public domain

NY State Senate Goes CC

Fred Benenson, June 29th, 2009

If you’re reading the Creative Commons blog, chances are you’re aware of the fact that the United States federal government is not entitled to copyright protection for their works. If you didn’t know this, check out the Wikipedia article on the subject, or some of our past blog posts on the subject. This means that federal works are essentially in the public domain.

What you may not know is that works of American states, in contrast to works of the federal government, are actually entitled to copyright protection under U.S. law. This creates the very awkward consequence of states automatically holding copyright in the very state laws, rules and court decisions that bind their citizens, not to mention other types of content created by its employees who are paid from public coffers filled in part by their taxpayers. CC is not alone (check out legendary archivist Carl Malamud and his project for more info) in believing that all such works should belong to the public and reside in the public domain.

Needless to say, we think this is an enormous opportunity for proper application of our legal tools to free up state works.

This is why its exciting to see the New York State Senate adopt a Creative Commons License for the content on their website. The photos and text of are now available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license, and 3rd party content, such as comments and user submitted photos are available under our Attribution license. Furthermore, the Senate has used our CC+ protocol to allow all other uses (even commercial ones and non-attribution ones) of the content so long as it is not for political fund raising purposes. In other words, if you’re not doing political fund raising you’re allowed to do whatever you want with the content.

While this is a somewhat novel approach to using our licenses, and indeed grants citizens rights to works they don’t currently have, it is only the first step. In the future, CC would love to see more states pushing their work into the public domain (and their policies into synchronicity with those of the federal government), for example by using our public domain waiver, CC0.

If you know of a state using CC licenses, add it to our wiki page on government uses of CC, or just let us know.


Public (UK) perception of copyright, public sector information, and CC

Mike Linksvayer, June 9th, 2009

The UK Office of Public Sector Information has published a report on public understanding of copyright, in particular Crown Copyright, the default status of UK government works … and Creative Commons. It contains interesting findings, though I really wish it had included two additional questions.

Among the general (UK) public, 71% agree that government should encourage re-use of content it provides, and only 4% disagree.

The survey asked whether people felt encouraged or discouraged from using content when seeing “copyright” alone or alternatives on a web page:

Encouraged Discouraged
Copyright 15% 70%
Crown Copyright 22% 52%
Click-Use Licence 22% 35%
Read Terms & Conditions 61% 29%

Clearly, copyright discourages use. Of the alternative notices tested in this way, only “Read Terms & Conditions” noticeably encourages use. As the presentation notes, this option is likely to be recognized as non-transactional.

Adding a transaction, potentially monetary, as overhead to copy & paste discourages re-use. You’ll occasionally hear us and advocates of open licensing generally talk about reducing “transaction costs” — see, that’s not just blather! One way of looking at public licenses such as CC licenses is that they make re-use non-transactional — they pre-clear at least certain re-uses.

Unfortunately, the survey did not evaluate a CC license notice in the same manner — whether it encourages or discourages use. 87% of the general public did not recognize the license icon associated with the CC Attribution license. It’s hard to say whether this is good or bad — a small proportion recognizes the image — on the other hand we’re talking about the general public and one specific image.

Hopefully this or a similar survey will be repeated in the UK and elsewhere to see how recognition increases, or does not. Furthermore, future surveys should test not mere image recognition. Typically a license icon is paired with a statement such as “This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.” And of course the icon and text are linked to a “human readable” deed explaining the terms, as well as a “machine readable” annotation so that seeing a license notice on a web page isn’t the only vector for discovering the content as re-usable without a transaction.

Even more unfortunately, they survey did not evaluate whether “public domain” encourages or discourages use.

Overall, it is fantastic that this survey was done and published. Clearly the public wants to be encouraged to make use of its own information and a non-transactional alternative to default copyright is necessary to make that encouragement.

While we’ve come a very long way toward enabling effective sharing and re-framing copyright for the digital age, one must strongly agree with Glyn Moody’s assessment:

It looks like much more work needs to be done to get the message out about Creative Commons and its licences.

You can help — release works under one of the CC licenses (or into the public domain), use and recommend licensed works, and if you’re able, please support the effort financially.

Via Open Education News.


ccMixter: Using our Imaginashun with CC0, an Upgrade and Podcast

Victor Stone, June 8th, 2009

The Creative Commons’ sponsored music community, ccMixter, has had a busy week.

Imaginashun Remixes

DJ Vadim, featured and interviewed last week, put out a Call for Remixes for his new album U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun and the remixes are the community has responded in kind and some amazing remixes are starting to come in.

CC0 Enabled

ccMixter is now offering the CC0 (CC Zero) waiver for sample uploads. (CC0 FAQ) With this waiver, musicians who upload samples of their work in the form of solo instruments (often looped for easy re-use) are indicating their willingness to participate in the vast public domain (like the World Wide Web itself). The CC0 license carries with it the most freedoms possible, or put another way, the least “friction around your work,” meaning, it’s the most accessible form of sharing available. James Boyle’s The Public Domain (mentioned here many times before) remains the best resource around for getting to understand the importance of a public commons, especially in terms of our culture and creativity itself.

It only took a few minutes for the waiver to be enabled on ccMixter for veteran member spinmeister to upload all the samples to an original composition under the CC0 waiver. “I personally like the idea of a world,” he explained, “where a portion (not all) of good stuff is gifted. I also think it’s pretty cool when people who have received gifts are making gifts to someone else as their ‘response’.” Read the rest of spin’s explanation in the forum thread announcing the arrival of CC0 at ccMixter.

ccHost 5.1 Release Candidate

ccHost is the open source project that powers ccMixter and is currently going through a release candidate phase for the it’s 5.1 version. The previous major version, 4.0, was the winner of the Linux Journal’s LinuxWorld Expo Product Excellence Award for Best Open Source Solution and has been very popular as a remix-aware, web management system for liberally licensed content. Last year saw the release of a major upgrade (5.0) while this 5.1 update marks a full year of real-world usage, making it one of the most stable releases of ccHost ever, with 100s of bug fixes on top of the 60+ feature enhancements leading up to this RC release. Those enhancements include many that ccHost sites have long been asking for, including support for OpenID log in and registration. This release boasts extensive admin control of licensing options, built-in special handling for CC0 waivers and support for Creative Commons’ latest license tools like RDFa scraping. For the more visually oriented, 5.1 comes with a new skin that mirrors the 2009 clean, simplified look and feel of the mother ship CC site. (See the release notes and changelog for the gory details.)

To all the ccHost-enabled site administrators and developers holding off upgrading from 4.x to 5.x, this is the stability release you’ve been waiting for. Please download the RC and send us feedback on what you find.

ccMixter Music Podcasts

In a forum posting from June 17, 2008, MC Jack in the Box, our resident double-agent from the very cool RemixFight (a forerunner and model for ccMixter) mentioned nonchalantly that he might have come up with “a cool way to build buzz for the playlists if people can record their own radio shows featuring ccMixter uploads. … I’d create a themed show, with me adding a few ‘hidden’ voiceovers to the show. Hell, I might even do a weekly ‘best of ccMixter’ kind of show if that could happen.”

Thus began the “Cool Music Show“, a weekly feature that quickly became the most popular way to discover new music on ccMixter. Every Friday, like clockwork, he curates upwards of 45 minutes of the best uploads from the previous seven days on the site. Last week, MC Jack posted episode #50 (!) to raves, kudos and much hazaa from a grateful ccMixter nation.

We decided to use the occasion of the 50th show to launch the new ccMixter Music Podcast. Using the ccMixter playlist as a basis, we developed the tools to create a single, seamless MP3 and post it to the

To subscribe to the show, just drag this link to your podcast-aware music player (e.g. iTunes, Amarok, etc.).

We seeded the podcast with the last 7 Cool Music shows, but as explained in the announcement thread, we want other community members to contribute their own shows. So, if you have curating and MC skills you’d like to share, we invite you to submit a ccMixter music show of your very own! Instructions for how to do make and submit a show is here.

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Cadyou Takes CC to CAD & Digital Design

Fred Benenson, May 27th, 2009

All sorts of interesting things show up in our Twitter search feed, and yesterday we were thrilled to come across Cadyou via @sketchupshop. Cadyou is a community launched by Tom Moor in late 2008 whose goal is to create a resource of free, high quality files for everyone to use, available in the Public Domain and under Creative Commons licenses. One interesting component of Cadyou’s content is its moderation policy:

Unlike many websites which let user upload their own content, cadyou is moderated ensuring that each file made available reaches quality standards, is tagged well and has great thumbnails so it is easy to find what you need.

Sign up today for unlimited free downloads!

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Why Did the White House Choose Attribution and not Public Domain?

Fred Benenson, April 29th, 2009

The microblogs have been a-buzz this morning about news of the launch of the official White House Flickr stream featuring photos from Obama’s first 100 days in office. While the photos are licensed under our Attribution license, one could make the very strong argument that they’re actually in the public domain and can be used without attribution (though one would have to be careful and respect the personality rights of the private citizens featured in some of the photos). The photos are likely in the public domain because they are works created by the federal government and not entitled to copyright protection. As you might recall, the’s copyright notice indicates as much.

Why would the White House then choose Attribution for their Flickr stream? Simple, unlike communities like Wikipedia and Thingiverse, Flickr doesn’t allow their photographers to choose Public Domain as an option to release their work to the world. So the Obama team must have picked the next best option: Attribution only.


Prospector Alliance reappropriates public domain materials

Jane Park, April 16th, 2009

One of the benefits of public domain books is that once they are scanned and made available on the Internet, they are then available for anyone, including other organizations, to use and reuse in other contexts and sites. The Prospector Alliance, the union catalog of Colorado Alliance Research Libraries, did exactly this by enhancing the bibliographic records of the University of Michigan’s giant collection of digitized public domain books. According to the press release,

“Library users in Colorado and Wyoming now have access to tens of thousands of additional open-access digitized books and serials through the Prospector Library Catalog ( The digitized items originate from the University of Michigan, a partner in the Google Books digitization project and a member of a consortium of libraries called Hathi Trust. Last year the University of Michigan made available bibliographic records for many of the out-of-copyright titles that Google digitized from its collections. The University then made available online files for each of the digitized works.

…Now library patrons from across Colorado have access to the online books via the Prospector catalog. Except for the University of Michigan where the books originated, the Auraria Library was the first library in the nation to make these books available to its users.”

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Esther Wojcicki, new CC board chair

Mike Linksvayer, April 1st, 2009

We’re very pleased to announce that effective today, noted educator, education innovator and journalist Esther Wojcicki is the new chair of the Creative Commons board of directors. From the press release:

“I am thrilled to take on this new role,” said Wojcicki. “I strongly believe that the Creative Commons approach to sharing, reuse, and innovation has the power to totally reshape the worlds of education, science, technology, and culture at large. My main goal as chair is to make average Internet users worldwide aware of Creative Commons and to continue building the organization’s governance and financial resources. I am also very eager to help CC’s education push at high school and college journalism programs worldwide.”

Read the whole release for more.

Also see outgoing chair James Boyle’s CC BY(e bye) post — finely crafted writing down to the title, as we have come to expect. As you’ll read, Boyle, a founder of the modern movement for the intellectual commons (and CC itself), will remain deeply engaged in the movement. There remains no better in depth explanation of the intellectual commons than Boyle’s book, The Public Domain.

Thank you and congratulations to both Wojcicki and Boyle!

CC board members Hal Abelson and Esther Wojcicki. Photo by CC CEO Joi Ito / CC BY. Note that our celebratory offer of Joi’s Free Souls book for a donation to CC is still on.

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Advice for Authors on Negotiating With a Publisher About CC Licenses

Cameron Parkins, March 30th, 2009

Cory Doctorow points us towards an excellent essay from the team behind Digital Foundations on ten key steps to negotiating a CC-licensed release with a large scale publisher:

4. Pitch it with facts

Use case studies to argue with facts. It also helps for them to see that other reputable publishers have licensed books Creative Commons. O’Reilly has some a study on an Asterisk book that we used very effectively.

The Asterisk book sold 19k copies over two years (about what comparable books from O’Reilly were selling), but was downloaded 180,000 times from *one* of the 5 sites that mirrored it.

Also consider google as arbiter:

Results from google search breakdown of references to the two books in the oreilly case study (at the time of negotiation, early 2008):
asterisk: 139,000 references in 2 years (2005-2007), or 70,000 per year

understanding the linux kernel, 42,000 references in 7 years (2000-2007), 6,000 per year

So there was 10x the press/blog/reference/hits for the CC licensed book.

Treading the sometimes delicate waters of negotiating a CC license with those immediately apprehensive to the idea is difficult at the very least – this type of information, from those who have gone through the process, is invaluable. While the Digital Foundations piece focuses on print publishing, the information therein is applicable across media formats, especially when combined with our ever growing case study database.

We would be remiss not to mention James Boyle’s thoughts on the matter, particularly regarding his experience in licensing The Public Domain: Enclosing The Commons of the Mind under a CC BY-NC-SA license.

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Fred Benenson, March 20th, 2009 is the site that provides US citizens with the the ability to monitor the progress of the country’s recovery via the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As with, the Obama administration is presciently using our Attribution license 3.0 for all third party content on the site, while all of the original content site created by the federal government remains unrestricted by copyright and therefore in the public domain.

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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 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. “ 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 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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