Commons News

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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Creative Commons Names Ryan Merkley as Chief Executive Officer

Elliot Harmon, May 14th, 2014

Ryan Merkley
Ryan Merkley / Rannie Turingan / CC0

Mountain View, CA May 14, 2014: The board of directors of Creative Commons is pleased to announce the appointment of Ryan Merkley to the position of chief executive officer. Ryan is an accomplished strategist, campaigner, and communicator in the nonprofit, technology, and government sectors. Ryan was recently chief operating officer of the Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit parent of the Mozilla Corporation and creator of the world’s most recognizable open-source software project and internet browser, Firefox. At the Mozilla Foundation, Ryan led development of open-source projects like Webmaker, Lightbeam, and Popcorn, and also kicked off the Foundation’s major online fundraising effort, resulting in over $1.8 million USD in individual donations from over 44,000 new donors.

Ryan is a well-known and respected voice in the open source community, and recognized for his unwavering support to open government and open data initiatives.

“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,” board chair and interim CEO Paul Brest said. “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. 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.”

“A public commons, enabled by the open web, is the most powerful force to foster creativity, inspire innovation, and enhance human knowledge around the world. Those who believe in its potential need to join together in a global movement to ensure its success,” said Ryan Merkley. “At Creative Commons we’re making that case, and supporting, inspiring, and connecting the various communities that are building the commons — from open education, to science, to film and photography — and working to provide tools, solutions, and policy on their behalf.”

Creative Commons provides a set of licenses that creators can use to grant permission to reuse their work. With over half a billion openly licensed works on the internet, Creative Commons is internationally recognized as the standard in open content licensing. Ryan will lead a global team of legal and technology professionals who manage and support the licenses, as well as experts who lead CC license adoption efforts in areas like education, culture, science, and public policy.

Ryan joins Creative Commons after a career working to advance social causes and public policy in nonprofits and government. Outside of his work at Mozilla Foundation, Ryan was senior advisor to Mayor David Miller in Toronto, where he initiated Toronto’s Open Data project. He was also seconded to the City of Vancouver as director of corporate communications for the 2010 Winter Games. Most recently, Ryan was managing director and senior vice president of public affairs at Vision Critical, a Vancouver-based SaaS company and market research firm.

Ryan will take up his new position on June 1, 2014. He will be based in Toronto, and will split his time between Toronto and the Bay Area.

Official biography and high-resolution images can be found at:
http://creativecommons.org/staff/ryan

Additional information

Bios and photos of Creative Commons board and advisory council members
http://creativecommons.org/board

Creative Commons launches Version 4.0 of its license suite
http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/40935

About Creative Commons

Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/) is a globally-focused nonprofit organization dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. Creative Commons provides free licenses and other legal tools to give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions and get credit for their creative work while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make specific uses of it.

For more information contact:
Elliot Harmon
Communications Manager, Creative Commons
elliot@creativecommons.org

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White House supports CC0 for federal government datasets

Timothy Vollmer, May 9th, 2014

us open data action plan

Today the White House released the U.S. Open Data Action Plan, reaffirming their belief that “freely available data from the U.S. Government is an important national resource… [and] making information about government operations more readily available and useful is also core to the promise of a more efficient and transparent government.” The report (PDF) outlines the commitments to making government data more accessible and useful, and documents how U.S. federal agencies are sharing government information. From a legal standpoint, some agencies have decided to place their datasets into the worldwide public domain using the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. This means that all copyright and related rights to the data are waived, so it may be used by anyone–for any purpose–anywhere in the world–without having to ask permission in advance–and even without needing to give attribution to the author of the data.

Use of CC0 for U.S. government works has always been a challenging topic for federal agencies. This is due to the hybrid nature of copyright for government works under Section 105 of U.S. copyright law. That statute guarantees that U.S. government works do not receive copyright protection–they are in the public domain. However, while these works are not granted copyright protection inside the U.S., the legislative history of the law notes that the works may receive copyright protection outside of U.S. borders:

The prohibition on copyright protection for United States Government works is not intended to have any effect on protection of these works abroad. Works of the governments of most other countries are copyrighted. There are no valid policy reasons for denying such protection to United States Government works in foreign countries, or for precluding the Government from making licenses for the use of its works abroad.

Historically, the U.S. government has been apprehensive to apply CC0 to federal government works, because the CC0 Public Domain Dedication is a tool to waive copyright and neighboring rights globally. At the same time, it’s clear that many high-value U.S. government datasets, such as the weather data produced by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are being widely (and freely) used by meteorological and research organizations around the world. It seems that in the vast majority of cases, the U.S. federal government doesn’t wish to leverage its copyrights abroad. So perhaps it makes sense to simply clarify that these works will be made available in the worldwide public domain using a standard tool such as CC0. While we had some initial questions about acceptable licenses for federal government information, it seems that agencies are moving in the right direction in utilizing the public domain dedication, as opposed to the other copyright licensing tools that were laid out in Project Open Data.

In addition to showcasing federal agencies that are using CC0 on some of the datasets it’s releasing, the U.S. Open Data Action Plan document itself is also published under CC0.

As a work of the United States Government, this document is in the public domain within the United States. Additionally, the United States Government waives copyright and related rights in this work worldwide through the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Over the last several years, many have called upon the federal government to adopt CC0 for U.S. government works. Most recently, a group of advocates drafted recommendations urging federal agencies to release federal government works, contractor-produced works, and primary legal materials into the into the worldwide public domain under CC0. Today’s announcement is a move in the right direction for data re-users in the United States and beyond.

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Welcoming new CC Arab world affiliate coordinators

Timothy Vollmer, May 7th, 2014

Naeema Zarif

Naeema Zarif, CC BY 4.0

In February we said goodbye to Donatella Della Ratta, CC’s longtime coordinator for the Arab world. Today we’re pleased to announce that Naeema Zarif and Sami Ben Gharbia have joined Creative Commons as the regional coordinators for the region. Naeema and Sami join CC’s other regional team leaders, who are key in organizing the Creative Commons Affiliate Network around the world.

After 8 years in advertising, Naeema Zarif took a leap into social enterprise offering expertise on conceptualization and producing both offline and online integrated media initiatives, including print, social web, audio, and film. She is an enthusiastic supporter of open culture, speaking and lecturing frequently at conferences and educational institutes, and contributing visual and digital strategic consultancy and training to various governmental, not-for-profit, and for-profit initiatives around the MENA region.

Sami is a Tunisian campaigner, blogger, writer, and freedom of expression advocate. He was a political refugee living in the Netherlands between 1998 and 2011. Sami is founding director of the advocacy arm of Global Voices, co-founder of the award-winning collective blog Nawaat, and author of the first Tunisian e-book (in French), Borj Erroumi XL. He co-founded The Arab Techies Collective and co-organized the The Arab Bloggers Conferences for several years. Foreign Policy named Sami a major world influence in promoting government transparency. Sami received a Prince Claus Award in 2012 for his cyber-activism work. Yahoo! named Sami Ben Gharbia as a person of the year during the 2010 World Press Freedom for his work focused on Internet censorship. Electronic Frontier Foundation awarded Sami and his fellow Nawaat co-founders with their 2011 Pioneer Award.

We recently highlighted some of the ongoing affiliate project grants in the Arab world region, and we look forward to more great developments with Naeema and Sami on board.

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Lawrence Lessig to receive Lifetime Achievement Webby Award

Elliot Harmon, April 29th, 2014

Lawrence Lessig
Lawrence Lessig / Joi Ito / CC BY

The Webby Awards just announced that Lawrence Lessig will receive a Lifetime Achievement award for his work as cofounder of Creative Commons. From the announcement:

The Webby Awards is proud to honor Lawrence Lessig with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 for his groundbreaking work as cofounder of Creative Commons. Creativity based on collaboration is absolutely fundamental to everything that makes the Web successful and wonderful – but none of that would be possible without the ability (and encouragement) to share, mix, and match creative works. Lessig has spent his life and career standing up for collaboration (and standing up to those who seek to inhibit creative cooperation), as well as defending Net Neutrality and the free and open software movement… in other words, all things essential to the Web’s awesomeness. As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Web this year, there is no one more fitting to accept this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award than Lawrence Lessig – a true hero of the open, collaborative Web, and an all around fantastic human being.

The awards will take place Monday, May 19, in New York City, and available online the next day. Congratulations, Larry!

Update (May 29, 2014): Watch the complete presentation, featuring interviews with danah boyd and Clay Shirky as well as Larry’s hilarious five-word acceptance speech:

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ShareAlike compatibility process and criteria discussion opens

Kat Walsh, April 28th, 2014

We are now opening the discussion for our compatibility process and criteria for the ShareAlike licenses. As established in the drafting process, 4.0 includes a compatibility mechanism that allows for other licenses to be compatible with the ShareAlike licenses, allowing for greater interoperability of freely-licensed content, but no other licenses have been approved as compatible yet. We are looking to the CC community to help us develop the criteria and process before formally evaluating licenses as candidates for ShareAlike compatibility, and to kick off this discussion, we now have a draft posted for feedback: ShareAlike compatibility process and criteria.

We want this to be a process that the CC community trusts, and so this is a first draft, not a final document. We invite everyone to participate in the discussion on the license development list; it will end on May 28.

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Report from India: Relicensing books under CC

Elliot Harmon, April 18th, 2014

Jellyfish Madness
Release of DVD containing Odia font, open source tools and Offline Odia Wikipedia
Ahemadullah Shaikh / CC BY-SA

This guest blog post was written by Subhashish Panigrahi of The Center for Internet and Society, a Creative Commons affiliate in India.

My name is Subhashish Panigrahi. I am an educator currently working in the community and communication front at The Centre for Internet and Society’s Access To Knowledge program (CIS-A2K), an India-based catalyst program to grow Indic language communities for Wikipedia and its sister projects. Prior to my work at CIS, I worked for the Wikimedia Foundation’s India Program, a predecessor to the current CIS-A2K project.

While building ties with higher education and research organizations, I also try to get educational and encyclopedic resources licensed under Creative Commons licenses so that communities can use them to enrich Wikimedia projects. Currently, there is a low level of content available across all the Indic languages and the need for Unicode-based content is extremely crucial.

While negotiating with authors for relicensing their books in Creative Commons license, I started identifying certain motivation areas for any author for such free content donation. Some of the authors, publishers, and copyright holders have started learning about open access to scholarly publications. However, the readers who are likely to buy a hard copy of a book are likely to buy it even when a free, virtual version is available – that’s the idea authors who are skeptical about CC licenses need to understand.

Open source book publishing in India has gained much interest and focus, primarily because of the lack of foresight of the possibilities that are tied to the release of books. It was Pratham Books that first came up with the brilliant idea of “One book book in every child’s hand.” The subsequent release of multilingual books under free licenses was the beginning of a new era in Indian publication.

Book publishers should also think of the target readers of print and web media. Releasing content in free licenses doesn’t affect the mainstream print publications. When it comes to books, there is always a scope for reprinting and making money. After negotiations with two authors and getting 13 books about children’s literature, travelogues, popular science, and linguistic and historical research, I am sure the publishing community has not been educated in the right way about providing free access to content.

It generally takes a long time and effort to negotiate with the copyright holders to get the books out with a CC-BY-SA tag. But it is a permanent and a significant value addition for the open knowledge movement. I believe with more online readers and reviewers getting complete access to books, authors gain more respect in the society and popularity which in turn helps them to sell more of the reprints. Two prime fears are keeping many publishers away from releasing their books online for free: the fear of going out of business and the fear of losing ownership of content. But at the same time, some of the publishers are becoming aware of the mass media outreach and winning hearts of many readers by releasing content for free without copyright restrictions.

Case studies:

1. Release of a four-volume encyclopedia in Konkani

In 2013, Goa University released Konkani Vishwakosh, a Konkani-language encyclopedia in CC-BY-SA 3.0 license that they had published. This is the largest encyclopedia compiled in the language. The book is being digitized on Konkani WikiSource and content from it is being used to enrich the Konkani version of Wikipedia. The project additionally brought about 20 active contributors for digitization.

2. Release of 11 Odia language books

11 books from Odia author and academic Dr. Jagannath Mohanty were re-released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license by the “Manik-Biswanath Smrutinyasa,” a trust founded by Dr. Mohanty for literary discussions and upbringing new writers. His wife and trust’s current chairman Allhadmohini Mohanty formally gave written permission to release and digitize these books. The Odia Wikimedia community is planning to involve undergraduate students of an indigenous educational institution, Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, to digitize these books. The trust is also reaching out to publishers who published more than 150 of the author’s books to give permission for re-releasing them under a CC license.

3. Relicensing “Classical Odia” under a free license

The book is heavy and expensive for any normal reader. Enormous copies were sold after Odia was declared as the sixth Indian classical language; however, this did not stop the authors Dr. Debiprasanna Pattanayak and Subrat Prusty from changing the license term from All Rights Reserved to CC-BY-SA 3.0. 600-plus pages full of historical documents and manuscripts along with many undiscovered areas of Odia language’s literary heritage of more than 2500 years are now going to go on WikiSource and enrich Wikipedia articles apart from being great resource for language researchers.

4. Relicensing books and conversion of ISCII to Unicode font

Two Odia language books by linguist Subrat Prusty, “Jati, Jagruti O Pragati” and “Bhasa O Jatiyata,” have been relicensed. These are few of those thousand books in those the text are typed with fonts with ISCII standard and not Unicode. ISCII standard fonts have glyphs with Indic characters that are actually replacements of the Latin characters by Indic characters. So, a computer with one particular font not installed will display absurd characters. The publication and printing industries still use these fonts as the desktop publishing software package they use for typeset do not have Unicode engine to render the fonts properly. The conversion from these ISCII fonts to Unicode is a way that is going to be used for digitizaing these books to convert the entire book with searchable Unicode content.

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