Palestinian-born Syrian software engineer Bassel Khartabil is the winner of this year’s Index on Censorship Digital Freedom Award, sponsored by Google. Khartabil is a free internet pioneer who has spent his career advancing open source technologies. On March 15, 2012, he was illegally imprisoned in Syria. His family were given no official information about why or where he was detained but have since learnt that he is being held at the security branch of Kafer Sousa, Damascus.
Index CEO Kirsty Hughes said, “Following courageous and peaceful protests in 2011, Syria descended into violence with appalling attacks on civilians across the country — and with over 60,000 people killed over the last two years. Up until his arrest last March, Bassel Khartabil bravely continued to work for a cause he passionately believes in — an open and free internet that is available to all. In a country torn apart by violence, he is a brave advocate for peaceful change.”
Bassel’s friend Dana Trometer, who is collecting the Index award on his behalf said, “Bassel deserves to be out of jail celebrating his real freedom and digital freedom. On this Mother’s day in most of the Arab World, and as a mother myself, my heart goes out to Bassel’s Mom. Bassel is a kind and gentle friend. A loving husband and son. He did not fear being targeted as he knew his love for Syria would save him from being persecuted by the authorities. Bassel is aware of this award and he would like to thank the judges and audience for trusting him with such an honour. He would also like to pay respect to all the victims of the struggle for freedom of speech, and, especially for those non-violent youths who refused to carry arms and deserve all the credit for this award.”
Another close friend of Bassel’s, Jon Phillips, stated, “Lock-up, Lock-out fails. Locking-up Bassel, only locks-out his personal freedom. By locking-up Bassel, his Syrian captors are accidentally locking-out themselves from the future. From launching Creative Commons Syria, building the Arabic Wikipedia and bringing internet leaders to Syria, he knew that his free participation in global web communities required concrete contributions locally. For these acts would make Syria a better place. One year later, Bassel is under harsh lock-down. Now, thousands of people that Bassel’s work helped, now help him by spreading the message #FREEBASSEL. This is what truly builds Syria and connects it to the global connected future. This award proves that his lock-up, is NOT a lock-out of his digital freedom.”
Bassel is known worldwide for his strong commitment to the open web, teaching others about technology, and contributing his experience freely to help the world. Bassel is the inventor of an open source software that powers the Open Clip Art Library. He is an original contributor to the Arabic Wikipedia and launched Creative Commons Syria. He is well known in online technical communities as a dedicated volunteer to major Internet projects like Creative Commons, Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Open Clip Art Library, and Fabricatorz.Comments Off
Today, U.S. Register of Copyright Maria Pallante stood before Congress to say: we need a new copyright law. Pallante’s prepared remarks (127 KB PDF) to the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet called for “bold adjustments” to U.S. copyright law.
This is a most welcome aspiration. A strong push for copyright reform is currently occurring around the world through domestic reviews and in international fora like WIPO — coming both from those wanting increased recognition of user rights and those calling for tighter author controls. With the United States one of the leading nations advocating for stronger copyright protection through treaties such as ACTA and the TPP, the international community will be closely observing any movement in U.S. domestic law.
Seal of the United States Copyright Office / Public Domain
In addition to several meaningful reform ideas — including shortening the copyright term itself, alterations to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and making revisions to exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives — we’re happy to see that the Register is highlighting the crucial need to expand and protect the public domain. Some of the most compelling work undertaken by Creative Commons and others in the open community has to do with increasing the accessibility and value of the public domain. We hope a more positive public domain agenda can become ingrained into the foundations of U.S. copyright policy. The central question: Can the United States devise a better system for both authors and the public interest in an environment where technology and social norms are increasingly disconnected from an aging copyright law?
Pallante said, “[A]uthors do not have effective protections, good faith businesses do not have clear roadmaps, courts do not have sufficient direction, and consumers and other private citizens are increasingly frustrated.” However, there is no doubt that public copyright licenses are offering a substantial and effective counter to some of these pains — even noted by Ms. Pallante in her longer lecture at Columbia University titled The Next Great Copyright Act (337 KB PDF), “[S]ome [authors] embrace the philosophy and methodology of Creative Commons, where authors may provide advance permission to users or even divest themselves of rights.” CC licenses and public domain instruments are right now helping alleviate frustration with copyright for all — individuals, businesses, institutions, governments — who opt in to using public licenses and licensed works.
Indeed, public licenses are easy-to-use tools for communities that wish to share their creativity on more flexible terms. And when millions of motivated creators share under public copyright licenses like CC, they create great and lasting things (hello Wikipedia). Public copyright licenses shine brightly in the light of Pallante’s telling reflection: “If one needs an army of lawyers to understand the precepts of the law, then it is time for a new law.”
At the same time, the existence of open copyright licenses shouldn’t be interpreted as a substitute for robust copyright reform. Quite the contrary. The decrease in transaction costs, increase in collaboration, and massive growth of the commons of legally reusable content spurred on by existence of public licenses should drastically reinforce the need for fundamental change, and not serve as a bandage for a broken copyright system. If anything, the increase in adoption of public licenses is a bellwether for legislative reform — a signal pointing toward a larger problem in need of a durable solution.
We and the rest of the international community are looking forward to seeing what Pallante and Congress have in mind when they continue the discussion after today. In her oral testimony, Ms. Pallante said, “Copyright is about the public interest.” We hope that the public interest has a seat at the table, with room both for open content licensing and positive legislative reform. The existence of CC licenses does not limit the need for reform. Open licenses help forward-thinking people and institutions to live and thrive in the digital age now, and illuminate the roadmap for beneficial reform to come. Let us begin.1 Comment »
On the first weekend of March, Wikimedia Germany and CC Germany hosted a workshop around the School of Open’s official launch. Attending were professionals and enthusiasts from various fields, some lawyers but mostly teachers and education managers as well as activists of the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Internet & Society Co:llaboratory in Berlin.
School Of Open Workshop WMDE / Elly Köpf / CC BY-SA
After a quick introduction, we checked out the existing School of Open course program and all features of the P2PU user interface. The mission then was to get a first set of courses in German off the ground by either translating existing courses and/or developing new ones — and that’s what we did:
Work on three courses began, partly translating the content, partly enhancing it. One course was envisioned from scratch, aiming at giving educators an idea of how OER work, why they matter and how. Here are the courses that are in development:
- Bilder auf Wikimedia Commons hochladen – In diesem Kurs kannst du lernen, wie einfach es ist, Inhalte auf Wikimedia Commons hochzuladen und damit die große Datenbank freier Bilder weiter zu ergänzen.
English translation: Upload images to Wikimedia Commons – In this course you will learn how easy it is to upload content on Wikimedia Commons, and thus complement the large database of free images.
- Wie erstelle ich einen Kurs auf P2PU?- Du möchtest einen Kurs anlegen und mit anderen dein Wissen teilen? Hier findest du in wenigen Schritten eine Anleitung.
English translation: How to create a course on P2PU – You want to create a course and share your knowledge? Here you can find a tutorial in a few steps.
- Freie Lernmaterialien in der Schule – OER für Lehrkräfte – Mit diesem Kurs lernen Sie die Bedeutung von Open Educational Resources, kurz OER, den freien Lehr- und Lernmaterialien, kennen.
English translation: Free learning materials in schools – OER for teachers – This course will teach you the importance of open educational resources (OER) and the freedom of teaching and learning materials.
At the end of the day, a start had been made and the participants collected a lot of ideas about how to improve and develop the School of Open program. A network began to emerge of interested experts and enthusiasts, many of whom will join the School of Open discussion list (Google Group) in order to get involved.
If you would like to help us develop the courses above, or create new ones in German, please email email@example.com or join the School of Open discussion list and introduce yourself and your interest!
For the German summary of the event, see the Wikimedia Germany blog.Comments Off
If you read Creative Commons’ blog or follow our various social media channels, you’re no doubt already familiar with the story of Bassel Khartabil, the long-time Creative Commons volunteer who’s been detained in Syria for over a year. Last Friday, we participated in a global day of solidarity in honor of Bassel.
Software engineer Bassel Khartabil has been held in detention since his arrest in Damascus on 15 March 2012. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights believes his arrest is related to his work as a computer engineer, specialising in the development of open source software.
Khartabil, a Palestinian-born Syrian, spent his career advancing open source and related technologies to ensure a freer internet. Internationally, he is known for his voluntary work with open source projects such as Creative Commons and Mozilla Firefox. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named him in its list of the top 100 global thinkers.
As yet, authorities have failed to provide an official statement about his arrest, the charges he is facing or his whereabouts. Just weeks before he was jailed, Khartabil tweeted: “The people who are in real danger never leave their countries. They are in danger for a reason and for that they don’t leave.” Khartabil’s arrest was part of the Syrian government’s crackdown against the popular uprising, which has resulted in at least 60,000 deaths since March 2011.
For more information, visit freebassel.org.Comments Off
During the Academy Awards a few weeks ago, we were reminded of an interesting piece of Creative Commons history:
— creativecommons (@creativecommons) February 25, 2013
— creativecommons (@creativecommons) February 25, 2013
In 2007, Donna Dewey’s A Story of Healing became the first Academy Award–winning film to be released under a Creative Commons license. The film follows plastic surgeons from Interplast, an organization that provides free reconstructive surgery to people with injuries and congenital deformities. Interplast (which produced the film and is now known as ReSurge International), recognized that sharing it under a CC license could allow its message to reach more people.
Six years later, filmmakers all around the world are using Creative Commons licenses to bring their films to new audiences. And in the process, many of them are redefining how film production and distribution can work. No, CC-licensed films aren’t sweeping the Oscars, but maybe they’ve become a part of something even more exciting.
For example, take Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues. Most people reading this blog post have probably seen Paley’s amazing film. (If you haven’t, watch it right now. We’ll be here when you get back.) But you might not know that as of 2013, Paley has placed her film in the public domain. Paley explains why she made the unorthodox decision to waive her copyright under the CC0 Public Domain Declaration:
… I still believe in all the reasons for BY-SA, but the reality is I would never, ever sue anyone over SSTB or any cultural work. I will still publicly condemn abuses like enclosure and willful misattribution, but why point a loaded gun at everyone when I’d never fire it? CC0 is an acknowledgement I’ll never go legal on anyone, no matter how abusive and evil they are.
A few weeks ago, Simon Klose released TPB AFK, the long-awaited, Kickstarter-funded documentary about the lives and legal difficulties of the founders of The Pirate Bay. Klose released two versions of the documentary, one licensed BY-NC-ND and one BY-NC-SA. According to Klose, the film includes six minutes of footage from a television network that wouldn’t allow adaptations, so he chose to release a remix-friendly version omitting that footage alongside the NoDerivs version. Both in Klose’s case and in Paley’s, the licenses invite types of reuse and creative participation that can get really problematic under traditional, All Rights Reserved film distribution.
This summer, members of the Nordic CC community are organizing the first Nordic Creative Commons Film Festival. Organizers are inviting anyone in the region to host a screening. Venues will range from full-size theatres to small gatherings in people’s homes. (The organizers are currently looking both for volunteer organizers and for film submissions. Visit their website for more information.)
The Nordic festival is the latest in a growing movement of CC film festivals that began with the Barcelona Creative Commons Film Festival. The BccN launched in 2010 with the slogan “COPY THIS FESTIVAL.” And copy it people did, with “copies” appearing in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Lima, Helsinki, and beyond.
In a video message to the organizers of the Nordic CC Film Festival, CC cofounder Lawrence Lessig suggests that the film culture of the future will look less like today’s film industry and more like this festival:
Another new direction in filmmaking — which, interestingly, also originated in Spain — is Pablo Maqueda and Haizea Viana’s #littlesecretfilm. Anyone can create a “#littlesecretfilm,” as long as her film follows a list of minimalistic rules (finish shooting in 24 hours, ad-libbed dialogue). It’s hard not to make comparisons to Dogme 95, but #littlesecretfilm’s organizers stress that they’re not trying to build a new movement (interview in Spanish). The project’s manifesto describes it simply as “an act of love for the cinema,” which could also describe the global spread of CC film festivals. And of course, #littlesecretfilms must be licensed under Creative Commons.
Around the world, CC filmmakers and festival organizers are changing the rules of every step in the process of filmmaking, from writing and shooting to editing, distribution, and monetization. At a time when the mainstream film industry is struggling to redefine and modernize itself, the CC community isn’t waiting up.
- Open Video Course Sprint in Berlin for School of Open
- Interview: Global Lives Project
- Featured platform: Vimeo
- CC-Licensed Documentary Explores Personality Rights Issues
- Find more films on our curated Kickstarter page.
This is a guest post by Kasyoka Mutunga, Precious Blood Secondary School Alumna and Executive Director of Jamlab, a community of former high school students providing peer mentorship, learning through the use of open educational resources, and using the Internet to objectively achieve their goals and actualize their ideas — while actively solving issues in their communities. Kasyoka is leading the School of Open Kenya Initiative as part of the volunteer CC Kenya community.
Young girls are teamed up in the heart of Nairobi. They are as hyperactive as any teenager would be. They have their aspirations, their goals, and their fears. From their chatter, they are afraid of the same things as I was. They are afraid of the upcoming exams, they are afraid to stay out late, they are afraid to miss the tickets to the upcoming concert, they are afraid that the pizza I ordered will be less than what they can enjoy, they are even afraid that their boyfriends are seeing other girls. However, today, sitting here I realize that there is one a major fear sparking off.
School of Open at the Precious Blood School / jamlab / CC BY-NC-SA
Two weeks before, Jamlab rolled out to introduce School of Open ideals to young girls in the Precious Blood School. The response was overwhelming. The girls came out in huge numbers. We cheerfully introduced Creative Commons to them. It was so intriguing that they went out and scavenged the rest of the Internet world for themselves. Soon, we were discussing the value of open in a world where “withheld” is what feels secure. We had to see the James Boyle video to understand exactly what we were all so afraid of when the concept of “Open” initially repelled us. The Initiative was at the end of that week launched formally at the School by the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Information and Communications, Dr Bitange Ndemo.
Students at Precious Blood School
jamlab / CC BY-NC-SA
Dr Bitange Ndemo
jamlab / CC BY-NC-SA
Two weeks later, we sat in a balcony to proactively decide what the students would do with the knowledge they had acquired. They wanted to start companies, they wanted to build organizations, they wanted to make solar panels for their communities, and maybe even create a library system. They had all these ambitions building gradually in them and now maybe, they had the hope of actualizing them irrespective of their age or background. “You know…” I heard one say, “Big people everywhere are fighting for the Internet to remain open and accessible as it was set out to be. We have joined that fight… because for us, we are fighting for a life we can better!” There were giggles and murmurs but those words have stuck with me since.
Making CC videos / jamlab / CC BY-NC-SA
Finally, we decided on the project to take on together. It was something that resonated with everyone present. Today, they are bundled up behind cameras, behind computers and on the Internet, on YouTube actually. They are working on releasing short videos of their teachers teaching various subjects, licensing them under Creative Commons, and uploading them to YouTube. They are doing this for the thousands of young people who don’t get a chance to go to high school in Kenya.
Looking at their determination, I know that their major fear is that the world will leave them behind… that at the end of their time, they will simply have existed. I am excited about the videos and will send a link as soon as the girls learn how to edit them. However, I know that they ought not be afraid. Creative Commons has given them a reason to be extraordinary… and a reason to make others extraordinary too.Comments Off
Creative Commons CEO Catherine Casserly wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post for the one-year anniversary of Bassel Khartabil’s arrest.
Since March 15, 2012, our colleague and friend Bassel Khartabil has been in prison in Syria, held without charges and not allowed legal representation. Bassel is an open-source coder and leader of the Syrian Creative Commons program. He believes in the open Internet, and has spent the last ten years using open technologies to improve the lives of Syrians. Not only did Bassel build the CC program in his country; he worked tirelessly to build knowledge of digital literacy, educating people about online media and open-source tools.
Our work requires us to spend a lot of time looking at nuanced details — whether a certain piece of legislation supports open access to research, for example, or how to mark creative works for easier search and filtering. Bassel’s imprisonment has been a stark reminder that our work is part of a larger, global ecosystem. For Bassel and others around the world who fight for open, a free internet is not a theoretical matter. Real lives hang in the balance.
Today, there are demonstrations and getherings happening all over the world in honor of Bassel. Learn more at freebasselday.org.7 Comments »
Big news from California: a new bill in the legislature would allow university students to take CC-licensed, online classes for credit.
As of this Friday, CC Syria lead Bassel Khartabil has been imprisoned for one year. Join us in urging that Bassel be freed.
In other news:Comments Off
This month marks the end of Creative Commons’ annual fundraising campaign. Thank you so much to everyone who donated or helped spread the word about the campaign.
The past few months have really been a whirlwind for the CC community. We celebrated CC’s tenth anniversary around the world, even in Antarctica (!). We’ve seen major open legislation introduced in Congress, and a White House directive to get more serious about open access. The community built a new online school where anyone can learn about open. We’ve entered the final stretch in developing Version 4.0 of the CC licenses. We’ve mourned the loss of a friend, and are calling for the release of another. And we’ve done it all hand-in-hand with the global community of commoners.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your support. Thank you for being a diverse, engaged community. Full steam ahead into the second decade.
PS: If you haven’t gotten your “Create Share Remix” T-shirt yet, there are still a few left.Comments Off
This Friday, 15 March, is the one-year anniversary of the detainment of CC Syria lead Bassel Khartibil by the Syrian government. It’s also the second anniversary of the start of the conflict in Syria.
Bassel is a software engineer who has been an important open web advocate and a big part of the CC community for many years. For the past year, CC has been supporting the FREEBASSEL project, which aims to draw attention to his detainment and ultimately secure Bassel’s release.
This Friday, FREEBASSEL is planning a day of global solidarity, inviting everyone to host events, demonstrations, and parties in honor of Bassel. You can do anything – make posters, release software, translate his Wikipedia entry, throw a party at a local bar. Have a cheers for #FREEBASSEL and tweet the picture of your group in your local language. It’s a day to remember Bassel and spread the word.
You can find out about events already being organised for Free Bassel Day, or post about your own, at freebasselday.org. Some of the great events already being organised by the CC community include:
- CC France and OKFN are organising a Syrian dinner in Paris;
- CC Netherlands and Kennisland have created a poster with information and are placing it behind metal bars throughout Amsterdam, to mimic Bassel’s incarceration;
- CC HQ is teaming with Wikimedia and EFF to hold a FreeBassel event in San Francisco, with activities and a FREEBASSEL photo shoot.