It’s time to #MoveFASTR: support public access to publicly-funded research

Timothy Vollmer, July 28th, 2015

Shinkansen Tokyo by Parag.naik, available under the CC BY-SA license.

Tomorrow the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will markup S. 779, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (called FASTR for short). The bill–if enacted–would increase access to federally funded research. It was introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives on March 18, 2015.

FASTR requires federal agencies with annual external research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to the research articles stemming from that funding no later than 6 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. FASTR would extend the current NIH Public Access Policy to several federal agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and others.

We’ve supported policies aligned with the practice of making taxpayer funded research available free online, ideally under an open license that communicates broad downstream use rights, such as CC BY. In addition to making articles free to access and read, FASTR ensures that the research generated from federal tax dollars is made available and useful for new research techniques such as text and data mining. FASTR includes a provision to study the possible impact of requiring open licensing for federally funded research articles. The text calls for agencies to examine:

“whether such research papers 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;”

FASTR would solidify the February 2013 White House directive aimed to increase access to the results of federally funded scientific research. That memorandum is similar in scope to FASTR, but since it is a directive and not a law, a subsequent administration could rescind that order.

It’s time to #MoveFASTR, and you can help! Check out the SPARC action page for ways to support FASTR. For example, you can:

  1. Call your Members of Congress and express your support for FASTR. You can reach them by calling the US Capitol’s switchboard at 202-224-3121 and asking for your Senators.
  2. Engage your Senators on social media by tweeting at your elected officials about FASTR using the hashtag #MoveFASTR, or post about the bill on Facebook. You can find a list of all the twitter accounts for Congress here.
  3. Write a letter of support for this legislation and send it to your Senators. You can find a draft letter of support here. You can find your Senators’ contact information to submit the letter here.
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The case of the witch and her cat: crowdfunding free culture

Ryan Merkley, July 17th, 2015

The guest post below was written by Erik Moeller from Passionate Voices, in support of our campaign “Made with Creative Commons: A book on open business models” which will present in-depth profiles of Creative Commons use.

The dragoncow is chewing on an uprooted tree, its bulging eyes staring vacantly into the distance as the orange cat hanging off its udder extracts a large drop of milk into a wooden bucket held by a young witch balanced precariously on her broomstick. The scene is from David Revoy’s Pepper & Carrot, a much-loved comic strip about a witch and her cat.

Unlike most webcomics, which release new strips a few times per week, there’s typically one episode of Pepper & Carrot every month. Each episode is several pages long, crafted with an attention to detail rarely seen outside more commercial work. Slowly but surely, David is building Pepper’s identity and the world she inhabits. “So much heart in each and every piece you do”, writes one admirer in the comments.

Volunteers translate each episode to a dozen or so languages, on the basis of the source files which can be downloaded freely. David uses a GitHub repository to collaborate with the community and to share assets.

All this is possible because the entire comic strip is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). Other than CC0, this is the most permissive licensing option Creative Commons offers. Works under these terms can not only be copied, but also remixed and built upon, including for commercial uses. Re-users just have to attribute David Revoy as the author.
David is no stranger to Creative Commons. He was art director for Sintel, a crowdfunded CC-BY licensed 3D animated movie produced by the Blender Foundation. His love for open source goes back even further, as he explained in a recent interview with Passionate Voices: “Even when I was using Windows and proprietary software, I always kept an eye on the Linux distributions. I always kept an eye on GIMP. It was one of my first digital painting tools. And I always really appreciated the whole movement.” Today, David uses Krita, an open source digital painting application which has been supported by two Kickstarter fundraisers.

revoy user manual small

User Manual by David Revoy, available under the CC-BY license.

David’s work on Pepper & Carrot is funded by a Patreon campaign. As of this writing, for every episode he produces, his supporters donate $1200, which is inching ever closer to the amount David needs to focus fully on creating the webcomic as his “dream job”. As such, he is not concerned about others building on his work as long as they attribute him for it: “I’m really happy if Pepper & Carrot can bring more money for external people.”  David is disappointed when people fail to meet the simple requirement to credit him as the author: “It’s easier to respect something that was given for free, in my opinion.”

Back in May, a Kickstarter campaign launched without David Revoy’s involvement to create a printed version of Pepper & Carrot. The initial version of the campaign suffered from attribution issues: “The author of the Kickstarter, in the description of his crowdfunding page, was acting like he was the creator. He was quoting my name but he was acting like it was my Kickstarter page, and it was really not visible inside the page.“ After David contacted the campaign creator, the attribution issues were fixed, and David tweeted in support of the campaign. In the end, $6,837 were raised towards a print edition which otherwise would not have happened.

Although David recognizes the power of the CC-BY license, there are circumstances where he uses more restrictive licensing. The Yin and Yang of World Hunger, a powerful painting which depicts the disparity between rich and poor, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial No-Derivatives license, because David doesn’t want to see it used for commercial or political purposes without his approval. The license doesn’t preclude him from selectively granting those permissions:  “There are plenty of associations about hunger that use this illustration, and I’m really happy to give them the illustration for free.”

David’s long term vision is to create an animation studio which only produces works under a free license. With his growing base of supporters, his vision is audacious but not outlandish. Today, many creators of webcomics and YouTube channels are funding their work through their fanbase, whether it’s through one-off campaigns or ongoing Patreon-style support. But relatively few use a Creative Commons license, and fewer still the very permissive CC-BY license alongside an open source toolchain.

When confronted with commercial use and unwanted derivatives, creators may be tempted to to default to a license that places limits on re-use, and as David’s story demonstrates, this can be a good answer, especially when dealing with sensitive works. And yet, there’s always the tantalizing question: What if? What if you let go, what if you set your work truly free? What if you push the limits of what’s possible with open source software?

Artists like David are experimenting with permissive licensing options and open source production methods to create a free culture with no strings attached. Fan support through crowdfunding platforms gives them the ability to do so without fearing loss of income.  You can find my full interview with David Revoy (and with other pioneers) on Passionate Voices, and of course you can read Pepper & Carrot online and join David’s community of supporters.

With your help, Creative Commons will be able to showcase many other examples of CC use and re-use. Please consider supporting the Creative Commons campaign, “Made with Creative Commons: A book on open business models”.

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Global Summit Call for Participation – Extension

Jessica Coates, July 16th, 2015

The deadline for submissions to the CC Global Summit’s Call for Participation is fast approaching. But for those still getting their proposals together, there’s a reprieve – we’ve decided to extend the deadline until Wednesday 22 July.

The extension is in response to a technical glitch we’ve become aware of, which meant that multiple submissions from the same email address may not have registered properly. If you registered more than one submission from your email address, please contact info@creativecommons.org to confirm they were all received.

The issue is now fixed, and we encourage everyone to add as many submissions as they can – the more, the better! We hope the extended deadline will also give the opportunity for people who are still sorting through ideas to submit – you can’t succeed unless you try.

We’re sorry again about glitch, and can’t wait to see the final submissions.

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CC’s first-ever Kickstarter campaign — join us!

Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, July 15th, 2015

CC Summit 2011 Warsaw by Kristina Alexanderson, available on Flickr, licensed CC BY 2.0.

CC Summit 2011 Warsaw by Kristina Alexanderson, available on Flickr, licensed CC BY 2.0.

Today we’re launching CC’s first-ever Kickstarter campaign. We’re raising money to write a book about open business models that incorporate CC licensing. We hope you’ll join our Kickstarter campaign and help us empower creators around the globe to pursue businesses built on open content.

This is an ambitious project. Over the course of the year, our plan is to find answers to the question we are so often asked — how can creators make money to sustain what they do when they are letting the world reuse their work for free?

To do this, we will find and profile 24 businesses, creators, and organizations that are successfully using Creative Commons. We will tell their success stories, but we also want to go a step further to reveal strategies that other creators can use for their own endeavors. Ultimately, we will put our findings together in an ebook, and we will publish an interactive tool that people can use to develop and evaluate their own open business models.

Along the way, we’re going to conduct an experiment in working in the open. We’ll be publishing regularly on one of our favorite storytelling platforms – Medium (who also happens to use CC licenses, and is one of the businesses we will profile in the book). We’re thinking of our Medium publication, Made with Creative Commons, as a digital whiteboard. There, we’ll share insights as we go, try out new ideas, and we’ll openly discuss obstacles we face, questions we have, and issues we are mulling. Our hope is that the process of researching, analyzing, and writing the book will be truly collaborative and open.

In fact, this Kickstarter campaign is itself a case study of an open business model. Crowdfunding has become a tried-and-true method to fund creative works in the digital age. In many ways, it’s an ideal open business model because it requires creators to think about building community from the start, rather than letting it be an after-thought. We see this Kickstarter as a great chance to get people interested and involved in our work.

We have set a realistic but ambitious goal to fund the whole project, but like all Kickstarters, if we don’t hit the target, we don’t get any of the funds. It’s all or nothing, so we need your help.

Momentum really matters with crowdfunding. Help us start strong by supporting the CC Kickstarter now and by spreading the word among your networks. Help us show the world how Creative Commons can be good for business — and maybe even start one of your own.

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New Translations: CC 4.0 licences now available in te reo Māori and Japanese

Jessica Coates, July 13th, 2015

Today CC is proud to launch two new translations of the latest version of the CC licences: Japanese and te reo Māori. These are particularly significant, as they are the first official translations of 4.0 into Asia-Pacific languages. Perhaps even more exciting, te reo Māori, the language of the Indigenous people of New Zealand, is the first indigenous language into which the CC licences have been translated.

Translation is an essential part of our licensing process — our licenses aren’t finished until everyone who wants to share and reuse CC-licensed works has the ability to understand the license in the language they know best. That means all populations, large, medium, and small. These two translations provide great examples of how our affiliates are achieving that goal – the ambitious and eager te reo Māori team, and the Japanese team.

The te reo Māori translation was completed by Ian Cormack, Director of Taumatua Māori Language Services and a licensed Māori Translator, and provided a number of interesting challenges – such as how to translate ‘Sui Generis Database Rights’ (eventually translated as Motika Pātengi Raraunga Momo Takitahi). Karaitiana Taiuru, prominent indigenous philosopher and governance practitioner and a leading figure in the online Māori renaissance of the internet, feels that the translation “is an important step for te reo Māori resources being able to utilise the power and flexibility of Creative Commons…The translated licences will promote taonga and matauranga to be created, shared and published with the legal protection of the Creative Commons licences while recognising iwi, hapū and whānau, as well as whakapapa of the material.”

The Japanese translation will also help significantly with the adoption of CC in that country. Japan still sees ongoing discussion on open data licensing, both at national and local levels, and this Japanese translation will add important choice for those interested in this issue. The process was started on Feb. 2014 and led by Tasuku Mizuno. Other contributors include Mitsuru Maekawa, Maki Higashikubo, Yuuri Nakao, who developed initial draft, as well as Naoki Kanehisa, Yuko Noguchi and Tomoaki Watanabe who joined the review process. Big thanks go to Der Spiegel im Spiegel, Butameron, Mr. Kawanishi, and others who publicly or directly provided CC Japan team valuable inputs.

We are looking forward to seeing what new uses of the licences come from these translations. We also have some more great translations coming up, so watch out for more info.

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Help Outernet and Creative Commons build a #LibraryFromSpace

Jane Park, July 13th, 2015

Hubble Space Telescope and Earth Limb / NASA on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions

If you could send a folder with 50 MB of content to every human on Earth, what would you include? This weekend Creative Commons volunteers and Outernet are hosting a CC Content Edit-a-thon to populate the first Outernet library to be broadcast from space. The edit-a-thon will take place at Mozilla Festival East Africa (MozFestEA) in a weekend-long track that will be kicked off Saturday morning by Outernet and CC volunteers from Uganda and Kenya. During the first hour, Outernet will introduce the initiative and set guidelines, and CC volunteers will provide basic knowledge and training about how and where to find open content. This first hour will be recorded and posted to the Outernet wiki and Outernet’s YouTube channel so that anyone in the world may participate.

Remote participation from anywhere in the world is encouraged! Here’s how you, your friends and colleagues can participate:

  • Tell people about it! Send them to this blog post, or this one by Outernet, or http://editathon.outernet.is and tweet using #LibraryFromSpace.
  • Re-post this on your own blog – this blog post is public domain (CC0).
  • Register (free) to help Outernet anticipate the number of participants.
  • Come to a physical edit-a-thon. In addition to the MozFestEA session in Kampala, Uganda, CC volunteers in Guatemala will host their own satellite edit-a-thon to start building a CC library in Spanish for Latin America. CC volunteers in Nigeria will participate remotely as well.
  • On 18-19 July, head over to the Outernet wiki: https://wiki.outernet.is/wiki/Outernet_Wiki. Video, guidelines, directions, and the links to where you’ll be curating, creating, and editing open content will all be here. There will also be an open chatroom to communicate directly with MozFestEA participants and CC volunteers in Guatemala, Nigeria, and anywhere.

We hope to find and curate the best content for each country that is openly licensed or in the public domain. All new content created as part of this event will be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

In addition, Outernet is working on its CC platform integration to provide options for individuals who want to release their content into the public domain (via CC0) or under CC licenses.

Outernet and CC volunteers are building a library that everyone can enjoy, even without an Internet connection. Be one of the first to put content on its shelves!

More about Outernet

Outernet is Humanity’s Public Library, a free data signal broadcast from space that eludes censorship and is publicly editable. To receive the Outernet signal, a user can build their own receiver or purchase one from Outernet. Once an Outernet receiver is active, a user can browse the content they have received using any Wi-Fi enabled device.

More about MozFestEA

MozFestEA brings together different groups of people to build open innovative solutions and to brainstorm ideas and solutions to the current challenges in East Africa with the help of the web as a platform and web literacy. This years MozFestEA will take place at Victoria University in Kampala, Uganda on 17-19, July 2015.

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Reminder: submit your proposals for the 2015 Global Summit in Seoul

Timothy Vollmer, July 13th, 2015

summit med

The 2015 Creative Commons Global Summit is taking place in Seoul, South Korea 14-17 October 2015. CC hosts this gathering every two years, bringing together our affiliate network along with partners, activists, and collaborators in the open movement to celebrate and advance the Commons. The last CC Summit took place in Buenos Aires in 2013.

You can submit proposals for talks, workshops, hackathons, panels, presentations, performances, showcases and other activities are welcome. The deadline for proposals is Friday, 17 July.


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EFF: Fighting for your digital rights for 25 years

Timothy Vollmer, July 10th, 2015


The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an absolutely essential organization that defends civil liberties on the Internet. It fights for users by promoting free speech and access to technology, championing privacy, and advocating for progressive solutions to intellectual property challenges in the digital age. EFF tackles these issues with some of the smartest and most committed lawyers, technology experts, and activists on the planet.

EFF is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month.

The work of EFF and Creative Commons overlaps on a variety of issues, including promoting the use of open licenses for publicly funded research and educational materials, protecting the public domain, and ensuring limitations and exceptions to copyright in support of users and the public interest.

For those of you around the San Francisco bay area, check out the EFF anniversary party on July 16. And even if you can’t make it there, consider becoming a member and supporting EFF with a financial contribution. Congratulations to EFF and the incredible accomplishments they’ve achieved over the last 25 years. Here’s to another quarter century!

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Will the European Parliament criminalize street photography?

Timothy Vollmer, July 7th, 2015

Tower Bridge view at dawn, by Colin, CC BY-SA

Tower Bridge view at dawn. Modified to censor buildings that require Freedom of Panorama, by Colin, CC BY-SA

Over the last several months, Creative Commons has been following the review of the European Union copyright directive. One issue that has remained contentious is freedom of panorama. Freedom of panorama permits taking and publishing photographs and video of buildings, landmarks, and artworks permanently located in a public public place, without infringing on any copyright that might rest in the underlying work. For example, anyone may take and publish a photograph of the Torre Agbar in Barcelona without having to get permission from the rightsholder of the physical building. While some countries such as Spain, Poland, and the Netherlands enjoy freedom of panorama, others such as Italy, France, and Greece require that a photographer get permission for taking and sharing images of works in public spaces.

German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda has been tasked with developing a report that will make recommendations for potential legislative changes to EU copyright law. Reda’s report has been discussed widely, and last month the legal affairs committee of the European Parliament voted on amendments to her report, which resulted in a compromise text. On July 9, this report (and any amendments to it) will be voted on in the full EU Parliament.

The outcome of the legal affairs committee vote produced some positive actions for copyright reform in support of users and the public interest. For example, the compromise text introduced exceptions to copyright in the EU for libraries to digitize collections and lend ebooks, and for scientists and others to conduct text and data mining without needing an extra license to do so. The report also called on the European Commission to protect the public domain by clarifying that “once a work is in the public domain, any digitisation of the work which does not constitute a new, transformative work, stays in the public domain.”

Reda’s original proposal contained a provision that would have granted freedom of panorama throughout the EU. But an amendment passed by the legal affairs committee says that anyone who wants to take and share photography or video of public buildings and landmarks can only do so for non-commercial purposes. Reda calls the rule “absurd”:

This would restrict existing rights in many EU member states, introduce new legal uncertainty for many creators and even call the legality of many photos shared on commercial photo sharing platforms like Instagram and Flickr into question. Documentary filmmakers, for example, would have to research the copyright protection status of every building, statue or even graffiti on a public wall depicted in their movie – and seek the permission of each rightholder.

The consequences of adopting copyright rules that limit freedom of panorama to only non-commercial uses could make every vacationing photographer a criminal in the eyes of the law. The change would also be damaging to the commons, especially for a community like Wikipedia, which requires that photos and videos uploaded for use on the site be made available under free licenses that permit commercial use. As the Wikimedia Foundation notes, “the version of freedom of panorama now under consideration is not compatible with Wikimedia’s goal to broadly share knowledge. If this amendment became law, it would be more difficult for users to freely share photos of public spaces. It would be a step backwards in revamping the EU’s copyright rules for the digital age.” If this provision goes into effect, thousands of photos on Wikimedia Commons likely would have to be removed.

But you can help! Sign the Change.org petition to bring bring the freedom of panorama to all member states of the EU. Citizens of the EU can also contact their MEPs to let them know how you would like them to vote. Owen Blacker says there are two things to ask of MEPs:

1) Please support amendment A8–0209/3 by Marietje Schaake, to restore the meaning of the original text which extends liberal freedom of panorama to all EU member states;

2) Should Schaake’s amendment fail, then please vote to remove paragraph 46 from the report altogether.

The public should have the right to use photographs, video footage and other images of works permanently located in public spaces. Let’s support, extend, and protect the freedom of panorama across the European Union.


Colombian student Diego Gomez is going to trial for sharing a research article online

Timothy Vollmer, June 29th, 2015

Last year several organizations highlighted the situation of Colombian graduate student Diego Gomez, who had a criminal complaint filed against him for sharing a research article online. Gomez is a student in conservation and wildlife management, and for the most part has poor access to many of the resources and databases that would help him conduct his research. He shared an academic paper on Scribd so that he and others could access it for their work. If convicted, Diego could face a prison term of 4-8 years. Gomez will appear in court on June 30.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sums up Diego’s situation well:

He posted the paper online because he was excited that he found it, because he wanted to share that knowledge with others who shared his passion. Copyright should not turn students like Gomez into criminals for reveling in their quest for knowledge nor for helping others to do the same.

As Gomez goes to trial this week, we must ask again: why are we prosecuting students for sharing knowledge? We know that this type of draconian leveraging of copyright law is not uncommon. From suing a student for downloading scholarly journal articles to issuing a takedown of a dancing baby video to pushing through secret international trade agreements that will extend the term of copyright and harm the public and the commons, large rights holders organizations continue to wield copyright law to punish those who attempt to do what comes naturally for them–sharing.

At the same time, with the dedicated work of individuals and organizations advocating for a sensible balance to copyright, there is hope that laws, regulations, and norms can be changed to support users and the public interest. For example, universities are adopting open access policies that preserve and make accessible the research of their faculty. The copyright reform debate in Europe has finally dropped a potentially dangerous provision that would have permitted rights holders to control how linking operates on the web. And WIPO adopted a treaty to increase global access to copyright-protected materials for the blind and visually impaired.

You can read what Diego has to say about his upcoming trial at Fundación Karisma. Fundación Karisma is the Colombian digital rights advocacy organization that is providing legal support to Gomez. And you can take action now to support Diego by signing the global declaration promoting open access to research.

Image by EFF / CC BY.


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