Commons News

Bassel Khartabil’s Second Birthday in Prison

Elliot Harmon, May 22nd, 2013

If you subscribe to Creative Commons’ newsletter or follow us on Twitter and Facebook, you’re likely familiar with the story of Bassel Khartabil, our friend and longtime CC volunteer who’s been in prison in Syria since March 2012. Today, on the second birthday that Bassel has spent in prison, friends of Bassel and members of the open community are taking a moment to reflect on his situation and call for his release.

The Index on Censorship, which honored Bassel in March with the Digital Freedom Award, has compiled a collection of birthday wishes for Bassel:

I just want him free, I pray for him to be free and I pray for all his friends who believe and work on Bassel’s freedom. – Bassel’s mother

It is your birthday. It is not a day of happiness — yet. But when justice is done, and you are released from your wrongful imprisonment, all of us will celebrate with enormous happiness both this day, and every day that you have given us as an inspiration for hope across the world. – Larry Lessig, founder of Creative Commons

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Our friend Jon Phillips, organizer of the #freebassel campaign, has launched a project called FREEBASSEL SUNLIGHT. In Jon’s words, “Please help shine some sunlight on Bassel by doing some novel research on his situation, where he is located, and help connect the dots of his situation and life.”

Artist and filmmaker Niki Korth recently developed a game that uses quotations from Bassel to start conversations about free and open communication, the conflict in Syria, and other topics. Niki has been publishing the playing cards online as well as videos of people playing the game.

Earlier this week, Niki led a few of us at CC in the game. You can watch our responses to several of her questions on her Vimeo page.

In this video, CC CEO Cathy Casserly voices our shared hope that we’ll see Bassel soon:

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Lawrence Lessig to keynote CC Global Summit

Jessica Coates, May 20th, 2013

This week we have two exciting announcements about our Global Summit, the bi-annual gathering of our community which will be held in Buenos Aires in August 2013.

First – we are pleased to confirm that Professor Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and one of Creative Commons’ founders and current Board members, will be presenting a keynote at this year’s Summit. Anyone familiar with Creative Commons is likely to be familiar with Professor Lessig, who for the last decade has been one of the leading advocates for a more open copyright system worldwide and a popular public face of CC. If you are one of the few people who are unfamiliar with Professor Lessig’s work, you can see an example of his inspirational speaking style in his TED talk from 2007, Laws that choke creativity (he also spoke on reform of US political funding in 2013). Details of the time and subject of Professor Lessig’s talk will be distributed closer to the event.

Second – registration for the Global Summit is officially open. You can find the registration form here. The event is free, but places are limited, so early registration is essential if you want to ensure your place at this meeting of CC commmunity, board, staff, and key stakeholders interested in the present and future of the commons.

Finally, while we have you, we’d also like to remind you that the call for papers for the Summit closes this week. Have you papers in by 24 May if you want to be on the main program (lightning talks and unconference sessions can be submitted later).

See you all in Buenos Aires in August!

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Deciphering licensing in Project Open Data

Timothy Vollmer, May 20th, 2013

Two weeks ago we wrote about the U.S. Executive Order and announcement of Project Open Data, an open source project (managed on Github) that lays out the implementation details behind behind the President’s Executive Order and memo. The project offers more information on open licenses, and gives examples of acceptable licenses for U.S. federal data. Some of this information is clear, while other pieces require more clarification. Below we’ve provided some commentary and notes on the licensing parts of Project Open Data.

Open Licenses

The Open Licenses page on Project Open Data says that a license will be considered “open” if the following conditions are met:

Reuse. The license must allow for reproductions, modifications and derivative works and permit their distribution under the terms of the original work.

Users can copy and make adaptations of the data. The government may use a copyleft license, thus requiring that adapted works be shared under the same license as the original. In our view, the reference to the government using a license is confusing. Works created by federal government employees in the in the public domain, and a license is not appropriate–at least as a matter of U.S. copyright law. More on this below.

The rights attached to the work must not depend on the work being part of a particular package. If the work is extracted from that package and used or distributed within the terms of the work’s license, all parties to whom the work is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original package.

Everyone is offered the work under the same public license.

Redistribution. The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the work either on its own or as part of a package made from works from many different sources.

Third parties can sell the data verbatim or produce adaptations of the data and sell those.

The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale or distribution.

Users don’t have to pay to use the licensed data.

The license may require as a condition for the work being distributed in modified form that the resulting work carry a different name or version number from the original work.

When the data gets remixed the licensor can require that the remixer note that their remixed version is different from the original.

The rights attached to the work must apply to all to whom it is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.

Public licenses must be used, which means that everyone gets offered the data under the same terms, without the need to negotiation individual licenses.

The license must not place restrictions on other works that are distributed along with the licensed work. For example, the license must not insist that all other works distributed on the same medium are open.

The license doesn’t infect other data or content that is distributed alongside the openly licensed data. It’s important that the open data is marked as such; the same goes for marking of the the non-open data.

If adaptations of the work are made publicly available, these must be under the same license terms as the original work.

This is a confusing statement, because it seems to require that all data be licensed under a copyleft license. This does not align with the licensing options listed in the Open License Examples page.

No Discrimination against Persons, Groups, or Fields of Endeavor. The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons. The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the work in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the work from being used in a business, or from being used for research.

Anyone may use the licensed data for any reason.

Open License Examples

The Open License Examples page offers a helpful guide as to which open licenses will be accepted for government data released by federal agencies. As we noted in our earlier post, there is some confusion in that the Open Data Policy Memo says, “open data are made available under an open license that places no restrictions on their use.” Saying that data should be placed under a license with no restrictions doesn’t make sense, since even a very “open” license (such as CC BY) requires attribution to the author a condition on using the license. If the United States truly wishes to make federal government data available without restriction, it could consider mandating only those tools that accomplish this, for example the CC0 Public Domain Dedication or the Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and License.

Data and content created by government employees within the scope of their employment are not subject to domestic copyright protection under 17 U.S.C. § 105.

The fact that data and content created by federal government employees is not subject to copyright protection in the United States is a longstanding positive feature of the US code. But as noted here, this copyright-free zone only applies when talking about domestic protection, e.g. inside the United States. Outside its borders, the United States government could assert that, for example, one of its works is protected under French copyright law, and then enforce its copyright in France. It’s unclear how much this legal nuance is leveraged outside of the United States. But it does seem to create a challenge for the U.S. federal agencies in utilizing public domain dedication tools like CC0. This is because CC0 puts content into the worldwide public domain, whereas under Section 105 works created by federal government employees are only in the public domain in the United States. So, while it’s useful that works created by U.S. federal government employees is in the public domain in the United States, it’s a shame that this seems to preclude federal agencies from utilizing public domain tools like CC0, which would help communicate broad reuse rights easily and in machine-readable form. This begs the larger question, if information created by federal government employees is in the public domain in the United States, then is it inappropriate to license this data and content under one of the licenses noted below? And, if that is true, then what content will be licensed under the conformant licenses? Third party content?

When purchasing data or content from third-party vendors, however care must be taken to ensure the information is not hindered by a restrictive, non-open license. In general, such licenses should comply with the open knowledge definition of an open license. Several examples of common open licenses are listed below:

Content Licenses:

  • Creative Commons BY, BY-SA, or CC0
  • GNU Free Documentation License

Data Licenses

  • Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and Licence (PDDL)
  • Open Data Commons Attribution License
  • Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODbL)
  • Creative Commons CC0

Notwithstanding the questions above about licensing options for the work produced by federal government employees, the Administration is taking a great step in recommending that licenses should align with the Open Definition. In addition, the Administration might include information about appropriate software licenses, should those come into play when they release data.

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Obama issues Executive Order in support of open data

Timothy Vollmer, May 10th, 2013

Yesterday President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order requiring federal government information to be open and machine-readable by default. This Order is the latest in a series of actions going back to 2009 in support of increasing access to and transparency of government information.

In addition to the Executive Order, the White House released a Memorandum (PDF) explaining how federal government agencies will comply with the new open data policy.

This Memorandum requires agencies to collect or create information in a way that supports downstream information processing and dissemination activities. This includes using machine­ readable and open formats, data standards, and common core and extensible metadata for all new information creation and collection efforts. It also includes agencies ensuring information stewardship through the use of open licenses and review of information for privacy, confidentiality, security, or other restrictions to release.

It provides a forward-thinking set of guidelines for open data to be released by U.S. federal agencies:

Open data: For the purposes of this Memorandum, the term “open data” refers to publicly available data structured in a way that enables the data to be fully discoverable and usable by end users. In general, open data will be consistent with the following principles:

  • Public. Consistent with OMB’s Open Government Directive, agencies must adopt a presumption in favor of openness to the extent permitted by law and subject to privacy, confidentiality, security, or other valid restrictions.
  • Accessible. Open data are made available in convenient, modifiable, and open formats that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched. Formats should be machine-readable (i.e., data are reasonably structured to allow automated processing). Open data structures do not discriminate against any person or group of persons and should be made available to the widest range of users for the widest range of purposes, often by providing the data in multiple formats for consumption. To the extent permitted by law, these formats should be non-proprietary, publicly available, and no restrictions should be placed upon their use.
  • Described. Open data are described fully so that consumers of the data have sufficient information to understand their strengths, weaknesses, analytical limitations, security requirements, as well as how to process them. This involves the use of robust, granular metadata (i.e., fields or elements that describe data), thorough documentation of data elements, data dictionaries, and, if applicable, additional descriptions of the purpose of the collection, the population of interest, the characteristics of the sample, and the method of data collection.
  • Reusable. Open data are made available under an open license that places no restrictions on their use.
  • Complete. Open data are published in primary forms (i.e., as collected at the source), with the finest possible level of granularity that is practicable and permitted by law and other requirements. Derived or aggregate open data should also be published but must reference the primary data.
  • Timely. Open data are made available as quickly as necessary to preserve the value of the data. Frequency of release should account for key audiences and downstream needs.
  • Managed Post-Release. A point of contact must be designated to assist with data use and to respond to complaints about adherence to these open data requirements.

The Memorandum provides some more information about how U.S. government information will be made reusable:

Ensure information stewardship through the use of open licenses – Agencies must apply open licenses, in consultation with the best practices found in Project Open Data, to information as it is collected or created so that if data are made public there are no restrictions on copying, publishing, distributing, transmitting, adapting, or otherwise using the information for non-commercial or for commercial purposes.

Depending on the exact implementation details, this could be a fantastic move that would remove any legal confusion about using federal government data. By leveraging open licenses, the U.S. federal government would be doing a great service to reusers by communicating those rights available in advance. And, if the U.S. truly wishes to make federal government information available without restriction, it could consider using a tool such as the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. CC0 is used by many data providers to place open data directly in the public domain. We’ve already suggested this (PDF) as an option for sharing federally funded research data.

The White House should be commended for taking another positive step forward to ensure that U.S. government data is made legally and technically accessible and useable.

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Free Wikipedia course offered through the School of Open

Jane Park, May 6th, 2013

Have you ever looked at an article on Wikipedia and thought, “this could really use some work”? With the free online course “Writing Wikipedia Articles: The Basics and Beyond,” offered through the School of Open, you have the opportunity to take the next step.

In the course, you will learn about both the technical and social underpinnings of this worldwide, volunteer-built resource, and how you can most effectively contribute to its vision to freely share knowledge. The six-week course will start its second round on 14 May (for those in the Americas) or 15 May (Asia/Australia).* Sign up here.

Sara_and_Pete%2C_Communicate_OER
Sara and Pete, Communicate OER / Pete Forsyth / CC BY

While the course is free and open to everyone, it focuses on the topic of open educational resources (OER), and students work to improve relevant Wikipedia articles as part of their coursework. The first round of the course concluded last week. The course organizers, Pete Forsyth and Sara Frank Bristow of Communicate OER, had so much fun that they are diving right back in to facilitate a second round. Pete says,

“We learned a great deal in our first run: we were surprised by how few of our students knew about OER, but also how fully they embraced the topic. We hope you will agree, their efforts to improve the OER article have been successful: while there will always be room for improvement, today’s version of the article is much improved from the version prior to the start of our class.”

Several members of the CC community were proud to support this effort. In the first round, CC CEO Cathy Casserly participated in a panel discussion and CC Senior Project Manager Paul Stacey provided a review of the OER article around which the course participants shaped their improvements.

Creative Commons encourages you to take advantage of this opportunity to contribute to the world’s understanding of open educational resources and the open licenses that make them possible. Sign up for the upcoming course today. You can also participate in a future course or engage in other ways by reaching out to the course organizers at the same link.

If you would like to be notified when other “open” courses launch their second rounds, make sure you’re subscribed to the School of Open announcements list.

*If you’re in Europe or Africa, the synchronous course sessions will be in the middle of the night. You are welcome to enroll and watch the archived sessions each week; join the third round of the course, expected to launch in July; or watch for the self-paced version of the course, to be announced in early June.

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Now Hiring: LRMI Project Manager

Cable Green, May 5th, 2013

Creative Commons is looking for a LRMI Project Manager. This person will play a key role in leading the LRMI project.

From the job description:

We are looking for a Project Manager to lead the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI), a project co-led by Creative Commons and the Association of Educational Publishers to build a common metadata vocabulary for educational resources.

The LRMI Project Manager will provide general oversight of the internal project staff and subcontractors, and ensure LRMI work plans are clearly articulated and timelines adhered to.

This position:

  • project manages all CC LRMI grants and deliverables;
  • serves as the primary contact for all LRMI subcontractors and external stakeholders;
  • leads the LRMI technical working group listserv and meetings;
  • liaises with open communities, OER repositories / referatories, institutions, standards bodies, and vendors that are integrating LRMI and/or increasing the value of CC’s legal and technology tools;
  • is the key player in CC’s outreach to open education organizations and broadening awareness about LRMI and CC among states and school districts;
  • represents LRMI and CC at private meetings and selected conferences and events;
  • reports progress on the project to CC, the open community and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and
  • serves as an education expert on technology aspects of CC internally and externally.

If this sounds exciting to you, we’d love to hear from you. Check out the full job listing for more information.

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LRMI Accepted into Schema.org

Cable Green, May 5th, 2013

The Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) specification (14 properties) has been accepted and published as a part of Schema.org, the collaboration between major search engines Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex (press release). This marks the culmination of a year’s worth of open collaboration with the LRMI Technical Working Group and the wider education publishing community. To view the LRMI properties within the context of the full Schema.org hierarchy, visit schema.org/CreativeWork. See this post by Phil Barker for additional detail.

The LRMI, a simple tagging schema that draws from and maps easily to existing metadata frameworks (e.g., IEEE, LOM and Dublin Core), is intended to be an easy way for open and proprietary content publishers to standardize the way they describe the education specific characteristics of their resources.

This is wonderful news as the LRMI specification will be a piece of the future of education, especially as it pertains to Open Educational Resources (OER). Some of the features of LRMI will allow next generation learning systems based on personalized guided learning. To get a better idea of what kinds of things are possible with LRMI, watch this OSCON keynote by Danny Hillis describing the concept of a Learning Map.

Creative Commons is currently working with 10 different OER platforms and repositories to implement LRMI support and we hope to announce the first few complete implementations in the coming months.

To join the ongoing discussions around LRMI support and implementation, please join the public mailing list.

And… Creative Commons is hiring a new LRMI Project Manager. Please send us the best and brightest to lead this important project!

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PLOS launches open access science award program

Timothy Vollmer, May 1st, 2013

asap banner

Today the Public Library of Science announced the Accelerating Science Award Program (ASAP). The award program seeks nominations of individuals who have used, applied, or remixed scientific research — published through open access — in order to realize innovations in science, medicine, and technology. The goal of ASAP is to build awareness of and encourage the use of scientific research published through open access. Major sponsors include the Wellcome Trust and Google.

Three winners will each receive $30,000. The nomination period opens today and runs through June 15, 2013. Potential nominees may include individuals, teams, or groups of collaborators -– such as scientists, researchers, educators, social services, technology leaders, entrepreneurs, policy makers, patient advocates, public health workers, and students -– who have used scientific research in transformative ways. The winners will be announced in Washington, DC, in October 2013 at an Open Access Week event hosted by SPARC and the World Bank.

Creative Commons is a supporter of ASAP, along with several other library organizations, publishers, and research organizations.

For more information, including the full details of the ASAP program, nomination process, and the award specifics, go to http://asap.plos.org/. For program rules visit http://asap.plos.org/nominate/rules/.

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Open Course Library releases 39 more high-enrollment courses

Jane Park, April 30th, 2013

OCLHowto1
OCL How-to Guide / SBCTC / CC BY

A year and a half ago, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) released the first 42 of Washington state’s 81 high-enrollment courses under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY). Now they have released the remaining 39 under the same terms, which means that anyone, anywhere, including the state’s 34 public community and technical colleges and four-year colleges and universities, can use, customize, and distribute the course materials.

The Open Course Library project is funded by the Washington State Legislature and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It adheres to SBCTC’s open policy, which requires that all materials created through system grants be openly licensed for the public to freely use, adapt, and distribute under CC BY.

For further background on the project, read our 2010 feature about the project when it was just beginning. All 81 courses are available at the recently redesigned Open Course Library website where each individual course is marked with the CC BY license to enable discovery through Google and other search services on the web.

Update

The SBCTC held a press call today bringing to light a new Cost Analysis report on savings for students where Open Course Library courses have been used in lieu of traditional course materials. For more info, please see:

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California Pushes for Public Access to Taxpayer Funded Research

Timothy Vollmer, April 25th, 2013

ca oa

As we mentioned last week, California has introduced AB 609, the California Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act. The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Brian Nestande, would require that research articles funded through California tax dollars be made available online for free no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. A letter from the University of California may have prompted the Assembly to modify the text of the draft bill to extend the embargo to 12 months (instead of six), and to include a provision exempting the University of California and California State University from the state agencies that must comply with the legislation, if enacted.

A group of organizations (including Creative Commons) sent a letter to Assembly Member Nestande thanking him for introducing the bill. The letter urged the Assembly to considering strengthening the proposed law by including reuse rights language, such as through the adoption of open licenses:

We encourage you to consider strengthening this legislation by including a provision to ensure that manuscripts reporting on state-funded research be made fully usable by the public. To fully unlock the value of the information contained in these digital articles, they should be made available in formats and under licensing terms that permit users to read, downloaded, search, compute on, data mine or analyze for any lawful purpose.

It also asked for the original 6 month embargo to be reinstated:

Additionally, while we would strongly prefer that these articles be made available to the public immediately upon publication, we would support the inclusion of an embargo period as originally proposed of no longer than six months.

A hearing in the Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review is scheduled for May 1 in Sacramento.

California residents can support the legislation by sending a message to representatives at the Alliance for Taxpayer Access site. More information on the bill is available on the SPARC website.

California icon by Christopher Scott, from the Noun Project, under CC BY.
Unlock icon by J. Ali, from the Noun Project, Public Domain.

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