. BBC Radio 4 interviewed Creative Commons Board Chair James Boyle about the public domain and how Creative Commons helps enrich the environment of the mind. Before Jamie’s interview, the Beeb chats with Chris Anderson talks about his new book FREE and the business models he’s been researching.

In December, our Creative Director, Eric Steuer talked with Dog and Pony of The BNET Business Network. The Knight Foundation’s Knight Pulse also interviewed Eric about how grantees can use our licenses in their projects.

I also answered some questions from Journalism.co.uk regarding how journalists can use CC licenses in their work. Finally, I chatted with Federal News Radio on Friday about Obama’s choice to use CC on Change.gov, the recording of which you can download there.

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Public Domain Works Celebrated in Poland

Michelle Thorne, January 9th, 2009

It’s after Three Kings Day, and after battling inboxes, CCi is back online and blogging. From our colleagues in CC Poland, some more exciting Public Domain Day news to ring in the New Year:

Poland’s Coalition for Open Education (KOED – Koalicja Otwartej Edukacji) has celebrated the Public Domain Day 2009 with a range of web-based actions and a press conference.

The Polish National Library, with the support of its director, dr. Tomasz Makowski, hosted talks about the public domain and related Polish projects at a press conference on Dec. 30. Bożena Michalska from the Nicolaus Copernicus University Library presented a list of over 500 authors whose works entered the public domain in Poland on 1st January 2009, based on the National Union Catalog NUKAT. Afterwards, Marek Siudym, a renowned Polish actor, recited a poem by Brunon Jasieński – a Polish futurist, who died in 1938 and who’s work is now in the public domain.

As a result of the well-attended conference, news of the Public Domain Day 2009 was published in a range of major media, including Gazeta Wyborcza and Rzeczpospolita dailies, Polish Public Radio, and the online portal Onet.

To coincide with the Public Domain Day 2009, Polish libraries have made available over a dozen works in their digital collections that are, as of January 1st 2009, in the public domain in Poland. A list of Polish works now in the public domain is maintained on the Coalition’s webpage.

The newly forged partnership, KOED, is striving to build and promote open educational resources in Poland. Bringing together common supporters of the Capetown Declaration principles, the Coalition is formed by one of CC Poland’s affiliate institutions, the Interdisciplinary Center for Modelling at University of Warsaw, and colleagues Wikimedia Polska Association, Foundation Modern Poland, and the Polish Librarians Association.

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Public Domain Day 2009

Mike Linksvayer, January 1st, 2009

Recent link offerings in celebration of Public Domain Day, which is January 1…

Creative Commons Switzerland informs us of a Public Domain Day jam session/brunch in Zurich:

Short English Summary: We will celebrate the public domain day on January 1 in Zurich. We will read, perform, transform works from authors whose work are in the public domain.

Tuesday CC board member Michael Carroll blogged about the meaning and potential of the Digital Public Domain and last month about things made possible by the public domain.

CC board chair James Boyle’s recently published must read book is titled The Public Domain.

LibriVox just reached 2000 recordings of books in the public domain. The recordings are also in the public domain. We noted their 1500 recording milestone in June, 2008. Number 2000 is The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Vol. VI. Listen to all six volumes in 2009!

Watch for much more about the public domain around the world in 2009 and revisit Public Domain Day 2008.

Addendum: Also see PDD2009 posts by John Mark Ockerboom and Elizabeth Townsend on works now in the public domain.

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Latam Commons 2008 is a Success

Jane Park, December 1st, 2008

Latam Commons 2008: The Public Domain, Creative Commons, and Open Education in Latin America, held Nov 19-21 in Santiago, Chile, was a great success. The event was co-hosted and excellently managed by NGO Derechos Digitales, and representatives from all over Latin America were present and actively participated in the meeting. Project Leads of Creative Commons jurisdictions first held a one-day meeting to discuss their projects, possible strategic initiatives and collaborations across the region, and shared challenges. These conversations are just the beginning of what is planned to become a regular regional gathering to leverage the expertise and resources that are distributed throughout the region. The next day was devoted to a highly interactive “unconference” on open education which brought together leading international advocates for open education with key figures in libraries and ministries of education in Chile and beyond. The goal of the meeting was to gather information regarding top concerns and key projects involved in the growth of the open education movement, to be synthesized and then leveraged for collaborative opportunities both within and beyond the region. Look for a report on this event in the coming months. Finally, Derechos Digitales orchestrated a seminar on the public domain which included cutting-edge research reports and discussions regarding the legal and practical elements of both defining and utilizing the public domain in Latin America. The philosophical and legal issues pertinent to consideration of the public domain is clearly of broad interest in the region, and we are hopeful that these ideas will continue to serve as organizing themes for ongoing conversation and action to enhance access to knowledge and improved scholarship in the future.

Additional details will be forthcoming from ccLearn, CCi, and Derechos Digitales.

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Must-read: The Public Domain

Mike Linksvayer, November 29th, 2008

Creative Commons Board Chair James Boyle’s new book is out — The Public Domain: Enclosing of the Commons of the Mind, published by Yale University Press. Read and comment online or download and share the the PDF under a CC BY-NC-SA license. Buy a hardcopy.


The Public Domain cover, evolved from excellent contest entries. We blogged about the contest in April.

The Public Domain covers the history, theory, and future of the public domain, taking a broad conception of the meaning and import of the public domain:

When the subject is intellectual property, this gap in our knowledge turns out to be important because our intellectual property system depends on a balance between what is property and what is not. For a set of reasons that I will explain later, “the opposite of property” is a concept that is much more important when we come to the world of ideas, information, expression, and invention. We want a lot of material to be in the public domain, material that can be spread without property rights. “The general rule of law is, that the noblest of human productions—knowledge, truths ascertained, conceptions, and ideas—become, after voluntary communication to others, free as the air to common use.” Our art, our culture, our science depend on this public domain every bit as much as they depend on intellectual property. The third goal of this book is to explore property’s outside, property’s various antonyms, and to show how we are undervaluing the public domain and the information commons at the very moment in history when we need them most. Academic articles and clever legal briefs cannot solve this problem alone.

Instead, I argue that precisely because we are in the information age, we need a movement—akin to the environmental movement—to preserve the public domain. The explosion of industrial technologies that threatened the environment also taught us to recognize its value. The explosion of information technologies has precipitated an intellectual land grab; it must also teach us about both the existence and the value of the public domain. This enlightenment does not happen by itself. The environmentalists helped us to see the world differently, to see that there was such a thing as “the environment” rather than just my pond, your forest, his canal. We need to do the same thing in the information environment.

We have to “invent” the public domain before we can save it.

That’s from the preface. I encourage you to read on, to chapters about Creative Commons (of course), evidence-based policy and the public domain (my favorite), a movement for the public domain, and much history, theory, and wit leading up to those.

You can also read and subscribe to Boyle’s blog on The Public Domain, which includes an excellent post on authors, academic presses, online publishing and CC licensing. Brief excerpt, emphasis added to the truth that will be so obvious to readers of this blog that one might wonder why it would need to be said:

The one piece of advice I would offer is to make sure that you really talk it through with everyone at the press and get them to understand the way the web works. While university presses might want to experiment only with a few titles, when it comes to those titles they need fully to embrace the idea — creating an excellent website for the book (or allowing the author to do so), allowing multiple formats of the book to be made available (pdf, html etc), being excited rather than horrified if the book gets mentioned on a blog and downloads spike. The last thing you want is a publisher who has grudgingly agreed to a Creative Commons license but who then sabotages every attempt to harness the openness it allows.

Unfortunately how the web works and what that means for copyright and publishing still needs to be explained. Repeatedly. Every day. That’s one reason Creative Commons needs your support to meet our $500,000 annual public campaign goal. Every day we explain how the web works, how to work with the web, and how to keep the web open, for scientists, educators and learners, and everyone else. And we do our bit to improve the open web.

On those notes, see the CC Network badge on every page of The Public Domain website and James Boyle’s CC Network profile. Join Boyle in supporting Creative Commons and get your own CC Network badge and profile (and other goodies).

Then send this post to your friends. Or if you’re old school, send a hardcopy of The Public Domain with a printout of this post and a personal note enclosed. :-)

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The New York Times: Making Use of Public Domain

Eric Steuer, November 20th, 2008

In yesterday’s Personal Tech Q&A section of The New York Times, there was a useful item called Making Use of Public Domain (registration required, although I was able to see the page at first without logging in) that describes a bit about how images that are found online can be used. The article points to a few good sources of public domain images and also mentions Creative Commons-licensed works as a source of legal-to-use material.

Just because a photo or document is available online does not mean it is automatically in the public domain, so check for copyright notices or a Creative Commons license before grabbing something to reuse. (A Creative Commons license works alongside a copyright and allows writers and artists more flexibility in sharing their creations with the world …)

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CC Talks With: MusicBrainz

Cameron Parkins, October 28th, 2008

We recently had the pleasure of catching up with Robert Kaye, “lead geek” at MusicBrainz, a community music database that “attempts to create a comprehensive music information site.” Kaye fills us in on what is happening at MusicBrainz, including extensive background on the project, how they use CC licenses, and their goal to add broader support for classical music.

Where does MusicBrainz fit in the open content ecology?

MusicBrainz plays an important role in blazing the path for open databases. We know how to play with open source and music, and we have few examples of how to work
with open structured data. We work hard to make our data useful and available to people, as we believe that Metcalfe’s law also applies to data. Thus, getting lots of people to use our data makes MusicBrainz vastly more useful and valuable. With that in mind, we want to be the de-facto standard for music metadata in the open content ecology.
Read More…

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