Commons News

Why Creative Commons uses CC0

Kat Walsh, February 25th, 2015

Creative Commons dedicates the text of our licenses and other legal tools, as well as the text of our Commons deeds, to the public domain using the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. While that doesn’t mean that anything and everything is allowed by those choosing to reuse these materials (as explained below), we believe that copyright isn’t a good fit for every creative work, and we don’t think it is right to leverage it as a stick in these instances.

CC has never asserted copyright in the text of our licenses or other legal tools. We made our policy clearer a few years ago by specifically declaring they are released under CC0. The text of the licenses, public domain tools, and license deeds we publish are all unrestricted by copyright worldwide, and we recently added a sentence to that effect in the notice at the bottom of our licenses and CC0.

No copyright ≠ no rules

Although these materials are public domain as a matter of copyright, the Creative Commons name and logo are our trademarks and can only be used according to our trademark policy.

This can be a difficult concept to communicate: while we want people to freely reuse the texts of our legal tools and deeds, we don’t want to give people the wrong idea about what we enable and what we do not: the difference between copyright and trademark can be complicated.

We’ve had a long-standing policy against use of our trademarks or name in connection with modified versions of our legal tools and other products (like our deeds). We’ve tried to make this policy simple and understandable, and just updated it for added clarity, though substantively nothing has changed from when CC published the first licenses in 2002. In a nutshell, we need to be sure the public is not confused about what comes from and is supported by Creative Commons, and what isn’t. We need to be sure the public doesn’t associate CC with other content and materials. While we hope this is simple enough to need no further explanation, if you want to reuse CC materials in a way that uses or associates our name or logos, please see our trademark policy to be sure you’re in the clear or contact CC.

Credit where credit is due

We appreciate and want credit for our work! We just don’t require it as a condition of exercising rights that we control under copyright.

Even though CC0 imposes no legal obligation to provide attribution, courtesy, good practice, norms, and community expectations often mean that you should give credit anyway. (For example, we recommend CC0 for scientific data, but many reusers include source information, both to acknowledge others’ work and to establish the data’s provenance.) Giving proper credit helps others understand the origin of the text so they can learn more and identify any changes that have been made. That may not always be reasonable or possible, but in any case we won’t be using copyright as a means to enforce our request for credit.

For more information, you might find our guidelines for using public domain material instructive.

(Trade)mark our words…

We strongly recommend against any modifications of our licenses and other legal tools. However, if you choose to change the text of our legal tools either directly through edits or indirectly through additional terms, such as terms of use on your website, you may not claim that your offering(s) are under Creative Commons, and you may not call the modified result a CC legal tool. You are free to link to us, talk about us, cite us, and yes, criticize us by name without infringing our copyright or trademark rights. However, you may not use or associate our name or brand with a license or any other legal tool of your own.

What about license proliferation?

Creative Commons provides a standard set of licenses suitable for a wide variety of uses and situations. Our licenses reduce the need for custom licenses that create separate pools of material under incompatible terms (i.e. “license proliferation”). By choosing not to use copyright to restrict modifications of CC license text, we recognize we may be encouraging license proliferation, because people will feel free to remix the content and publish their own, new custom license.

This is a fair criticism, but it fails to account for the reality that those wanting different terms will make that happen with or without repurposing our text. We believe our efforts are better focused on explaining the rationale for standard licensing, and helping creators understand that as much as they may think they need specialized terms, that those sometimes (if not often) work against their sharing goals and inflict more harm than provide benefit. This includes additional transaction costs for them and their reusers, who are forced to understand specialized terms unique to the custom license.

Withholding permissions and exercising copyright in legal tools are hardly effective tools in this campaign against license proliferation—those who want their own licenses will make that happen whether or not we impose some rights reserved (or even all rights reserved) on the text of our legal code. We will, however, continue to strongly encourage would-be custom license creators to use our standard licenses, which have a long history and a thriving user base as well as robustness internationally, rather than creating new custom and incompatible licenses and legal tools.

Let’s share!

We believe in creating a vibrant commons, that maximizes the ability of others to build upon our works with the least restrictions possible. We hope you will consider joining us by using CC0 for your own materials!

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Dutch translation of 4.0 published

Kat Walsh, February 25th, 2015

With the Dutch translation of the 4.0 licenses published today, we now have a second translation of the complete set of current CC legal tools, and the first one by a cross-jurisdiction team! CC Netherlands and CC Belgium worked together on this translation, as well as Kennisland and the Institute for Information Law (part of the University of Amsterdam).

Screen shot 2015-02-25 at 11.23.02 AM

Our thanks and congratulations to the translation team of Maarten Zeinstra (CC-NL, translation coordinator), Lucie Guibault (CC-NL, legal lead), Yannick H’Madoun (CC-BE), Lisette Kalshoven (CC-NL), Tamara Mangelaars (Kennisland, editor), Tiara Roquas (CC-NL intern), and Tessa Askamp (CC-NL, technical interpreter). Additional help was provided by law students from the Institute of Information Law (Rutger de Beer, Sarah Johanna Eskens, Sam van Velze, Marco Caspers, and Alexander de Leeuw), and CC’s own regional coordinator (and native Dutch speaker) Gwen Franck.

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Report back: Institute for Open Leadership meeting

Timothy Vollmer, February 10th, 2015

Creative Commons and the Open Policy Network hosted the first Institute for Open Leadership meeting in San Francisco 12-16 January 2015. The Institute for Open Leadership (IOL for short) is a training program to identify and cultivate new leaders in open education, science, public policy, research, data and other fields on the values and implementation of openness in licensing, policies and practices. The rationale for the IOL is to educate and empower potential open advocates within existing institutional structures in order to expand and promote the values and practices of the idea that publicly funded resources should be openly licensed.

iol group small
IOL group shot by Cable Green under CC BY

There was significant interest in the first iteration of the IOL program: we received over 95 applications and selected 14 fellows for the first Institute. The fellows came from around the world (Bangladesh, Barbados, Chile, Colombia, Greece, Nepal, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Somalia, United States ), and reflect a wide range of institutions–from community colleges to government sector to public radio.

The central component of the IOL program requires fellows to develop, refine, and implement a capstone open policy project within their home institution. Creative Commons staff and other selected mentors provided guidance throughout this process.

Week’s activities
The week was deliberately structured with the fellows at the center of the conversation, with a specific focus on providing them with the information and tools to develop and successfully implement their open policy project in their institution. We constructed the week’s activities to cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Overview of Creative Commons and open licensing, as this is a key aspect to all open policies.
  • Deep dive into open policy, including identifying existing real world examples, sharing lessons learned, discussing the value proposition, sharing typical opposition arguments.
  • Discussion of practical development of policy roadmaps and roll-out strategies across different sectors/institutions.
  • Campaign planning and advice/best practices about how to communicate with decision makers about open policy.
  • Identification of resources in support of open policy development and implementation, including presentations, reports, videos, informational and promotional materials.
  • Sharing of best methods for educating and informing decision makers about open policy, including workshops, courses, hackathons.
  • Testing fellow’s open policy knowledge and expected challenges through an open policy “shark tank.”
  • Hewlett Foundation communication team interviewed multiple IOL fellows for a Hewlett story on the power of CC licensing.

Mentors included Cable Green, Paul Stacey, Timothy Vollmer and Puneet Kishor from Creative Commons and Nicole Allen and Nick Shockey from SPARC. Each of these persons had specific subject-area expertise and acted as a “mentor” for two or more of the fellows. We grouped the fellows based on their project ideas with a mentor in the following categories: Open Educational Resources, Open Access, Open Data, Open GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, museums), and Open Business Models. During the week, we provided time for fellows to work individually, with other fellows, and with their mentors.

iol conference small
IOL session by txtbks under CC BY

On the final day of the in-person Institute we asked each fellow to report back on their progress from during the week, and asked each to answer common questions, such as talking about their open policy project objectives, planned activities to meet those objectives, identification of challenges they expect to face, partners they plan on working with, and metrics for success.

In addition to the whole group discussions, mentor breakouts, and individual work, we included informational and motivational speakers to talk with the fellows over our lunch breaks. These talks were given by individuals with experience working in open policy across a variety of sectors, including Hal Plotkin (former Senior Policy Advisor within the U.S. Department of Education), Abel Caine (OER Program Specialist at UNESCO), Heather Joseph (Executive Director at SPARC), Laura Manley (Project Manager at Open Data 500) and Romain Lacombe (Plume).

Next steps
With the successful completion of the in-person portion of the IOL, the fellows have now returned to their home countries and will begin the process of implementing their open policies. The mentors are committed to continue working with their respective fellows, including providing advice and assistance. Fellows and mentors will meet to discuss progress over webinars planned for the following months. The goal is for the fellows to have implemented their open policy at the institution within a year. The fellows will be able to share more information about the implementation of their capstone policy projects in the coming months.

We’ve already solicited feedback from fellows and are currently evaluating the activities and structure of the just-completed IOL. There are already several improvements we’d like to see as we begin to develop the second round of the IOL, to be held outside of North America in January 2016. We plan to open the application process for round two in mid-2015. The demand for IOL is large and additional funding is being sought to support additional ones beyond the first two.

yodasmall
Yoda Fountain by Nasir Khan under CC BY-SA
Note: Lucasfilm has offices inside The Presidio, where the IOL took place. Thus, Yoda.

One of the aims of the Institute For Open Leadership is to link participants together into a global network. Participants from this inaugural Institute for Open Leadership, and all future ones, become part of a peer-to-peer network providing support for each other, asking and answering questions, and getting ongoing help with open policy development and implementation. This network helps participants overcome barriers and ensure open policy opportunities come to fruition.

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Ford Foundation to require CC BY for all grant-funded projects

Timothy Vollmer, February 3rd, 2015

FordFoundationLogo

Today the Ford Foundation announced an open licensing policy for all of their grant-funded projects and research. The new arrangement came into effect February 1, 2015 and covers most grant-funded work, as well as the outputs of consultants. The Ford Foundation has chosen to adopt the CC BY 4.0 license as the default for these materials. Grant agreements will now include a paragraph requiring the grant recipient to broadly share all copyrightable products (such as research reports, photographs, videos, etc.) funded by the grant under CC BY. And the Ford Foundation is leading by example by adopting CC BY for all materials not subject to third-party ownership on their own website.

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, said, “This policy change will help grantees and the public more easily connect with us and build upon our work, ensure our grant dollars go further and are more impactful, and – most importantly – increase our ability to advance social justice worldwide.”

“We’re incredibly pleased to see the Ford Foundation adopting a Creative Commons licensing policy for a wide range of grant-funded works, promoting openness and re-use of content produced through its philanthropic grantmaking,” said Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons. “The Ford Foundation joins a growing movement of foundations and governments adopting policies that increase access to and re-use of digital education materials, research articles, and data using Creative Commons.”

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization created in 1936. Its mission is “to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement.” In 2013 the Ford Foundation granted almost $570,000,000 to projects and organizations around the world.

The Ford Foundation joins several other philanthropic grantmaking organizations who have adopted Creative Commons licensing policies for the outputs of their charitable giving. We’ve highlighted several over the last few months, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (who also now require CC BY for all their project-based grantmaking) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (who adopted a CC BY open access policy for published grant-funded research and data). Releasing grant-funded content under permissive open licenses like CC BY means that these materials can be more easily shared and re-used by the public. And they can be combined with other resources that are also published under an open license.

Congratulations to the Ford Foundation on adopting an open licensing policy that will encourage the sharing of rich content and data in the digital global commons. Creative Commons continues to urge other foundations and funding bodies to emulate the ongoing leadership of the Ford Foundation by making open licensing an essential component of their grantmaking strategy.

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A step toward compatibility with GPLv3

Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, February 2nd, 2015

Free Software Foundation Bulletin by Osama Khalid under BY-SA 2.0.

Free Software Foundation Bulletin by Osama Khalid under BY-SA 2.0.

Together with the Free Software Foundation, Creative Commons has officially proposed the GNU General Public License version 3 as a candidate for compatibility with CC BY-SA version 4.0. The announcement was made on the CC license development mailing list on January 29th, kicking off what will be at least a month-long discussion period before a final compatibility determination is made.

This proposal is significant because it would bridge a gap between two of the most widely-used copyleft licenses for code and content. Currently, developers are sometimes reluctant to integrate BY-SA content into GPL projects because of uncertainty about how the two licenses work together. Eliminating obstacles to remix between licenses so similar in aim and spirit is precisely what the compatibility mechanism in BY-SA was designed to do.

However, there are differences between the two licenses that pose issues for the CC and FSF communities to consider before declaring compatibility. Over the next several weeks, we will be leading a public discussion about those topics, ensuring the final decision will be informed by community input. We encourage anyone interested to join the discussion by signing up here.

GPLv3 is the second candidate for ShareAlike compatibility considered by Creative Commons. The Free Art License version 1.3 was considered under CC’s established compatibility process and criteria and was declared compatible in October 2014.

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Creative Commons DIY Salon: February 13th in San Francisco

Matt Lee, January 30th, 2015

DIY Salon_with CC

Join us in San Francisco at Park Life Gallery on 13 February 2015 for a Creative Commons DIY Salon. This salon features local artists who celebrate inexperience, sharing culture, and self-taught expertise in projects ranging from publishing and printmaking, to web-based collaborative music communities, to building open source libraries and visualizations.

This event also celebrates the San Francisco launch of I Can Do Anything Badly 2: Learning By Doing is a Shared Responsibility, a Creative Commons licensed artist’s book by Hoël Duret & The Big Conversation Space, designed by Frédéric Teschner, which features conversational interviews in English and French about DIY culture – from computer programming and independent publishing, to Wikipedia and furniture design.

Talks will be interspersed with ambient music performances from musicians from the Disquiet Junto.

Event Details:

Friday February 13th
5:00 – 8:00 PM
Park Life Gallery
3049 22nd Street
San Francisco, CA

Facebook event page.

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Fifteen Seconds of Fame: Free Music Archive Launches microSong Challenge

Matt Lee, January 30th, 2015

On January 26th, 2015, the Free Music Archive put out a call for entries for their ‘microSong Challenge.’ The first of three consecutive contests the Free Music Archive will run through spring of 2015, the microSong Challenge requires participants to pack a whole song into 15 seconds or less – the maximum length for most video-sharing app platforms (some are even shorter).

The Free Music Archive is a repository for curated tracks (currently almost 80,000) that are licensed under Creative Commons, Public Domain and FMA-only licenses that allow for the tracks to be streamed, downloaded and shared for free. Some content may be used in videos or remixes, depending on how it’s licensed.

From January 26th until February 20th, 2015, any registered FMA user can submit their miniscule composition(s) to the Free Music Archive. It’s free to sign up for an FMA account, and anyone 13 or older can enter the running. There will be a link to the contest on the homepage.

After the last day of the contest, a panel of judges will determine the top three! Our judges include composer Chris Zabriskie, Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley, and WFMU DJ Jim Price. They will judge entries based on originality, creativity, artistic merit, adherence to the time limit, and general musical appeal. The first prize winner
will receive a 3-D printer and runners-up will get prizes from Creative Commons and the Free Music Archive’s BFF radio station, WFMU.

Each microSong must be submitted in MP3 format. Every microSong will be licensed under a Creative Commons Zero license so that it can be freely used by anyone in a video, remix, extraordinarily brief performance art piece, miniature karaoke competition, or anything else they can come up with.

For more information about the microSong Challenge, email contact@freemusicarchive.org or visit www.freemusicarchive.org

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Finnish translation of CC0 published

Kat Walsh, January 29th, 2015

Congratulations to the CC Finland team for the Finnish translation of CC0!

If it seems like you just saw them featured here, you’re not mistaken; they published the first official translation of the 4.0 suite just a few months ago, and now they are the first to have the complete set of CC legal tools available in their language.

CC0 Finnish header screenshot

Our thanks and congratulations again to the team of Maria Rehbinder of Aalto University, legal counsel and license translation coordinator of CC Finland; Martin von Willebrand, Attorney-at-Law and Partner, HH Partners, Attorneys-at-law Ltd: for translation supervision; Tarmo Toikkanen, Aalto University, general coordinator of CC Finland; Henri Tanskanen, Associate, HH Partners, Attorneys-at-law Ltd: main translator, and Liisa Laakso-Tammisto, translator, with thanks to Aalto University, HH Partners, and the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture for their support.

Update: CC Finland’s announcement (in Finnish).

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New job at CC: Software developer

Matt Lee, January 28th, 2015

Today, we’re opening up a new job posting, for a developer. This person will work with our education team and existing technical lead to develop tools that facilitate the discovery, curation, use and re-use of freely available online content.

The job will involve leading an overhaul of CC’s Open Education Resources (OER) Policy Registry and combine it with other catalogs to create a one-stop, global Open Policy Registry hosted under the umbrella of the Open Policy Network.

From the job description:

Creative Commons is a global nonprofit organization focused on enabling the open commons of knowledge to grow and flourish. Our work crosses multiple sectors of creativity and knowledge — from photography, to music, to open educational resources, copyright reform, and open data. Today the commons includes over 880 million CC-licensed works, and we expect to pass 1 billion works in 2015.

Are you excited about powering the technical infrastructure of Creative Commons? Learn more and apply.

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For Faithful Digital Reproductions of Public Domain Works Use CC0

Jane Park, January 23rd, 2015

We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

Today’s topic is the “Public Domain.” The public domain is our cultural commons and a public trust. Copyright policy should seek to promote, and not diminish, this crucial resource.


Creative Commons has long upheld that faithful digital reproductions of works in the public domain are also in the public domain, adhering to the U.S. District Court ruling of Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. that “exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be protected by copyright in the United States because the copies lack originality” 1. Though this ruling is not a binding precedent, it remains highly influential as a legal ruling in the U.S. and elsewhere. Its real world applicability is less well-known. This is why, where possible, we recommend that institutions, especially those curating and providing access to public domain works of cultural heritage, use the CC0 public domain dedication for their digital reproductions where there might be any element of originality that might give rise to doubt.

Creative Commons currently offers two public domain tools, CC0 and the Public Domain Mark, which can be confused with each other but are very different tools. CC0, like the CC licenses, is a legally operable tool backed by a legal document that we like to call the legal code layer of our tools. Because it is legally operable, copyright owners may use it to relinquish their copyright and related rights in a work, effectively placing that work into the public domain. Where it is not legally possible to relinquish copyright, the tool defaults to CC BY without attribution or any other conditions (CC BY is the most liberal license on the spectrum of CC licenses). The Public Domain Mark, on the other hand, is not a legally operable tool, but merely a standard label that one may place on a work to indicate that its copyright has expired or is otherwise in the public domain worldwide. You can read more about both of these tools here.

We recommend using CC0 for digital reproductions of public domain works where there is reason for users to be concerned that the reproduction itself is subject to copyright. If nothing else, it clearly signals to users that the institution is proactively relinquishing any copyrights they may have in a digital reproduction, furthering its mission to provide greater public access to works of cultural heritage. From the institution’s standpoint, they are not making any guarantees about the public domain work itself, but removing any doubt for the user around any element of originality they may have in the digital reproduction.

Here are a few great cases of institutions committed to strengthening and growing our public domain.

Rijksmuseum

The Rijskmuseum is the Dutch National Museum in the The Netherlands, founded in 1800, that contains many of the original artworks of European masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer, in addition to high resolution images of these original artworks. For 10 years, from 2003-2013, much of the physical museum — including 1 million physical items — was closed for renovations. During this period, the museum’s marketing department pushed for the release of its high resolution images of public domain works in order to keep the public engaged throughout the renovation period and as a way to extend the reach of the museum beyond its limited physical showcase. They released 150,000 high resolution images (each as large as 200 MB) into the public domain using CC0. They abided by the principle of unrestricted access to the digital public domain; as in the U.S., faithful digital reproductions of public domain works are considered public domain in Europe. After the release, the museum saw many benefits, including international exposure for the museum, especially during a time when much of the physical museum was closed; new audiences with developers, designers, and related creative industries; and an increase in revenue made from public domain image sales. For more details, see Tim’s post which links to the in-depth case study.

Statens Museum for Kunst

The Statens Museum for Kunst, aka the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen, joined the Google Art Project in 2011. At this point, they realized they were giving use rights of images to a private company and could no longer justify charging the public for the same rights. As part of a pilot project, they initially released 100 educational videos and 160 high resolution image files (each as large as 440 MB) of Danish, Nordic and European public domain art under CC BY. Afterwards, they moved to CC0 for their images. Since their release, SMK’s images and videos have been featured on Wikipedia. SMK staff found that their understanding of quality and control changed significantly after releasing the images: “[Our public domain collections] don’t belong to us; they belong to the public. Free access ensures that our collections continue to be relevant to users now and in the future. We’re here to look after them and make them available and useful to the public. Use = value.” Read the case study contributed directly by museum staff.

New York Public Library

The New York Public Library has long been the haven of researchers and bibliophiles alike. Map lovers can join the group with NYPL’s open access maps initiative which has digitized and released more than 20,000 digital reproductions of cartographic works in the public domain. In the Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division’s own words, “To the extent that some jurisdictions grant NYPL an additional copyright in the digital reproductions of these maps, NYPL is distributing these images under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.” In addition to public domain maps, NYPL has also used CC0 to dedicate 1 million of its bibliographic metadata records into the public domain.

Europeana

We want to end the post on Europeana, the digital library for all of Europe and a model for libraries in rights information mark-up. Europeana has identified more than 16.5 million digital objects as being in the public domain (via CC0 or the Public Domain Mark) or under one of the CC licenses, in addition to dedicating 30 million metadata records to the public domain using CC0. Users can browse and search by re-use rights — including all six CC licenses and both public domain tools.

These four cases exemplify only a few institutions that are working to preserve our public domain. For uses of CC0 specific to data, see and add to our wiki page. For more great uses of CC tools and licenses by cultural heritage institutions, check out these slides and add to our wiki page tracking uses by GLAM institutions (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums).

Have a great use case to share about the public domain? Leave us a note in the comments.

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