strategy

Report from the first Creative Commons board meeting of 2011

Joi Ito, January 30th, 2011

On January 8, 2011, Creative Commons held a board meeting in the San Francisco headquarters.

We discussed the CEO transition plan. I reiterated my commitment to continue working with Creative Commons in my new role as Chair of the Board focusing on international and in particular, the Middle East.

Our current plan is for the transition work to begin immediately, but for Cathy to come on board starting March 1. While the timing and the exact location are to be determined, we will be moving the headquarters from San Francisco to Silicon Valley to be closer to some of our funders and many of our core adopters coinciding with Cathy joining full time.

We reviewed and discussed the strategic plan and the board was supportive of the new structure and the objectives and metrics driven format. There was a discussion about the importance of developing the science and education sections of the vision and strategy more. We discussed the importance of involving the stakeholders and community in the conversation as well and looked to other successful models such as Wikimedia.

The board approved the budget which linked to the strategic plan and its objectives with the understanding that Cathy and I will be working on fund raising over the next few months and that certain costs such as the move and the global meeting were still only estimates. We agreed to return to the board with additional updates as they became available.

We discussed the commitment of the board to add additional board members from the international community and committed to publish the criteria within weeks. The board found no reason why board members couldn’t be added as soon as qualified board members were identified through this process. We hope to add two new non-US board members as soon as possible.

We discussed the global meeting and the board reiterated its support for the meeting.

The board discussed the website redesign. “Phase 0” the initial redesign was viewed as an improvement to the old design. (Data about the performance metrics support this.) The board supported the continuation of the website redesign, but asked staff to be prudent about the budget, interview stakeholders for feedback and input, and use internal resource where this made sense and were available.

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Peer 2 Peer University’s Philipp Schmidt on paying for (CC) infrastructure

Mike Linksvayer, June 7th, 2010

Peer 2 Peer University co-founder and director Philipp Schmidt (see our posts on P2PU, a cutting-edge open education project) has written an excellent post on his Sharing Nicely blog about supporting our Catalyst Campaign:

Today Creative Commons launches their catalyst campaign – brother to the recently announced catalyst grant programme. I like how they connect the two – funding their work AND raising money at the same time. On one hand, they offer small grants for projects that further their vision, and with the other hand they politely ask for donations to support it. It creates a connection between the donation and the purpose of that donation, even if it’s a very loose connection.

Well put — though in this campaign, the connection is very tight, 1:1 — the funds we raise go directly to the small grants.

However, the reason for highlighting Philipp’s post here is that he raises several important points that anyone who cares deeply about Creative Commons may be interested in. The first is simply that CC is crucial infrastructure that must be supported:

CC’s work is a very important foundation of a lot of the open content / commons movement – and I don’t think it’s easy to raise the funds necessary to support it. Hal Plotkin asked this question after his keynote at the recent OCWC Global conference. How should and can something that provides an important, but not very glamorous (my words, not Hal’s, with apologies to my lawyer friends at CC) enabling service be supported financially? Funding for infrastructure is difficult to raise. It’s a little bit like raising money for TCP/IP or HTTP. Everyone will agree that it’s important and we all benefit from having it – but we all hope that someone else will pick up the tab. We rely on that friend of a friend who got rich on stock options, sold his company, or house – or simply inherited a lot of money.

Having grown up in a social democracy that offers high-quality infrastructure and services to (almost) all of its citizens, my immediate response is that infrastructure should be paid for by the state from tax income. I personally would welcome a small part of my tax payments to be used to support important infrastructure projects that enable free flow of knowledge and information. Even more so, now that I live in a country where access to knowledge is scarce and expensive. I believe such would be an excellent investment in future development and well-being of all citizens.

The problem with writing blog posts about topics like this is – you end up getting stuck in a dilemma. I have now explained that I think CC’s work is important, that I suspect many people fail to support it, and that the government should consider doing so. However, pending major adjustments in the political landscape of South Africa, that doesn’t really help anyone. So I went ahead and donated a little money to CC today.

Please join Philipp. But it’s ok to consider infrastructure glamorous, because it is. You’re with a cool crowd. That realizes the Internet breaking is extremely anti-glamor.

Ponte estaiada Octavio Frias - Sao Paulo
Gratuitous infrastructure glamor shot: Ponte estaiada Octavio Frias – Sao Paulo by Marcosleal / CC BY-SA

Philipp continues:

The benefit of donating is the perceived authority to ramble on a little bit longer, and say a few things about what CC are doing what I think could be improved. In order to do that I think its worth looking at the licences as a service (or even a product) that has to be sold to a particular audience and designing it in order to provide maximum value to that audience. What I mean by that is that there is a tendency for organizations to turn inwards – and in the case of CC that means pay more and more attention to the opinions of legal experts – rather than listen to the customers who don’t understand the legal details, and in most cases don’t give a rat’s hat. Here is what I’d like to see:

I would like to see fewer licences and fewer versions – but more certainty that the licence will hold up in court. I believe simplicity beats choice and legal finesse.

It’s absolutely worth looking at Creative Commons licenses as products that serve customers, and without doubt any organization that turns inwards, ignoring what its customers desire from its products is doomed. This isn’t what Creative Commons does.

Most users of Creative Commons licenses may not care to understand the legal details (but you can bet that many policymakers and the legal departments of institutions do), but their desire to see the licenses hold up in court requires that someone does — that’s Creative Commons’ job, and it requires paying attention to the opinions of legal experts — we must make the licenses work not just for a particular audience in a particular jurisdiction, but across many domains and globally. The strength of our legal resources — on staff, an amazing affiliate network, board, and pro-bono — is what allows most users to rationally not give a rat’s hat about the legal details involved.

So the listening to the opinions of legal experts is crucial, but so is listening to users. Philipp’s request for more simplicity, especially in the form of fewer licenses and versions therof, is not uncommon. Creative Commons is doing alright here — especially considering potential user requests for more narrowly targeted licenses are at least as common. Here are some examples of doing well:

  • In a little over four years from its launch late 2002, Creative Commons released four versions (1.0, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0) of its core licenses. In the last nearly three and a half years, no new versions have been released — and none will be for some time. A version 3.x was briefly discussed in late 2007 due to concerns brought up by Wikipedians; instead of rushing a new version, we listened very carefully and took a number of steps, none legal, to assure Wikipedians that CC would be an excellent steward of the license used by Wikipedia — with the successful result of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites migrating to CC BY-SA as their main content license last year.
  • In 2004 CC launched two sets of specialty copyright licenses — sampling and developing nations. None have been launched since then — and sampling and developing nations were retired in 2007.
  • The CC0 public domain waiver, launched last year raises the bar for generality of CC tools — it was designed to be universal from the beginning so that porting to different jurisdictions is not desired — and demonstrates the value of legal expertise — making a public domain dedication work globally (our first attempt launched in 2002 only targeted U.S. law) is no small task.
  • Since the launch of Creative Commons there has been little “license proliferation” for content (arguably there has been de-proliferation, as the pre-CC pioneers have recommended or facilitated using CC), surely in large part due to CC’s demonstrated competence.

It’s also worth noting that while CC has and does listen very carefully to particular audiences, maximizing value for any particular audience is not good enough. Maximizing the global value of the commons requires a focus on interoperability — furthered by both getting legal details right and non-proliferation.

Suggestions regarding how we do do even better encouraged. Philipp concludes with:

I would like to see CC separate its core business (the licences) more clearly from other programme areas and especially things that fall broadly into the fostering of “creativity (cultural, educational, scientific and other content) in the commons”. This separation should include budgets – so that donors can choose what activities their money ends up supporting. Don’t get me wrong, I think creativity should be supported, and probably in a fairly vague and flexible way, but I think part of the funding challenge for CC is that people, especially those who are making small donations, are comfortable funding the licences but might not be as comfortable with CC using their donation to foster “creativity”. That applies to me for example.

Supporting creativity in a vague and flexible way would be massive mission creep for Creative Commons. Even supporting the creation of CC-licensed works is out of scope, and the Catalyst Grants description of fundable work specifically calls this out. However, we do a significant amount of work that could be characterized as communications, education, marketing, advocacy, evangelism, business development, tool building, etc. to support license adoption. This is crucial work for Creative Commons to do for the licenses are much, much more valuable with massive adoption. There’s more useful work to do here than we can do directly — thus our priority on developing our affiliate network and other means of scaling Creative Commons’ impact without adding substantially to our core cost structure. That’s fundamentally what the Catalyst Campaign and Catalyst Grants are about — raising a little bit of money to spur capacity for growing CC adoption massively beyond what CC can do directly.

Supporting Creative Commons (and our current Catalyst Campaign in particular) is much more highly targeted than “supporting creativity” — but there isn’t a bright line between “funding the licenses” and funding work done to support and promote the licenses. I would argue there shouldn’t be. The licenses are great products that requires support and promotion to realize their potential — like any great product. Creative Commons is a small organization, and among our small staff, most have overlapping duties that support the licenses in multiple ways. We do work hard to deploy our limited resources in the most scalable way possible. We also understand that the licenses are critical infrastructure that must be kept up and defended even if funding dries up, so we do make contingency plans for such scenarios.

Hopefully this addresses some of Philipp’s excellent and reasonable concerns. Again, specific suggestions for how we can do better are strongly encouraged! Now please join Philipp and his colleagues at P2PU in supporting this work!

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CC & OER 2010

Mike Linksvayer, January 30th, 2010

Earlier this week we announced a reorganization of Creative Commons open education projects. The objective of this reorganization is to maximize CC’s impact by focusing our activities in support of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement where we have unique leverage and expertise — developing and explaining the legal and technical infrastructure required to make “open” work.

Today’s post lays out the details of our structure going forward and highlights some of our open education projects and goals for 2010. Apologies for the length of this post (and that of the previous announcement), but there’s much to cover. If you just want to hear about new developments as they happen please bookmark or subscribe to the Open Educational Resources tag on this blog or follow us on Facebook, Identi.ca, or Twitter.

Brand and Websites

The ccLearn (sometimes written CC Learn) brand and website are going away. Over the past year we’ve realized two things that fed into this decision. First, the Creative Commons brand is very strong and we need to leverage it wherever we can, including in education and science. While the ccLearn brand has gained recognition among those in the open education community we’ve directly engaged with, we want our impact and visibility to scale far beyond those we talk to directly. Second, separate branding led to a separate website for our open education activities, which essentially meant nobody saw them — last quarter alone the main CC site had 400x more visitors than the ccLearn site.

It will take some time to migrate and rebrand all relevant content, but the net effect is that going forward you can expect to see much more OER-related content and news on the CC home page, main site, and wiki. This is a big win for the open education movement — many more people will learn about OER, and for CC as well — OER may be the single most compelling use of our tools, and one that any member of the public can understand right away. Free access to materials for learning, worldwide — of course!

Resources and Funding

Creative Commons is increasing, not decreasing, its resource commitment to open education projects. The reorganization results in the departure of one staff, but the addition of direct open education project responsibility to several of our most senior staff, including our CEO, Creative Director, CTO, GC, and VP. It’s fair to ask what these people will not be doing now that they have significant new responsibilities. In brief, we get some efficiency gains through less internal communications overhead due to the reorganization and some replication of efforts that both core and ccLearn have pursued in the past. Additionally, we’re doing less pure outreach and outreach-related travel. This is worth an entire post in itself, but the short version is that direct outreach by CC staff now constitutes drops in the ocean of the burgeoning commons movement, so we’re focusing on relationships where an official CC representative is required and implementation could have a major impact. We plan to leverage education experts in our worldwide affiliate network — who are better positioned and more knowledgeable than staff at times — to do more of the direct outreach on behalf of CC. And finally, we’ll be making some support hires to free up more senior staff time for education project management and strategy.

We also think that making OER part of CC’s core messaging and focusing more of our project energy on supporting OER makes CC more attractive to donors — see brand above.


Photo: Cathy Casserly by Joi Ito / CC BY. OER champion Casserly joined the CC board of directors this month.

Team

Following are staff with direct open education responsibilities. All are listed on our organization chart (pdf), which you can always find linked from our people page. Note that all are completely integrated into the organization and that several others have (and always had) supporting roles for OER through as a matter of course in their work running CC’s operations, supporting affiliates, developing software, etc.

Joi Ito, CEO. Joi sets the overall direction of the organization, including our OER strategy. He will be greatly increasing the visibility of CC’s open education projects this year with the public and funders, including via keynoting conferences, writing, and personal appearances. He also has responsibility for leveraging the extensive education expertise of our board of directors and bringing external expertise to a new CC advisory board comprised in part of education experts. Joi will also play a key role in helping CC and OER grow in regions such as the Middle East and Africa — for those in the San Francisco, please come to our salon on February 16 to hear Joi speak on this topic.

Lila Bailey, Counsel, is focused on legal projects supporting OER and is supervised by Diane Peters, General Counsel, who leads the development of CC’s legal tools and overall legal strategy and policy, and will make OER one of the primary drivers in development of upgraded licenses and public domain tools.

Nathan Yergler, CTO, heads CC’s technology team, has direct responsibility for our OER search projects, and was lead developer for DiscoverEd, our OER search prototype. Nathan is currently hiring a software engineer to support further development of DiscoverEd.

Alex Kozak, Program Assistant, does project coordination for our Student Journalism project, works on OER metrics and other analysis, and provides support and documentation for our education-related technology projects. Jane Park, Communications Coordinator does much of our OER-related blogging and interviewing and liaises with both the media and community. Alex and Jane are supervised by Eric Steuer, Creative Director. Eric was CC’s primary representative at education events prior to the formation of ccLearn. In addition to education management responsibilities, Eric will be using experience gained from orchestrating major CC adoptions and improvements across many fields to help OER platforms improve their support for CC tools.

Tim Vollmer, Open Policy Fellow, is primarily responsible for supporting the OER policy community with analysis, explanations, metrics, and case studies concerning the benefits of open licensing for OER. Tim is supervised by Mike Linksvayer, Vice President, who manages CC’s day to day operations and oversees overall OER project planning, and is writing this blog post. If you have questions about CC’s open education projects, feel free to contact Mike at ml@creativecommons.org.

Many of CC’s affiliates are heavily involved in OER projects worldwide. We’ll be featuring many of them over the coming months.

Projects

Following is a sampling of open education projects CC is working on this year.

Legal

  • Licensing and copyright for OER, including its relationship to minors. Especially as OER becomes more prevalent in K-12, consideration must be given to the licensing of works created by minors. Our goal is to provide materials which allow parents, teachers, and learners to use and contribute to OER with confidence by following common-sense best practices, keeping parents and teachers involved.
  • Explanations of all elements of our core legal tools for an education audience.
  • A Continuing Legal Education course module for lawyers on copyright and open licensing that addresses education-specific issues.
  • Development of education use cases to inform the future development of our licenses and public domain tools.
  • Further exploration of copyright exceptions & limitations (including fair use) and OER production.

Technology

  • R&D on metadata, discoverability, provenance for OER — a mouthful, but some of the key challengesopportunities for increased OER adoption and impact.
  • Publications on known best practices for OER metadata.
  • Continued development and support of DiscoverEd, pushing ahead the state of the art for OER search.
  • Consulting on implementations of CC tools on key OER platforms.
  • Convening further in-person and online summits and code sprints concerning OER, discoverability and CC tools.

Social, Media, Policy

  • A new introductory video focusing on CC and OER.
  • A new and continuously updated slide deck for anyone to use and modify for presentation on CC and OER.
  • Further interviews and case studies highlighting the best and brightest implementations and implementers of CC for OER.
  • Analysis of lessons learned from Open Access policy and possible translation to OER policy.
  • Metrics regarding CC and OER adoption.
  • Further analysis of the reasons for heterogeneous copyright policies in online education and a new push for CC adoption and interoperability.
  • Materials for teaching about CC in curricula where open licensing and remix are instructive, e.g., journalism and arts education.

As with staffing resources above, it’s fair to ask what projects we won’t be doing, given that we’ve said we’re focusing our support for open education on projects in which our core legal and technical expertise come to bear. Here are some examples of areas related to open education that we’ve considered or been lobbied to consider involvement in that are outside of our core expertise and therefore out of scope: advising on health privacy and education; translation, formats, and content management systems beyond their support for open licensing and discoverability; direct advocacy and political movement building; advising on pedagogy. This is not a complete list by any means — there is much demand for expertise within the burgeoning open education movement.

We believe that by focusing on legal and technology projects and explanations that further adoption of CC and OER we will make great progress on the in-scope projects above and more in 2010, setting up 2011 to be a breakthrough year for the open education movement. Onward!

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Planning for sustainable and strategic impact: Creative Commons and open education

Mike Linksvayer, January 25th, 2010

Creative Commons recently celebrated its seventh anniversary, capping an impressive year of success for the organization, including the launch of CC0, our new public domain tool, migration of Wikipedia to a CC license, and compelling new implementations — from CC-aware discovery in both Google and Yahoo! image search, to adoptions of CC licenses ranging from the U.S. White House to Al Jazeera, and by major educational and scientific institutions to countless individual bloggers, musicians, photographers, teachers, and more. We also surpassed our year end public fundraising goal, raising $533,898 to continue building infrastructure that makes sharing easy, scalable, and legal. Thanks again!

In light of our continued growth and maturation, we are ever mindful of how CC can best ensure that as an organization we continue to increase our impact sustainably. As a provider of critical infrastructure that millions and more depend upon, this is our responsibility. Sustainability is not only or first a financial issue — though we will ask for your continued support in funding the organization — but depends on staying focused on our goals, executing on our strengths and core competencies, constantly looking for ways to streamline operations while empowering our vast international community, and avoiding mission creep however tempting.

Over the last six months we’ve been putting these thoughts into plans and action. Last summer we integrated the team supporting our international affiliates with our core team of experts based in San Francisco, eliminating two of our three Berlin-based staff positions. Over the next several months most of our science team (Science Commons) will move from Boston to San Francisco to align message and operations with our core, also. This month, we are integrating our education team (known heretofore as CC Learn), the subject of the rest of this message.

CC Learn was conceived as a focus point for CC adoption in the education arena. Since its launch two and one half years ago, it has progressed itself into a valuable member of, and broadly engaging with, the open education movement, providing not only legal and technical infrastructure and expertise, but subject matter expertise on a range of issues relevant to open education. Education is one of the most compelling uses of CC legal and technical tools. CC licenses are mission-critical for the development and adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER) — the ecosystem would fail without standard, interoperable legal terms for sharing, using and reusing content. It relies on collaboration between many institutions and many individuals in many different jurisdictions. Only CC licenses are capable of providing such a bridge.

Yet as much as CC has to offer as a leader of the open education movement, we remain humbled by the many others with yet deeper expertise and experience in these areas and from whom we continue to learn. And while we have much to offer, and will continue to offer as a life-long member of these remarkable movements and communities, we feel compelled to consider our own sustainability. We come back to, as we always have, our irreplaceability on the infrastructure level of providing unparalleled legal and technical excellence that allows education, science, and culture to work — this is what we do uniquely, and this is what we do best. We’ve decided that we can best support the open education and OER communities by focusing our resources and support where we are strongest and provide the most unique value. This means engaging the open education community as legal and technical experts rather than as participants in a broad conversation about the potentialities of open education — which we fully believe in, making the need to support open education in the most leveraged fashion we can all the more compelling.

Such changes mean that some of the activities and, sadly, personnel cannot be integrated successfully with the new structure, consequently transitioning out of CC so that they can better pursue such work elsewhere. In this current transition, Ahrash Bissell, the Executive Director of CC Learn, has left the organization. As with all alumni, CC expects great things of the departing staff and looks forward to ongoing collaboration with Ahrash and the open education community, building on his excellent work. We extend to Ahrash our heartfelt gratitude for his passion, dedication and wisdom, and wish him well with his future endeavors.

In the coming months we’ll be making further announcements about our comprehensive integration of education and science into our core activities and messaging. Exciting developments are on the horizon with respect to new and enhanced legal and technical tools as well as explanatory materials and support for policy development in education and science. More importantly we’ll be asking for your support and input, including specific feedback on designs, prototypes, messages, and initiatives as they develop. Most importantly, we will be asking for your input on whether we’re on the right track. Have something to say about CC? We’re listening!

Addendum: See a follow-up post with specifics concerning CC’s plans, projects, and team for open education in 2010 and beyond.

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VIA Releases OpenBook, Opens CAD Designs under CC BY-SA 3.0

Jon Phillips, May 27th, 2008

VIA OpenBook Press Photo

Today VIA launched their OpenBook, an innovative subnotebook platform. You can buy it now and also download the raw CAD files released under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareaAlike 3.0 license, meaning you can get the raw machine files to make whatever case or version you want, as long as you release your modifications under the same license and give attribution back to VIA. The VIA press release today states:

The VIA OpenBook mini-note reference design introduces a host of new innovations, including the next generation of VIA Ultra Mobile Platform, based on the VIA C7®-M ULV processor and the new all-in-one VIA VX800 digital media IGP chipset. Together, this ultra compact, power efficient platform delivers richer computing and multimedia features, including a stunning 8.9” screen and greater video playback support, in a compact and stylish clamshell form factor that weighs just 1kg.

The VIA OpenBook features a flexible internal interface for high-speed broadband wireless connectivity that provides customers with the ability to select from a choice of WiMAX™, HSDPA and EV-DO/W-CDMA modules appropriate to their market. In addition, under a unique collaborative approach, the CAD files of the external panels of the reference design are offered for download under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 license to give customers such as OEMs, system integrators, and broadband service providers greater freedom in tailoring the look and feel of their device to meet the diverse needs of their target markets.

And, some blogs are praising its coolness like what crunchgear had to say (which hints at business strategy of companies like VIA):

Do you own a small fabricating plant in Taiwan? Do you have an engineering team of ten PhDs? Do you want to make small laptops? Has VIA got a deal for you. The VIA OpenBook reference design is not actually a product — it’s more of an idea. Because it is ostensibly open (the CAD plans are available on the VIAOpenBook site) you simply buy the chips from VIA and use the plans to build your own cases, keyboards, and I/O systems.

Here is my quote about the release :)

“VIA is a forward thinking company that has realized that sharing enables a healthy ecosystem which helps them provide an innovative product which supports their core business,” commented Jon Phillips, Business and Community Manager for Creative Commons. ”Making the actual raw CAD files available under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license is a brilliant first step that clearly and legally allows others to emergently build upon VIA’s open innovation.”

I’ll add that this is a very interesting project that ups the “Open” ante of the ASUS EeePC’s involvement in free and open culture beyond the software that ships on the platform, it competes strongly against the One Laptop Per Child XO-1, and the Intel Classmate, which are the predecessors of this generation of subnotebook. In fact, it appears that chip companies are realizing that in order to sell more chips, it is good to give away some parts of a product for free, or ship a free operating system which further reduces the cost barrier to selling more silicon. As an aside, this also mirrors what Nine Inch Nails did by releasing part of their product as an entry into more specific and special packages.

It should also be noted that this valiant efforts follows up the great work that FIC’s Openmoko, Open Source Cellphone, did by releasing their CAD designs, which has already led to multiple efforts to create different cases and a great set of community pages on howto get your designs manufactured. Also, we worked with Keith Packard at Intel to release some specifications of graphics chips by Intel around the same time, which has helped for more companies to realize this same level of openness, and more importantly has allowed for developers, other companies, and people to more easily support and buy more Intel chips.

If you have a product similar to the above, or something you think could benefit from Creative Commons licensing in this way, please do contact me (Jon Phillips), contact us, or comment on this post. Let’s *open* it up.

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