Commons News

German UNESCO Commission releases “Open Content Licenses – A Practical Guideline”

Jane Park, November 17th, 2011

The German UNESCO Commission has released the publication, “Open Content Lizenzen – Ein Leitfaden für die Praxis” (pdf) aka “Open Content Licenses – A Practical Guideline.” The publication is authored by Dr. Till Kreutzer, a member of the Commission’s legal expert committee and a founder of iRights.info, a legal information website for consumers. The publication explains how to make use of open licenses, featuring the CC license suite as its primary example. Though tailored towards companies, institutions and organizations, the guideline is also a compact how-to for anyone interested in CC licensing their work. The publication is available under CC BY-NC, and is a timely follow-up to UNESCO’s related publication with the Commonwealth of Learning, “Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education” — which also highlights the use of CC licenses for OER.

Read more about the German guideline at the press release (German), and download it from UNESCO (pdf).

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Creative Commons at WIPO

Diane Peters, November 15th, 2011

This week, Andres Guadamuz (CC Costa Rica) is representing Creative Commons at the 8th Session of the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The agenda [PDF] promises review of several pending recommendations as well as a discussion of future work by the CDIP. Consistent with protocol, Creative Commons prepared a statement for the opening session, which you can read here, as well as find CC’s prior statements and presentations at the CDIP and other WIPO meetings and conferences.

This is one in a series of engagements by Creative Commons with WIPO, which commenced in 2005 through our then-subsidiary, Creative Commons International (since renamed iCommons, and now an independent organization). During those early years, our participation at WIPO meetings was largely focused on educating WIPO members about CC as an alternative licensing system that facilitates the distribution and reuse of materials around the world, and copyright in a digital age. In 2009, Creative Commons became an ad hoc observer to the CDIP, and has since participated directly in several meetings and conferences. As well, CC founder Lawrence Lessig keynoted last year’s WIPO conference on Facilitating Access to Culture in the Digital Age. Prof. Lessig’s remarks highlighted the role that CC licenses play in enabling the sharing and reuse of creativity under the existing copyright regime, and called for the creation of a blue sky commission to consider copyright reform.

Our engagements with WIPO have been constructive, and educated us on the importance of being active in this and other fora where important policy discussions are taking place. This year, Creative Commons gained permanent observer status with WIPO on the CDIP, allowing us to regularly participate in the conversations and activities that WIPO hosts. Among other things, we plan to participate in select CDIP meetings and other activities where our experience and expertise can best be leveraged for maximum impact.

You can follow CC’s involvement in this meeting of the CDIP and otherwise vis-a-vis WIPO on this blog as well as via Andrés’ blog.

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Urgent: Stop [U.S.] American censorship of the Internet

Mike Linksvayer, November 11th, 2011

November 16 the U.S. Congress will hold hearings on a bill that would unfairly, recklessly and capriciously enable and encourage broad censorship of the Internet in the name of suppressing distribution of works not authorized by copyright holders. As Public Knowledge aptly summarizes, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” would seriously “threaten the functioning, freedom, and economic potential of the Internet” by:

  • short-circuiting the legal system, giving rightsholders a fast-track to shutting down whole websites;
  • creating conflicts between Domain Name System (DNS) servers, making you more vulnerable to hackers, identity theft, and cyberattacks;
  • sanctioning government interference with the Internet, making it more censored globally.

SOPA threatens every site on Internet, but would especially harm the commons, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains, focusing on free software. The same applies to free and open projects beyond software, which often use CC licenses. While standard public licenses have lowered the costs and risks of legal sharing and collaboration, SOPA would drastically increase both the costs and risks of providing platforms for sharing and collaboration (think sites ranging from individual blogs to massive community projects such as Wikipedia, from open education repositories to Flickr and YouTube), and vaporize accessibility to huge swathes of free culture, whether because running a platform becomes too costly, or a single possibly infringing item causes an entire domain to be taken down.

The trend that one can plot from the DMCA (1998) to SOPA, and continued extensions and expansions of copyright and related restrictions around the world, also demonstrate the incredible importance of the commons for healthy information policy and a healthy Internet — almost all other “IP” policy developments have been negative for society at large. The DMCA was decried by advocates of free speech and the Internet, and has over past 13 years had many harmful effects. Now, in 2011, some think that the U.S. Congress ‘struck the right balance’ in 1998, while big content is dissatisfied, and with SOPA wants to ratchet the ‘balance’ (watch out, 2024!) much further to their short-term advantage.

Techdirt has excellent coverage of the gritty details of SOPA, its ill effects, and the many constituencies alarmed (such as librarians and sports fans).

Sign up at American Censorship Day to be alerted of actions you can take against SOPA. Demand Progress, EFF, and PK have forms you can use to write the U.S. Congress right now.

Please take action! If you aren’t already sharing works under a CC license and supporting our work, now is a good time. Bad legislation needs to be stopped now, but over the long term, we won’t stop getting new bad legislation until policymakers see broad support and amazing results from culture and other forms of knowledge that work with the Internet, rather than against it. Each work or project released under a CC license signals such support, and is an input for such results.

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Wired.com now releasing photos under CC Attribution-Noncommercial

Jane Park, November 7th, 2011

We are thrilled to relay Wired.com’s announcement that from now on all Wired.com staff-produced photos will be released under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial license (CC BY-NC)! Wired.com’s Editor in Chief Evan Hansen says,

“Creative Commons turns ten years old next year, and the simple idea of releasing content with “some rights reserved” has revolutionized online sharing and fueled a thriving remix culture. At Wired.com, we’ve benefited from CC-licensed photos for years — thank you sharers! Now we’re going to start sharing ourselves.”

We want to return the thanks to Wired.com for recognizing the power of open! Wired.com is a leader in covering the world of technology and a pioneer in commercial online publishing. We hope that others will recognize the value of both borrowing from, and contributing to, the richness of our shared commons.

To immediately sweeten the pot, Wired.com is celebrating their new licensing policy by releasing a CC-licensed gallery of 50 iconic photos from past stories including portraits of Steve Jobs, Woz, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer, Trent Reznor, JJ Abrams, and others. Check out Wired’s Flickr stream for high resolution formats of the photos.


Trent Reznor / Jon Snyder/Wired.com / CC BY-NC

We believe that there are incredible opportunities for publishers and news organizations in open licensing. With this commitment, Wired joins other prestigious news and content organizations who are sharing interesting and important resources with the world under CC, incluing Al Jazeera, Propublica, and GOOD. Thanks Wired.com!

CC license use in journalism and other domains, in addition to numerous other activities, are made possible thanks to donations from people like you. We are a nonprofit organization; please consider contributing to our annual campaign going on now! Thank you.

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CC News: Our Annual Campaign & CC License Version 4.0

Jane Park, November 4th, 2011

Stay up to date with CC news by subscribing to our weblog and following us on Twitter.

You Are the Power of Open: 2011 Creative Commons Annual Campaign

Last week we launched our Annual Campaign. Please join us in powering the future of openness! In addition to fueling the activities below, Creative Commons relies on donations to build and constantly improve the technical and legal tools that enable openness to flourish. The future of openness is bright, but ensuring that future requires urgent and sustained effort. CC is continuing to improve the usefulness of our licenses and helping even more artists, institutions and governments share their works. We are reaching a critical mass and need your support now more than ever. Donate now, or read more.

Copyright Experts Discuss CC License Version 4.0 at the Global Summit

The Creative Commons 2011 Global Summit was a remarkable success, bringing together CC affiliates, board, staff, alumni, friends and stakeholders from around the world. Among the ~300 attendees was an impressive array of legal experts. Collectively, these experts brought diversity and depth of legal expertise and experience to every facet of the Summit, including knowledge of copyright policy across the government, education, science, culture, and foundation sectors. We designed the Summit’s legal sessions to leverage this expertise to discuss our core license suite and the 4.0 license versioning process. Read more.

Blackboard to add support for CC Attribution

Blackboard, the popular Learning Management System (LMS), has announced that they will build in support for CC licensing, specifically enabling instructors the ability to publish and share their course materials under the CC Attribution (CC BY) license. Cable Green, CC’s Director of Global Learning, notes, “The core part of any OER is an open license, and Blackboard has shown its leadership by empowering instructors to share so others can revise, reuse, remix and redistribute their courses.” Read more.

In other news:

  • The Open Course Library released the first 42 high-enrollment courses for Washington State Community Colleges under CC BY.
  • UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning released Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education, citing that "OER are teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain and released with an open license (such as Creative Commons)."
  • CC Portugal launched its second localized suite of CC licenses!
  • Open Access Week 2011 involved CC affiliates and community from around the world, including Perú, Poland, Croatia, and the U.S.
  • You may recall that the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative's Technical Working Group, with the input of the wider community, has been working to create a set of metadata terms to describe learning resources. The public draft specification is open for comment through November 11.
  • Musician Christopher Willits has released 121 stems from "Tiger Flower Circle Sun" for a remix project with SoundCloud! Deadline to remix the stems via CC BY-NC-SA is February 1, 2012.
  • The Polish version of The Power of Open — stories of creators sharing knowledge, art, & data using Creative Commons — is now available for download. Thanks to the CC Poland team for proofing!
  • Lastly, new CC job opportunities are on the horizon; if you have a knack for time management and logistics coordination, see our announcement.

Banner "CC Line" by Shinjirou – CC BY.

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Copyright Experts Discuss CC License Version 4.0 at the Global Summit

Diane Peters, November 3rd, 2011


CC General Counsel Diane Peters addressing affiliates / DTKindler Photo / CC BY

The Creative Commons 2011 Global Summit was a remarkable success, bringing together CC affiliates, board, staff, alumni, friends and stakeholders from around the world. Among the ~300 attendees was an impressive array of legal experts. Collectively, these experts brought diversity and depth of legal expertise and experience to every facet of the Summit, including knowledge of copyright policy across the government, education, science, culture, and foundation sectors. We designed the Summit’s legal sessions (pdf) to leverage this expertise to discuss our core license suite and the 4.0 license versioning process.

The 3.0 License Suite

The current 3.0 license suite has been in service since 2007, and is faring extraordinarily well for many important adopters. Notably, government adoption and promotion of the licenses for releasing public sector information, content and data has increased in the intervening four years, predominantly leveraging the 3.0 licenses. From the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing Framework, to the explicit acceptance of CC BY by the Australian government as the default license for Australian government materials, to the official websites of heads of state, to numerous open data portals, governments are increasingly looking to and depending on CC licenses as the preferred mechanism for sharing information.

As robust as the 3.0 continues (and will continue) to prove for many adopters, we also have learned that limitations exist for other would-be adopters that inhibit use of our licenses. These limitations set the stage in some instances for the creation of custom licenses that are at best confusing to users and at worst incompatible with some of CC’s licenses. One of the more compelling limitations driving the need for versioning now is the existence of sui generis database rights throughout the European Union, and the treatment of those rights in CC’s 3.0 licenses. But other limitations also exist for important categories of those would-be adopters. For example, although 55+ jurisdictions have ported some version of the CC licenses to their jurisdictions, there remain many others that want to leverage CC licenses but are without necessary resources to undertake the time-intensive process porting demands, and do not wish to use the international (unported) suite however suitable those licenses are for adoption worldwide.

So as well as our 3.0 licenses operate for many, we recognize as license stewards there exists room to improve if we are to avoid risking a fragmentation of the commons. Of course it bears emphasizes here and throughout the versioning process that 3.0 license adopters can continue to count on our stewardship and support for that suite, just as we have done with all prior versioning efforts. We are committed to remaining alert to revisions that might undermine or compromise pre-4.0 license implementations and frameworks, and will now more than ever look to the expertise and dedication of our affiliates to assist us with the process and the subsequent adoption efforts.

Beginning the 4.0 Process


Michael Carroll / Kalexanderson / CC BY

Against this backdrop, Professor Mike Carroll, CC board member and founder, led a discussion around CC’s plans for beginning the versioning of its licenses from the current 3.0 version to 4.0. His remarks provided a detailed explanation of the reasons leading CC to version in 2012, given the limitations for several adopters in the existing suite, the many opportunities at hand, and the current environment of accelerating adoption by governments and others.

CC’s goals and those of our affiliate community for 4.0 are ambitious, and include:

  • Internationalization — position our licenses to ensure they are well received, readily understood, and easily adopted worldwide;
  • Interoperability — maximize interoperability between CC licenses and other licenses to reduce friction within the commons, promote standards and stem license proliferation;
  • Long-lasting — anticipate new and changing adoption opportunities and legal challenges, allowing the new suite of licenses to endure for the foreseeable future; and
  • Data/PSI/Science/Education — recognize and address impediments to adoption of CC by governments as well as other important, publicly-minded institutions in these and other critical arenas.
  • Supporting Existing Adoption Models and Frameworks — remain mindful of and accommodate the needs of our existing community of adopters leveraging pre-4.0 licenses, including governments but also other important constituencies.

These goals for 4.0 are not arbitrary — rather, we have recognized them as important levers for the CC license suite to support achieving CC’s mission and vision.

Addressing Restrictions Beyond Copyright – sui generis database rights and more

By design, CC licenses are intended to operate as copyright licenses, granting conditional permission to reuse licensed content in ways that would otherwise violate copyright. Once applied, wherever copyright exists to restrict reuse, the CC license conditions are triggered, but not otherwise. Yet what about that category of rights that exist close to, or perhaps even overlap with, copyright, making it difficult to exercise rights granted under CC licenses without additional permissions? This question drew the focus of Summit attendees across several of the legal sessions, particularly in the context of sui generis database rights that exist in the European Union and a few other places as a result of free trade and other agreements. Participants evaluated the practical problems associated with continuing CC’s existing policy of waiving CC license conditions (BY, NC, SA and ND, as applicable) in the 3.0 EU ported licenses where only sui generis database rights are implicated. Among others, Judge Jay Yoon of CC Korea provided a practical perspective on the challenges associated with CC’s current policy.

DATABASE at Postmasters, March 2009
DATABASE at Postmasters, March 2009 by Michael Mandiberg / CC BY-SA

Sui generis database rights are widely criticized as bad policy, and are unproven in practice to deliver the economic benefits originally promised. While these views were shared by the vast majority of affiliates attending the Summit, many also agreed that a reconsideration of CC’s current policy is appropriate, and that we should shift to licensing those rights in 4.0 on the same terms and conditions as copyright. This change in policy would be pursued in the greater interest of facilitating reuse, meeting the expectations of licensors and users, and growing the commons.

As foreshadowed earlier this year, and now with support from CC’s affiliate network, CC intends to pursue this course in 4.0, absent as-of-yet-unidentified, unacceptable consequences. Importantly, we will take great care to ensure that by licensing these rights where they exist we do not create new or additional obligations where such rights do not exist.

As the steward of our licenses and one of several stewards of the greater commons (including the Free Software Foundation and the Open Knowledge Foundation), we remain mindful and take with utmost seriousness the risks associated with shifting course. We fully intend to (and expect to be held accountable for) strengthening our messaging to policymakers about the dangers of maintaining and expanding these rights within the EU and beyond, and of creating new related rights. We also plan to develop ample education for users to help avoid over-compliance with license conditions in cases where they do not apply.

Further Internationalization of the CC Licenses

Until version 3.0, the CC licenses had been drafted against U.S. copyright law and referred to as the “generic” licenses. At version 3.0, that changed as we made our first attempt to draft a license suite utilizing the language of major international copyright treaties and conventions. While a vast improvement over pre-3.0 versions, there remains ample opportunity to improve to reach those who cannot or would prefer not to port. Thus, one of our major objectives with the process will be to engage with CC’s knowledgeable affiliates around the globe with the intention of crafting a license suite that is another step further removed from its U.S. origins, and more reflective of CC’s status as an international organization with a global community and following. This focal point will impact the versioning process in several respects, and will require the engagement and focus of our affiliate network, other legal experts and the broader community. But it will also impact our work post publication, where the legal expertise of our affiliates will become still more relevant to adoption efforts and implementations.

As part of this discussion at the Summit, Paul Keller of CC Netherlands and Kennisland led a robust conversation on the wisdom of the CC license porting process, and Massimo Travostino of CC Italy and the NEXA Center gave a presentation on the legal and drafting issues involved with creating global licenses.

Defining Noncommercial; License Enforceability


The legal program also included a presentation by Mike Linksvayer on the definition and future of noncommercial and an update from Andres Guadamuz on CC license enforceability. While a decision about retaining or modifying the definition of NC in 4.0, and branding thereof, remains open, any change has a high barrier to demonstrate it would be a net benefit to the commons, given the broad use and acceptance of CC licenses containing the NC term. And CC’s licenses in court continue their strong enforceability record, most recently with a favorable decision in September 2011 that enforced BY-SA in Germany. We plan to take caution when drafting 4.0 to avoid making changes that could compromise this record.

Next steps in the versioning process will be announced shortly to this blog and the CC license discuss list. Subscribe to stay apprised of future announcements about the 4.0 process and how you can contribute.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the license discussions and helped make the Summit a success!

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Open Course Library Launches 1st 42 Courses

Cable Green, November 2nd, 2011

On Monday, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) released the first 42 of the state’s high-enrollment 81 Open Course Library courses. The remaining 39 courses will be finished by 2013. Funded by the Washington State Legislature and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Open Course Library joins the global open educational resources (OER) movement, and adheres to SBCTC’s open policy, which requires that all materials created through system grants be openly licensed for the public to freely use, adapt and distribute.

All courses are available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 unported license (CC-BY).

The first 42 courses are available in multiple technical formats including:

Michael Kenyon’s students at Green River Community College used to pay nearly $200 for a new pre-calculus textbook. Now they pay only $20 for a book – or use it online for free. Kenyon’s pre-calculus textbook (CC BY SA) was written by community college faculty David Lippman and Melonie Rasmussen, who teach at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. “We looked at a lot of textbooks,” Kenyon said. “There are some people who think this is the best book out there.”

“The courses were created with the needs of Washington’s college students in mind,” said Tom Caswell, SBCTC Open Education Policy Associate. “And with the idea we would share the courses with the world.”

Each course was developed and peer reviewed by a team of instructors, instructional designers and librarians. Use of the course materials is optional, but many faculty and departments are already moving to adopt them.

According to an informal study by the Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), the Open Course Library could save students as much as $41.6 million on textbooks annually if adopted at all of Washington’s community and technical colleges. The study also estimates that the 42 faculty course developers will save students $1.26 million by using the materials during the 2011-2012 school year, which alone exceeds the $1.18 million cost of creating the 42 courses. “These savings will not only help Washington’s students afford college, but clearly provide a tremendous return on the original investment,” said Nicole Allen, Textbook Advocate for the Student PIRGs.

Justin Hamilton, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, said the Washington state effort was groundbreaking for the nation. “Lowering college costs increases a student’s ability to take more courses, finish their degree on time, and enter the workforce prepared for success in a global economy. That’s not just good for them, it’s good for the country.”

“It really is the beginning of the end of closed, expensive, proprietary commercial textbooks that are completely disconnected from today’s reality,” said Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) of Washington State’s 36th District, a champion of the Open Course Library and OER. “This is a significant state investment in this era of massive budget cuts. We had little choice but to seize the opportunity of this crisis to challenge the status quo of the old-style cost models in both K-12 and higher education.”

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UNESCO and COL release open education policy document for higher education

Timothy Vollmer, November 1st, 2011

Today UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning jointly released the policy document Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education. The purpose of the guidelines is “to encourage decision makers in governments and institutions to invest in the systematic production, adaptation, and use of OER and to bring them in to the mainstream of higher education in order to improve the quality of curricula and teaching and to reduce costs.”

UNESCO and COL note, “Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain and released with an open license (such as Creative Commons). They allow communities of practitioners and stakeholders to copy, adapt and share their resources legally and freely, in order to support high-quality and locally relevant teaching and learning.”

The guidelines indicate how the potential of OER can be harnessed to support quality teaching and learning by higher education stakeholders, including governments, higher education institutions, teaching staff, students, and quality assurance, accreditation, and academic recognition authorities.

The Guidelines for OER in Higher Education inform the process leading up to the 2012 World OER Congress. That event is being organized by UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning, with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The Congress will 1) work to promote the UNESCO/COL OER Policy Guidelines; 2) share the world’s best practices in OER policies, initiatives, and experts; and 3) release the 2012 Paris OER Declaration calling on Governments to support the development and use of OERs.

The UNESCO/COL policy document is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

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A personal appeal from CC CEO Cathy Casserly

Cathy Casserly, November 1st, 2011


Cathy Casserly by Shanti Duprez / CC BY

Dear CC Community,

The world is experiencing an explosion of openness. From artists inviting creative collaboration to governments around the world requiring publicly funded works be available to everyone, the spirit and practice of sharing is gaining momentum and producing results.

By supporting Creative Commons, you are advocating for openness and sharing on the web.

Recent CC accomplishments include:

  • Europeana’s new Data Exchange Agreement which releases the metadata for millions of cultural works into the public domain using CC0;
  • Flickr reaching the 200 million mark in CC-licensed photos;
  • YouTube adding a CC licensing option;
  • The US Department of Labor requiring CC BY for a $2 billion grant program;
  • Brazil and New Zealand introducing CC licensing for government-funded works;
  • CC releasing The Power of Open, a book showcasing phenomenal use cases of CC licensing. Make a donation and receive a hard copy of The Power of Open.

At the CC Global Summit in Warsaw, CC affiliates and supporters shared their plans and discussed the challenges we face in building the tools and support needed for an open future.

Creative Commons relies on donations to build and constantly improve the technical and legal tools that enable openness to flourish. The future for openness is bright. Please join us!

Yours truly,
Cathy Casserly
CEO

p.s. Donate now to receive your limited-edition “I Love to Share” t-shirt!

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Report from the Creative Commons board meeting in Warsaw

Cathy Casserly, October 27th, 2011

CC’s Board of Directors met during the first day of the Global Summit on September 16, 2011 at the Primate’s Palace in Warsaw, Poland. Prof. Brian Fitzgerald was appointed as a Director of the corporation and to its Audit Committee. The Board also expressed its grateful appreciation to Alek Tarkowski and the CC Poland team for their excellent preparation of the Global Summit and to departing Vice President John Wilbanks for his outstanding accomplishments at Science Commons. Prof. Carroll reported on the success of the recent Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest noting that CC affiliates formed a significant portion of leading thinkers and activists in this field and pointed to the resulting Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest. The Audit Committee’s conflict of interest reviews were also ratified. The remainder of the meeting was dedicated to discussion of improvements to the board structure, fundraising, and strategic objectives.

This was the first time in six years that a CC Board meeting has been held in conjunction with an affiliate Summit event. It was a unique and immensely helpful opportunity for the Directors to make personal contacts with CC supporters and to share directly in the rich expertise and insightful perspective of the affiliate community.

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