research

Introducing a series of posts investigating CC’s welfare impact

Tal Niv, September 24th, 2010

CC has recently started thinking more rigorously about its contribution to the world.

First, just so you’ll have a general idea about the person writing this post: I am Tal Niv, a PhD student at UC Berkeley with a background in Law, Economics and Computer Science. This post series is intended to start presenting a project I am already knee-deep into, thanks to a Google policy fellowship. Our aim with the project, as well as with the post series is not to offer conclusive analysis of CC’s impact on welfare (as the term is used by economists), but rather to start a conversation between all of us, that will start untying this complex topic, which despite its importance has been unexplored. Till now.

Everybody knows that CC is here to do good. After all, we are a nonprofit that is working diligently on its mission to promote sharing and collaboration. Yes, that’s what we are after; we have long believed that creators want to share and collaborate, and that it would be beneficial to the world if there is much more of that, which is why we are making out utmost to nurture and cultivate such distinctively positive enterprises and the motivations that fuel them.

What is also pretty clear, is that CC is breaking ground in this enterprise. Creative Commons has a hand and a foot in a range of activities that are based on openness in a multidimensional spectrum of creative fields. CC is known by artists, by scientists, by educators, as a facilitator of creative cooperation, known by consumers of knowledge and culture for extending access and quality of their inputs, by creative hobbyists and amateurs as promoter of access, of contribution, of community. Likewise, we are a prominent institution that carries considerable weight among global policy-making entities in the sphere of setting up the normative environment against which the range of creative endeavors are set.

But although our contribution is plain to the eye, or maybe because it is so crystal clear, we have never attempted to analyze it with rigor. We have never bragged in a detailed fashion nor have we been specific with respect to the immense value that we generate.

Why is that?

Well, it’s complicated. Partly it is because what I intuited in the former paragraph: Since it is so clear that we contribute, spending time on the straightforward just seems like a waste. Partly, it is because we never required this evaluation for the efficient design of our day-to-day tasks. But those are not the only reasons.

Mainly it is because conducting steadfast evaluation is a very cumbersome project: CC is heavily engaged in fields with self-explanatory benefits whose edges are fuzzy. This makes evaluation and measurement extremely tough, even for the most apt researchers.

If you are fuzzy about what I mean by “fuzzy”, just ask yourself: What is the value of art? Of basic science? Of open education? Of User Generated Content? Of collaboration itself? What is the value of free access? I don’t know of many who believe they have the answer to these questions.

And unfortunately, surpassing this challenge only rears more challenges; for CC to be able to know how much it contributes, it is not enough to understand how to evaluate the contribution of its target fields to welfare, but it must also understand its incremental contribution to the welfare enhancing capacity of those fields. And there is nothing that makes that increment any more fixed, clear-cut or lucid than the benefits of the baseline fields. To top that – my fingers are already shaking on the keyboard – it does not suffice to prove that CC incrementally advantages these enterprises, but it’s necessary to show that it does so optimally, i.e., that it is putting the resources that it has to effective use.

At any rate, tough as it is, this is the challenging task that we have undertaken now. Please help by engaging yourself with this intricate analysis, and sharing your deliberations, and if you are just here as a spectator, wish us luck!

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IssueLab Launches Research Remix Video Contest

Jane Park, October 19th, 2009

IssueLab, “an open source archive of research produced by nonprofit organizations, university-based research centers, and foundations,” launches their Research Remix Video Contest this week. The contest “aims to engage working artists and digital media students with social issues while encouraging nonprofits to make their research more broadly available and usable through open licensing.” If you recall my interview with co-founder Lisa Brooks earlier this year, a good chunk of IssueLab’s research is licensed under one of the Creative Commons licenses. From the press release,

“Contestants will be asked to remix facts or data from one of over 300 openly licensed research
reports on IssueLab into a video or animation under three minutes in length. Winners will be selected
after the December 31, 2009 deadline, and nonprofits will be able to use all submitted videos freely to
support their causes.

The launch of “Research Remix” coincides with Open Access Week, an international movement that
pushes for broad and free access to research findings and publicly funded studies. IssueLab’s official
participation is marked by its continued commitment to bringing open access and licensing to the
social and policy research fields. “It is especially important that nonprofits consider openly licensing
their research and resources. By giving people the ability to re-use, remix, and share research on
social issues we can much better inform and engage public debate and public policy.”

We encourage you to remix and submit your videos by the year’s end, especially because all finalists receive a free CC t-shirt and buttons (not to mention first prize is a netbook). I’m also one of the judges, so I look forward to your submissions!

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“AcaWiki Increases Impact of Scholarly Research Using Web 2.0″

Jane Park, October 6th, 2009

AcaWiki, a project I briefly mentioned in Opening Education–the little things you can do, launches this week. Dubbed as the “Wikipedia for academic research,” AcaWiki’s mission is “to make academic research more accessible and interactive” by “[enabling] users to easily post and discuss human-readable summaries of academic papers and literature reviews online.” Founder Neeru Paharia (a doctoral candidate at Harvard Business School) explains that “cutting-edge research is often locked behind firewalls and therefore lacks impact. AcaWiki turns research hidden in academic journals into something that is more dynamic and accessible to have a greater influence in scholarship, and society.”

From the press release,

“AcaWiki’s work follows on the work of open-access publishers such as the Public Library of Science, as well as on the tradition of using new media to create public dialogue with science. Currently, it can cost up to $35 to download an academic paper—a significant cost, especially because thorough research on any topic usually entails downloading many papers. AcaWiki’s approach takes advantage of the fact that copyright does not apply to ideas, only to the written expression of those ideas. Scholars can thus post summaries of their or others’ research online as long as they are not copying verbatim beyond what fair-use laws permit. John Seely Brown, former head of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and a leader in the open education movement, says, “AcaWiki complements [the movement’s] work and opens a whole new dimension of making research accessible to the public.”

Like OpenEd, AcaWiki is “built using Semantic MediaWiki, combining the sophistication of the semantic web with the ease-of-use of a wiki. The site enables comments, discussion, user profiles, and tagging.” All AcaWiki content is available via CC BY.

AcaWiki also has some supporters in common with ccLearn and CC. Not only is AcaWiki starting with seed funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, but its board members include Mike Linksvayer, vice president of Creative Commons, and John Wilbanks, vice president of Science Commons.

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A Brief Overview of U.S. Public Policy on OER from California’s Community Colleges to the Obama Administration

Jane Park, October 2nd, 2009

The Publius Project at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society offers a new essay on OER and public policy in the United States: A Brief Overview of U.S. Public Policy on OER from California’s Community Colleges to the Obama Administration . Written by Carolina Rossini and Erhardt Graeff, it does a great job of pointing out the major recent movements toward OER in state and federal governments, and thoughtfully evaluates the issues that each initiative brings to the table.

“This post draws significantly from an interview on August 10, 2009 with Hal Plotkin, a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Dept. of Education, who has closely followed and been involved with OER policies in California. The interview was part of research on the educational materials sector being conducted under the Industrial Cooperation Project at the Berkman Center at Harvard University. The research is part of a broader project being led by Prof. Yochai Benkler and coordinated by Carolina Rossini. In the research, we are seeking to understand the approaches to innovation in some industrial sectors, such as alternative energy, educational materials, and biotechnology. The intention is to map the degree to which open and commons-based practices are being used compared to proprietary approaches and what forces drive the adoption and development of these models.”

Like all content on the Publius site, the essay is available via CC BY-SA.

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Defining Noncommercial report published

Mike Linksvayer, September 14th, 2009



Almost one year ago we launched a study of how people understand “noncommercial use.” The study, generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, included in-depth interviews and two waves of in-person and online focus groups and online questionnaires. The last included a random sample of U.S. (geographic restriction mandated by resource constraints) internet users and in an extended form, open questionnaires promoted via this blog (called “CC Friends & Family” in the report).

Today, we’re publishing the Defining Noncommercial study report and raw data, released under a CC Attribution license and CC0 public domain waiver respectively — yes, this report on “noncommercial” may unambiguously be used for commercial purposes. Also see today’s press release.

The study was conducted by Netpop Research under advisement from academics and a working group consisting of several CC jurisdiction project members as well as CC staff and board members.

Study findings

Creative Commons noncommercial licenses include a definition of commercial use, which precludes use of rights granted for commercial purposes:

… in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.

The majority of respondents (87% of creators, 85% of users) replied that the definition was “essentially the same as” (43% of creators, 42% of users) or “different from but still compatible with” (44% of creators, 43% of users) theirs. Only 7% of creators and 11% of users replied that the term was “different from and incompatible with” their definition; 6% or creators and 4% of users replied “don’t know/not sure.” 74% and 77% of creators and users respectively think others share their definition and only 13% of creators and 11% of users wanted to change their definition after completing the questionnaire.

On a scale of 1-100 where 1 is “definitely noncommercial” and 100 is “definitely commercial” creators and users (84.6 and 82.6, respectively) both rate uses in connection with online advertising generally as “commercial.” However, more specific use cases revealed that many interpretations are fact-specific. For example, creators and users gave the specific use case “not-for-profit organization uses work on its site, organization makes enough money from ads to cover hosting costs” ratings of 59.2 and 71.7, respectively.

On the same scale, creators and users (89.4 and 91.7, respectively) both rate uses in which money is made as being commercial, yet again those ratings are lower in use cases specifying cost recovery or use by not-for-profits. Finally, both groups rate “personal or private” use as noncommercial, though creators did so less strongly than users (24.3 and 16.0, respectively, on the same scale).

In open access polls, CC’s global network of “friends and family” rate some uses differently from the U.S. online population—although direct empirical comparisons may not be drawn from these data. For example, creators and users in these polls rate uses by not-for-profit organizations with advertisements as a means of cost recovery at 35.7 and 40.3, respectively — somewhat more noncommercial. They also rate “personal or private” use as strongly noncommercial—8.2 and 7.8, respectively — again on a scale of 1-100 where 1 is “definitely noncommercial” and 100 is “definitely commercial.”

See much more in the study report and draw your own conclusions from the data.

The below is drawn from the Section 4 of the report, titled “Next” — we urge you to read that section for more, including ideas for future research.

Import for Creative Commons noncommercial licenses

In the next years, possibly as soon as 2010, we expect to formally kick off a multi-year, international process for producing the next version (4.0) of the six main Creative Commons licenses.

This process will include examination of whether the NC term should be usefully modified as a part of that effort, or if the better approach might be to adopt a “best practices” approach of articulating the commercial/noncommercial distinction for certain creator or user communities apart from the licenses themselves. Whichever the result, this study has highlighted that in order to meet the expectations of licensors using CC NC licenses it will be important to avoid any modification of the term, however manifested, that makes a use widely agreed to be commercial — or only agreed to be noncommercial with low consensus — explicitly noncommercial. There is an analogue in our statement of intent for CC Attribution-ShareAlike, which provides assurances that we will not break the expectations of licensors whose intent is to release works under copyleft terms.

While the costs of license proliferation are already widely appreciated and resisted by many, the study weighs against any lingering temptation to offer multiple flavors of NC licenses due to strong agreement on the commerciality of certain use cases that, in the past, may have been considered by some to be good candidates for splitting off into specialized versions of the NC term, such as online advertising. For even in those cases where strong agreement may appear to exist upon initial inquiry, such as with online advertising, nuances and sometimes strong differences of opinion are immediately revealed when more specific use cases are tested and facts presented — such as those involving cost recovery or support of nonprofit organizations.

The study results also advise against any concerted effort by CC to attempt appeasing all license users, all the time — study participants are divided over the value of more or fewer specific “use cases” to delineate the commercial/noncommercial divide, some see the lack of specific uses as a strength and others as a weakness, and many others still disagree with the notion that a single definition of noncommercial use could be workable. Thus is the challenge, and opportunity, of public license stewards.

Aside from decisions about the NC licenses themselves, we will be looking back to the study as we update explanations of noncommercial licensing on our license deeds, license chooser, and other materials. Your ideas and feedback are most welcome (see below).

Creative Commons recommendations on using noncommercial licenses

Overall, our NC licenses appear to be working rather well — they are our most popular licenses and we are not aware of a large number of disputes between licensors and licensees over the meaning of the term. The study hints at some of the potential reasons for this state of affairs, including that users are in some cases more conservative in their interpretation of what is noncommercial than are creators and that in some cases creators who earn more money from their work (i.e., have more reason to dispute questionable uses) are more liberal in their interpretation of what is noncommercial than are those who earn less.

While it would take a more focused and exhaustive study to conclude that these seemingly fortunate attitudinal differences are correct, strong, and global, they do hint at rules of thumb for licensors releasing works under NC licenses and licensees using works released under NC licenses — licensors should expect some uses of their works that would not meet the most stringently conservative definition of noncommercial, and licensees who are uncertain of whether their use is noncommercial should find a work to use that does unambiguously allow commercial use (e.g., licensed under CC BY, CC BY-SA, or in the public domain) or ask the licensor for specific permission (interestingly about half of respondents to the “CC Friends & Family” questionnaire who had released works under a NC license indicated that they had been contacted for specific permission). Note that this rule of thumb has an analogue in network protocol design and implementation known as the robustness principle or Postel’s Law: “Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.”

One way to think about Creative Commons generally is of providing tools to prevent the failed sharing that results from relying on copyrights’ defaulting to “all rights reserved” — uses that you would allow but that will not occur because you haven’t authorized them (maybe haven’t even thought of them) and the costs of finding you and getting authorization are too high for the intended use (or maybe you’re dead and even scholarly use of your works is suppressed by your estate). This sounds dry, but think about the anti-network effects of failed sharing at the level of a society, and the costs are large indeed. Some have realized that too much use of NC licensing suppresses uses that a licensor who wants to share may wish to allow, at a cost to NC licensors and licensees and a greater cost to communities and the broader free culture movement — failed sharing, though at a much smaller scale than the failed sharing engendered by default copyright. The Definition of Free Cultural Works website includes an article summarizing reasons to avoid NC licenses (and use a free license such as CC BY or CC BY-SA). If you’re concerned about the costs of NC licensing to yourself, the free culture movement, or society at large, review the arguments and consider “dropping -NC” from your license.

The potential negative impact and corresponding lack of use of noncommercial licensing differs across fields. For example, noncommercial licenses do not exist at all in the free and open source software world (note that CC recommends using a free and open source software license for software). Science and education are two large fields in which we believe that liberal licensing or the public domain are most appropriate. Unsurprisingly Wikipedia, with strong relationships with the free software, open access (scientific publishing), and open education movements, mandates liberal licensing, and many other massively collaborative projects are following.

However, compelling use cases for NC licensing remain — most obviously when an existing significant revenue stream from a work would be compromised by release under liberal terms. Giving your audience legal certainty that they won’t be prosecuted for doing what comes naturally from using digital networks — copying and remixing for no commercial gain or monetary exchange — while exploring the sharing economy and still protecting existing business — these are great reasons to start or continue releasing works under a NC license. It is little surprise that major music and book publishers’ use of CC licensing thus far has almost exclusively been of the NC variety.

How to participate in the discussion

There are a variety of ways you can participate in discussion of this study, the future of CC NC licenses and accompanying material, and future research on this and other topics related to voluntary sharing:

Thanks to everyone who has contributed in any way to this work!

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Data supplement to “What status for ‘open’?”

Alex Kozak, July 28th, 2009

ccLearn has published the first data supplement to our report “What status for ‘open’? An examination of the licensing policies of open educational organizations and projects,” entitled “Data Supplement to ‘What status for ‘open’?’ A graphical view of the licensing policies of open educational organizations and projects.” (PDF warning)

This supplement provides a graphical view of the licensing landscape within online education, drawing data from ODEPO, a database on our recently launched OpenEd. We find that a large proportion of educational sites are protected by “All Rights Reserved” copyright, including many sites that self-describe as “open,” which indicates a misconception of what it means to be an open resource.

datasupp_post

ODEPO was compiled in MediaWiki, the platform that powers Wikipedia. And just like Wikipedia, anyone with an account on OpenEd can contribute to the database by adding organizations or editing current data. Future data supplements will include the most up-to-date data from ODEPO, so the more you contribute, the more research opportunities there are!

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Reuse of material in the context of education and research

Jane Park, July 6th, 2009

Last December, when ccLearn issued its report to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Creative Commons Netherlands published its own entitled, “Reuse of material in the context of education and research.” However, the report was only available in Dutch until recently. Now, thanks to Paul Keller (Creative Commons Nederland) and Wilma Mossink (SURF), the English version of the report is online. It recommends the most open Creative Commons license, Attribution Only, for reuse of material in the context of education and research. From the original announcement,

“The rise of the Internet and other new ICT tools have led to drastic changes in the options for distribution and reuse. These changes demand a reorientation in the rules for sharing educational and research materials.

Since sharing educational and research materials is high on the agenda of Dutch higher education and research institutions, SURFdirect and Creative Commons examined the different Open Content licences that are available and that will make clear to reusers what they are permitted to do with material held in repositories.

SURFdirect has indicated that the choice of licence must not create barriers to the future use of educational and research material, that it can be applied at both research universities and universities of applied sciences [hogescholen], and that this can in fact be done in 80% of cases, this report recommends using the most liberal Creative Commons licence for textual output…

Another important recommendation in this report is that SURF should set up an effective awareness-raising campaign in order to introduce and explain Creative Commons licences to those ‘in the field’.”

The report itself is licensed CC BY, and you can download the report as an openly editable document.

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Noncommercial study interim report; “user” questionnaire closes May 5!

Mike Linksvayer, May 1st, 2009

Recently we launched the second round of a questionnaire on noncommercial use, this one focusing on users. Read that post for details, or hop directly to the questionnaire, which takes 15-25 minutes to complete. The questionnaire will be open through May 5.

nc-study-contacted

We’ll be publishing preliminary data (note: free text answers will be removed for privacy) and reports from the first round after this second questionnaire is closed — as well as some thoughts from CC on noncommercial licensing that won’t be any news to anyone who has followed really closely this blog, the initiatives of our science and education programs, and our CEO Joi Ito’s speeches. Many thanks to everyone who has asked about study results so far. We’re getting information out as quickly as possible, given how busy we are, and not wanting to interfere with this round of data collection. Of course as mentioned previously a full report on the entire study will be available in July.

To whet your appetite (and hopefully encourage your participation in the current questionnaire), we’re releasing preliminary slides (.pdf) reporting on interesting data gathered in the first round that won’t influence the current round — on the profiles and activities of a random panel of U.S. content creators and those of “CC Friends & Familiy”, i.e., people who took the first questionnaire as publicized from the CC website — a self-explanatory slide from that set is to the right, as well as a list of questions asked in the first round (.ods), as some of you have requested.

Please contribute to this research — take the questionnaire on noncommercial use for users — and spread the word. You have through May 5!

Update: The questionnaire closes 6PM Pacific on May 5. That’s 01:00 GMT on May 6.

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Digital Research Tools (DiRT) Wiki Launched

Jane Park, June 6th, 2008

Thanks to The Wired Campus, I recently stumbled across this new wiki whilst looking for a visualization tool for a ccLearn research project. The new wiki is called Digital Research Tools, also known as DiRT. DiRT is edited by a team of librarians from Rice University’s Digital Media Center and Sam Houston State University’s Newton Gresham library. Basically, DiRT reviews the myriad research tools available for free (and some for profit) on the internet in a human-readable way, so that “professors, students, think-tankers, corporate intelligence gatherers, and other inquisitive folks [can] do their work better.” These “snapshot reviews” are immensely helpful for even seasoned researchers, since the web is always popping up with new open source tools. To see a list of tools in DiRT’s queue and to add your own, check out their del.icio.us page.

So far, the reviews cover tools that allow you to analyze texts, author interactive works, collect and visualize data, conduct linguistic research, and more. All current and future reviews are licensed CC BY.

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The $2.2 trillion fair use (U.S.) economy

Mike Linksvayer, September 12th, 2007

The Computer and Communications Industry Association has released a study claiming that the value added in the United States by industries dependent on fair use is $2.2 trillion dollars annually, or one sixth of the U.S. economy, apparently almost 70% more than than value added by copyright industries, as measured by other recent studies. From the release:

“As the United States economy becomes increasingly knowledge-based, the concept of fair use can no longer be discussed and legislated in the abstract. It is the very foundation of the digital age and a cornerstone of our economy,” said Ed Black, President and CEO of CCIA. “Much of the unprecedented economic growth of the past ten years can actually be credited to the doctrine of fair use, as the Internet itself depends on the ability to use content in a limited and nonlicensed manner. To stay on the edge of innovation and productivity, we must keep fair use as one of the cornerstones for creativity, innovation and, as today’s study indicates, an engine for growth for our country

The Fair Use exception to U.S. copyright law, as codified in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 states, “The fair use of a copyrighted work … is not an infringement of copyright.” Fair use permits a range of activities that are critical to many high technology businesses such as search engines and software developers. As the study indicates, however, fair use and related exceptions to copyright are crucial to non-technology industries as well, such as insurance, legal services, and newspaper publishers. The dependence of industries outside the high-tech field illustrates the crucial need for balanced copyright law.

While the particular numbers arrived at by the study may be challenged (it is the first attempt to quantify the fair use economy in this way and the CCIA is composed of interested parties), the overall points highlighted above (emphasis added) are extremely compelling.

Given the demonstrated criticality of fair use to the economy and the steady diminishment of fair use, is there any reason to believe the current balance is optimal? Even moreso outside the U.S., where fair dealing and other exceptions to copyright are less liberal than fair use.

This is one place where Creative Commons comes in. CC licenses make it easy to grant permissions beyond the scope of fair use (and without ever restricting fair use), shifting the balance by completely voluntary action. This is not lost on leading companies in the fair use economy. For example, at least five CCIA members have provided support for Creative Commons — Google, Microsoft, Red Hat, Sun, and Yahoo!.

Those are huge, important companies, but a fraction of a $2.2 trillion fair use economy, and that’s not counting the world outside the U.S. Consider joining these leaders — your business, or your job, may depend on it.

Our annual fall fundraising campaign starts next month, so keep the above in mind.

If your company is or should be interested in contributing to our corporate commoner giving program, please contact our development coordinator at melissa@creativecommons.org.

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