Commons News

The beginning of the Authors Alliance

Timothy Vollmer, May 22nd, 2014

authorsalliancesmall

Yesterday marked the launch of the Authors Alliance, a nonprofit organization that supports authors who want “to harness the potential of digital networks to share their creations more broadly in order to serve the public good.”

In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, Authors Alliance founder Pamela Samuelson explained that the Authors Alliance will have a few different roles. Inwardly, the group will “provide authors with information about copyrights, licensing agreements, alternative contract terms,” and other practical legal information so that they can make their works widely and openly available. And externally, the Alliance will “represent the interests of authors who want to make their works more widely available in public policy debates,” and advocate for these reforms alongside like-minded public interest organizations.

The Authors Alliance was developed by Samuelson and several of her colleagues at the University of California Berkeley including Molly Van Houweling, Carla Hesse, and Thomas Leonard. The Alliance also has an advisory board made up of pre-eminent scholars, writers, and public interest advocates, including several members of the Creative Commons board of directors. The Authors Alliance is now accepting new members.

The Alliance has already developed a set of copyright reform principles, outlining its vision for changes to copyright law to support authors who write to be read.

We have formed an Authors Alliance to represent authors who create to be read, to be seen, and to be heard. We believe that these authors have not been well served by misguided efforts to strengthen copyright. These efforts have failed to provide meaningful financial returns to most authors, while instead unacceptably compromising the preservation of our own intellectual legacies and our ability to tap our collective cultural heritage. We want to harness the potential of global digital networks to share knowledge and products of the imagination as broadly as possible. We aim to amplify the voices of authors and creators in all media who write and create not only for pay, but above all to make their discoveries, ideas, and creations accessible to the broadest possible audience.

The principles include:

  1. Further empower authors to disseminate their works.
  2. Improve information flows about copyright ownership.
  3. Affirm the vitality of limits on copyright that enable us to do our work and reach our audiences.
  4. Ensure that copyright’s remedies and enforcement mechanisms protect our interests.

At the core, the Authors Alliance and Creative Commons share a similar goal: to provide useful resources and tools for creators who aren’t being served well by the existing copyright system. We’re excited to work with the Alliance on issues that support authors who write to be read–and the public interest for whom these authors create.

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Show your support for imprisoned CC community leader Bassel Khartabil

Elliot Harmon, May 21st, 2014

Bassel
Kalie Taylor / CC0 / Download all posters

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you’re likely already familiar with Bassel Khartabil, the Syrian CC community leader who has been in imprisoned since March 2012 without having had any charges brought against him. Thursday, May 22, is Bassel’s birthday, and the third birthday he’ll be spending in prison. This Saturday, he will have been in prison for 800 days.

Today, join CC and the open community in honoring our friend Bassel:

Read more

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French Ministry of Culture and Communication embraces CC licenses (and makes a cool video)

Elliot Harmon, May 21st, 2014

Aurélie Filippetti - Salon du Livre 2014
Aurélie Filippetti – Salon du Livre 2014 / ActuaLitté / CC BY-SA

In late 2013, we blogged about a set of initiatives that French minister of culture and communications Aurélie Filippetti had unveiled. Together, the initiatives represented a commitment to a more creative, more open France. And they also represented a strong commitment to helping students, cultural creators, and society as a whole understand and use Creative Commons licenses, in partnership with CC France.

Last week, the ministry announced that it was sharing its two flagships websites under CC BY-SA, culturecommunication.gouv.fr and culture.fr.

To help educate French-speaking populations on how to use CC licenses and find CC-licensed works, the Ministry and CC France produced this video. Watch it even if you don’t speak French: the excellent design and flow really speak for themselves.


Les licences Creative Commons by culture-gouv

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FIRST Act moving ahead in US Congress

Timothy Vollmer, May 21st, 2014

Update: The amendment to Section 303 was adopted.

Can it be salvaged to promote public access to federally funded research?

In March we wrote about the introduction of the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act of 2014 (FIRST Act). The aim of the FIRST Act is to promote the dissemination of publicly funded scientific research. But the contentious Section 303 of the bill rolls back some of the most common policies governing existing research investments.

If passed in its current state, the FIRST Act would extend embargoes to federally funded research articles to up to three years after initial publication. This means that commercial publishers would be able to control access to publicly funded research during this time, and the public would not have free public access to this research. Even the longstanding NIH Public Access Policy tolerates embargoes no longer than 12 months. We’ve said before that the public should be granted immediate access to the content of peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research. Immediate access is the ideal method to optimize the scientific and commercial utility of the information contained in the articles.

The FIRST Act would allow grantees to fulfill access requirements by providing a link to a publisher’s site instead of requiring deposit in a federally-approved repository. Currently NIH research grantees must deposit in the PubMed Central repository. The reliance on publishers to make (and keep) the research available jeopardizes the long-term access and preservation of publicly-funded research in the absence of a requirement that those links be permanently preserved.

The FIRST Act would permit affected agencies to spend up to 18 additional months to develop plans to comply with the conditions of the law, thus further delaying the plans that are already being organized by federal agencies under the White House Public Access Directive and Omnibus Appropriations Act.

The bill was previously was discussed in the subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The passage of the FIRST Act with the Section 303 language as-is would harm existing as well as proposed public access policies in the United States. Today during the full committee markup of the bill Representatives James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) will introduce an amendment that would improve Section 303.

The Sensenbrenner/Lofgren amendment would change the embargo to 12 months, with the possibility that under certain circumstances the embargo could be extended for an additional 6 months. The amendment still does not require that federally-funded research articles be deposited in an approved repository. But it would shorten the length of time agencies get to develop and implement their public access plans. Affected agencies would need to develop a public access plan and report to Congress within 90 days. And the plans would need to be implemented within a year. One interesting piece of the amended Section 303 is that after an initial three-month planning period, the agencies would be required to submit an analysis on whether covered works should be made available under an open license.

Such report shall include an examination of whether covered works should include a royalty-free copyright license that is available to the public and that permits the reuse of those research papers, on the condition that attribution is given to the author or authors of the research and any others designated by the copyright owner.

There’s still time for you to call members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and tell them to support the Sensenbrenner/Lofgren Section 303 amendment. The amendment is a step in the right direction to truly supporting public access to publicly funded research in the United States.

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Seeds of Change

Puneet Kishor, May 21st, 2014

packet of seeds

I received a fat packet in mail, full of seeds with unusual names—Magma Mustard; Flashy Lightning Lettuce; Lemon Pastel Calendula; Cherry Vanilla Quinoa—and an even more unusual but evocative note stuck on the packets.

fancy seeds

This Open Source Seed pledge is intended to ensure your freedom to use the seed contained herein in any way you choose, and to make sure those freedoms are enjoyed by all subsequent users. By opening this packet, you pledge that you will not restrict others’ use of these seeds and their derivatives by patents, licenses, or any other means. You pledge that if you transfer these seeds or their derivatives they will also be accompanied by this pledge.

pledge

Welcome to the Open Source Seed Initiative, a group that includes scientists, citizens, plant breeders, farmers, seed companies, and gardeners, and has its origins in both the open source software movement and in the realization among plant breeders and social scientists that continued restrictions on seed may hinder our ability to improve our crops and provide access to genetic resources.

Jack Kloppenburg, Professor, Department of Community and Environmental Sociology, and one of the founders of OSSI, contacted me a couple of years ago, just around the time I joined CC full-time. He was hoping for a CC-type license for the seeds. CC’s focus, however, is restricted to copyright. And, at least for now, copyright is an area that keeps our hands full. However, OSSI’s goals are very much in line with CC’s mission, to free information, to make it flow from those who create it to those who want to use it, with least impedance. And, what better example of information than a seed in which the very blueprint of life is embedded.

note from Jack

Jack’s email signature reads, “Well,” she said, “you have a high tolerance for lunatics, don’t you?” Knowing Jack, that sounds about right. You’ve got to be crazy to be able to change the world.

Yes Jack, let’s talk, heck, let’s not just talk, but let’s actually collaborate and spread the seeds of change.

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Launch of the Open Policy Network

Timothy Vollmer, May 19th, 2014

Open Policy Network-600

Today we’re excited to announce the launch of the Open Policy Network. The Open Policy Network, or OPN for short, is a coalition of organizations and individuals working to support the creation, adoption, and implementation of policies that require that publicly funded resources are openly licensed resources. The website of the Open Policy Network is http://openpolicynetwork.org.

Increasingly, governments around the world are sharing huge amounts of publicly funded research, data, and educational materials. The key question is, do the policies governing the procurement and distribution of publicly funded materials ensure the maximum benefits to the citizens those policies are meant to serve? When open licenses are required for publicly funded resources, there is the potential to massively increase access to and reuse of a wide range of materials, from educational content like digital textbooks, to the results of scholarly research, to troves of valuable public sector data. The $2 billion U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT grant program is an example of a policy whereby publicly funded education and training materials are being made available broadly under an open intellectual property license.

There is a pressing need for education, advocacy, and action to see a positive shift in supporting open licensing for publicly funded materials. The Open Policy Network will share information amongst its members, recruit new advocates, and engage with policymakers worldwide. The OPN members are diverse in content area expertise and geographic location. Creative Commons is a part of the Open Policy Network because we believe that the public deserves free access and legal reuse to the the resources it funds. With simple policy changes — such as requiring publicly-funded works be openly licensed and properly marked with easy-to-understand licensing information — the public will be better able to take advantage of their rights to access and reuse the digital materials developed with taxpayer funds.

With today’s launch of the Open Policy Network, we’re announcing our first project, the Institute for Open Leadership. Through a weeklong summit with experts, accepted fellows will get hands-on guidance to develop a capstone project for implementation in their organization or institution. The Institute for Open Leadership will help train new leaders in education, science, and public policy fields on the values and implementation of openness in licensing, policies, and practices.

The Open Policy Network is free to join and anyone is welcome! More information on the Open Policy Network is available at the website, Google Group, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Attention game designers: Public Domain Jam!

Elliot Harmon, May 16th, 2014

If you’re a videogame designer and you have nothing to do over the next week (or if making cool games is more fun than your day job), why not spend the week developing a public domain game?

The idea of The Public Domain Jam is to encourage developers to create games based on public domain assets and stories, and optionally give the games themselves back to the public domain via the CC0 waiver. The game trailer encourages designers to think about the amazing wealth of public domain source material: maybe in the next week, Ovid’s Metamorphoses will dethrone zombies as the most important source of game design inspiration in the public domain.

The contest is being organized by game developer Gritfish, and fellow game developer Nick Liow is sponsoring a $1000 prize for the best CC0 game.

If you recognize Nick’s name, it might be because I interviewed him last year about his Open Game Art Bundle. Since then, he’s released his own crowdfunded CC0 game, Nothing to Hide.

Hurry! The Public Domain Jam ends May 24.

Update (June 9): The judges have selected the best CC0 game, Paper Jekyll. It’s a really interesting take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Check it out! Congratulations to everyone who built a game.

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Why I joined Creative Commons

Ryan Merkley, May 14th, 2014

Ryan Merkley

Ryan Merkley / Rannie Turingan / CC0

I’m honored to be chosen as CEO of Creative Commons. CC is a giant of the open web, and it’s an organization that I have always believed in and truly admire. I appreciate the confidence shown by the board, and support I have already received from staff and community members has been fantastic.

My path to CC has been unorthodox, but feels logical in retrospect. My commitment to public service and the public good; my deep belief in the power of technology; and my work to support the open Web as a place for everyone to create, share, and connect. Those are common threads that run through my work at the City of Toronto, at Mozilla, and now with Creative Commons.

Why am I joining CC? Because its success is so vital, and I want to ensure we succeed. Creativity, knowledge, and innovation need a public commons — a collection of works that are free to use, re-use, and build upon — the shared resources of our society. The restrictions we place on copyright, like fair use and the public domain, are an acknowledgement that all creativity and knowledge owe something to what came before.

Without a robust and constantly growing collection of works available for use and reuse, we lose the kind of innovation and creative inspiration that gave us Disney classics, hip-hop, and the interoperable Web. The consequences of failing to grow and protect the public commons present themselves as lost opportunities: discoveries not made, innovations left undeveloped, and creativity unrealized. It’s complex and hard to quantify, but also dangerous to ignore.

A public commons is a driving force to advance human knowledge, and is essential infrastructure for the global economy.

In today’s legal environment, the commons is increasingly under threat. New works are restricted by copyright from the moment they are created until long after their creators are dead, and stricter copyright rules are almost always demanded by large rights-holders who benefited from the commons in the first place. It’s like running across a rope bridge only to cut it loose once you get to the other side. And today’s battles over copyright often ignore the fact that the Web has dramatically shifted the motivations for creators: it’s no longer only about money. Many do it just for the love of their craft, or just to be seen in the world, and still more are finding ways to share their work and get paid at the same time.

There needs to be a balance that allows business models to thrive, and allows shared work to proliferate.

In the modern copyright environment, each one of us has to make a conscious decision to share our work. It can be complicated, confusing, and expensive. But we need creators to be inspired to do it anyway. We need governments, nonprofits, and institutions to give the public permission to use their works. We need an organization that makes the case, creates solutions so that sharing is easy even when the legal frameworks make it difficult, and that champions the benefits — both to individual creators, and to society.

That’s where Creative Commons has to lead.

A lot has changed since the first Creative Commons licenses were released in 2002. While the organization has been by many measures incredibly successful — enabling hundreds of millions of works to become part of a public commons — it has also struggled to adapt to new technology and the massive expansion of content created online.

Half a billion licensed works is an impressive achievement, but today’s Facebook users upload 350 million photos a day, and YouTube users upload over 100 hours of video a minute (yes, some of it CC-licensed). I want to drive more licensed works into the commons by breaking down the barriers — legal and technical — for individual creators. And we need tools to help those who would reuse their work to find it quickly and easily.

In his 2008 book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind, James Boyle (also a former CC board member) makes an impassioned plea to build a global movement that will fight for the public commons — one modeled after the environment movement, which took something complex and hard to quantify and drew people to its cause. I believe Creative Commons must lead this movement.

We need to rally people to our cause, and ask for their creativity, their time, and their financial support.

We begin with a global network of 70 affiliates around the world who already form a vibrant, opinionated, and brilliant community of legal experts and advocates. The seeds of our movement already have roots.

We have a strong suite of free licenses that enable sharing in an increasingly restrictive legal framework.

And we have a powerful, recognizable brand that is respected the world over.

Not a bad place to start. I’m excited to step into this role, to defend and champion the public commons, and to join this global community and movement.

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A message from Larry: A new CEO and a challenge to the CC community

Lawrence Lessig, May 14th, 2014

I am thrilled to welcome Ryan Merkley as the incoming CEO of Creative Commons.

This is an important moment in the history of the organization. After eleven years, CC licenses are globally recognized as the definitive tool for sharing creative works. Millions across the world use CC as a force for good in their communities. We are building universal access to knowledge and culture as we had hoped — within the freedoms we craft inside copyright.

But the web has changed, and its users with it. And CC must too. I am excited and incredibly pleased that Ryan has agreed to join CC as the leader to take CC into its next era.

Ryan is an outstanding and recognized voice among Mozilla’s global community. From his time there he has proven that he is a strong believer in the open web, open data, and open content, and he knows how to activate and motivate community members for change. He is a leader with a great technical vision informed by the right values. He has inspired all of us, and I am confident he will be the leader CC needs.

At the last Creative Commons Global Summit in Buenos Aires, someone asked me how I’d like to see the organization change.

My answer was simple: We celebrate the tremendous achievement of Version 4.0 of our Creative Commons licenses. But we are still at Version 2.0 of the technology that we use to deliver those licenses.

Ryan will fix that, and give CC another decade of incredible growth and remarkable success. We are grateful he has agreed to share his enormous talents with us.

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Welcoming Creative Commons’ new CEO, Ryan Merkley

Paul Brest, May 14th, 2014

Ryan Merkley

Ryan Merkley / Rannie Turingan / CC0

After an extensive search, the Creative Commons board of directors is pleased to announce that Ryan Merkley will be our new CEO. He’ll start work on June 1, and we’re all looking forward to working with him.

Ryan joins us after a career working to advance social causes and public policy in nonprofits, technology, and government. As chief operating officer at the Mozilla Foundation, Ryan contributed to the development of Mozilla products and programs supporting the open web, including Lightbeam, Webmaker, and Popcorn, and also established Mozilla’s successful individual fundraising program. Ryan was most recently managing director and senior vice president of public affairs at Vision Critical, a Vancouver-based SaaS and market research firm. Before that he held leadership roles at Toronto’s City Hall, including senior advisor to Mayor David Miller, where he initiated Toronto’s open data project. Ryan also served as director of corporate communications for the City of Vancouver and the 2010 Winter Olympics. He has an impressive track record of leadership in civic-minded and technology-centered organizations — and I think he’ll make a great leader in the Creative Commons movement.

As the board has gotten to know Ryan after the past several weeks, he’s articulated a strong vision to us for the future of the organization. He understands that the internet has changed a lot since we first launched the CC licenses, and that our relevance requires an evolving technology strategy. Ryan speaks enthusiastically and eloquently about the future of Creative Commons. It is clear to me, and I think to anyone he meets, that he has been working in our world as an outspoken supporter of our mission for almost as long as Creative Commons has existed.

He also recognizes that this is a crucial moment for CC and its allies: we must work together to strengthen and protect the open web. As the web has become more stratified in a world of apps, and as new laws and court decisions stand to dramatically extend terms of copyright and make it more difficult for people to build upon the work of others, our role has never been more important.

Once again, the board would like to voice our appreciation for the work of outgoing CEO Cathy Casserly. She substantially advanced CC’s mission over the past three years. Under Cathy’s leadership, Creative Commons helped numerous governments around the world adopt open education policies, and we saw considerable growth and engagement in the CC Affiliate Network.

And finally, our sincere thanks to Lisa Grossman and staff at m/Oppenheim Associates for helping us conduct a swift and successful CEO search.

Please join me now in welcoming Ryan to Creative Commons.

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