2008 December

CCi and Wikimedia Germany in closer collaboration, shared office space

Michelle Thorne, December 9th, 2008

Creative Commons International (CCi) is moving! Leaving our office in Berlin-Mitte, we’ll be moving to Berlin-Schöneberg to share workspace with Wikimedia Germany. Our move builds upon existing collaborations with local Wikimedia projects and the hope of continued support and unified efforts. To date, CCi has teamed up with Wikimedia Serbia, one of the institutional hosts of the CC Serbia project, and Wikimedia Indonesia will soon begin overseeing the porting of the CC licenses to Indonesian law. Nordic CC and Wikimedia communities are also strengthening ties, as demonstrated by the recent “free society” conference FSCONS, organized by CC Sweden, Wikimedia Sweden, and the Free Software Foundation Europe.

It is our hope that the office share will build bridges across projects, people, and resources. As reported last month, the Wikimedia/Wikipedia community is now deciding whether to offer wiki content under CC BY-SA 3.0. These discussions follow the Free Software Foundation’s release of version 1.3 of its Free Documentation License containing language which allows FDL-licensed wikis to republish FDL content under the CC Attribution-ShareAlike license until August 1, 2009.

Read more about the move in our press release.

100,000 Attribution-ShareAlike Images for Wikimedia Commons

Good news reaches another Wikimedia project, Wikimedia Commons, which hosts hundreds of thousands of freely licensed Creative Commons media and serves as the multimedia back-end of Wikipedia. Everyone is encouraged to upload as much educational free media as they can in order to benefit the commons, and this is exactly what the German Federal Archive has decided to do.

Since December 4th, the archive is uploading around 100,000 photos to Wikimedia Commons, all licensed under our Attribution-ShareAlike license. The subject matter varies from not-so-ordinary street scenes to famous German sights, but all of the photos are high quality and offer great snapshots of modern German history. Check out the contributions from BArchBot to keep an eye as the uploads progress over the next couple of weeks.

A very warm congratulations to our new office mates, Wikimedia Germany, and to the German Federal Archive for organizing such a significant and valuable contribution to the commons!

Image: “Schwerin, Neujahr, Feuerwerk” by Ralf Pätzold, made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Germany License by the Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive), Bild 183-Z1228-001.

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Commoner Letter #4 – Richard Bookman + Jesse Dylan’s newly released “Science Commons” video

Melissa Reeder, December 8th, 2008

The fourth Commoner Letter comes from Richard Bookman, the Vice Provost for Research and Executive Dean for Research and Research Training at the University of Miami. In the letter of support below, Prof. Bookman champions open science and the innovation made possible through the sharing of scientific research.

Because this edition of the Commoner Letter is dedicated to Science Commons and advocates for the innovation made possible through open science, we decided it was important to release Science Commons’ inaugural informational video by renowned director Jesse Dylan, the director responsible for the Emmy- award winning “Yes We Can” Barack Obama campaign video with will.i.am concurrently.

I’m ecstatic to bring you these two testaments of support for Science Commons and Creative Commons. We’re proud to have Prof. Bookman and Jesse Dylan’s support and hope you will consider joining them in supporting Creative Commons.


Dear Creative Commoner,

I’m Richard Bookman, the University of Miami’s vice provost for research, executive dean for research and research training at UM’s Miller School of Medicine, and a neuroscientist. As vice provost, I am the chief research officer for the University of Miami and I support the research efforts of our faculty through coordination of research activities across our 5 campuses and 12 schools and colleges. At the Miller School, I am responsible for nurturing and growing the research enterprise, promoting inter-departmental and inter-school research efforts, and overseeing research administration.

I’m writing today to urge your support for Creative Commons – and to tell you a little about how I’m working with CC.

CC came to me via the iPhone, when I downloaded a TED talk by Larry Lessig and started learning about the issues behind CC. Soon after that, I got involved with John Wilbanks and the Science Commons project as part of my work on the Florida CURED Council and the Florida Biomedical Research Programs. We put together a state-wide conference with Science Commons earlier this year where we focused on the connection between open licensing, open innovation, and the life sciences. It was a great day, and hopefully the start of a long collaboration with Science Commons.

I hope to grow that connection in 2009 to explore how Florida can begin to take the lead in open science – because the principles of “Some Rights Reserved” make an enormous amount of sense to me as a life scientist, as well as a university research leader. Furthermore, our discussions have persuaded me that the tools and ideas behind CC/SC represent an important stimulus to the business community to develop new business models that reflect and leverage off a networked scientific community.

We need to find ways to make sharing research results and tools easy, trackable, and useable by scientists on a day-to-day basis. Science Commons is working on these problems in a way that few other projects contemplate: they don’t write papers, they release “running code” like contracts for sharing biological materials and open contracts for biological tools like stem cells and genetically modified mice.

The Science Commons project sits in an odd place from a funding perspective. Most science grants go to faculty at university laboratories who write scholarly papers, or create patentable technologies, and not to legal projects. But most funding agencies that support legal research don’t want to fund science-oriented projects! So the folks at SC have to work harder than most to stay funded.

I support SC/CC because I think it’s the right approach at the right time. It’s vital that we as a community support the organization – the interstitial nature of what gets done at CC makes it harder than many might think to raise money, which can leave the most important work dying for lack of funds.

I hope everyone in the community can dig deep and support CC during this campaign. When you support CC, whether because of the cultural work, or the education work, or the science work, you’re supporting an organization that is much more than contracts and websites and videos. You’re supporting an umbrella organization working around the world that lives and breathes the “some rights reserved” philosophy.

Proud commoner,

Richard J. Bookman, Ph.D.

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Australia’s census going CC BY

Michelle Thorne, December 8th, 2008

In a small, easy to miss post, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has made a very exciting announcement. They’re going CC – and under an Attribution-only license, no less.

From the ABS website:

Creative Commons provides a spectrum of licensing for the use of intellectual property between full copyright and public domain – in essence ‘some rights reserved’. The ABS is poised to introduce Creative Commons licensing for the majority of its web content.

The relevant Creative Commons logo (which will link to the Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence) will be included at the bottom of every page on the ABS website.

The ABS conducts the annual Australian census and is the holder of all official Australian statistical data. CC Australia explains, “The ABS been providing all its resources for free for a number of years, but under a limited re-use license. The decision to go one step further and allow complete reuse of its material – even for commercial purposes – heralds a great opportunity for the Australian community, researchers and business, and hopefully will lead to a great leap in the use of and innovation based on this rich resource.”

Update: As reported to us on Dec. 23, all content on the ABS website (other than logos and other trade marked content) is now marked as CC BY – including all census data, economy data, fact sheets, analysis, press releases etc.


Creative Commons and Collective Intelligence / Program for the Future

Mike Linksvayer, December 5th, 2008

Monday and Tuesday next week the Program for the Future Conference celebrates the 40th anniversary of Doug Engelbart’s famous Demo, which presaged much of modern computing, in 1968 (related in some ways, see Creative Commons 1967). From the conference website:

Engelbart dreamed of technology and tools that increased our Collective Intelligence and a stunning example of how it works. Now it’s up to us to take up the challenge. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Engelbart’s astounding demo, the Program for the Future is bringing together some of the best minds in science, media, business and education — and we hope you will be among them — to explore the question: what’s next?

Monday the conference takes place at San Jose’s The Tech Museum of Innovation, Tuesday it moves to Stanford University. See the conference program for details and registration.

I’ll be speaking Tuesday on a panel about “Bootstrap Tools”. So what could Creative Commons have to do with bootstrapping collective intelligence? That’s not terminology we use every day, but a hint: I’ll probably title my slides The Commons as a Collective Intelligence Meta-Innovation. For further hints along those lines, sans futurist buzzwords, there’s good reading and viewing to be had in presentation slides by Science Commons’ John Wilbanks, e.g., Radical Sharing: Transforming Science? I’ll probably use some of his slides.

Final bit to whet your appetite, see the Engelbart Mural. A detail is below, featuring a clever CC BY-NC-SA license and attribution notice:


NonCommercial study questionnaire extended to December 14

Mike Linksvayer, December 5th, 2008

Creative Commons is conducting a study on the meaning of “NonCommercial” and you can weigh in by answering a detailed questionnaire on the subject. We’ve extended the deadline for participation to December 14 (originally December 7) as we’re still getting healthy response via all those who blogged about the questionnaire this week.

Full disclosure: taking the questionnaire requires a significant investment of time — 15 to 25 minutes, and it isn’t an “easy” questionnaire — you’ll have to think. Unfortunately the meaning of “NonCommercial”, or at least people’s understanding of the term, is a nuanced issue (we’ll see what the results actually say about that, after analysis), requiring nuanced, even difficult questions to tease out the sub-issues. So a huge thanks to those who have participated, and thanks in advance to those who will. If you’re ready, go on and take the questionnaire.

For a bit of further background, see our previous post on the questionnaire.

Thank you!


Nine Inch Nails’ CC-licensed album nominated for a Grammy Award

Eric Steuer, December 5th, 2008

This week, the Grammy Awards nominations were announced – and, for the first time, a Creative Commons-licensed track and album are on the list. Nine Inch Nails’ “34 Ghosts IV” is nominated for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, while the album that track appears on, Ghosts I-IV, is up for Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package.

This year, NIN released both Ghosts I-IV and a second album, The Slip, under a CC BY-NC-SA license. Both albums were downloaded for free and shared legally millions of times by fans under the terms of this license. At the same time, NIN found great financial success in selling cool, well-crafted, limited edition physical editions of both sets. Back in March, Wired said the band made $1.6 million on Ghosts I-IV in its first week of release alone.

Additionally, Radiohead’s song “House of Cards” is up for several Grammys, including Best Short Form Music Video. The video’s animation data was released under a CC BY-NC-SA license earlier this year (see previous post).

Congratulations to Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead for the nominations. Also, congratulations to all of the other artists whose work was nominated for Grammys this year, including Brian Eno, Diplo, Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo (AKA Gnarls Barkley), My Morning Jacket, Gilberto Gil, Peter Gabriel, Thievery Corporation, and Cornelius – all of whom have used Creative Commons licenses and/or have supported CC over the years.


New Jay Bennett album released under a CC license

Eric Steuer, December 5th, 2008

Former Wilco member Jay Bennett is an incredibly talented singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer who has just put out his fifth solo album, Whatever Happened I Apologize, as a free download under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial license. For the release, Bennett is working with Rock Proper, an online distributor of CC-licensed music. The company has a great mission statement:

Rock Proper seeks to enhance the lives of these artists by embracing the technologies of today. While not exactly a record label, Rock Proper is constantly vigilant; researching all possible channels of revenue that may allow these musicians to continue creating.

In the past, the ways we discovered music felt immediate and personal. Mix-tapes, fan-zines, underground radio, and uncle John’s LP collection all celebrated music well beyond the boundaries of commerce. Like these old models, Rock Proper seeks to deliver music of integrity with immediacy and care.

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OpenID and the CC Network

Ben Adida, December 5th, 2008

One of the key benefits of becoming a Creative Commons Network member is the OpenID login feature. In this blog post, we’ll cover the basics of OpenID and why having a Creative Commons Network OpenID is particularly interesting to users who care about their privacy. We’ll also point out the risks of using OpenID and how you can mitigate them.

OpenID and Password Insanity

By now, even casual web users are encountering password fatigue. Though it isn’t ideal from a security standpoint, it becomes necessary to reuse passwords across sites when possible. One increasingly popular alternative to this password insanity is OpenID. With OpenID, a user creates an OpenID account at one of many available OpenID providers, e.g. http://creativecommons.net/. The user is then assigned an OpenID URL, e.g. http://creativecommons.net/ben. Then, when logging into a web site that supports OpenID, the user simply submits his OpenID URL, is automatically redirected to his OpenID provider where he logs in with his one OpenID account, and is finally redirected back to the original site, automatically logged in. One OpenID account lets you log in to any web site that supports OpenID logins.

OpenID Risks

There is always a risk to centralizing significant security information in one place: the place of centralization becomes an attractive target for attackers. Beyond that, there are some risks specific to OpenID given the current state of the Web:

  1. Users are required to place significant trust in their OpenID provider. An OpenID provider can trivially impersonate any of its users to any web site it chooses. In other words, it’s important to choose an OpenID provider you trust.
  2. When OpenID URLs are not protected by SSL, OpenID is vulnerable to various kinds of DNS attacks, which, as we know from recent developments in DNS security, are significantly more realistic than many realize.
  3. The OpenID protocol expects the relying party (i.e. the site to which the user is logging in) to redirect the user to her OpenID provider, when the relying party may not always be trustworthy. As a result, a number of security experts believe that OpenID increases the risk (and improves the efficacy) of phishing attacks against OpenID users. This is particularly relevant when the OpenID provider provides password-based authentication, which is the case for most OpenID providers. This can be mitigated by using a browser extension such as Verisign’s OpenID Seatbelt which takes you directly to your provider and providers a visual indication that the page you’re on is indeed the page where your password can be safely entered.
  4. An OpenID provider is involved in every act of authentication that its users perform. This has significant privacy implications, as the OpenID provider can easily determine its users’ Internet usage patterns. This private data might be leaked if a security breach occurs, or if the OpenID provider is subpoenaed for information.

Mitigating OpenID Risks

We believe that Creative Commons is well positioned to provide trustworthy OpenID functionality. That said, we only recommend that you use Creative Commons as an OpenID provider if you do indeed trust Creative Commons.

To address the remaining risks, Creative Commons has made the following design decisions in its implementation of OpenID:

  • Creative Commons profile URLs are only served over SSL — any request over plain HTTP is redirected over SSL. We recommend looking at your address bar to make sure you’re connected over SSL when logging into web sites with your profile.
  • Creative Commons strongly recommends that you verify the URL that you are visiting before you enter your Creative Commons Network password. We have also taken care to ensure that you need not enter your password repetitively when visiting sites you already trust. Thus, by reducing the number of situations where users are expected to enter a password, we hope that users will be more vigilant on those few occasions where a password is requested.
  • Creative Commons commits to keeping only minimal and recent logging information about its users’ authentication activities, and to never share this logging information (except in cases where we are legally required to do so.) Thus, if a breach occurs, attackers will have only minimal data about our users’ Internet habits.

As always, we welcome all comments, and we hope you’ll find Creative Commons’s support of OpenID a useful service!

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Tonight! Lawrence Lessig REMIX Book Talk in San Mateo

Allison Domicone, December 4th, 2008

No plans for this evening? If you’re in the SF Bay Area, consider stopping by and hearing Lawrence Lessig give a reading from his latest book, REMIX, TONIGHT at 7PM at the Barnes & Noble in San Mateo. This will be a great time to meet the founder of Creative Commons and hear more about participatory culture in a digital age.

If you haven’t already secured your copy of REMIX, remember that donors who give $500 or more to CC’s Annual Fundraising Campaign will receive their very own signed copy of REMIX.

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The Student-engineered Open Textbook: Chemical Process Dynamics and Controls

Jane Park, December 4th, 2008

It is commonly known that students learn by doing—by practicing, rather than simply soaking in, the information that is taught them in the classroom. But it is also commonly known that anyone can obtain information; the internet is chock-full of the stuff; all one has to do is type in a few key words and hit search. The reality is that formal education, aka the classroom, can no longer be, and no longer is, just one side of this perceived divorce in education: the acquisition of knowledge versus the practice of it. 

Open education acknowledges that information is abundant, and that it takes someone to organize, interpret, and make it meaningful. This is one value that formal and higher education still offers the net generation, those bred on Google and Wikipedia. The culling of data becomes the responsibility of professionals, their peers, and their students—the results of which are high quality educational resources available to the rest of the world. 

The Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Michigan has taken this idea of synthesis and run with it. They have integrated the practice of knowledge into class curriculum, by requiring students to contribute to an open textbook in wiki format—Chemical Process Dynamics and Controls. Since 2006, senior chemical engineering students have been developing this resource, building off of the preceding year’s work. The result is a comprehensive and dynamic textbook, available for free on the web, that is both high quality and openly licensed under CC BY. Though you must be a member of the class to directly edit the wiki text, nothing prevents the rest of the world from copying and deriving it for their own uses—even republishing it and distributing it at a low cost in concrete form is possible.

Originally conceptualized by Peter Woolf (Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering) with help from Leeann Fu, the system of textbook creation is anything but haphazard. Each week, a team of students is selected to become “experts” on a particular topic. The students research and present on the topic, adding the relevant text and diagrams to the wiki. The wiki’s content is further vetted by “the faculty and Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs)” who “act as managing editors, selecting broad threads for the text and suggesting references.” They also check for copyright issues, and the students are encouraged to re-use public domain materials.

In contrast to other courses, the students take an active role in their education by selecting which material in their assigned section is most useful and decide on the presentation approach. Furthermore, students create example problems that they present in poster sessions during class to help the other students master the material.

In addition, full class lectures in video format and powerpoint presentations are available on the wiki, also under CC BYCC BY is the most appropriate license for educational materials, since all one has to do is attribute the original authors. The freedoms to copy, adapt, remix, and redistribute are crucial to advancing progress in education.

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