UK National Portrait Gallery threatens Wikipedia user over public domain images

Joe Merante, July 14th, 2009

Museums, archives, and cultural institutions have been forced to re-examine their relationship with the digital presentation of public domain works in their collections. This has brought the issue of “copyfraud” to the forefront. Recently, the UK’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) threatened legal action under UK law against a Wikipedia user for, among other things, copyright infringement of digital photos of public domain works by uploading them to Wikipedia.

This raises some interesting legal issues related to copyright, jurisdiction, and enforcement. In the U.S., the Bridgeman v. Corel decision would probably bar NPG’s claims. Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court in Feist held that copyright protection is not based on a “sweat of the brow” theory. UK courts have not necessarily agreed. However, there is the strictly legal, and then there is the practical. In the 2005 article Public Domain Art in an Age of Easier Mechanical Reproducibility, Kenneth Hamma, former Exec. Dir. for Digital Policy, J. Paul Getty Trust, highlights the collision of traditional approaches to control over museum collections and the digitization of the public domain:

[R]esistance to free and unfettered access may well result from a seemingly well-grounded concern: many museums assume that an important part of their core business is the acquisition and management of rights in art works to maximum return on investment. That might be true in the case of the recording industry, but it should not be true for nonprofit institutions holding public domain art works; it is not even their secondary business. Indeed, restricting access seems all the more inappropriate when measured against a museum’s mission – a responsibility to provide public access.

Restricting access via copyfraud or DRM defeats the purpose of the public domain, and damages the reputation and mission of the institution holding the original copies of these works. However, the NPG’s disappointing actions should not overshadow the many institutions working to make the public domain accessible to you, the public. The Commons on Flickr is a great example of 27 private and public institutions from all over the world who are making works available with “no known copyright restrictions”. Working with, not against, cultural institutions highlights some of the ways cultural heritage institutions and communities can work together to mutual benefit.

We hope that institutions will increasingly see the the mission value (and financial value — attracting visitors to see original works) of working with communities to open up access to curated public domain works and of proactively marking public domain works as such for humans and computers, e.g., with our public domain tools.

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Riversimple and 40 Fires Foundation promote participatory car design

Eric Steuer, July 13th, 2009

Caught an interesting NY Times post over the weekend about Riversimple, a British start-up that recently debuted a prototype of a two-seat hydrogen fuel cell car. There are several interesting things about Riversimple’s proposed business model – for instance, it plans to lease the car instead of sell it, and wants to employ a manufacturing process in which the cars are built in a variety of small, local factories. The detail that is of particular interest to us here at Creative Commons, though, is that the company has published the car’s design schematics under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial license on the site of the 40 Fires Foundation, a project that invites community participation in the car design process.

Says Riversimple CEO Hugo Spowers:

“If we give away the tools for entrepreneurs around the world to make money from making cars, we expect to harness an unstoppable groundswell of support globally.” … “From a strictly commercial point of view, we want to encourage others to copy us as we want these standards adopted ubiquitously.”

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HOWTO Make Your CC-licensed Images Visible to Robots

Fred Benenson, July 13th, 2009

After last week’s exciting announcement that Google Image search is now capable of filtering results by usage rights, we realized there is a lot of interest in how creators can signal their work as being CC-licensed to both humans and robots.

Fortunately, CC has a solution for this that is not only a standard, but recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium.

Its called the Creative Commons Rights Expression Language and is part of the semantic web. Without getting too technical, ccREL uses a technology called RDFa to express licensing information to machines so that they can deduce the same facts about a work (such as its title, author, and most importantly, its license) that humans can. If you’re interested in the future of the web and structured data, you’ll want to check out our wiki pages on RDFa, ccREL, and our white paper submitted to the W3C. Google has a page explaining RDFa and Yahoo has a page explaining how RDFa is used by Yahoo Search.

The easiest way to signal to both humans and robots that your content is CC licensed is to head over to our license chooser and choose a license to put on your own site.

Our license chooser automatically generates the proper ccREL code, so its easy! Don’t forget to fill out the “Additional Information” section. You’ll then get a snippet of XHTML embed that will contain ccREL. Place this near your work (preferably on its same page of the work which also happens to be unique) and you’re all set. If you’re running an entire content community, you can also dynamically generate this markup based on the particular user, title of the work and so on. Check out Thingiverse for a excellent example of this functionality.

Are you already using ccREL or RDFa on your website or platform? Let us know or add it to our Wiki page!

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Free Culture Research Workshop 2009 CFP

Mike Linksvayer, July 11th, 2009

The Free Culture Research Workshop 2009 is looking for scholars working on:

  • Studies on the use and growth of open/free licensing models
  • Critical analyses of the role of Creative Commons or similar models in promoting a Free Culture
  • Building innovative technical, legal, organizational, or business solutions and interfaces between the sharing economy and the commercial economy
  • Modeling incentives, innovation and community dynamics in open collaborative peer production and in related social networks
  • Economic models for the sustainability of commons-based production
  • Successes and failures of open licensing
  • Analyses of policies, court rulings or industry moves that influence the future of Free Culture
  • Regional studies of Free Culture with global lessons/implications
  • Lessons from implementations of open/free licensing and distribution models for specific communities
  • Definitions of openness and freedom for different media types, users and communities
  • Broader sociopolitical, legal and cultural implications of Free Culture initiatives and peer production practices
  • Free Culture, Memory Institutions and the broader Public Sector
  • Open Science/ Research/ Education
  • Cooperation theory and practice, dynamics of cooperation and competition
  • Methodological approaches for studying the characteristics, history, impact or growth of Free Culture

It is tremendously exciting to see the commons attracting this research interest. The workshop will be held October 23 at Harvard. Submissions are due August 9.

Also see the last year’s post on the First Interdisciplinary Research Workshop on Free Culture.

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Google Image Search Implements CC License Filtering

Fred Benenson, July 9th, 2009

Google Image Logo

Today, Google officially launched the ability to filter search results using Creative Commons licenses inside their Image Search tool. It is now easy to restrict your Image Search results to find images which have been tagged with our licenses, so that you can find content from across the web that you can share, use, and even modify. Searches are also capable of returning content under other licenses, such as the GNU Free Documentation License, or images that are in the public domain.

To filter by CC search, go to Google’s advanced Image Search page and select the options you’d like in the “Usage rights” section. Your results will be restricted to images marked with CC licenses or other compatibly licensed photos.

Remember, Google can only provide search results that its algorithms find tagged with the license you specify; it is your obligation to verify the license of the image you’re using and make sure you’re conforming to its guidelines.

This is a huge step forward for the future of image search on the web, so congratulations to the Google team on another great CC implementation!

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Vietnam opens national license draft for discussion

Michelle Thorne, July 9th, 2009

flag_of_vietnamCC Vietnam has released its first license draft (pdf) and is inviting the Vietnamese and international community to join in reviewing it. The goal of the license porting, coordinated by Creative Commons International, is to legally and linguistically adapt the CC licensing suite to national law. That way, creators enjoy additional legal certainty while better understanding the license terms in their own language.

An English retranslation (pdf) of the Vietnamese license is available, including an explanation of its substantive legal changes. The team has also provided supplemental documents about the jurisdiction’s civil code and corresponding copyright law.

CC Vietnam hosted at the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) and led by Dr. Lynne McNamara, Dr. Phuong Nguyen, and Mr. Tu Ngo, and initiated by Mr. Hung V. Tran. The Vietnamese license porting is supported by Ms. Thuy Dang and Ms. Hang Dang of the renown law firm D&N International.

National CC projects rely on content creators and license users worldwide to give feedback to improve local legal tools and build a strong community. Please consider weighing in on CC Vietnam’s drafting efforts by subscribing to their mailing list.

Thank you and congratulations, CC Vietnam!

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vosotros presents: the years

Cameron Parkins, July 8th, 2009

theyears_albumartvosotros presents: the years is the latest release from CC-friendly label Vosotros. Described as a “a musical journey through time”, the CC BY-NC-SA licensed album is being released as a free download through out the month of July while simultaneously being sold through a variety of digital outlets.

The album, which is a collaboration between Vosotros and Sam Barsh, is generating some amazing buzz and digital sales. Most exciting for those in the CC-community is the following quote from Amazon-blog Chordstrike (the album peaked at #8 on Amazon’s Classic R&B download chart):

Assembled by a crew of some premier sidemen, this fluid set of thumping soul is the sort of album that as fun to listen to as it seems like it was to make. With one eye pointed towards the past and the other one winking, they show love for not only the funky greats of the past 30 years, but affection for kitsch, too. Vosotros takes their motto, “music for you-all,” seriously. They’ve made the album available as a free download for a limited time and licensed it under Creative Commons encourage sharing. Enjoy it, remix it, and tell your friends.

Download the album for free or order it from vosotros’ online store.

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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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Thursday @ EYEBEAM – Copyright & The Creator: Who Cares What’s Fair?

Fred Benenson, July 6th, 2009

EYEBEAM Logo
If you are in New York on Thursday this week, you are invited to a panel I’ve helped organize with our friends at Eyebeam on fair use and creators. I’ll also be moderating the panel and giving a brief primer on fair use:

This Thursday, July 9, 6–8PM at Eyebeam, there will be a panel discussion on fair-use and appropriation within activist and creative practice moderated by Creative Commons product manager and Eyebeam research associate Fred Benenson; artist/curator Mark Tribe, audio-visual remix artist Jonny Wilson (Eclectic Method), Postmasters gallery director Magdalena Sawon, and Eyebeam resident Jon Cohrs.

The panel is part of Eyebeam’s Summer School @ Night program. And in case you don’t know, Eyebeam, is one of the preeminent spaces for digital art and many of its residents and fellows create works that investigate many of the issues that we’re interested in at CC. But more on that later. :)
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A sad day for fair use

Mike Linksvayer, July 6th, 2009

Last week a U.S. district court judge issued a preliminary injunction against the publication of 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, a book based on the idea of J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caufield character as a 76 year old man. Strong reactions to the ruling have come from many across the legal, literary and technology fields, for example Mike Madison, Jim Brown, and Mike Masnick.

My Media Musings delivers the bottom line, easily understood by all:

Seeing judges ban books is never a good thing. Seeing a judge ban a book for such flimsy reasons as this is downright frightening. If her ruling stands, expect to see a long line of similar suits in the near future.

Of course one way to take an affirmative stance for reasonable copyright (still strongly trending toward increasing unreasonableness, as evinced by the above) is to grant permission in advance for some uses of your work with a CC license or all uses with the CC0 waiver. Another is to support our work financially and spread the word.

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