Commons News

Doubling down on Markdown for science

Puneet Kishor, June 10th, 2013

email thread with attachments Scientific authoring workflow is a beast. You keep notes on paper (hopefully, a notebook, and not just loose pages), in word-processing documents unhelpfully named “notes” followed by “notes1,” “notes2″ or worse, “notes_old,” “notes_old1.” You manage your bibliography on your desktop or on the web, you have a directory folder full of images, charts, photos and other media, and you collaborate with your co-authors by emailing attachments back and forth.

Sooner or later you start doubting your sanity but you soldier on. Finally you publish your paper, heave a sigh of relief, and move on, thereby ensuring your data can’t be reused and your work can’t be reproduced easily.

Several coders, designers, scientists, and publishers met at PLOS to brainstorm toward a better, more modern way. The Markdown for Science workshop was organized by Martin Fenner and Stian Håklev and supported by a 1K Challenge Grant from FORCE11.

mdsci13 groupideas
Photos by Puneet Kishor, CC0 PD Dedication

While a lot of good ideas were generated, we have a long way to go. Keep an eye on this project, and better yet, pitch in with your ideas and code. Together we can tame this beast.

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CC Board Meeting: New Directions and Opportunities

Paul Brest, June 10th, 2013

On Saturday, April 27, the Creative Commons Board of Directors met at the Safra Center at Harvard. We discussed the accomplishments of the past 12 months, both in the organization and in the broader open movement, and the new opportunities on the horizon, including creating an Advisory Council to complement the Board itself.

The State of CC: 2012-13 in review

CC CEO Cathy Casserly gave an upbeat review of CC’s past 12 months. Some key takeaways:

  • CC’s international network of affiliates and champions continues to grow and strengthen. Affiliates and other volunteers organized over 30 celebrations around the world for Creative Commons’ tenth anniversary as well as events, salons, and conferences year-round. Regional CC networks are becoming more energized, with regional gatherings taking place around the globe.
  • Creative Commons continues to serve as a voice for open. Through new initiatives like the School of Open and the Open Policy Network, CC is helping to teach everyone from world governments to individuals about the value of open licensing.
  • The open education movement is stronger than it’s ever been. In the past year, the governments of British Columbia, South Africa, the United States, and California have made major investments in OER (open educational resources). UNESCO member states unanimously approved a resolution calling for the development of quality OER.

Opportunities and Challenges Ahead: The next 12 months

The discussion then turned to the next 12 months at Creative Commons.

CC’s expanded global team will create new opportunities for collaboration and development in the CC Affiliate Network. Cathy outlined a plan to engage with the CC Affiliate Network in developing instructional resources for license users, and announced a new grant that will provide critical support for affiliate collaborations.

CC General Counsel Diane Peters led a discussion about the forthcoming version 4.0 of the license suite, explaining how the new licenses will address several important issues in interoperability and internationalization.

CC Director of Product Strategy Dan Mills laid out his plan to develop a new set of products that will make it easier for users to mark and attribute CC-licensed content, while letting licensors interact with people who reuse their works. Glenn Brown and Lawrence Lessig agreed to serve as advisors to the project development pipeline.

New Directions for CC’s Board

Finally, we discussed the future of CC’s Board of Directors. As the program areas in which CC works have grown and shifted, the demands on the Board have changed too. We agreed on a plan to establish an Advisory Council that would advise and critique the overall CC strategy, complementing and expanding the Board. We will conduct a search for new Board and Advisory Council nominees with key expertise and skill sets. Part of the search process will include an upcoming open call for nominations for our Board of Directors and for our new-to-be-formed, Advisory Council. We hope you’ll actively put forward candidates.

This was my second in-person Creative Commons Board meeting, and it reaffirmed my pride in being chair for an organization that is shaping the future. I speak for everyone on the Board when I see we’re excited about the changes and challenges to come in the next few years.

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New Regional Coordinators for CC in Europe

Jessica Coates, June 9th, 2013

John Weitzmann
John Weitzmann / DTKindler / CC BY

Gwen Franck
Gwen Franck / Gwen Franck / All Rights Reserved

I am very happy to introduce our two new European Regional Coordinators – John Weitzmann and Gwen Franck.

Creative Commons has volunteer teams in over 70 countries, including 35 in Europe, all of whom work to support and promote the adoption of CC in their local jurisdictions and advise CC’s work globally. The role of the Regional Coordinators is to support and foster these communities in their regions. We’ve had a Regional Coordinator in Europe for a few years, but this will be the first time we have two for the region, significantly increasing their capacity.

John is not new to the CC community, and in fact has been a leader in Europe for many years as the Legal Lead of CC Germany. Based in Berlin, he is also a Partner of iRights.Law, an IP and media law firm, and is a well known writer and speaker on open issues as part of iRights.Lab.

Gwen is newer to Creative Commons, but is still known to our community through her work with the OpenAIRE project, providing access to research across Europe. She has also worked on Open Access Belgium and TEDxGhent. Her background is in community management, international relations and research.

Jonas Oberg
Jonas Oberg / Mathias Klang / CC BY ND

With this announcement, I also bid a sad farewell to Jonas Oberg, who has been our European Regional Coordinator for almost two years now. Jonas has done a great job of supporting our European community, organizing multiple regional meetings, working with individual teams and taking a lead in everything from grant applications to collaborative activities. We are extremely grateful for Jonas’ time with us, and very glad that he will continue to be part of our broader community in his new Shuttleworth Fellowship looking at automated attribution for open objects.

Join me in farewelling Jonas, and welcoming John and Gwen to their new roles.

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New Annual Report and Strategy Document

Elliot Harmon, June 4th, 2013

Creative Commons has grown tremendously since we started. As we approached the milestone of our 10th birthday, and with a new CEO on board, we began an intensive review of our progress and priorities. Sometimes you need to use big milestones to stop and see where you are, and occasionally you find that decisions made to meet immediate demands don’t always hold up against long-term ambitions. The world is changing pretty quickly, and to remain effective, CC needs to do more than just keep up.

During our review, we spent a lot of time asking questions and listening to our Affiliate Network members around the world. We hired some consultants to help run a process and to talk to people outside of the organization about how they viewed the role of Creative Commons. As navel-gazing goes, we gave it a solid effort. We also realized how important it is to declare our mission, vision, and priorities for action. The resulting publication, The Future of Creative Commons (2.7 MB PDF), lays out priorities for each area in which we work. These overall priorities are already guiding staff in how they use their time and set targets for each program area. They also give us a good base to measure how well we are doing.

As a companion piece, we offer this annual report, Dispatches from the Commons. In it, we call out some of the big accomplishments of the past year and highlight organizations and people who are doing powerful and innovative things with our licenses.

The whole process of evaluating our place in the world and projecting our ambitions for the future repeatedly reminded us of how much we rely on supporters, allies, and friends. Creative Commons is a small staff connected to the whole world through our affiliates and a global community of open advocates, volunteers and creators. Only together are we Creative Commons. You are a powerful engine for change that seems to run on an endless supply of renewable energy!

We hope that this strategy document and annual report help you understand where CC is headed and where you can play a role. Thanks for your sharing. Thanks for your support. Thanks for coming along on this amazing ride.

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California public access bill moves to Assembly floor vote

Timothy Vollmer, May 28th, 2013

ab609_468x60~s600x600

After passing through the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week (with bipartisan support), California’s Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act (AB 609) will now reach the Assembly floor for a vote this week. If the proposed bill passes the Assembly, it will move to the California State Senate.

To recap, AB 609 would require that the final peer-reviewed manuscript of research funded through California tax dollars be made publicly available within 12 months of publication. If passed, AB 609 would be the first state-level bill requiring free public access to publicly funded research.

The Association of American Publishes attempted to scuttle the bill by sending a letter filled with inaccurate, misleading information. However, public access advocates made their voices heard to appropriations committee members, again correcting the FUD spread by entrenched publishing interests.

If you’re a California resident, you can contact your Assembly member now to ask that they support AB 609.

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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

Read more

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:

Read more

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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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